Some of the most influential and famous dogs in history left their paw-prints on and around world events. Just imagine the experiences witnessed by Adolf Hitler's dog, Blondi. Think of the intrigue surrounding LaDiablo as she smuggled expensive lace, hidden under her coat, past baffled French customs officers. Dogs have been marking history for as long as they've been man's best friend.
How Famous Dogs in History Changed Lives
"How many times has the fate of a man, or even a nation, hung from the collar of a dog," asks Dr. Stanley Coren, in the first sentence of The Pawprints of History: Dogs and the Course of Human Events. Dr. Coren is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and has written over 100 books on the relationships between humans and dogs. Some dogs have truly changed the course of human history.
Neil Armstrong's first step onto the moon's surface may have been spurred in part by Laika, a sweet-tempered stray from Moscow. Both the Cold War and the space race between the United States and Russia were at their height on November 3, 1957, when Russia launched Laika into space aboard Sputnik 2. The United States was lagging behind Russia before Laika's trip into space, but her travels signaled the nation to step up its game.
Laika was nicknamed Muttnik by the press and rapidly became one of the most famous dogs in history. Sadly, she died from heat and stress just prior to re-entering the earth's orbit.
A Welsh terrier named Charlie may have been the secret weapon that changed the course of the Cuban missile crisis. President John F. Kennedy sent for the dog on that fateful day 1962. He sat amid the hectic tension-filled War Room, petting the little dog that sat obediently on his lap. Observers said he appeared to relax, and after moments that felt like hours to those awaiting his command, he said he was ready to "make some decisions." Those decisions de-escalated the conflict.
Richard Nixon found himself in hot water in 1952 when he was accused of accepting $18,000 in illegal campaign contributions. In what became known as the "Checkers speech," Nixon diverted attention from the cash by admitting that he accepted a cocker spaniel named Checkers as a gift. He talked about how much his children loved the dog and defiantly announced that no matter what others thought the family would keep Checkers. The speech raised his ratings in the political polls, extended his career, and Checkers became famous.
Only 15 minutes after jets crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Apollo, a member of the New York City Police Department K9 Unit, was on the scene. Over 300 more dogs followed, searching for signs of life and helping rescuers pull people from the rubble.
Riva and Salty
Moments before the World Trade Center collapsed, Riva and Salty led their blind owners down 71 flights of smoke-filled crowded stairs to safety.
The year was 1925 and an epidemic of Diptheria raged in Nome, Alaska. A group of Siberian huskies, led by Balto, transported life-saving serum across a perilous 650 mile trek from Anchorage to Nome.
Alexander the Great lived to fight another day, thanks to his dog, Peritas. During an attack by Persia's Darius III, the warrior was charged by an elephant and faced almost certain death. The elephant was diverted when Peritas leaped into the air and bit its face. Alexander went on to forge the empire that became the base of Western civilization.
A chow named Jofi was a frequent visitor to the office of Sigmund Freud. He believed the dog comforted patients and eased the process of psychotherapy.
When Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon he sent Cardinal Wolsey to plead his case before Pope Clement VII. The Pope extended his toe for the cardinal to kiss. Instead of the kiss he expected to receive, the cardinal's dog, Urian, bit his toe. The divorce was denied, and Henry founded the Church of England so he could grant his own divorce.
The Fisherman's Dog
If not for the unnamed dog of a fisherman, Napoleon Bonaparte may have met with a different kind of Waterloo. Napoleon was exiled in 1815 to an island called Elba. While fleeing the island he fell from his ship in rough seas and was rescued by the fisherman's dog.
If all music soothed the savage beast, Richard Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries might sound quite differently. Wagner performed his music for his Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Peps, and kept or discarded passages based on the dog's reaction.
Imagine what it must have been like to be the one standing beside, and unconditionally loving, people who altered the course of history.