Let us Now Praise Famous Dogs

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Let us Now Praise Famous Dogs

Good Dogs in History

Pupper love is having a moment, with blogs and social media capitalizing on the abiding affection between humans and their noble companions.  The Twitter account We Rate Dogs happily gives dogs virtual pets in the form of overenthusiastic ratings, while the Facebook page Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary has built a massive worldwide fan base for the canine retirees who live there. NPR chimed in with a cheerful analysis of dog love via "Doggo Lingo" on the internet.

That said, people have admired and paid tribute to notable dogs as long as we have been able to write about them.  Mikita Brottman expands her love for her French bulldog into an examination of the psychological bonds between faithful dogs and the historical figures who owned them in The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals (2014).  The book is arranged alphabetically by dog name, from Atma (Arthur Schopenhauer's poodle) to Zémire (Catherine the Great's favorite greyhound). It's a fun book that can be opened to any chapter to discover a little bit about dogs who lived with history makers.  For example, Frida Kahlo's Mexican hairless dog Señor Xolotl was named for an Aztec deity and peed on one of Diego Rivera's watercolors.  

Susan Orlean's rags-to-riches account of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend (2011) takes readers from the German Shepherd puppy's rescue on a French battlefield in World War I to the peak of glamour in early Hollywood, where the original Rinty found fame in movies, both silent and talkies.  Readers familiar with Orlean's author-immersive style from her best seller The Orchid Thief (1998) will appreciate her take on the research process as she chases the legend around the world.  

A beloved dog in American literature is Charley, John Steinbeck's poodle immortalized in the philosophical travelogue Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962).  Riding along in a modified pickup truck named after Don Quixote's horse Rocinante, the pair start in New York, drive along the northern states, turn south in California, and drive home along a route that goes through the American West, the deep South, and skirting the Appalachian mountains.  Travels with Charley is a classic work of creative nonfiction that includes Steinbeck's reflections about the good dog himself: "For Charley is not a human; he's a dog and he likes it that way.  He feels that he is a first-rate dog and has no wish to be a second-rate human."  

Charley might be one of the most famous dogs to see America in a car, but he wasn't the first.  The first was Bud, a goggle-wearing bulldog picked up by Horatio Nelson Jackson in 1903.  
Horatio’s Drive: America's First Road Trip (2003) by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns, is a companion to the PBS series of the same name that chronicles a trip across America in a horseless buggy when there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the country.  

A modern heir to Bud and Charley's wanderlust, Atticus the miniature schnauzer preferred mountain climbing to car travel.  In 
Following Atticus: Forty-eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship (2011), journalist Tom Ryan embarked on a winter-long climbing challenge to scale all 48 peaks in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, twice.  A tribute to a friend who died of cancer, Ryan and Atticus rise to the challenge in this poignant and joyful true adventure story.

Buster: The Military Dog Who Saved a Thousand Lives (2015) is a true story of a working dog in war time.  As told by Will Barrow to Isabel George, Buster brings readers to the dangerous theater of modern war.  Buster, who served five tours of duty, was an exceptional bomb sniffing dog who worked from 2007 to 2012.  Buster's skills, drive, and determination made him a vital safety component in British Royal Air Force.  Barrow's love for Buster shines through the storytelling, from descriptions of precarious situations to a final coda about Buster's well-earned retirement.

Stubby was a terrier mix who wore an American Army uniform that became heavy from all the medals he earned.  Ann Bausum's biography and military history Sargeant Stubby:  How a Stray Dog and His Best Friend Helped Win World War I and Stole the Heart of a Nation (2014) follows his discovery as a stray at Yale University and follows him to the France, where he became a mascot for an infantry unit by the side of his owner, Robert Conroy.  When they came home, Stubby got parades and awards for his steadfast, stubby valor.  

Stubby's story will be told as an animated film and visitors to DC can visit Stubby himself, preserved by taxidermy, at the National Museum of American History.  (Like Stubby, Owney the Postal Dog was another beloved mascot that can be visited in DC.  The border terrier traveled the world as the mascot of the Railway Mail Service after he was adopted by the Albany, NY post office in 1888.  Owney picked up pins and badges from the places he visited and now can be found at the Postal Museumwearing his decorated jacket)