Looking back through history there are a great number of dogs that have quite literally left a lasting impression. Unfortunately there are just as many unsung heroes in the canine world that did outstanding things to help people that are not recorded or recognized. Most of the dogs that have become famous in history are not purebreds, nor were they particularly trained for anything, they were just very intelligent dogs that did what had to be done. Some of the famous dogs even gave their lives to save humans or help humans in some way, making them true heroes.
Laika became a heroic figure as the first canine to ever go into space. She was selected from a group of stray dogs found in Moscow. Laika was selected because of her size as well as her calm temperament and disposition. As a space dog Laika orbited the earth in the Russian spaceship, Sputnik 2 launched on November 3, 1957.
Although Russia had previously send two other dogs up to orbit earth just about 43 miles above the surface, Laika was actually sent into outer space, some 900 miles above the earths surface. Before leaving the ground she had to go through training on how to eat special foods and learn to wear a specially designed canine space suit. There was no recovery of her capsule planned so she gave her life so that scientists on earth could understand the effects of space travel on a living system that was similar to a human body.
The Institute for Aviation and Space Medicine in Moscow has now dedicated a plaque to Laika and the other dogs that were used in early experiments in space travel.
Rin Tin Tin
Although Rin Tin Tin movies were dramas based on fictitious stories, the actual dog had a very heroic life. He was literally saved by an American soldier by the name of Lee Duncan, a corporal at the time, who found an abandon German dog training station when on a patrol in 1918 in the war-torn country. Within the fenced area Corporal Duncan spotted a female German Shepherd trying to protect her five puppies. A soft heart, Duncan brought the mother and the puppies back to the American base where they became somewhat base mascots and pets.
When the war ended Corporal Duncan brought a male and a female puppy back to the United States. The female he named Nannette and the male Rin Tin Tin. In 1922 Rin Tin Tin stared in his first western, and became a working movie star for Warner Brothers in 1923 with his very own contract. He was a true star and repaid Lee Duncan for his kindness many times over.
Rin Tin Tin made over 40 movies in his career and retired to live out his life with his owner.
The huge Newfoundland named Seaman was the dog that traveled with the Lewis and Clarke expedition as they mapped their trek through the United States. A very intelligent dog Seaman was credited with saving different people on the voyage by rescuing them from drowning and helping to defend the camp and livestock from attacks by predators.
Jofi, a purebred Chow, was a dog owned by Sigmund Freud and she used to sit in her masters office when therapy sessions were going on. Sigmund Freud noted how patients would respond differently, usually much more openly and candidly when Jofi was in the room. It is often considered that Jofi was the first therapy dog, not only for what she did for patients but because of her therapeutic effect on Sigmund Freud himself.
This Scottish dog was owned by Robert the Bruce and in 1306 Edward the lst of England attempted to have Donnchadh located his master so Edward could have him killed. Although they did succeed in tracking the dog back to Robert the Bruce, Donnchadh turned on his followers and attacked them to save his master and change Scotland's history.
Despite the name, Buddy was actually a female German Shepherd. She made history by being the first formally trained seeing eye dog in the United States, setting groundbreaking laws as to the access to areas that Guide Dogs now have. Without Buddy and her outstanding temperament and behavior as a Guide Dog these laws may have been very slow in being passed. Buddy was trained by Morris Frank who continued to train Guide Dogs through his school, The Seeing Eye.
There are a long list of dogs that have served as mascots, military dogs and even as actual enlisted soldiers holding specific ranks throughout the history of military agencies. In particular war dogs have been made famous through literature and movies, however there are great number of these mascots that are known only to the men that served with them.
While there are too many war dogs to mention, there are some notable dogs from almost every military organization worldwide. A very brief listing includes:
Chesty, a mascot dog from a line of Bulldogs that serves as the mascot for the Marine Barracks in Washington, DC. These dogs are considered as enlisted soldiers and typically retire with a rank of Corporal.
Judy, an English Pointer and a Royal Navy ship dog was awarded the Dicken Medal in 1946. She was the only pet or animal that ever became a registered Japanese prisoner of war. After her release she lived until 1950 with her adoptive owner, Frank Williams.
Smokey, a small Yorkshire Terrier was the most decorated dog of World War ll. Weighing only four pounds at maturity and measuring only seven inches, she was small enough to fit into a backpack or hide in a small space when needed. She was credited with flying in 12 combat missions and living in conditions where fully trained war dogs were not able to survive. After her wartime career she helped run wire through underground pipes and tunnels to build new air force bases. In addition she did shows for weary soldiers that included parachute jumps and was actually one of the first therapy dogs that the military used in veterans hospitals in New Guinea in 1944.