Dogs through History

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Through the centuries, dogs have shown their dedication to mankind in a variety of ways. Some dogs have exhibited courage in extreme situations, others, by total dedication and affection to their owners. The following compilation is but a small number of those dogs that deserve our respect, admiration and gratitude.

Bobby was a shaggy little Skye terrier who was owned by a Midlothian farmer who was known as Auld Jock. Bobby used to accompany Auld Jock to market in Edinburgh each Wednesday. Auld Jock and Bobby would regularly have some refreshments in a small restaurant owned by John Traill in Greyfriers, arriving at one o'clock when the gun at the Castle went off to announce the time. The eating- place had a cosy little corner where Auld Jock and Bobby could partake of some warm food and where Bobby could curl up between the boots of his beloved master and have a sleep.

On one such visit to the market, Auld Jock died and was buried in the Greyfriers churchyard. Bobby, being totally devoted to his master refused to leave him and after he was buried in the churchyard, found a way in and lay on his master's grave. Dogs were not allowed in Greyfriers churchyard and the caretaker strictly upheld the rules. Bobby was soon rooted out and sent packing.

Three days after the funeral, as the time gun sounded one o'clock, Bobby who had been wandering the streets, now hungry and unkempt, arrived at the restaurant in the time honoured way. The sound of the one o'clock gun had reminded him of an old routine he had been used to. Taking pity on the little dog, the owner gave him a bun. Trying to coax the little dog to stay in the warm, Traill gave Bobby a place by the fire and the offer of a home. Bobby ran off but returned the next day at the same time. This happened every day. After a while Traill decided to follow Bobby and see where he went. To his surprise he found that Bobby went back to his owner's grave, somehow he had found a way into the churchyard to be with Auld Jock and sleep on his grave. Bobby had been living there since Auld Jock's death.

Bobby began to be a celebrity in Greyfriers. People would recognise him and take time to speak to him. At the back of the churchyard was an old building that had been a hospital but in Bobby's day had been turned into a children's home. Bobby became a favourite with them and they kept an eye on him and Bobby in turn, became fond of them. Bobby became an important part of the children's lives because he played with them every day. Each night they would call out to him from the windows of the home that overlooked the churchyard, 'a good night to you Bobby' before they retired to bed. He became especially close to a little crippled boy named Tammy. Although the caretaker of Greyfriers tried to exclude Bobby from the graveyard, he failed. Thinking he would get the law on his side, the caretaker went to the magistrate to have Bobby dealt with like a homeless dog and removed. John Traill went to court to explain that he fed Bobby daily and that he lived on his master's grave. The orphaned children from the home went to the magistrate to plead for Bobby as well. After lengthy argument, Bobby was granted freedom of the city and was allowed to continue living in the churchyard.

In time a little shelter was erected so he had some shelter from bad weather. Even through all the bad winter weather, Bobby refuse to take shelter in anyone's home. The caretaker offered a warm fire and bed regularly, only to be refused. Bobby and the caretaker had become friends. The gate of the churchyard was left off the latch so Bobby could always get back in and by his master's grave. Auld Jock had died in1858; Bobby lived by his master's grave until he died in1872. He had stayed with his master for fourteen years. By the time Bobby died, he was famous and well loved by the community. He is also buried in Greyfriars churchyard near his beloved master. His grave and little statue can still be seen in Greyfriers.

Further reading Greyfriers Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson. Pub: Puffin

Jack was the mascot of the royal Dublin Fusiliers. He was found, wounded and guarding his dying master who was a young German in a trench at Festubert on April12th 1917. Slowly he transferred his affections to an officer in the regiment. War in the trenches is horrific and takes its toll. Jack, a retriever cross Balmoral sheep dog became an emotional support and represented hope for the troops who came to love and respect him. It is said that Jack received commendations and medals for his bravery. A book that tells his story is well worth a read. (Corporal Jack by Marjorie Quarton. Pub: Collins)

Rats, a brown and white little mongrel, was known as the soldier dog of Ulster. His active service days were spent in Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland. He spent his duty time in the front line and was injured more than once. He was blown up, run over and shot at many times. Rats was welcome company when the troops had to go out on a mission and became a trusted 'nose' for potential danger. He went with them on day and night manoeuvres, flew in helicopter missions and was no stranger to front line action.

His injuries included a broken leg, gunshot injuries and shrapnel in his spine. On top of that, Rats made enemies amongst IRA supporters' as he was the troops mascot and helped boost morale when it was most needed. This made him a potential IRA target.

Rats became well known amongst the serving soldiers. There were many times when he warned a patrol that something was amiss and as a result saved a few lives. The BBC did a documentary on him and told of his devotion to the troops. A book written by Max Halstock tells of the courage and bravery of this little dog. It also points out that Rats went through many difficult times in his life when the regiments changed over, once their tour of duty was over. This meant that Rats lost the men he had become attached to more than once; something the little dog could never understand. There must have been times when he was very sad and confused.

Rats was held in such high esteem by the troops that he was given an army number. This was put on a medal made from a dog disc. It had the Queen's head on one side and 'Rats. Delta 777' on the other. Rats received the medal during a ceremony when the whole Company was on parade and a piper played 'Scotland the Brave', in his honour.

Rats had developed a close relationship with Corporal O'Neil of the Queen's Own Highlanders. He looked after him but the tour of duty came to and end and Corporal O'Neil had to leave Crossmaglen. The regiment that replaced the Queen's Own Highlanders was the Prince of Wales Company, 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards. All the comrades that Rats had grown close to were going to leave. Corporal O'Neil was not allowed to take Rats home with him. It was a sad parting for them both. Rats had to find new friends amongst the new soldiers. In time he became close to Corporal Lewis of the Welsh Guards.

Rats continued his tour of duty, being a mascot and a great moral booster for the troops. Later he was retired to a secret location in the UK. Secret because the army wanted to be sure that the IRA did not target Rats in an attempt to demoralise the men. He had meant so much to them and had been a welcome diversion and help through such difficult times. Rats had a happy retirement and still holds a special place in the soldier's memories of duty in Northern Ireland.

This is a true story about a hound called Gêlert who was a hound that was devoted to his master and his family. The poem, 'Beth Gêlert', was written by William Robert Spencer.

The spearmen heard the bugle sound,
And cheerily smiled the morn;
And many a brach, and many a hound
Obeyed Llewellyn's horn.

And still he blew, a louder blast,
And gave a lustier cheer,
'Come Gêlert, come, wert never last
Llewellyn's horn to hear.

'O where does faithful Gêlert roam
The flower of all his race;
So brave - a lamb at home,
A lion in the chase?'

In sooth, he was a peerless hound,
The gift of royal John;
But now no Gêlert could be found,
And all the chase rode on.

That day Llewellyn little loved
The chase of hart and hare;
And scant and small the booty proved,
For Gêlert was not there.

Unpleased, Llewellyn homeward hied,
When, near the portal seat,
His truant Gêlert he espied
Bounding his lord to greet.

But when he gained the castle door,
Aghast the chieftain stood;
The hound all o'er was smeared with gore;
His lips, his fangs, ran blood.

Llewellyn gazed with fierce surprise;
Unused such looks to meet,
His favourite checked his joyful guise
And crouched, and licked his feet.

On ward in haste, Llewellyn passed,
And on went Gêlert too;
And still, where'ere his eyes he cast,
Fresh blood-gouts shocked his view.

O'turned his infants bed he found,
With blood-stained covert rent;
And all around the walls and ground
With recent blood besprent.

He called his child - no voice replied -
He searched with terror wild;
Blood, blood he found on every side,
But nowhere found his child.

'Hell-hound! My child by thee devoured,'
The frantic father cried;
And to the hilt his vengeful sword
He plunged in Gêlert's side.

Aroused by Gêlert's dying yell,
Some slumber wakened nigh;
What words the parent's joy could tell
To hear his infant's cry!

Concealed beneath a tumbled heap
His hurried search had missed,
All glowing from his rosy sleep
The cherub boy he kissed.

Nor scathe had he, nor harm, nor dread,
But, the same couch beneath,
Lay a gaunt wolf, all torn and dead,
Tremendous still in death.

Ah, what was then Llewellyn's pain!
For now the truth was clear;
His gallant hound the wolf had slain
To save Llewellyn's heir.

Radar was found in a kennel in Brazil in 1960, dying of distemper. As a result of careful nursing and care he survived and became a famous TV personality. After coming to England, he appeared in the David Frost show and then became a famous face in the police drama, 'Softly Softly' when he played the part of a police dog with his TV handler P.C. Snow, a part played by Terrence Rigby. His career was distinguished and his following was huge. Radar's story is told in the book, 'Radar' by Dorothy Stevens pub: Pelham.

The pages of history are littered with the stories of great heroes and heroines. However there are few who can boast the exceptional courage of the dogs and handlers of SARDA, (Search and Rescue Dog Association), who work with the MRTs, (Mountain Rescue Teams) in the most inhospitable areas of the Pennines, Wales and Scotland, brining injured and lost individuals down from places of certain death if they are not found in time. All too often a search does not have a happy ending, be it a fatality on the mountain or an injured handler or dog.

Dogs who rescue humans are not a new phenomenon. In the seventeenth century the monks initially used dogs to help travellers negotiate the Great St Bernard Pass. It was soon realised that the dogs could also find people buried in snow by air scenting. In the First World War the Red Cross used dogs to find injured men on the battlefields. A search for the survivors of an avalanche in Switzerland sewed the seed of an idea. That idea led to dogs being trained just for search work and later led to the establishing of the Swiss Alpine Club and the development of rescue networks in other countries.

By 1963, Hamish MacInnes the leader of the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team had become interested in using dogs for search and rescue. He was invited by the International Red Cross to attend a conference in Switzerland about training dogs for search and rescue. After the trip he was convinced that search dogs were a great asset to all rescue teams. This resulted in SARDA being born.

Sam, a Golden Labrador, started life by being considered by his breeder as having lots of faults. She was used to breeding for the show ring and Sam was not up to the standard. A couple, John and Tina, who were soon to move home to Cumbria, bought him. The adventure began.

Once settled in Cumbria, the couple were told stories about the SARDA dogs. They were fascinated and to begin with took Sam off to basic training lessons. Sam got bored. After taking some advice from a friend, John approached the SARDA group in his area and he and Sam were put through their paces. Training is strict and tough. The team cannot have a dog or handler that isn't up to scratch, they would be a liability.

After a doubtful start as a young dog with a mind of his own, Sam passed his training schedule and went on to be one of the greatest search and rescue dogs of the country. He and John have saved more than a few souls. The price of fame is never cheap, with it comes the injuries and exhaustion that all dogs and handlers have to endure. Sam nearly died when he plunged forty foot over the edge of a crag while working. John clambered down the steep gorge and then with Sam unconscious in his arms, he ran back to the waiting Team to save him.

Sam received many honours while he was an active search dog. He was a devoted family member when off duty always loving and sweet natured to the couples two children. He helped bring on younger dogs as he had his duties reduced when he got older. However he was still on active duty and showing the younger search dogs how it should be done when he was nine years old.

Society owes Sam and those like him a debt of gratitude. Without these dogs and handlers there would be many more fatalities in the inhospitable areas that are enjoyed by so many who walk and have leisure activities on the moors and mountains.

Read Sam's story in; Search Dog by Angela Locke. Published by Souvenir Press

Bothie, the celebrated Jack Russell went round the world with the Transglobe Expedition and has played and left his paw marks on both North and South Poles. He also had private talks with the expedition patron, HRH Prince Charles, and, on his return home to Britain was invited to do a circuit of honour at the canine holy of holies, Crufts.

Bothie's owners, Ranulph and Virginia Fiennes decided to take on a three-year expedition and took Bothie along as well. They had the idea in 1972 and that idea became an adventure that would take them round the world via the Poles. The frenzy of preparation and planning culminated with the day they sailed away in September 1979.

Previously in 1977, a friend of the Fiennes had turned up with a four-week-old Jack Russell puppy that he had found in a Hampshire village. In trying to find a suitable name, the suggestion of Booth came up. They looked in a dictionary to find out what Booth meant, 'lean-to, shack or bothie'. The little dog was given the only possible word that sounded like a name, Bothie.

When Bothie started his Polar adventure, he was two years old. Part of the expedition had already taken place, mainly in the African areas. The extreme heat had caused the vet to be concerned for Bothie so it was decided to let him join later. Bothie joined the expedition ship the Benjamin Bowring. It had sixteen crewmembers, all from different backgrounds and countries. Being a sociable little chap, Bothie introduced himself to them all. However, being a survivor, he quickly made best friends with the cook.

Bothie had to deal with all the bad weather conditions just like everybody else. He wore a harness while he was on board for safety sake and when all was calm, he was quick to find the toys and demand a game.

On the second day of the New Year 1980, the cliffs of Antarctica were spotted. The wind chill affected Bothie and he had to put on his Polar gear like anyone else. He had an especially made coat and balaclava cap, body stocking, jumper and padded bootees and a supply of Mars Bars. Transported from the ship in a rucksack, Bothie was introduced to the ice. He was the first terrier to set foot on the largest, coldest continent on earth. Later he came face to face with a penguin; retreat at speed seemed an excellent option.

Base camp was erected two miles inland. The South Pole was still 1,400 away. The expedition made that trip without Bothie or Virginia Fiennes. Once the expedition had made the journey, the waiting couple received a radio message and then they followed by plane.

Bothie's adventure was a mixture of fun and danger. He had happy times in the Yuken and met and fell in love with a 'black dog' in Tuktoyaktuk. Black Dog was an offspring of a Newfoundland and Husky cross Labrador. The expedition's dog compliment doubled at that time as the pair became inseparable.

The success of the expedition culminated in great celebrations at Easter time. Bothie became famous when a film crew flew in to get his story because he was the only dog to have stood on both Poles. After the North Pole, Bothie and Black Dog were flown home, first to quarantine kennels where they stayed together. Then when the day of their release came Bothie performed his best ball games for the BBC News, Blue Peter and This Is Your Life TV programmes.

Bothie was voted Pet of the Year in 1982. He then broke all previous precedents when the Chairman of the Kennel Club invited Bothie to do a circuit of honour and present a prize at the 1983 Crufts Dog Show.

Bothie's adventures are well documented in the book, 'Bothie the Polar Dog', written by his owners and published by Hodder and Stoughton

Rudd Weatherwax got Pal (later to be Lassie) as a payment for a debt. He ran a kennel and supplied movie dogs but also taught regular obedience. Pal chased motorcycles and his owner sent Pal to be trained but then did not want him back! Rudd took Pal on, curing all his behaviour problems but never did stop him from chasing motorcycles.

Around 1942 Lassie Come Home went into production with a female collie hired to play the lead. Pal had previously auditioned for the part but was turned down because he was not a show collie. Rudd went home and began training Pal to do all the trademark Lassie tricks and feeding him a special diet to bring out his coat. He auditioned for the part yet again and yet again was turned down but this time was offered a role as a stunt dog.

The script called for the lead dog to swim across a raging river and the female show collie would not go near the water! Now Pal got his chance! He jumped into the river, swam desperately to the other side, dragged himself out and collapsed. Not a dry eye in the house! The Director was so impressed he said "Pal may have gone into the water but Lassie has come out"

All the dogs portraying Lassie have been male. Females are usually 10-15 lbs lighter and Lassie needs to be a big heroic dog! Female collies were not ignored because they are any less intelligent in fact some of Lassie's own stunt doubles have been female! Also male collies tend to have thicker coats.

Pal went on to the be the first in a long line of Weatherwax bred and trained Lassie's spanning over 50 years in the entertainment world.

At the end of World War 1 Corporal Lee Duncan stumbled upon an abandoned German war dog station. They discovered a mother German Shepherd and five pups. Being an animal lover he rescued the shivering canines. When he was discharged he took two of the puppies back to the U.S. He called them Nanette and Rin-Tin-Tin. Unfortunately Nanette contracted pneumonia and died. Rin-Tin-Tin went on to become a famous movie star.

Rin-Tin-Tin made his debut in The Man From Hell's River in 1922. Warner Bros. snapped up the charismatic canine in 1923. He earned $1000 a week, was insured for $100,00, had his own production unit, own limo and chauffeur, his own orchestra for mood music, wore a diamond-studded collar and was served steak prepared by his own chef! What a dog!!!

He starred in 24 films the success of which kept the studio afloat, and also had the effect of saving many neighbourhood movie houses for closure.

Rinty (as he was nicknamed) performed all his own super stunts! He could remain in a stay for up to 30 minutes as a time and knew how to play to the camera as well as any modern day star of today. The movie mogul Darryl F Zanuck was responsible for several of Rinty's scripts before he himself became famous!

Rinty was a one man dog and bonded with Lee Duncan in a special way. His highly strung nature was kept in check by love for his trainer. He could be unpredictable and more than one co-star came away with a nip or two!

The love life of any super star is always of great interest to their adoring public and when Rinty the eligible bachelor was paired with a female German Shepherd the 'wedding' made all the papers. They appeared together in a few films and eventually produced Rin-Tin-Tin Junior, who also went on to make a little career for himself in the movies!

Rinty's last film was Rough Waters in 1930. When the studio released him he made two low budget serials before enjoying a happy but short-lived retirement. In 1932 at the age of 14 he died suddenly whilst playing with his beloved master! Neighbour and animal lover the actress Jean Harlow ran over to help but nothing could be done and Duncan cradled Rinty and wept.

Information taken from The Silents Majority by Diane MacIntyre 1996/7.


Flush was a spaniel, originally owned by Mary Russell Mitford (1787 - 1855) -an author who found herself in reduced circumstances and had to part with her beloved pet. Flush was given to the invalid Elizabeth Barrett (1806 - 1861), the future wife of the poet Robert Browning. Flush spent most of his life lounging on a sofa at Elizabeth Barrett's feet. This poem of devotion to her dog was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.


Loving friend, the gift of one
Who her own true faith had run
Through thy lower nature;
Be by benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow creature!

Like a lady's ringlets brown
Flow thy silken ears adown
Either side demurely
Of thy silver-suited breast
Shining out from all the rest
Of thy body purely.

Darkly brown thy body is
Till the sunshine, striking this,
Alchemise its dullness,-
When the sleek curls manifold
Flash all over into gold,
With a burnished fullness.

Underneath my stroking hand,
Startled eyes of hazel bland,
Kindling, growing larger,
Up thou leapest with a spring,
Full of prank and curvetting,
Leaping like a charger.

Leap! Thy broad tail waves alight,
Leap! Thy slender feet are bright,
Canopied in fringes;
Leap! those tasselled ears of thine
Flicker strangely, fair and fine,
Down their golden inches.

This dog, if a friendly voice
Call him now to blyther choice
Than such chamber-keeping,
'Come out!' praying from the door, -
Presseth backward as before,
Up against me leaping.

Therefore to this dog will I,
Tenderly, nor scornfully,
Render praise and valour!
With my hand upon his head,
Is my benediction said,
Therefore and forever.

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