Rin Tin Tin
Rin Tin Tin was found in a bombed dog kennel by a soldier in World War I. Rinty and his sister were rescued by Corporal Lee Duncan; he named Rin Tin Tin and Nannette after French puppets that were given to soliders for good luck at the time. Nannette got distemper and didn’t make the journey back to California.
Tin Tin, however, was filmed at a dog show jumping almost 12 feet. A movie company paid $350 for the footage, and Corporal Duncan knew a star was born. He ended up making 26 movies before he died in 1932 and received 10,000 fan letters a week at the height of his popularity. His bloodline was retained – a lady in Texas purchased some of Rin Tin Tin’s descendants from Lee Duncan and her family has continued to breed them for years.
Bummer and Lazarus
I first came across Bummer and Lazarus in a Christopher Moore book and assumed they were products of his crazy imagination, but two stray dogs by the same name really did exist in San Francisco in the 1860s. Bummer, who was at least part Newfoundland, sort of adopted Lazarus, who was apparently wounded. After that, the two became inseparable. The town took notice of this unusual pairing; newspapers even reported on their whereabouts and escapades. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors even voted to let them roam the town as they wished at a time when all dogs were required by law to have a leash and/or a muzzle when our in public.
It was a very sad affair when Lazarus died in 1863; the town and Bummer mourned him. Bummer followed a couple of years later when he was kicked by a drunk. Mark Twain, a reporter for the Virginia City Enterprise, wrote an obituary for him.
Fala was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s beloved Scottie Dog. FDR actually named him Murry the Outlaw of Falahill, a Scottish ancestor, but I suppose that got too long to call out. Can you imagine? “Murray the Outlaw of Falahill!! Stop that right now!!”
Fala was totally spoiled – he got a bone every morning on FDR’s breakfast tray and he was made a private in the Army for setting an example by contributing $1 to the war effort every day one year. His likeness sits beside the FDR statue in Washington, D.C., and is the only White House pet to have his own official statue. He outlived FDR by about seven years but was buried next to him upon his death in 1952.
The epitome of loyal, Bobby is said to have spent 14 years guarding his owner’s grave in Edinburgh, Scotland, until his own death. His master, a policeman with the Edinburgh City Police, died of tuberculosis in 1858. In 1867, when someone pointed out that a dog with no owner was supposed to be “destroyed” by law, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh renewed Bobby’s license himself. He died in 1872 and was buried not far from the man he was so loyal to. Greyfriars Bobby has lots of fans – he has been featured in numerous children’s books, the Dog Aid Society of Scotland installed a gravestone for him, and a statue of him stands in front of the Greyfriars Bobby pub in Edinburgh. It makes me think of that Futurama episode where Fry's dog waits for him outside of the pizza joint he worked at, not realizing that he is never coming back. It gets me all choked up every time.
Owney became famous when workers at the Albany, N.Y. post office discovered him snoozing on some mail bags in 1888. At the time, the mail was being carried by the Railway Mail Service, and Owney liked to ride around in the trains with the bags. No train he stowed away on was ever in a wreck, so post office workers were happy to have him. In 1895, he even made a trip around the world – from Tacoma, Washington, to Asia and across Europe and back to his Albany post office home. Post office employees would put tags and stickers on his collar when he showed up at their stop; Owney eventually collected 1,017 stags. Owney died in 1897, but both he and his thousand-plus tags can still be seen at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.
Toto’s got nothing on Smoky. Smoky was found in an abandoned foxhole in 1944 by an American soldier. Fully grown, she was a Yorkie that only weighed four pounds and stood about seven inches tall. She stayed with Corporal William Wynne while he continued to serve the next two years in the Pacific – she shared his C-rations, sat in his soldier’s pack and flew 12 rescue and photo reconnaissance missions.
When the war was over, Smoky came back to Cleveland to live with Wynne. She became a much-demanded entertainer at veterans’ hospitals until she died in 1957. “World War II’s littlest soldier” has been honored by two statues in the Cleveland area.