In the early 1900s, the notion of flying an airplane over the North Pole was considered dangerous and an almost impossible task. Umberto Nobile’s dream was to fly a dirigible over the top of the world, and he wasn’t deterred by skeptics who scoffed at his insane idea. Nobile was a determined adventurer and with his loyal dog Titina by his side, he made a historic flight over the Arctic in an airship. This earned them recognition as the first man and dog to fly over the North Pole.
Titina was a stray Fox Terrier wandering the streets of Rome when she found Nobile one day in 1925. The two month old pup was lost, starving, and desperate for help. She approached him, stood up on her hind legs and pawed the air with her front feet. He bent down and petted her on the head. Unable to leave her behind, Nobile scooped her up and carried her home. From that moment on, Titina followed Nobile wherever he went.
She didn’t share her owner’s love of flying, but her desire to be with him was stronger than her fear. Nobile had intended to leave Titina at home during his 1926 flight over the Arctic, but the little dog wasn’t about to be left behind. As his airship the Norge rose from the ground, Nobile clutched Titina tight against his chest as thousands of well wishers cheered. A green, red and white Italian sash hung around the dog’s neck. The Norge headed north and began a journey that would make Titina and Nobile household names.
Beginning with George Washington up to our current president, dogs have lived in the White House with their elected leaders. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had his share of presidential pets, but his favorite canine and constant companion was Fala, a Scottish Terrier who in many ways helped to shape our country.
Fala was born April 7, 1940, and was destined to become one of the most beloved presidential pets of all time. The dog, whose name was Big Boy at the time, was given to Roosevelt by Mrs. Augustus Kellog, but it was Roosevelt’s cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley who socialized and trained the puppy before presenting him to the president as an early Christmas gift. By the time Fala entered the White House in November, he knew how to behave, roll over, sit up and jump.
Roosevelt wasn’t keen on the name Big Boy and promptly changed it to Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, after a Scottish ancestor from the 1400s who was apparently of questionable character. The name was soon shortened to Fala. Roosevelt was a huge dog lover, but was persuaded to leave his bigger dogs at home in Hyde Park, New York. Without a canine companion in the White House, people around Roosevelt thought he seemed distant at times and hoped the pup would provide comfort and cheer him up. Fala and Roosevelt quickly bonded and the two became inseparable, much to Eleanor’s dismay; she constantly had to contend with Roosevelt crossing her name off a list of people accompanying him on trips and replacing it with Fala’s.
Jim was a black and white Llewellyn Setter that astounded the world during the 1930s with amazing talents no one could explain. Not only was he crowned top hunting dog in the entire United States, his reputation of understanding the spoken word earned him the title of Jim the Wonder Dog.
Born in Louisiana in 1925 to purebred champion hunting dogs, Jim’s special talents were yet to be discovered. He wasn’t a cute pup and his owner didn’t think he’d be a good hunting dog, so he sold Jim to Sam Van Arsdale at a discounted price. A special bond quickly developed between man and pup, and Jim’s ugly duckling appearance faded as he grew.
When Jim was old enough to begin bird dog training, Van Arsdale took him to a trainer. However, Jim had no interest in learning; all he wanted to do was lie under a shade tree and watch the other dogs go through training exercises. Even though Jim failed his training, Van Arsdale decided to take him hunting one day and to his amazement, Jim knew exactly what to do. He quickly located birds, held a perfect point and waited until a shot rang out. On command to fetch, Jim picked up the bird and took it to Van Arsdale.
I am a big fan of Hallie, the blind dog that paints, and so delighted she agreed to an interview. I am certain you’ll enjoy getting to know this very special (and talented!) little dog.
How did you meet your mom?
One night when I was about 10 months old, my people took me and my sister and brother to an animal shelter and locked us in the night drop-off kennel. We were scared in there. One of the shelter employees called my soon-to-be Mom because she had lost her other longhaired dachshund girl four years earlier and was still so broken hearted she didn’t have another dog-child. They asked her if she would foster the three of us so we wouldn’t have to stay in the shelter while we waited for new homes. So she did and she found homes for us (because she was still vowing to not get a dog again herself) but after she took my brother and sister to their new homes, she just couldn’t let me go, so she kept me. And the funny thing is, I knew from the second we laid eyes on each other that I would be staying with her. And on some level, I think she knew it too. I promised her I’d take good care of her, and I have ever since.
What got you interested in painting?
My Mom and I always did fun things and we trained all the time. To me it was a big game and I loved it. I won obedience titles and learned a lot of tricks. When I was 10 years old, I had earned most of my titles so we didn’t go to shows as often. Mom taught me more tricks so I would still have something fun to learn. She is an artist also (I think she gets it from me) so one winter day when it was cold out and I was bored, she got the idea to see if I wanted to learn how to paint too. I surprised her by learning very fast and doing my first painting within a few weeks. I really got into it! And the better the treat involved…the faster I painted!
Do you have a favorite painting?
I am most proud of my first painting. My Mom has it framed on the wall. She has a video of me painting it. My style was different then, when I could still see. You can watch the video here. Read More »
The Hollywood Dog Training School, currently owned and operated by Richard Karl, was once a hotel and training ground for the Hollywood elite. The fancy four pawed “actors and actresses” were brought in to learn to hit their acting cues. The Hollywood superstars also brought their canines to set up house in their own little personal hotel of sorts. The rich and famous regularly lavished their canines with a visit to the hottest spot in the doggie world at that time. Carl Spitz, the owner and trainer at this Hollywood hotspot, knew how to make dogs feel like a million dollars.
Carl Spitz, Sr. was the original owner and brains behind the initial Hollywood Dog Training School. Originally from Germany, Spitz got his start working with dogs for movie roles. He learned about dog training from the man that many consider the greatest dog trainer of all time…Colonel Konrad Most. Clearly he learned his lessons well, because he went on to be among the greatest in his own right.
Most everyone knows the dog Toto from the movie The Wizard of Oz. Toto was actually Carl’s family dog and was trained under his watchful eye. Toto’s real name was Terry, and the dog became one of Spitz’s most famous clients. Starring alongside Judy Garland, that cute little canine actor was so much fun to watch. Although he was one of Spitz’s most popular clients, he was far from the only one.
Back when Spitz first started the school in 1927, the Hollywood elite would bring him their dogs to be pampered and trained. The accommodations were right out of a Hollywood fantasy, with extravagant playgrounds and beautiful views. The dogs would also have private baths and dryers, and custom menu items made by special cooks. How many dogs do you know that are bathed in porcelain bathtubs? Spitz made sure they had the best of everything for his visitors.
Colleges and universities often bestow honorary degrees to individuals for outstanding contributions or distinction. Sometimes it’s a four legged individual that impresses committee members. Ellis, Samson, Zeeke and Elvis are dogs who received honorary degrees for their contributions to their humans, and Dylan received a posthumous award for his owner.
Amanda Davis is legally blind, but having a disability didn’t stop her from realizing her dream of getting a law degree. While she was getting her undergraduate degree at the University of Tampa, she was paired with a black Lab named Ellis after she applied for a guide dog from the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. Davis was accepted into the New York Law School to continue her education, and Ellis was by her side the entire time. The school made room in the classrooms and gave Ellis time for breaks when they were needed. When Davis and Ellis crossed the stage on graduation day in 2012, she received her law degree and Ellis was given an honorary degree for his outstanding work as a service dog. Samson
In 2011, a 2 year old yellow Lab named Samson graduated from and received an honorary degree from Oklahoma University. He entered the hallowed halls of higher education as an eight week old pup. Occupational therapist and faculty member in the Rehabilitative Services Department, Dr. Mary Isaacson, would spend the next two years training Samson as a service dog. Part of his training included learning how to hold open doors, retrieve objects on the floor, and turn lights on and off. Samson completed his education, donned his cap and gown, and graduated as a certified service dog ready to assist someone living with a disability in Oklahoma. When Samson received his honorary degree, he sat and shook the Dean’s hand, like any other graduate. The 300 other graduates were thrilled to share their special day with a dog they knew and loved.
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