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.
The mystery of how and why dogs do certain things has never been solved, and maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a conundrum that constantly reminds us of the amazing abilities of dogs. Such is the case with Patsy Ann, a white Bull Terrier who left her home and family behind to become the “Official Greeter” of Juneau, Alaska, welcoming ships as they docked. What impressed the townspeople was that even though Patsy Ann was born deaf, she was able to “hear” the whistles of ships preparing to dock before they were even in sight. She was the most famous dog west of the Mississippi during the 1930s.
Patsy Ann was born on October 12, 1929 in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Keyser, a Juneau dentist, purchased the pup for his twin daughters, and Patsy Ann traveled by ship to her new home in Alaska. Once there, however, things didn’t go well in her new home and she was given to another family in Juneau. But Patsy Ann had a mind of her own and wasn’t the “settling down with one family” type of dog. She regularly escaped to make her rounds around town and visit human friends. A friendly soul adored by everyone, Patsy Ann had become Juneau’s dog.
How Patsy Ann knew a ship was coming has remained a mystery. Maybe she felt vibrations from the whistle in the air or smelled the smoke coming from the smokestacks on the steamships. As soon as the first whistles were heard, no matter where Patsy Ann was in town, she eagerly trotted to the pier before the ship was even in sight. She even knew which of the seven docks the ship was making its way to!
A story the locals loved to tell was the time the newspaper misprinted the dock for an incoming ship, which sent everyone to the wrong dock to wait. As Patsy Ann made her way to the wharf, she saw the crowd gathering at the published dock. She stared at them for a moment before moving on to the correct dock and sat down to wait. Every now and then, she’d glance at the people and then turn her head back towards the channel. When the crowd realized the ship was heading for the dock Patsy Ann was at, they began to wander over to join her.
For twelve years, Patsy Ann endured bitter winds cutting across Gastineau Channel as she waited for ships to come into view. She waited through pounding rainstorms, wicked sleet, the harshness of winter, and docks groaning and rolling in heavy waves. Through it all, Patsy Ann stared into the gloom – waiting and watching. When a ship broke through the mist, Patsy Ann wiggled with excitement. The positive attention she received from the passengers and ship’s crew was her reward.
Patsy Ann was given the title of Official Greeter of Juneau by Mayor Goldstein in 1934, and when the town issued new dog license laws, he granted her immunity, which was good since she didn’t like wearing collars and somehow lost each one put on her.
When she wasn’t waiting for ships at the dock, Patsy Ann spent time with her friends in town. The local newspaper reported regularly on her activities, like leaving her footprints in freshly laid cement. She was well cared for by local businesses and probably had more friends than anyone in town. Everyone looked out for the dog and made sure she had shelter and plenty to eat. Her favorite place to sleep was in the Longshoremen’s hall.
News of Juneau’s famous Bull Terrier spread around the world by word of mouth, photographs and postcards with her image on them. Everyone wanted a picture of her. For people visiting Juneau, Patsy Ann was the highlight of their trip.
As she grew older, years of diving into the cold channel waters to meet many of the ships, weather and obesity had taken its toll on the old gal. On the night of March 30, 1942, she settled down for the last time in the Longshoremen’s hall. Patsy Ann died peacefully in her sleep at the age of twelve. A crowd of mourners gathered at the pier the next day and watched as a small coffin was lowered into the icy waters of the channel – Patsy Ann was gone.
On July 3, 1992, to honor this remarkable canine, a life-size bronze sculpture was unveiled at Patsy Ann Square which sits on the waterfront. In a heartwarming tribute, when the sculpture was sent to Alaska, part of the journey was by ship. Encased in the bronze are clippings of dog hairs from around the world to symbolically unite the spirit of all dogs. The statue sits on the main dock so Patsy Ann can continue her duty as Juneau’s Official Greeter, her head turned, watching the channel for ships making their way to dock. Visitors are encouraged to “Greet her and touch her and in leaving, carry with you the blessings of friendship through your life’s journey.”
Top photo by gillfoto Middle photo by by woofiegrrl Bottom photo by Eric V. Blanchard
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.
Animals don’t really care about money, but nevertheless, when it comes to animal actors, they do indeed get paid. Some animal actors receive a hefty fee for their performances, and that pay would make any human drool. Who are the highest paid animal actors? Check these out.
Rin Tin Tin the Dog
This beloved pooch starred in 26 films for Warner Brothers and commanded a cool $6,000 each week. In today’s money, that would equal $78,000 per week! With that income, he could feed himself and thousands of his friends a healthy diet of CANIDAE dog food. Rin Tin Tin earned Warner Brothers so much money, in fact, that he was responsible for bringing the studio back from the brink of bankruptcy in 1930. Rin Tin Tin was a German shepherd dog that was rescued from a battlefield during World War I by an American soldier named Lee Duncan. Duncan trained “Rinty,” his pet name for his dog. Rin Tin Tin became a beloved movie icon and was rumored to have received the most votes for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1929, but the Academy would only give the award to a human. The original Rin Tin Tin died in 1932. (Read more about this famous animal actor in The True Story of Rin Tin Tin). Keiko the Whale
This killer whale made a killing financially, thanks to his depiction of Willy in the Free Willy films. He earned a grand total of over $36 million for his role! Eventually, Keiko gained his own freedom in 2002, as he was returned to the open ocean. Sadly, Keiko died in 2003 in Norway from a bout with pneumonia, but his work lives on after his passing.
One of the most beloved and well known animal actors during the 1960s and 1970s was a scruffy little shelter dog named Higgins. This pup played all sorts of roles, but is probably best known as the dog on the Petticoat Junction TV show and as the title role in the movie Benji. As a kid, I was crazy about every show and movie that had a prominent animal actor, but the movie Benji was a particular favorite. I’m certain this movie was a contributing factor in establishing my lifelong passion for animals.
Higgins was discovered by Frank Inn, a Hollywood animal trainer and true animal lover. Inn was known to visit animal shelters and take home all the healthy pets because he couldn’t stand for them to be euthanized. He kept and trained the ones that he thought had potential as an animal actor and he found loving homes for the rest. There was a time when Inn and his assistants had over 1,000 animals in their care.
It was during one of Inn’s shelter sweeps at the Burbank Animal Shelter when he found a special little tan-and-black mixed breed puppy. Inn believed this little pup was a combination of Border Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Miniature Poodle and Schnauzer. With Frank Inn’s incredible talent as a dog trainer and this puppy’s natural abilities, the dog went on to become what some people consider the best animal actor of our times.
Higgins first major national role was of the dog (creatively called Dog or sometimes called Boy, as in “Here, Boy”) in Petticoat Junction. Higgins appeared in 163 episodes from 1964 to 1970, and even though he was un-credited in this role, it introduced him to millions of fans. During that time, he also made guest appearances on Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies. Even though he was from Burbank, California, Higgins must have had a southern accent.
Mozart, one of my cats, loves Dozer, a foster dog we’ve been caring for. Mozart follows Dozer around, giving him love bites, rubbing against him and standing on his hind legs to give him hugs. It’s not uncommon for animals to form close bonds with different species. In 1998, a dog named Ginny was honored as “Cat of the Year” by the Westchester Feline Club, sponsor of the annual Westchester Cat Show, because of an extraordinary desire she had to rescue stray cats in desperate need of help.
Ginny and her three pups were discovered locked inside the closet of an abandoned apartment. She and her pups were taken to a shelter, but when vets saw her, they were afraid she was too far gone to be saved. They concluded it would be kinder to put her down. But something made them change their mind, and they decided she should be given a chance to recover, and did what they could to help her. Ginny did recover, and she and her pups were put up for adoption.
Philip Gonzalez had been wrestling with depression after he was injured on the job while working as a steamfitter in Manhattan. His right arm had been severely injured in the accident and he could barely use it. A determined neighbor told Gonzalez he should adopt a dog from the local shelter. He finally gave in and agreed. As they looked over the dogs at the shelter, a purebred Doberman caught Gonzalez’s eye. But instead of pulling the Doberman out for Gonzalez to take out for a walk, a shelter employee handed him a leash attached to Ginny, a two year old Siberian Husky/Schnauzer mix, and invited him to walk her first.
Gonzalez wasn’t happy; he wanted the Doberman, not some scruffy looking mixed breed, but he did what the worker asked. He tried to hurry Ginny along so he could get back to the Doberman. Now, you can call it fate or something else, but Ginny wasn’t going to be rushed. She sat down in front of Gonzalez and refused to move. Sometimes it’s the dog that picks us. As he stood looking down into her eyes, something tugged at his heart and he forgot about the Doberman. He walked out of the shelter with Ginny. Gonzalez didn’t know at the time how that little dog would change his life, and the lives of countless homeless cats.
Like most animal lovers, I enjoy reading books about pets and watching movies about them, especially if the movie involves real animals. When looking at the top five grossing dog movies, it’s interesting to note that there are a mix of cartoon dogs and real dogs in the films. Here is a list of the highest grossing dog movies as published by Box Office Mojo:
1. Scooby-Doo (released on 6/14/02), has a Lifetime Gross (Theaters) of $153,294,164.
2. Marley & Me (12/25/08), has a Lifetime Gross of $143,153,751.
3. 101 Dalmatians (11/27/96), has a Lifetime Gross of $136,189,294.
4. Beverly Hills Chihuahua (10/3/08), has a Lifetime Gross of $94,514,402.
5. Cats & Dogs (7/4/01), has a Lifetime Gross of $93,385,515.
Scooby-Doo topping the list makes sense; when kids love a movie they beg to go back to see it multiple times and this is definitely a kid’s movie. The characters were first seen in 1969 on the long-running Hanna-Barbera cartoon called Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? The movie is a live-action comedy/adventure. Scooby-Doo himself is computer-generated. The movie was so popular, a sequel called Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed was released two years later and ranks as number 6, grossing $84,216,833. Scooby-Doo received 2.5 stars from the Internet Movie Database.
I loved the Marley & Me book so much that I was hesitant about seeing the movie. I’m glad I did. The film stars Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and twenty-two different yellow Labradors playing Marley at various stages in his life. The thing that I liked the most about this story is that it’s autobiographical and it illustrates the power of the canine-human bond. This is a must-see for dog lovers. The Marley & Me movie received 3.5 stars from the Internet Movie Database. Read More »
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.