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.
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
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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.