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Important Dogs Throughout History

Growing up in school, we are often taught about important people and their remarkable deeds or inventions throughout history. Yet, every day dogs contribute to the betterment of humanity and dont even get a lick of the attention. Aside from being man’s best friend, dogs have been responsible for major scientific breakthroughs, epic rescues, heroic survivals, etc. Below is a short list of some of the brave & accomplished canines our history books never did cover…

1. Nemo – The War Hero

The German Shepherd dog Nemo, also known as the war dog, was the first dog to return home from the Vietnam war and he returned a true hero. He saved his human handler Robert Thorneburg during combat, getting shot and losing an eye in the process. After lunging at guerrillas to give Thorneburg a chance to radio for help, Nemo shielded his human’s body. Nemo was the first dog to return from the Vietnam War. He was also the first sentry dog to be officially retired from service. Good boy Nemo!

2. Polly – The Scientific Inspiration

Charles Darwin, otherwise known as “the father of evolution,” was a dog lover. In his later years, he owned a terrier dog named Polly, and studied her behavior. Polly the dog provided Darwin with another important link in the evolutionary chain. At the time, Creationists argued that a person’s soul and emotional complexity made the “Theory Of Evolution” impossible. However, to Darwin, dogs directly contradicted that idea since they shared man’s emotions despite having greatly developed by domestic breeding. Polly served as the model for illustrations in Darwin’s last book Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals.

3. Laika – The Astronaut

Laika, a “Mutt” (looks like a Jack Russell terrier mix) was rescued from the streets of Moscow and was the first dog to orbit the earth. In fact, she was the very first animal to do so. Outrage later followed the admission that Laika was never expected to return to earth (rightfully so). Still, the Russian scientists maintained that she would be painlessly put to death when her time came. This was also untrue. Even if Laika had been lucky enough to have sufficient food, water and oxygen on board, she would have died when the spaceship re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Sad as that part of the story may be, Laika’s flight gave proof that organisms could survive in space.

4. Apollo – The 9/11 Rescuer

Apollo was the first dog at ground zero. He arrived on the seen 15 minutes after the attack. He nearly died from falling flames and only survived because he previously fell in water and was still wet. German Shepherd Apollo graduated from the NYPD Canine Special Operations Division when he was two years old. He was one of New York City’s top dogs throughout the 1990s and worked with the first NYPD K-9 Urban Search and Rescue team. Apollo and his handler, Peter Davis, were the first K-9 search and rescue team to answer the call on September 11, arriving at the South Tower merely 15 minutes after its collapse. From that moment on, Apollo looked for survivors 18 hours a day for weeks on end. 

5. Bobbie – The “Wonder Dog”

Bobbie “The Wonder Dog” really earned his nickname. He joined his family on a vacation to Indiana in 1923 but got lost on the trip. His devastated family returned home to Silverton, Oregon, certain they would never see him again. One day about 6 months later, Bobbie was found wandering down the Main Street of Silverton. That means he had somehow managed to travel at least 2,551 miles, having to cross deserts, mountains, and rivers in the dead of winter to get back home. It’s the stuff movies are made of, and it really happened. 

6. Marjorie – The Medical Miracle

Marjorie is one of the dogs Canadian physician Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best used to discover insulin in 1921. After her pancreas was removed and used to create a concoction, Marjorie was successfully kept alive for 70 days with routine injections. (We do not support animal testing).

7. Sun Yat-Sen – Titanic Survivor

Sun Yat-sen was the Pekingese of Henry and Myra Harper from Harper and Row publishing. Sun Yat-sen survived the sinking of the Titanic. Of the 12 canines aboard the sinking luxury liner, only 3 Titanic passenger pups survived. Sun Yat-Sen (named after the Chinese leader) was one of the 3, easily brought onto a lifeboat due to his small size.

8. Pal- The Movie Star

Though the character Lassie was just fictional, the dog who played the famous canine was far from it. Born in 1940, this animal actor’s name was Pal, and he—yes, he—starred in seven Lassie movies and even a few television pilots before retiring in the late 1950s. Upon his retirement, one of Pal’s descendants took his place as the iconic Lassie, though none of his relatives would ever have “the most spectacular canine career in film history” quite like he did.

9. Snuppy – The First Cloned Dog

Snuppy – a combination of “puppy” and Seoul National University’s initials – was the first surviving cloned dog. In the early 2000s, a team of South Korean scientists harvested DNA from an Afghan Hound’s skin cells and inserted that into a dog egg with no DNA. The egg divided, producing multiple cloned embryos. These embryos were put into dogs, three of which became pregnant, and one was able to produce Snuppy! In addition to being a cutie, Snuppy was a big scientific breakthrough.

10. Bluey – The World’s Oldest Dog

The oldest dog on record lived to be 29 years old! Bluey, an Australian Cattle Dog, holds the Guinness title for longest canine life span. 

Bluey, an Australian Cattle Dog, lived to be over 29 years old. He is on record as the longest living canine, dying in 1939. He is followed by an American Beagle named Butch, who lived to be 28 years old!

11. Bud Nelson- First Dog to Cross into U.S.

Alongside his human, Horatio Nelson Jackson, Bud Nelson became the first dog to cross the United States in an automobile in 1903. And while Bud might look stylish as ever in his goggles, he actually wore them not as a fashion statement, but because the car that he and his owner took had no roof and was constantly spurting out smoke and toxic fumes. While Bud is no longer with us, his goggles remain on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

12. Buddy- The First Seeing Eye Dog

Though Labrador Retrievers are the most common guide dogs today, the first Seeing Eye dog was actually a German shepherd named Buddy. She was trained as the first Seeing Eye dog after a young man named Morris Frank read an article about World War I veterans with guide dogs and reached out to the author, seeking assistance in finding a dog of his own. The author, dog trainer Dorothy Harrison Eustis, agreed to help, and together they trained Buddy as the first guide dog accessible to the average citizen, inspiring the creation of The Seeing Eye in 1929.

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