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5 Not-So-Famous Firsts, Doggy Style

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1. The First Leader Dogs

The first modern attempt at training dogs to help the visually impaired occurred just after World War I in Germany. Many soldiers were returning from the Front blinded from the effects of poison gas. That's when Dr. Gerhard Stalling got the idea to train German Shepherds to assist the country's visually impaired veterans. His successful results inspired the founding of a specialized training school for guide dogs  in Potsdam, where an average of 12 fully-trained dogs graduated each month and were then matched with blind people from all walks of life (not just military veterans). The concept spread stateside when Dorothy Harrison Eustis, an American living in Switzerland, wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post. Upon hearing of the article, Morris Frank, a young blind man living in Tennessee, wrote to Mrs. Eustis and asked for help in obtaining a dog. Soon after, he traveled to Switzerland and trained with Buddy, a German Shepherd, who became the first American Guide Dog when the duo returned to the States.

2. The First Royal Corgi

Queen Elizabeth II owns the world's most pampered pack of Welsh corgis. Her Majesty personally scoops the royal dog chow into sterling silver dishes for her favorite pets and when recently shopping for a new car turned down a sporty Jaguar in favor of a Daimler Super Eight limousine so that her pups had room to stretch out. The four corgis currently residing at Buckingham Palace are all descendants of Susan, the dog that was given to then-Princess Elizabeth by her father, King George VI, in 1944 as an 18th birthday present. The Queen is also credited with introducing a new hybrid to dogdom, the dorgi, after one of her corgis had an illicit affair with Princess Margaret's dachshund, Pipkin. Her Majesty now has four dorgis in her inner circle of favored pets as well.

3. First Postage Pup

The first animal to be pictured on a postage stamp anywhere in the world was a Newfoundland. The half-cent stamp was issued in 1887 by the government of Newfoundland, which was not yet a province of Canada. The Newf also has the honor of being the first dog to be pictured on a postage stamp alongside a reigning monarch. The hardy, sturdy, hard-working Newfoundland was truly a service dog in its native land; during harsh winters, the dogs could pull carts loaded with Royal Mail over treacherous terrain inaccessible to horses or motor vehicles. In acknowledgement of their service, King George VI commissioned a postage stamp in 1937 on which he shared face space with the gentle giant.

4. First Top Dog

The Westminster Dog show is older than the American Kennel Club, the governing body that determines the standards for each breed today. (Actually, since the first Westminster show was held in 1877, it is also older than the electric light bulb, the Brooklyn Bridge and the ballpoint pen.) Since there was no established set of breed standards at the time, the first Westminster show was not limited to purebreds. And there were no "Champion Chin-Up White Tie for Dinner"-type names on the roster; most of the entrants had refreshingly simple names like Duke and Nellie. Westminster introduced the coveted Best in Show prize in 1907. The winner that year was a smooth fox terrier named Warren Remedy. The Blue Ribbon bitch (I mean that in the doggie sense) went on to win Best in Show in the next two Westminster shows, making her the only three-time winner in the history of the competition.

5. First Matinee Idol

Rin Tin Tin owes his career to Etzel von Oeringen, who, despite the impressive-sounding name, was not a human of royal lineage but a fellow German Shepherd. Etzel was born in Germany in 1917 and was the offspring of an undefeated champion work, police, and attack dog sire. Etzel earned many dog show championships in Europe before he was sold to an American kennel owner at the age of three. His impressive size and regal carriage caught the attention of Hollywood animal trainer/film director Larry Trimble, who hired the pooch after he demonstrated extraordinary agility (despite his size) as well as the ability to follow commands. Etzel was re-christened "Strongheart" and ultimately starred in five films during the 1920s. Strongheart became so popular that he was photographed dining on steak at New York's finest restaurants and also had a brand of dog food (still available today) named after him.

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Food
Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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