12 Amazing Dogs to Remember on National Dog Day

An effigy of Laika, the first living creature in space, inside a replica of satellite Sputnik II
An effigy of Laika, the first living creature in space, inside a replica of satellite Sputnik II
MLADEN ANTONOV, AFP/Getty Images

Dogs can do some pretty amazing things. Just look at your own, who comes when you call, sits when you say so, and knows enough to only chew up your last-season footwear. History is filled with tales (and tails) of highly accomplished canines, all of whom are worth remembering on National Dog Day (today). Here are 12 of them.

1. BUD

Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson's dog, Bud
Mary Louise Blanchert, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1903, Dr. Horatio Nelson set out to become the first man to drive across America in a newfangled invention known as the automobile. Though Sewall K. Crocker was Nelson’s official co-driver, a goggle-wearing pit bull named Bud also came along for the ride, making him the first dog to drive across America.

2. AND 3. BALTO AND TOGO

Balto may score the bigger headlines—not to mention a famous statue in Central Park—but the famous sled dog who helped deliver a shipment of antitoxins to Nome, Alaska during a 1925 diphtheria outbreak had a lot of help. Particularly from Togo, whose own team of fellow sled dogs traveled twice the distance of Balto’s and crossed the 674-mile trek’s most treacherous parts. But as it was Balto’s team who finished the final leg of the record-setting five-and-a-half-day journey, he's the one who grabbed most of the glory.

4. SERGEANT STUBBY

The military title in this pit bull mix’s name isn’t just there to be cute; it’s a well-earned honor. During World War I, the former stray served with the 102nd Infantry alongside his owner, John Robert Conroy, who had smuggled him into France when he was deployed. But Stubby’s keen sense of smell and hearing proved to be quite valuable to the unit; he would alert the men to incoming gas attacks and helped rescue many wounded soldiers. But it was by sniffing out a German spy that Stubby earned the rank of sergeant.

5. SWANSEA JACK

Swansea Jack is a legend in Wales, where he lived with his owner, William Thomas, near the River Tawe. It’s here that the black retriever’s superhero reputation began when he jumped into the river to save a drowning boy. A few weeks later, he did it again. And then again. And again. All told, it’s believed that Jack saved a total of 27 people during his lifetime.

6. RAGS

Rags is another pooch who saw his fair share of combat during World War I, where he accompanied the 1st Infantry. Private James Donovan found the terrier mix as a stray in Paris, and brought him back to his unit as a mascot and carrier dog, who would traverse dangerous grounds to deliver notes to the front lines. Rags and Donovan returned to America after a gas attack, which Donovan did not survive. Rags, however, went on to become a bit of an A-list name and was buried with military honors.

7. BOBBIE THE WONDERDOG

Also known as Silverton Bobbie, this Scotch Collie-English Shepherd mix gained worldwide fame in 1923 when he walked from Indiana to Oregon—a full 2551 miles—to reunite with his owner, six months after getting lost in the Hoosier State while on a family road trip. In 1924, a silent film—The Call of the West—was made about Bobbie; the pup played himself.

8. ROLF

Dog owners are never shy about showing off their pooch’s smarts, and Paula Moekel was no exception. Her Airedale terrier Rolf became famous around the world for his ability to “speak” by tapping out letters with his paws. She also claimed that he was a great mathematician, poet, theologian, and philosopher. Veracity of those assertions aside, what is known is that it’s because of Rolf that the Nazis attempted to train an army of super-smart talking dogs.

9. LAIKA

A close-up of Laika, the dog used to relay biomedical information in the Soviet 'Sputnik II' outer-space investigation programme
Keystone/Getty Images

Yuri Gagarin may have been the first human being to journey into space, but that historical 1961 feat would not have been possible without Laika, the terrier-turned-cosmonaut who was literally picked up off the street in Moscow to become the first living being to orbit the Earth. And while she has enjoyed several decades of fame for her accomplishment, Laika did not survive the mission so never had the chance to enjoy her celebrity status. Though Soviet officials said she survived for at least a few days, she actually died less than two hours into her mission due to overheating and stress.

10. ROBOT

Sure, it was probably just a case of pure luck. But in 1940, a quartet of teenagers and one dog in Dordogne, France set off to try and find a mythical tunnel that was said to run under the Vézère River. Instead, what Robot sniffed out (literally) were some of the world’s most significant Paleolithic cave paintings, which had not been seen by human eyes in thousands of years.

11. HACHIKŌ

That dogs are a loyal species isn’t breaking news, but the depths of some dogs’ fidelity is worth special mention. Especially when it comes to Hachiko, the Akita who made a habit of greeting his owner, University of Tokyo professor Hidesaburo Ueno, at the end of each work day at Shibuya Station. But in 1925, Ueno passed away suddenly from a brain hemorrhage and never returned home. Still, Hachiko waited. Every day. For the next nine years.

12. CHIPS

If you’ve ever seen the 1990 Disney movie Chips, the War Dog, you know the story of this brave German Shepherd-Collie-Husky mix, who served with the 3rd Infantry in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany during World War II. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips’s quick reflexes made him a valuable asset in defending his unit. He once forced four gunners to surrender to U.S. troops and, on the same day he injured his scalp and sustained powder burns, helped his men capture 10 Italian prisoners. Though his Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart were eventually revoked due to an Army rule on animal commendations, Chips remains one of the world’s most decorated war dogs.

This article originally published in 2014.

Why Do Dogs Lick?

iStock/MichaelSvoboda
iStock/MichaelSvoboda

​One of the more slightly annoying things our dogs do (or most adorable, depending on who you ask) involves their tongue obsessively licking every crevice of every spot possible in pretty much the whole world. From our faces to our furniture to themselves, some dogs are absolutely in love with licking anything and everything. Although it can be cute at first, it quickly gets pretty gross. So why do they do it?

According to ​Vetstreet, your pup's incessant licking is mostly their way of trying to show affection. When we pick up our dogs or give them attention, chances are we kiss or pat their heads, along with petting their fur. Their way to show love back to us is by licking.

However, there are other reasons your dog might be obsessively licking—including as a way to get attention. Licking can be a learned behavior for dogs, as they see that when they lick their owner, they get more attention. The behavior can seem like something humans want which, to an extent, it is.

Licking is also a sensory tool, so if your dog is licking random objects or areas of your home, they're probably just exploring. It's easier to get a feel for their surroundings if they can taste everything. But licking objects like your rug or furniture can also be indicative of anxiety or boredom (which can often lead to destructive behavior), and a recent study linked excessive licking of surfaces to certain gastrointestinal disorders.

Another reason for licking is your dog wanting to clean themselves and/or spots around them. They've seen it since they were born; animals lick things ritualistically for cleaning and care. If your dog seems to be obsessed with licking themselves or one particular thing, they probably are. (Yes, dogs can have OCD, too.)

As Vetstreet points out, "excessive" dog licking often only seems excessive to the dog's owner, not the pooch itself. But if it's bothersome enough to you, a trainer can often help curb your dog's enthusiasm for giving wet, sloppy kisses. And while strange behavior is not rare for pets, if your dog's licking seems odd or in any way concerning, there's no harm in taking your pet to the vet to check it out—even if it's just for peace of mind.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

5 Holiday Foods That Are Dangerous to Pets

iStock/svetikd
iStock/svetikd

One of the best parts of the holiday season is the menu of indulgent food and drinks that comes along with it. But while you enjoy that cup of spiked hot cocoa, you’ve got to be careful your dog or cat doesn’t nab a lick. Here are five holiday treats that are dangerous for your pets, according to Vetstreet.

1. COFFEE

Any coffee lover will agree that there’s nothing quite like an after-dinner cup of joe on a cold night. But pups, kitties, and other pets will have to sit this tradition out. Caffeine can prompt seizures and abnormal heart rhythms in pets, and can sometimes be fatal. Other caffeinated drinks, such as soda or tea, should also be kept away from your four-legged family members.

2. BREAD DOUGH

We know the threat that bread dough poses to the appearance of our thighs, but it’s much more dangerous to our furry little friends. Holiday bakers have to be careful of unbaked bread dough as it can expand in animal stomachs if ingested. In some dogs, the stomach can twist and cut off the blood supply, in which case the pup would need emergency surgery.

3. CHOCOLATE

Cat and dog in Santa hats chowing down on plates of food
iStock/TatyanaGl

A little chocolate never hurt anybody, right? Wrong. The sweet treat can cause seizures and even be fatal to our pets. Darker chocolate, such as the baker’s chocolate we love to put in our holiday cookies, is more toxic to our pets than milk or white chocolate. The toxic ingredients include caffeine and theobromine, a chemical found in the cacao plant.

4. MACADAMIA NUTS

Macadamia nuts, which are a common ingredient in holiday cookies and often put out to munch on as an appetizer, can be toxic to dogs. While poisoning might not always be easy to detect in a pet, clinical warning signs include depression, weakness, vomiting, tremors, joint stiffness, and lack of coordination.

5. ALCOHOL

Think back to when you first started drinking and how much less alcohol it took to get you tipsy, because you likely weighed less than you do now. Well, your pet probably weighs a lot less than you did, even back then, meaning it takes much less alcohol to make them dangerously sick. Keep those wine glasses far out of reach of your pets in order to avoid any issues. Well, maybe not any issue: We can’t promise that this will stop you from getting embarrassingly drunk at a holiday party this year.

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