8 Dogs Who Were Famous Before The Internet Was Invented
It seems like everyone’s dog has a dog Instagram account today, but dogs have been going viral for hundreds of years. Here are eight great canines known and loved the world over before the Internet was a thing.
Rin Tin Tin
This German Shepherd (and there are several on this list) was discovered on a battlefield in France during the first World War by an American soldier who took the dog home with him and trained him to act in silent movies. He ended up making almost 30 films over his lifetime and, according to Hollywood legend, saved Warner Brothers studio from bankruptcy before talking movies were even invented. He even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In the 1920s, a Japanese akita named Hachiko was so faithful that he would meet his master, Professor Ueno, at the Shibuya train station every evening and walk him to the train the morning. The professor had a sudden attack at work and died. Hachiko waited for him to get off the train, and when he didn’t, Hachiko came back to meet the next day’s train. He continued to do this every day for almost ten years. This dog didn’t get a star, but he did get a statue at the train station and the love of the whole nation.
Famous as part of one of the biggest political speeches of all time, Checkers was a cocker spaniel belonging to then-Senator Richard Nixon. During his campaign as Eisenhower’s presidential running mate in 1952, Nixon was accused of accepting private donations, which was a big no-no back then. As it happens, one of those donations was this dog to Nixon’s daughter Julie. Nixon went on national television and delivered what’s referred to as “The Checkers Speech,” in which a candidate averted disaster by deflecting the mistake, saying in essence, “But the kids love this dog, do you really want me to take it away from them?” — and he won the vice presidency. Although Checkers is well-remembered as Nixon’s dog, he passed away in 1964, four years before Nixon himself was elected president.
This hound dog became famous only after his death, but he became a symbol for dogs everywhere. In 1869, An attorney named George Graham Vest took the case of a dog who was shot by a neighbor. The owner sued for damages and Vest’s closing arguments, known as “Eulogy to a Dog” and including the phrase “Man’s Best Friend,” managed to create a legal precedent regarding how dogs are viewed in court matters. Vest won the case, and later became a U.S. senator; a bust of the dog is in the Missouri Supreme Court building in Jefferson City.
The world’s most famous sled dog, Balto was part of a life-saving team in 1925 that made a 650-mile trek in a blizzard to deliver diptheria serum from Nome to Anchorage, Alaska in just 5 days. The same route is the Iditarod trail — and the famous dog sled race was created in honor of this historic run. There’s a statue of Balto in New York’s Central Park and his taxidermied remains are displayed in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
You may not know this German Shepherd but you know what she inspired. In 1928, a 20-year-old named Morris Frank, blind for four years, acquired a dog in Switzerland that had been specially trained to lead the blind. In front of incredulous reporters, he crossed a dangerously busy street known as Death Avenue with the dog leading him safely to the other side. Buddy was the first guide dog in the U.S. Six months later, Frank founded the Seeing Eye organization to train dogs to assist humans.
Back in 1957 the space race was underway; after successfully launching Sputnik 1, the Soviets chose a former stray mutt named Laika to be the first live being launched into orbit. Unfortunately, the launch was a one-way trip. The official story was that she was euthanized by remote after six days in orbit but the truth was she died just a few hours after launch due to high temperatures. But her short flight did pave the way for future crewed missions.
The oldest entry in this list is a pug dog belonging to William, Prince of Orange, in the 16th century. “William The Silent” was nearly assassinated while in France; Spanish insurgents tried to enter his tent at night during a military campaign, but his dog woke him up by jumping on his face. The dog was honored by being immortalized next to the prince on his tomb at the church of St. Ursula in Delft, Netherlands.