A lot's changed since the days when humans and dogs first became friends! The days when dogs protected our camps from predators in exchange for food and a warm spot by the fire are long gone. Still, as time's gone by, our pups have learnt to protect and care for us in all new ways.
To celebrate this incredible bond, we're taking a look at five famous dogs who made a big difference in the world. From saving lives to entertaining on the silver screen, we are all better off because of these amazing animals.
Without further ado, let's begin!
Star of the Seeing Eye Dog Program
Buddy, a female German Shepherd, is often labelled as the first guide dog in the United States. While she was actually the second (a puppy named Lux arrived two years earlier), Buddy's real claim to fame is as the dog who started the Seeing Eye program.
After months of training in Switzerland, Buddy arrived in 1928 alongside her human, Morris Frank. Reporters lined a busy New York street, waiting to see what happened when Morris instructed Buddy to help him cross the road. Later that day, Morris sent a one-word telegram to Buddy's trainer back in Switzerland:
Over the following decade, Buddy travelled over 80,000 km on foot, train, bus, boat and plane to prove how much Seeing Eye dogs could improve the lives of anyone with impaired vision (including, years later, other dogs!).
Underwood & Underwood / Corbis
Small Town Saviour
In 1925, the Alaskan town of Nome was in serious danger. A deadly infectious disease was spreading. Without immediate delivery of antitoxin, it was predicted nearly all 10,000 people who lived in the area would die from it.
With planes being unreliable in the −46 °C temperatures and 40 km/h winds, and boats taking too long to arrive, it was decided teams of sled dogs would take the medicine on an over 1000 km relay across the state. The trip usually took 30 days. They did it in just over five.
Many dogs played a part in this life-saving journey, though none more than Siberian Sleddog Togo, the lead dog for the most dangerous part of the relay. Charging headfirst into chilling storms and open ice, Togo led the way for an astonishing 420 km! The journey, which came to be known as the Great Race of Mercy, inspired many more Americans to get inoculated against the disease.
In 2011, Time magazine named Togo the most heroic animal of all time.
The Mighty Penguin Protector
Back in 2015, an Aussie movie called Oddball told the story of a cheeky dog trained to protect a penguin sanctuary. Fun fact: the film was based on a true story!
Oddball was a Maremma, a gentle breed of sheepdog originating from Italy. Her human, Alan 'Swampy' Marsh, had trained Oddball to look after his free-range chickens. When it was discovered that foxes had found their way into the sanctuary on Victoria's Middle Island, and were killing penguins, Swampy decided to set Oddball a new task.
Oddball only spent two weeks on Middle Island, yet her work marked the start of a protection program involving other Maremmas. Thanks to her, the penguin population is growing once again.
Rin Tin Tin
The Best Actor on Four Paws!
From a dog that was a movie character to a dog that was a movie star. Rescued during World War I from a bombed French village, German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin went through much hardship before becoming an on-screen star.
Starring in 27 films, Rin Tin Tin was loved all across the world. It was the time of silent films, and a dog's acting was considered easier to understand for people of all cultures than even some of the greatest human actors. In fact, Rin Tin Tin was such a good actor that there was a rumour he was voted Best Actor at the first Academy Awards!
When Rin Tin Tin died, regular television programming was interrupted with a breaking news bulletin. The next day, an hour-long program aired in his honour. You can find his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1627 Vine Street.
PraktikantinNMBE / Wikipedia
The Great St. Bernard
On the mountains between Switzerland and Italy stands the Great St Bernard Hospice. A hostel and former monastery, it was home to dogs known as Alpine Mastiffs - a smaller version of modern St. Bernards. The dogs lived there as rescuers of trapped and lost travellers.
Barry is the most famous of these early St. Bernards, having saved over 40 lives. His most well-known rescue is that of a little boy who was trapped in an icy cavern. Barry licked the boy until he was warm enough to travel, then carried the child back to the hospice.
Today, all Swiss products made of precious materials have an engraving of Barry's head. This is a mark of purity, and a celebration of high standards.