How Famous Dogs Have Shaped History

We all know about the many famous people who have shaped history—from George Washington to Rosa Parks. However, we know less about the famous pets that have shaped history, including the canine heroes that we hold so dear.

Those lovable pets have most likely helped you through some hard times, but they’ve also done more than just that. Dogs have helped mass shooting survivors, they’ve helped the U.S. avoid a nuclear war, and have even helped humans get to the moon. Here are some of the most famous dogs you should know.

1. Therapy Dogs Helping Newtown Survivors

After the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead, therapy dogs came to help. Over 70 dogs with Therapy Dogs International (TDI) traveled to Newton to help the area cope with the loss.

2. Balto Saves a Town

Balto became a household name after a 1925 crisis in Nome, Alaska. When a fatal diphtheria epidemic hit the town, humans and their teams of dogs had to travel over 500 miles to Anchorage for the cure.

Although there were many humans and dogs involved in the plan to save Nome, Balto carried out the last leg of the journey. He was a slow-working "scrub dog" that had typically gone unnoticed until he was chosen to lead the pack back to Nome. He made it through a blizzard that was too hard for even humans to see through and helped save the town from devastation.

3. Your Best Pal

A German Shepherd named Pal was the definition of man’s best friend. His owner left Pennsylvania to join the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942 and took Pal with him. Pal ended up becoming one of 72 dogs to join the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon.

Both Pal and his owner were sent on missions away from each other, but one day at a beach in the South Pacific, they saw each other again. They were both discharged as sergeants of equal rank and grew old together in Pennsylvania.

4. Charlie Helps the U.S.

You may have heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it’s a good bet that you’ve never heard of Charlie’s involvement. Charlie was a Welsh terrier that helped save the country from disaster.

While President John F. Kennedy was debating what the U.S. should do in the War Room, he called for Charlie. After petting him, people in the room saw Kennedy relax, and he was instantly ready to make some vital decisions. The decisions he made that day ended up deescalating the conflict—all thanks to Charlie.

5. Laika Goes to the Moon

Way back when the U.S. and Russia were competing over who would get to the moon first, a stray dog named Laika beat humans to it. As the first living creature to go to space, Laika earned international fame as Sputnik 2’s canine passenger.

Unfortunately, Laika died without reaching orbit since the Russians were so concerned with speed that they hadn’t prepared to bring her back. Since Laika, more dogs have traveled into space and made it back successfully.

Dogs Have Changed the World

Dogs are more than our best friends. In some cases, they have changed the course of history. As the above examples show, we have dogs to thank for the safety of our country, our emotional health, and a number of important scientific advancements.

The next time you go to play with your dog, think about what the great dogs of the past have accomplished. Who knows? Maybe your dog will be the one to bring about world peace.



Emily is a freelance wildlife conservation and pet blogger. To check out more of her work, see her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her Twitter account @emilysfolk.

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