Aww, that’s kind of cute. Maybe Hitler wasn’t so bad after all, eh? Let’s see what Wikipedia says:
“Hitler expressed doubts about the cyanide capsules he had received through Heinrich Himmler’s SS. To verify the capsules’ potency, Hitler ordered Dr. Werner Haase to test them on his dog Blondi, and the dog died as a result.”
When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth, Unknown by Glory, but upheld by Birth, The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe, And storied urns record who rests below. When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen, Not what he was, but what he should have been. But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend, The first to welcome, foremost to defend, Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own, Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone, Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth, Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth – While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven, And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven. Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour, Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power – Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust, Degraded mass of animated dust! Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat, Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit! By nature vile, ennobled but by name, Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame. Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn, Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn. To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise; I never knew but one – and here he lies. Lord Byron [1788-1824], Epitaph to a Dog.
Marching Belgian Carabiniers leading their dog-drawn machine gun carts towards the front line during the German invasion of Belgium; ca. 1914
“Marching toward the camera, and shot from a low angle, these Belgian Carabiniers are given a powerful sense of purpose by the photographer. Clean uniforms and neat formation say the soldiers have not come from battle.
These are the early days of WWI and Belgium has been invaded by the Germans in a surprise move. The Germans, 600,000 strong, were confident against the small Belgian Army of around 117,000, who were ill-equipped and poorly trained.
Yet the Belgians fought bravely in and around their fortifications in the Liège area. They held up the German advance for ten days before withdrawing on 16 August, when the Liège system finally fell. This delay would prove crucial to the French forces’ ability to re-organise and oppose the German push through Belgium into France.
King Albert I had ordered his Army to retreat to the ‘National Redoubt’ at Antwerp, consisting of over 40 forts and several lines of defence. Our Carabiniers are part of the force sent forward to cover that retreat by confronting the advancing Germans.
Marching out of the foggy background, the Carabiniers, with their Tyrolean hats and dog-drawn heavy machine-gun, look as if they are striding out of the past into the light of 20th century warfare. Almost like gentlemen in top hats taking their dogs for a walk.
The traditional dress of the Carabiniers, a light-infantry unit, was a tunic and greatcoat of a green so dark that the German nickname for them was the ‘black devils’. Many new recruits, however, were given a greatcoat of the more usual Belgian Army dark blue because of the chaotic supply situation. Despite their old-fashioned uniforms, their machine-guns were effective enough, though both soldier and dog were to pay a high price.
Although the main German forces bypassed Antwerp, four divisions had to be diverted to contain the Belgian forces there, further weakening the thrust into France. Antwerp did not fall until 9 October.”
Laika (c. 1954 – November 3, 1957) was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth.
Laika was a stray dog, originally named Kudryavka (Russian: Кудрявка Little Curly); she underwent training with two other dogs, and was eventually chosen as the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 that was launched into outer space on November 3, 1957, (becoming the first dog in space, to orbit the Earth, and was also the first animal to die in space.) The Soviets designed the spacecraft knowing she would not survive. One Soviet scientist took her home to play with his children because he said “I wanted to do something nice for her. She had so little time left to live.” Laika likely died within hours after launch from overheating, possibly caused by a failure of the central R-7 sustainer to separate from the payload. The true cause and time of her death was not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six, or as Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanized prior to oxygen depletion.
As a kid who was very into rockets and airplanes I remember being told about her (mind you, I wasn’t born until the cold war was ending), but in my childish innocence I assumed she came back okay.
Here’s a statement made by Oleg Gazenko, one of the Sputnik scientists:
“Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it… We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.”
You know what makes me (sorta) happy? They built her a window. Despite the challenges and costs of building a secure window in a pressurized capsule, they did it so the dying dog could look out.
Gazenko speaks of the bond that grew between the dog and him as they worked toward her mission, leading us in unembroidered prose through a brief tale of preparation, hours of readiness on the launch pad, and the launch itself. But the heart of the article for me, and the part to which nothing I’ve found since makes reference, is this: Gazenko tells us that as engineers rushed against deadlines to complete the capsule that would carry the dog into space, outfitting it with equipment to record the details of her death, he took on a battle in Laika’s behalf. Against heavy objections from the decision-makers, he insisted upon the installation of a window. A window in a space capsule, where such a luxury would cause complications and expenses that I can barely imagine. A window for the dog whose monitored demise had been this man’s objective in all the interactions that had bonded her to him with the eager devotion of every well-trained working canine.
Yet Gazenko persisted and prevailed.
Roof In Peace.
One of the most well-known sled dog races in the world, the Iditarod is a test of will, survival, and endurance that brings human mushers together with their loyal sled dogs. Let’s take a closer look at the Iditarod, its history, and what truly makes it the Last Great Race on Earth.
A Brief History
While the 1,131-mile route—starting in downtown Anchorage and finishing in Nome—is mainly known for the annual dog sled race, the Iditarod trail actually proved a much more functional, practical use back in the day. The same trail was a popular mail-supply route and was used in the gold rush of the early 1900s, allowing travelers to reach mining towns. In 1925, the trail helped sled dog teams transport precious serum throughout Alaska during the diphtheria epidemic.
Skip to the 1960s. Dorothy Page and Joe Redington Sr., unhappy with how sled dogs were being replaced by motorized snowmobiles, decided to honor the great tradition with a short 50-mile race. But in 1973, Page and Redington chose the path from Anchorage to Nome, giving birth to the now famous race. The trail was chosen in particular for its 1925 diphtheria run.
The race has seen various changes since that first race. More safeguards were put in place for the sled dogs. The record time to win the race—originally 20 days—was shortened to just 9 days in 2002. The biggest change is the addition of an alternate southern route. Each year, the Iditarod alternates between the northern and southern routes, adding even more challenge.
The Team (or Should we Say Pack?)
A team competing in the Iditarod race comprises one musher, a team of up to 16 dogs, and all kinds of gear to stay warm, make food, and survive in the Alaskan wild.
Mushers definitely need to be fit and have strong leg muscles on top of good balance, but the race really requires mental stamina and endurance. It’s a rough, physical journey, riddled with extreme weather and periods of sleeplessness. In fact, aside from the mandatory rest—one 24-hour rest and two 8-hour rests—most mushers push themselves to stay awake and win the race.
Required equipment for the race includes:
- A sleeping bag
- A cooker with fuel for boiling water and cooking food
- An ax
Then there’s the food. Mushers certainly need to eat a lot to sustain themselves in the extreme conditions, but the dogs doing all the running require so much more food. Each dog must consume at least 10,000 calories a day, which translates to nearly 2,000 pounds of food for the team for the whole Iditarod race. Dogs get snacks every few hours and are fed full meals, consisting usually of meat, fats, vitamin supplements, and dry dog food, at each checkpoint.
Awards and Honors
Mushers who participate in the Iditarod split a large cash pot. The first place winner takes the most money and each successive finisher receives a slightly reduced amount. So even if you’re not first, you’ll still receive something.
And then there’s the Red Lantern Award. This is given to the team that finishes last and symbolizes perseverance, pride, and accomplishment. The Red Lantern is often confused with the Widow’s Lamp. Well before the conception of the Iditarod, dog drivers relied on roadhouses that were scattered between destinations. When a musher was on the trail, roadhouses would hang kerosene lamps outside, which helped mushers find their destinations at night and signaled that there was a team still on the trail. The lamp wasn’t extinguished until the last musher reached his destination.
In the Iditarod, the committee extinguishes the Widow’s Lamp only after the last musher has crossed the finish line, signaling the official end of the race. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is truly a sight to behold.
Rolf was either the smartest dog in history or the center of a scam that fooled a nation—specifically Nazi Germany. Either way, then, he was pretty awesome. According to the Nazis, Rolf could talk. To put this into context, the Nazis backed a lot of hair-brained schemes during World War II, and one of the most hair-brained was trying to train an army of super-intelligent dogs to share their ideals.
The smartest of these “super dogs” was Rolf. Apparently, Rolf was able to talk by tapping his paw against a board and using a sort of special dog Morse code to communicate with humans. It was using this code that he was able to converse, appreciate poetry, express his pride in the Nazi regime, and vent his blinding hatred of the French. Apparently, he even expressed an interest in joining the war effort and fighting on the front lines. We don’t expect you to believe that a dog could talk, but Hitler certainly did. He took a great interest in Rolf, and history’s greatest monster wasting time on the ridiculous notion that the Nazis had created the world’s first racist dog could only possibly be a good thing.