Nig: The Hoover Dam Mascot
Nig became famous in history as the mascot to the crew of Six Companies who built the Hoover Dam. The work was trying and risky, and the beloved dog who accompanied the men to work everyday helped make their lives a little easier.
In 1932 a Labrador mix puppy was born in the crawlspace beneath a building in Boulder City, the city that housed the men who built the Hoover Dam. The stray pup had free run of the city and quickly became well liked by all. He was known as "nobody's dog and everybody's dog." One day a worker decided to take the puppy to the work site where he became a welcome addition to the workforce. The men called the dog Nig.
Nig joined the workers on the trip to the dam in the mornings and would ride back with them at the end of the work day. He became their mascot and could get around the canyon with much ease as he made his rounds to greet the workers. He would climb ladders, follow the men into the tunnels, and hop on the wooden platforms that lowered the men and equipment down into the canyon.
One day Nig wanted to return to the city earlier than usual and ended up getting a ride back with Frank Crowe, the chief engineer of the Hoover Dam. Even the big boss must have loved the dam's mascot a lot because the dog was seen sitting in the front passenger seat of the fancy car while the man's wife rode in the back.
The men would share their food with Nig and sometimes the food would be sweets. Once Nig ate so many candy bars he became ill. He was treated by the town's doctor and later an ad was placed in the local newspaper saying "I love candy but it makes me sick. It is also bad for my coat. Please don't feed me any more. Your friend, Nig". When Nig recovered, the men contributed money to improve the dog's diet. The city's mess hall prepared his meals and even packed a lunch for him in a special container to take to the dam. Nig would carry the container in his mouth when he boarded the transport truck to go to the dam, place the container alongside the worker's lunch pails when he got there, and would eat with the crew when the lunch whistle blew.
Nig was definitely part of the crew and was loved by all, except for one angry man. One day Nig was napping on a walkway when the mean worker ordered him to move out of his way. When Nig refused, the worker kicked him. Other workers saw this cruel act towards their friend and quickly pounced on the man. A ranger pulled the men off of him, and after learning why they were beating on him, the ranger escorted the man to the edge of town and told him never to come back.
After the dam was complete Nig continued to make his rounds there. On February 21, 1941, an unseasonably hot day, Nig decided to take a nap in a spot of shade under a truck. When the driver returned to the vehicle he failed to notice the sleeping dog when he started to drive off. Nig was crushed beneath the truck's tires and died instantly. People were heartbroken when the news of the accident reached town. It was said to have been the saddest afternoon Boulder City had ever experienced. "Rough, tough rock-hard men wept openly and unashamed," a newspaper wrote.
Nig was buried in a concrete crypt at the edge of the cliff overlooking the dam so he could continue his oversight of the daily activities at the dam. The men who worked alongside Nig contributed what little money they had to buy a plaque memorializing the dog that meant so much to them.
In the late 1970s, a visitor to the dam felt the inscription on the plaque "NIG" was racist and he campaigned to have the plaque removed. The issue hit the national press and the plaque was later taken down. Many of the Boulder City and area residents, especially those who knew the dog, rose in protest to reinstate the plaque. A new plaque was placed that identifies Nig as the dam's mascot but does not mention his name.