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9/13/19

Teddy: The Comical Great Dane in Early Silent Films



Teddy the Great Dane, who became known as Keystone Teddy, the Wonder Dog captured the hearts of Americans in the early 1900s, making him one of the most famous dogs at that time.



Teddy stood 42 inches tall and weighed almost 150 pounds. The giant dog began his acting career in 1913 at Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios. He started out as an extra in a short film called A Little Hero, and got his break in 1916 in Sennett's one-reeler The Nick of Time Baby. By 1917, his name appeared in the title of Sennett's most famous Keystone comedy short film called Teddy At The Throttle, where he starred alongside Gloria Swanson and Bob Vernon. In this silent film, Teddy sings with Gloria, dances with the maid and near the end of the film he saves Gloria who is chained to a railroad track from an oncoming train.


Teddy pulling Bob Vernon with his tail on "Teddy At The Throttle."

Because of his athletic ability and onscreen antics, Teddy - dubbed as "the dog with the human brain" -  became the most popular dog film star in America. He appeared in magazines, made public appearances, and even sold war bonds. Interest in Great Danes grew throughout the nation and the name Teddy became the most popular dog name. According to one magazine article, Teddy earned $50 a week and paid $25 in taxes, and he received six soup bones a week. At the peak of his career, he became one of Sennett's highest paid actors, earning $350 a week. The public adored Teddy, and soon he became known as Keystone Teddy, the Wonder Dog.


Teddy with Louise Fazenda and Mack Sennett.

Teddy continued to appear in many comedies alongside all of Sennett's biggest stars like Chester Conklin, Marie Prevost and Louise Fazenda. He was featured or starred in at least 60 films, mostly all shorts. During one filming on the beach in 1918, he became a real-life hero when he rescued an actress from the water. His last film was The Extra Girl with superstar Mabel Normand. Teddy retired in 1923 and passed away in 1925 at the age of 14. According to a movie critic writing for Variety, Teddy's performance was "wonderfully interesting" and "this canine performer does many things better than some human beings."



"Teddy At The Throttle"

9/12/19

Sled Dog Heroes of WWI



During WWI the French army launched a secret mission involving sled dogs. Just recently, almost 100 years later, did the French reveal information about the mission for the benefit of the documentary Sled Dog Soldiers.


Sled dogs in the French army.

The winter of 1914 was incredibly hard on the French soldiers in the Vosges mountains due to heavy snowfall. Traveling by vehicle or horse was impossible, meaning the troops could not receive important supplies such as food, warm clothes and ammunition. It also meant they could not transport their wounded soldiers.

Captain Louis Joseph Moufflet and Lieutenant Rene Robert Haas, who use to work as gold diggers in Alaska, knew sled dogs would be the perfect solution in preventing another disastrous winter. After convincing the French army to use the dogs, a secret mission was organized to bring 400 of the best sled dogs to France. They only had a few months to accomplish this feat before the winter of 1915 set in.

Moufflet went to Quebec City, Canada to find the majority of the dogs and Haas, who also happened to be an experienced musher, went to Nome, Alaska. After countless trials and tribulations, the two men found over 400 dogs.

Getting the dogs to France was not an easy task. First, Haas had to get his 100 plus dogs to Quebec. They took a boat from Nome to Vancouver, Canada, then a train to Quebec. All the dogs survived the long trip. Until the two Officers were able to find a boat to get them to France, which turned out to be quite a challenge at that time, they hid the dogs in a hangar - next to an explosive-testing facility that ended up benefiting the dogs by getting them use to explosions. Fortunately they were able to find a boat just in the nick of time. In fact, their boat was the last to leave Quebec City that winter before the St. Laurence River froze over. They arrived on the Vosges Front on December 15, 1915. Four dogs lost their lives during the 6,000 mile journey.

The dogs definitely proved to be helpful. The best distance achieved, with only nine dogs and close to 700 pounds of weight on the sled, was almost 75 miles in one day. In another successful mission, the sled dogs were able to transport 90 tons of ammunition in four days.

The sled dogs went on to help the French soldiers survive the winters and win multiple battles throughout WWI, but like humans, many died in combat.


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9/5/19

The Dog Who Made History During the American Revolutionary War



General William Howe's dog became famous for having lost her way at the Battle of Germantown.


British General Sir William Howe

On October 4, 1777, before the sun rose, General George Washington and his troops did a surprise attack on the British at Germantown. Heavy fog helped cover their approach and caused the first wave of British troops to retreat, but only after they had set fire to a field. The mix of fog and smoke made it hard to see who was friend and foe. In just three hours General Howe and his troops were routed. 152 Americans were killed, 521 were wounded and 438 were captured. 71 British were killed, 448 were wounded and 14 missing.

During the attack, General Howe's fox terrier named Lila became lost in the commotion and ended up joining the American troops as they made there way back to camp. The dog wore a collar identifying herself as General Howe's dog. When George Washington found out who the terrier belonged to, he ordered that the dog be returned to the General with a note. The note, believed to have been penned by Washington's aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton, reads "General Washington’s compliments to General Howe. He does himself the pleasure to return [to] him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe." Before returning the dog, Washington had the dog fed, cleaned and brushed.





George Washington was an avid dog lover, so some may think this is why he returned his foe's dog. Others may think he returned Lila because of his honesty (the legendary anecdote of the cherry tree - "I cannot tell a lie"). However, according to Dr. Francis Spring Ronalds, an authority on the American Revolution, "G. W. [George Washington] never missed a chance to gain knowledge of the enemy, and what a splendid opportunity this was to spy on British Headquarters! The British could not refuse a flag returning the General’s dog."

If General Howe had responded to Washington's note, his reply has been lost.


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