This isn’t homage to dogs that did good things, K9 Magazine has plenty of those in the archives. This is a reflection on which dogs have influenced and changed the world in which we live. Dogs who have been party to events that have shaped the future, dogs that showed us something new and dogs that started something special.
And so, onto our countdown of the most influential dogs...
What Did This Dog Do? She Was Sentenced To Death For Being Ill.
Dempsey was a female American Pit Bull Terrier, who died in London in 2003. Eleven years before, Dempsey became involved in a high court battle, which lead to Bridget Bardot offering her sanctuary away from what was at the time, nonsensical British justice that had lead to her being sentenced to death, she caused a media storm and forced a rethink on the Dangerous Dogs Act.
While being walked one evening, Dempsey became unwell. The person who was walking her, not her owner Dianne Fanneran, removed her muzzle so that she could be sick. Two police officers spotted this, and in accordance with The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, deemed that since Dempsey, who was on the list of banned breeds and was therefore not allowed in public without a muzzle, was briefly not wearing her muzzle and that she was in breach of the act.
She was sentenced to death at Ealing Magistrate’s Court under The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 for being unmuzzled in public. Upon sentencing Dempsey was put in secret kennels for three years.
It took a legal technicality, namely that it was not the owner who removed the muzzle and the actual owner had not been informed about the first hearing, to get the case to a final appeal. Two high court judges finally ruled in 1995 that there had been a “breach of natural justice” and spared Dempsey her life. She lived on until seventeen years old.
How Influential? Until recently with cases in Northern Ireland featuring Bruce and Lennox, Dempsey's case is the most famous test case involving the act. It forced courts to give more consideration to the term “type” as outlined in the text of the act. Prior to Dempsey’s case, courts were advised that “type” referred to dogs resembling banned breeds, but after the case, the act was criticised for not allowing magistrates sufficient discretion in interpreting “type”.
What Would Have Happened Without This Dog? The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 would have been interpreted with even less discretion and more dogs would have been put down that did not pose a danger to the public.
Will Bruce or Lennox be the next two most influential dogs in bringing about further reviews to the Dangerous Dogs Act making it a more fair act where dogs are based on actions instead of looks?
Name: The Brown Dog
What Did This Dog Do? It provoked a riot which set the standard for modern animal welfare.
The Brown Dog affair was a political controversy that occurred during the first decade of the Twentieth Century, paving the way for modern animal welfare and anti animal testing lobbies in the UK. If it wasn’t for The Brown Dog, an anonymous subject of vivisection that was killed and then later immortalised as a statue, the debate about vivisection would not have happened. Riots happened in and around University College London in response to the inscription on The Brown Dog’s memorial, which read.
“In Memory of the Brown Terrier Dog done to Death in the Laboratories of University College in February 1903, after having endured Vivisection extending over more than two months and having been handed from one Vivisector to another till Death came to his Release. Also in Memory of the 232 dogs vivisected at the same place during the year 1902. Men and Women of England, how long shall these things be?”
Medical students were outraged and libel suits were filed from many sides, but for the first time in history the realities of vivisection and animal testing were brought to the attention of the public and a debate was raised that still continues today.
The Brown Dog became a symbol of the oppressed for writer Coral Lansbury, who compared him with the plight of workers, women and animals as he examined the effects of the riots.
"That cruelty can be extraordinarily satisfying cannot be denied, for cruelty is a magnifier of identity, a simplifier of social function, and the temporary resolution of insecurity and doubt… Cruelty relies on a rigid observance of the categorical distance between victim and oppressor." (Coral Lansbury, Old Brown Dog)
The statue was destroyed in March, 1910. A statue was put up in Battersea Park in 1985.
How Influential? The Brown Dog represents all of the dogs that had, up until 1903, been the subject of vivisection. The Brown Dog became a metaphor for the realities of animal testing, whether for right or wrong, and empowered the public to voice their opinion on the matter in full knowledge of the facts for the first time.
What Would Have Happened Without This Dog? If it wasn’t for The Brown Dog, people wouldn’t have felt compelled to protest and the matter of vivisection could have been clouded in uncertainty for many more years, holding up the animal welfare movement.
Name: Beautiful Joe
What Did This Dog Do? Brought worldwide attention to animal cruelty.
Beautiful Joe was the subject of an award winning piece of real life literature. The book, entitled Beautiful Joe, saw the dog become the narrator in a tale of cruelty met by compassion and benevolence. Beautiful Joe featured as a K9 Icon in issue 17 of K9 Magazine. The book, which details his life story and his relationship with the actual author, Canadian writer Margaret Saunders, became a staple part of classroom literature and promoted the notion of care for animals as well as the truth about animal cruelty.
How Influential? There is a park named in Joe’s honour as well as a Beautiful Joe heritage society. His legacy has remained in Canadian literary culture and the book is a must read for many Canadian children, it has definitely achieved classic status.
What Would Have Happened Without This Dog? Without Beautiful Joe and his touching story, the book would never have been written, Margaret Saunders would have remained in obscurity and worldwide awareness of animal welfare and animal cruelty would not have been attained as poignantly as it was through the book.
Name: Tinkerbell Hilton
What Did This Dog Do? Pioneered the concept of dogs as fashion accessories.
Tinkerbell is the pet Chihuahua of socialite and hotel heiress Paris Hilton. She is famous for being the stereo typical ‘pampered pooch’ and has legions of imitators. Sales of small toy breeds have rocketed in the USA, UK and Asia ever since Tinkerbell came to prominence.
The concept and treatment of handbag sized dogs has caused controversy, but the influence of Tinkerbell on the dog owning culture is undeniable. Not only have Chihuahuas become more popular, so have luxury accessories and over the top purchases for dogs.
Tinkerbell is not the first dog to be seen by the public as a fashion accessory, but she is certainly synonymous with the concept. Paris has been seen pouring water costing $30 a bottle for her dog to drink. Tinkerbell has even ‘written’ her memoirs and has numerous websites and fan pages dedicated to her.
She has appeared on numerous television shows and Paris is due to be fronting a talent show to find America’s cutest puppy, reinforcing the negative stereotype associated with superficial dog ownership.
How Influential? Make no mistake, this is one of the most influential dogs of modern times, for better or worse. Thousands have tried to imitate Hilton by acquiring dogs similar to Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell is often parodied in the media, notably on the cartoon South Park and in promotional videos for the pop singer Pink.
What Would Have Happened Without This Dog? The influence of Tinkerbell is the result of a combination of Hilton’s profile and the way her dog is deified by herself and the popular media. Perhaps another celebrity could have brought about a similar phenomenon by having a highly spoiled dog, but doubtless to the extent that such a vacuous personality like Hilton could have done.
Name: Speckle of Ardoon
What Did This Dog Do? Defined the modern variety of her breed.
Speckle is known by most in the field of gun dogs as the ‘matriarch’ of the Cocker Spaniel breed. You’d struggle to find a pedigree that doesn’t have Speckle of Ardoon in it. Speckle is thought of as one of the best working gun dogs ever, but her phenomenal legacy is owed to her influence on the Cocker breed itself. Her bloodline flows through all Cocker Spaniels that work today, so impressive were her offspring that they were used exclusively to create the Cocker Spaniel that we all now acknowledge as the standard.
How Influential? Everybody in the working gun dog community agrees that Speckle is the mother of all Cocker Spaniels.
What Would Have Happened Without This Dog? English Cocker Spaniels just wouldn’t be what they are today.
Name: Pavlov’s Dog
What Did This Dog Do? Taught the world about reflexes, unravelled the mysteries of many conditions, spawned a metaphor and had a rock band named after him.
In the 1890s, Ivan Pavlov was investigating gastric function when he realised that his dog began to salivate before seeing any food due to a learned association with outside stimuli. This enlightened Pavlov on the theory of ‘conditional reflexes’, which helped the scientific community understand more about the human condition.
How Influential? The metaphor “Pavlov’s dog” describes a person who reacts to a situation rather than using critical though. The discovery that the dog would salivate if stimulated to think of food by association proved much about the learning patterns and condition of dogs and humans. See one of Pavlov's dogs pictured above, this dog is preserved at The Pavlov Museum.
What Would Have Happened Without This Dog? The same thing would most likely have occurred had Pavlov performed the experiment on another dog, but it was by chance that this particular dog salivated during an experiment related to another of Pavlov’s theories that unlocked the mysteries to reflex reactions.
What Did This Dog Do? Proved that dogs could discover Cancer.
In the 70’s Gill Lacey had a pet Dalmatian, Trudii. Her dog was perpetually obsessed with an apparently normal mole on her leg. Gill ignored this behaviour for weeks, as the mole didn’t display any worrying characteristics. But when Trudii attempted to nip it off with her teeth, Gill went to see her doctor. The doctor removed the mole and sent it away for analysis, despite stating that there was no cause for alarm.
Tests proved it to be a clear case of malignant melanoma, an extremely aggressive type of skin cancer. She’s lucky to be alive today, 30 years on – lucky because she was fortunate to have a self-taught diagnosing dog looking after her in her own home.
This lead to a team of experts in Buckinghamshire who decided to take this further by examining the phenomenon scientifically, setting out to prove the principle that dogs could detect cancer without ever meeting the patients involved. Not only that, but that they could key into scents specifically associated with cancer itself, rather than just disease in general and prove that they were not merely indicating the presence of blood, pus, or inflammation.
How Influential? Trudii’s actions have potentially saved the lives of thousands of people, have opened doors for other dogs to do the same and revolutionised the way we detect Cancer.
What Would Have Happened Without This Dog? Her owner could quite possibly died of Cancer, as could many other people who have gone on to survive thanks to early diagnosis.
Name: The St John’s Water Dog
What Did This Dog Do? Acted as a link between the Newfoundland breed and modern day retrievers and unveiling the world’s most popular pet dog.
The St John’s Water Dog was a relative of the Newfoundland, it was often referred to as a lesser Newfoundland. When the breed was exported from Canada to England, the St John’s Water Dog breed split into two. The larger ones went on the become the modern day Newfoundland, whilst the smaller ones became Labradors, which in turn spawned other breeds such as the Golden Retriever, Flat Coated Retriever and Curly Coated Retriever. Over time, the Labrador has become the world’s favourite dog breed, but it all could have been different if one dog wasn’t spotted as being something special.
One St John’s Water Dog specimen was spotted by the third Earl of Malmesbury, who told a friend that he wanted to take that dog and continue its breeding and keep that dog separate and pure, he would call it a Labrador in honour of the region close to Newfoundland. The Labrador breed was officially established in 1903 and the rest is history.
How Influential? This now extinct breed developed into what has become the world’s most popular dog breed.
What Would Have Happened Without This Dog? Dogs may not have been as popular as they are today as pets, guide dogs may have experienced a slower ascent to becoming the indispensable companion and assistant that they are today and retrievers as a group may not have developed.