Celebrating our mutts on Monday
November 29, 2013
Pet celebration holidays occur throughout the year, and whatever kind or breed of the pet being honored usually gets only one day. Mutts, however, are special because they get two days: July 31 and Dec. 2. So, what's so noteworthy about mutts that they get double attention? Mutts greatly outnumber purebred dogs, and millions of mutts, waiting to be adopted, fill much of the space in both traditional and no-kill shelters.
People buy purebred dogs for a variety of reasons. For example, border collies are top-notch herders, Doberman pinschers are wonderful guard dogs and German shorthair pointers are prized for their hunting skills. Others want purebred dogs simply because they are attracted to their looks and companionship. Boston bull terriers, pugs, and toy breeds come to mind. But mutts come in all sizes, temperaments and abilities, and many can learn or may already be naturals for the duties that the "blue bloods" do.
Mutts have been successfully trained to find bombs and drugs, they can excel in search and rescue or finding cadavers, and many become service dogs for blind, deaf, or disabled humans. Mutts can be excellent therapy dogs who provide joy to humans in hospitals, long-term rehab facilities and "old-age" homes. All in all, mutts tend to be healthier, be better behaved and live longer than purebred dogs.
When thinking about dogs in the limelight, our minds conjure up images of purebred dogs like Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and Toto. But mutts have also become famous. You may not know some of them (I didn't), but they're A-listers in the celebrity-dog world. Most have starred in movies or on TV, but one was a fully-fledged member of the U.S. armed forces. His name was Sinbad, and I'd like to tell you about him.
Sinbad was a mixed-breed puppy who became an official member, not a mascot nor a pet, of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1938. Nobody could really pinpoint what his mix was, but Life Magazine writer Martin Sheridan described him as a "liberty-rum-chow-hound, with a bit of bulldog, Doberman pinscher, and what-not. Mostly what-not."
His adventure started out as a gift from a crew member to his girlfriend who, as it turned out, was not allowed to keep him in her apartment. So the boatswain's mate signed up Sinbad, who signed all documents with a paw print, to serve on the USCG Cutter George W. Campbell. Sinbad's life as a sailor began. As Jill Harness points out in her blog, "he proved that he had all the fittings of a proper sailor, he liked coffee, whiskey, beer and, most importantly, he really took to life on a ship" ("The Most Famous Mutts Ever," http://www.neatorama.com).
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During his 11 years of service, all served on the Campbell, Sinbad "participated" in many combat missions during World War II and was awarded the following: American Defense Service Medal, an American Campaign Medal, an European-African-Middle-Eastern Campaign Medal, an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, a WWII Victory Medal and a Navy Occupation Service Medal. Pretty impressive!
Sinbad retired in 1948 and spent the next three years of his life onshore, showing up often at a local bar. Harness sums it up perfectly: "He was said to enjoy staring out at the sea, watching passing ships, all the way up until he passed — a true sailor at heart." Sinbad died Dec. 30, 1951, and was laid to rest beneath the flagstaff at Barnegat Light Station in New Jersey.
A final fun fact about Sinbad is this: He was the only member of the USCG who, until the early part of this century, had a biography written about him. The book was published during Sinbad's time of serving, and it's still available through various booksellers. If you want to know more about Sinbad, read about him in "Sinbad of the Coast Guard," by George R. Foley.
As a final note to this week's column, please check out our Facebook page (Churchill Animal Society). If you "Like" us, you'll get a round of "woofs" and a chorus of "meows." While you're at it, have a look at our website (www.capnv.org) where you might see your next best friend.
Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors, contributed this week's column.