12 Amazing Dogs to Remember on National Dog Day

A scene from Lasse Hallström's Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009), based on the life of Hachikō.
A scene from Lasse Hallström's Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009), based on the life of Hachikō.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Dogs can do some pretty amazing things. Just look at your own, who comes when you call, sits when you say so, and knows enough to only chew up your last-season footwear. History is filled with tales (and tails) of highly accomplished canines—all of whom are worth remembering on National Dog Day (August 26th). Here are 12 of them.

1. Bud

Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson's dog, Bud
Mary Louise Blanchert, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1903, Dr. Horatio Nelson set out to become the first man to drive across America in a newfangled invention known as the automobile. Though Sewall K. Crocker was Nelson’s official co-driver, a goggle-wearing pit bull named Bud also came along for the ride, making him the first dog to drive across America.

2. and 3. Balto and Togo

Balto may score the bigger headlines—not to mention a famous statue in Central Park—but the famous sled dog who helped deliver a shipment of antitoxins to Nome, Alaska during a 1925 diphtheria outbreak had a lot of help. Particularly from Togo, whose own team of fellow sled dogs traveled twice the distance of Balto’s and crossed the 674-mile trek’s most treacherous parts. But as it was Balto’s team who finished the final leg of the record-setting five-and-a-half-day journey, he's the one who grabbed most of the glory.

4. Sergeant Stubby

The military title in this pit bull mix’s name isn’t just there to be cute; it’s a well-earned honor. During World War I, the former stray served with the 102nd Infantry alongside his owner, John Robert Conroy, who had smuggled him into France when he was deployed. But Stubby’s keen sense of smell and hearing proved to be quite valuable to the unit; he would alert the men to incoming gas attacks and helped rescue many wounded soldiers. But it was by sniffing out a German spy that Stubby earned the rank of sergeant.

5. Swansea Jack

Swansea Jack is a legend in Wales, where he lived with his owner, William Thomas, near the River Tawe. It’s here that the black retriever’s superhero reputation began when he jumped into the river to save a drowning boy. A few weeks later, he did it again. And then again. And again. All told, it’s believed that Jack saved a total of 27 people during his lifetime.

6. Rags

Rags is another pooch who saw his fair share of combat during World War I, where he accompanied the 1st Infantry. Private James Donovan found the terrier mix as a stray in Paris, and brought him back to his unit as a mascot and carrier dog, who would traverse dangerous grounds to deliver notes to the front lines. Rags and Donovan returned to America after a gas attack, which Donovan did not survive. Rags, however, went on to become a bit of an A-list name and was buried with military honors.

7. Bobbie the Wonderdog

Also known as Silverton Bobbie, this Scotch Collie-English Shepherd mix gained worldwide fame in 1923 when he walked from Indiana to Oregon—a full 2551 miles—to reunite with his owner, six months after getting lost in the Hoosier State while on a family road trip. In 1924, a silent film—The Call of the West—was made about Bobbie; the pup played himself.

8. Rolf

Dog owners are never shy about showing off their pooch’s smarts, and Paula Moekel was no exception. Her Airedale terrier Rolf became famous around the world for his ability to “speak” by tapping out letters with his paws. She also claimed that he was a great mathematician, poet, theologian, and philosopher. Veracity of those assertions aside, what is known is that it’s because of Rolf that the Nazis attempted to train an army of super-smart talking dogs.

9. Laika

A close-up of Laika, the dog used to relay biomedical information in the Soviet 'Sputnik II' outer-space investigation programme
Keystone/Getty Images

Yuri Gagarin may have been the first human being to journey into space, but that historical 1961 feat would not have been possible without Laika, the terrier-turned-cosmonaut who was literally picked up off the street in Moscow to become the first living being to orbit the Earth. And while she has enjoyed several decades of fame for her accomplishment, Laika did not survive the mission so never had the chance to enjoy her celebrity status. Though Soviet officials said she survived for at least a few days, she actually died less than two hours into her mission due to overheating and stress.

10. Robot

Sure, it was probably just a case of pure luck. But in 1940, a quartet of teenagers and one dog in Dordogne, France set off to try and find a mythical tunnel that was said to run under the Vézère River. Instead, what Robot sniffed out (literally) were some of the world’s most significant Paleolithic cave paintings, which had not been seen by human eyes in thousands of years.

11. Hachikō

That dogs are a loyal species isn’t breaking news, but the depths of some dogs’ fidelity is worth special mention. Especially when it comes to Hachiko, the Akita who made a habit of greeting his owner, University of Tokyo professor Hidesaburo Ueno, at the end of each work day at Shibuya Station. But in 1925, Ueno passed away suddenly from a brain hemorrhage and never returned home. Still, Hachiko waited. Every day. For the next nine years.

12. Chips

If you’ve ever seen the 1990 Disney movie Chips, the War Dog, you know the story of this brave German Shepherd-Collie-Husky mix, who served with the 3rd Infantry in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany during World War II. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips’s quick reflexes made him a valuable asset in defending his unit. He once forced four gunners to surrender to U.S. troops and, on the same day he injured his scalp and sustained powder burns, helped his men capture 10 Italian prisoners. Though his Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart were eventually revoked due to an Army rule on animal commendations, Chips remains one of the world’s most decorated war dogs.

This article has been updated for 2019.

5 Ways You Can Help the Jaguar Rescue Center Save Costa Rica’s Wildlife

A curious sloth says hello after members of the Jaguar Rescue Center reunited her with her baby.
A curious sloth says hello after members of the Jaguar Rescue Center reunited her with her baby.
Jaguar Rescue Center

In 2005, Catalonian primatologist Encar Garcia and her husband, Italian herpetologist Sandro Alviani, were living in southwestern Costa Rica when locals began to bring them injured animals in hopes that the two experts could save them. As word spread and more animals arrived, their property slowly transformed into a full-fledged rescue center. So they purchased the surrounding land and named their new organization the Jaguar Rescue Center (JRC), after one of their early rescues: a young, orphaned jaguar whose mother had been killed by farmers.

Today, the center covers nearly 5.5 acres of land near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica’s Limón province. It can accommodate around 160 animals at a time, and is home to everything from spider monkeys to sea turtles (though, by law, staff members aren’t allowed to accept domesticated animals like cats and dogs).

While locals still bring injured and orphaned animals to the JRC, others are brought by tourists, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the National Animal Health Service, and even the police, who confiscate animals that have been poached or illegally kept as pets.

howler monkey at jaguar rescue center
Skye, a young howler monkey who recovered from electrocution.
Jaguar Rescue Center

The rescues are often victims of road accidents, animal attacks, environmental destruction, human interaction, or electrocution from exposed power lines. After the animals are rehabilitated, they’re released into La Ceiba Natural Reserve, a human-free (except for JRC workers) part of the forest where they can safely reacclimate to living in the wild. The JRC has cameras installed in the area to monitor the animals after their release and make sure they’re finding enough food.

Unfortunately, not all the creatures brought to the JRC recover from their injuries—in 2019, for example, 311 of the 749 rescues died [PDF]—so JRC staff members and volunteers understand just how remarkable it is to watch an animal regain its health and be successfully returned to its natural environment.

“There are so many amazing things about working for the JRC, but I think we all can agree that seeing a rescued animal make it through rehabilitation and be released is the best and most rewarding part of the job,” Torey, a JRC tour guide, tells Mental Floss.

Some thought-to-be-orphaned sloths are even released right back into the arms of their mothers. After recording the cries of a baby sloth, JRC staff will take the sloth back to wherever it was first found, play the recording, and wait for the mother to recognize the cries and (slowly) climb down from her leafy abode to reunite with her child.

Despite its partnerships with government agencies, the JRC doesn’t receive government funding. Instead, it relies on public donations and revenue from its visitor services. Find out more about how you can help below.

1. Donate money.

You can make a one-time or monthly donation that will go toward food, medical care, and supplies for the animals, or you can donate specifically to the JRC’s “Shock Free Zone” program, which insulates power lines and transformers that run through forests to prevent them from electrocuting wildlife.

2. Donate items.

Check out the JRC’s Amazon wish list to see which items are most needed—and what they’ll be used for, too. Examples include Pampers diapers for baby monkeys, snake hooks for safely rescuing snakes, and cans of worms to feed birds, opossums, and bats.

One of the most important products on the list is powdered goat’s milk, which staff members use to feed orphans of many mammalian species at the JRC.

“It has the most universally digestible enzyme compared to other milk,” Torey says. “Unfortunately, we do not have sloth milk, monkey milk, etc. readily available for the baby animals.”

3. “Adopt” an animal.

diavolino, a margay at the jaguar rescue center
Diavolino, the Jaguar Rescue Center's "feisty little margay."
Jaguar Rescue Center

For $105, you can virtually “adopt” an animal at the JRC. Choices range from Diavolino, a “feisty little margay” rescued from the illegal pet trade, to Floqui, a whitish two-fingered sloth who was born with only one digit on each hand and foot.

4. Visit the Jaguar Rescue Center.

You can stay overnight at the JRC in one of its three visitor residences—La Ceiba House, Ilán Ilán House, or one of the Jaguar Inn bungalows—which offer a variety of amenities, restaurant service, and access to nearby beaches.

Whether or not you’re staying there, you can book a tour of the JRC, where you’ll get to explore the premises and even meet some of the animals. There are private, public, nighttime, and VIP tours, and you can find out more here.

5. Volunteer at the Jaguar Rescue Center.

If you’re looking for a more hands-on, potentially life-changing way to help Costa Rica’s wildlife, you can apply for the JRC’s four-week volunteer program or a position at La Ceiba Natural Reserve that lasts three to six months.

According to the website, JRC volunteers are housed in the Jaguar Inn and help with “a broad range of tasks, from doing the dishes and cleaning up after the animals ... to building and remodeling enclosures, or babysitting a new arrival to ease the stress of their new environment.”

La Ceiba volunteers, on the other hand, stay right on the reserve and do everything from monitoring captive and recently released animals to keeping the trails clear.

Find out more about becoming a volunteer here.

YouTube Star Coyote Peterson Brings 'Misunderstood' Animals to His New Animal Planet Series

Animal Planet
Animal Planet

As host of the popular YouTube series Brave Wilderness, Coyote Peterson is no stranger to going face-to-face with creatures many deem terrifying—think great white sharks and pit vipers—but that he says are simply "misunderstood."

Animals have always been a big part of Peterson's life, even before he made a career out of being stung and bitten by ferocious critters. The Ohio native studied video production and directing at Ohio State University, and then decided to combine his two passions—film and all things wild—to teach viewers about wildlife and the importance of conservation. His YouTube channel currently has more than 15 million subscribers.

Now Peterson is embarking on a new adventure with Animal Planet in the show Brave the Wild. He'll travel all over the world with wildlife biologist Mario Aldecoa and his crew, sharing creatures that aren't often in the spotlight and that viewers may find a little frightening. He recently chatted with Mental Floss about the importance of conservation, his thing for snapping turtles, and his close encounter with a jaguar and her three cubs.

You’ve said your love of animals started with snapping turtles. Can you talk about the first time you saw one and what about them fascinated you so much?

The first snapping turtle I caught was when I was only 8 years old. I was always fascinated with turtles, because at first glance they look prehistoric, almost dinosaur-like. Growing up in Ohio, I never got to see any "exotic" animals. My favorite thing to watch on TV was Steve Irwin. Watching him wrestle crocs is what inspired me to catch my first snapping turtle, the most dangerous animal Ohio has to offer.

Coyote Peterson with a gigantic snapping turtle
Animal Planet

In Brave the Wild, you introduce animals that are often feared or misunderstood. What's the importance in exposing viewers to these creatures?

One of my goals through this series was to inspire people to overcome their fears of these seemingly dangerous animals and learn to admire them from a safe distance. The more you understand these creatures, the less you are afraid of them. One of the messages I try to convey in every episode is the importance of conservation.

What’s the most "misunderstood" creature you've encountered?

The most misunderstood creature that comes to mind is the carpet shark, which we filmed in season one. As I always say, people’s biggest fears are the three S’s (sharks, snakes and spiders). The carpet shark is found off the coast of Australia. They only bite humans in the case of mistaken identity. To some of these sharks a person’s foot might look like a fish. Any time you enter a new environment you need to be aware of what you need to look for, not only to keep yourself safe, but the animal as well.

What goes into preparing for each encounter to make sure you and the animals come out alive?

With any new expedition, you need to come into the environment knowing exactly what to expect. When encountering a new animal, I try to stay as calm as I can and have no hesitation. If I stay calm, the animal stays calm, [and] I'm creating a safer interaction for myself. I use different tactics when I encounter different animals. It also depends on whether the environment is land or in water.

How do you keep your composure on camera when you're in a potentially dangerous situation?

Any situation I find myself in, I look at it as my job. For example, I would be afraid operating a crane, because that is something I don't do. If it's part of your job, it's something that you get used to. When I do my job, I make sure I'm focused and never hesitate. Before I encounter any animal, I know what I'm going to say to the camera. I say that, for the best show, we always need to have the camera rolling so the audience can see what is happening.

Coyote Peterson with a kangaroo
Animal Planet

You were in Australia filming Brave the Wild during bushfire season. What was that like?

Visiting Australia was one of the best experiences I had filming the show. Australia is a fascinating country that has so many unique environments. We spent over 50 days in Australia and encountered more than 35 different species. We were there right before all these devastating fires started, and we got to witness the severity of the drought and all the different animals it impacted.

What was your favorite animal encounter in upcoming series?

Each encounter I have in the wild is special. I would have to say that the most exciting moment for me was when we were filming in Brazil and I saw a jaguar and three of her cubs up close. Not only did I get to see this in real life, but my amazing team was able to capture this special moment on tape. It is just so amazing seeing these animals survive and thrive in the wild while dealing with not only the dangers of the wild but human encroachment as well. Hands down, this was my favorite episode that we got to film.

Catch new episodes of Brave the Wild on Animal Planet, Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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