In an eight-month span in the 1930s, two Ticonderoga canines made headlines for something dogs are known for in general: loyalty. Few relationships are more rewarding in life than the human-canine experience, as anyone reading this who shares a dog’s life can attest. For those who have children as well … some might be loathe to admit it, but dogs provide many of the same positives without all the complicated baggage.
Humans in dire circumstances react in two ways—save themselves or save others. We part company there with dogs, whose devotion compels them to maintain the relationship to the sweet or bitter end.
The reason Mike the English terrier made headlines was for something dogs have done so many times: alerting his human to a life-and-death situation. In 1935, Dean Spearman of Mount Hope Avenue in Ticonderoga was preparing for a bath. While waiting for the oil-burning water heater to warm enough water, he dozed off.
He might never have awakened if it wasn’t for Mike, who had grabbed the sleeve of his bathrobe and was tearing at it for all he was worth. Dean, choking from fumes and thick smoke in the air, made it to a window and opened it, allowing him a breath of fresh air.
As the story was told, Mike had meanwhile collapsed to the floor. Dean scooped him up and ran from the house, which was not on fire but held plenty of deadly smoke. Dean was OK, but Mike was ill for hours before showing signs of recovery. Within a few days, he seemed whole again.
Mike’s life-saving effort was truly unselfish, for, as Dean noted, when he rushed from the smoky room, the door was already partly open. At the first sign of trouble, Mike could have scampered to safety, but instead stayed to alert him, nearly sacrificing his life for loyalty.
Eight months later, Lindy, a springer spaniel, was featured in a story that spread far and wide due to its sentimental nature. The very close companion of twelve-year-old Joe Osier of Chilson, Lindy waited excitedly each day as Joe stepped from the school bus. Together they ran, played, and explored the countryside.
In early June 1936, young Joe died in the local hospital. Family members, of course, were devastated, though none worse than Lindy, who at first sat by the road and waited faithfully each day. But the bus rolled by, and Joe didn’t come home.
A deep melancholy quickly enveloped Lindy, who became withdrawn and refused to eat. Less than a week after Joe passed, Lindy died, too. The family, closest of all to the situation, could ascribe it to nothing other than a broken heart. And who’s to say?
I’m betting that those of you with canine family members are with the Osiers on this one.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.