Upstate News You Can’t Use is a series by David Brooks to discover insane ads, fantastical headlines, and ridiculous news in historic newspapers from Upstate New York
by David Brooks
We have emerged from the Dog Days of Summer (July 3rd to Aug 11th according to the Farmer’s Almanac). Those hot sweaty days in Upstate NY lead this mind to wander toward articles about dogs in the old periodicals.
We can find countless articles of dog heroism in the old newspapers. Stories from saving owners from bear maulings or fires, pulling girls out of icy rivers, dragging kids home in blizzards, and even retrieving a man’s wallet on a busy sidewalk. There are also PLENTY of ones about mad dogs with rabies and other attacking canines. It has actually been pretty difficult to cull through them, or should I say pretty ruff?
No, I probably shouldn’t.
We’ve all heard of scaredy cats but, come on! To get a better sense of this, don’t picture “The Dude” from the Big Lebowski. Dude meant something a bit different in 1887, and was more likely the dog took fright from a dandy fellow.
Perhaps most of us can relate to this couple in some way or another.
Not only do a lot of the mentions of dogs in old papers mention bites or attacks, there are a lot of reports of “mad dogs” – ones often termed to have given symptoms of hydrophobia, a well known effect of rabies in humans. For those of you having flashbacks to middle school English, Atticus wasn’t going to allow that to happen!
A Mad Dog
A Valuable Horse Owned by A.G. Harter Also Bitten and Had to Be Killed–An Order Issued to Kill All Wandering Dogs
Knapps Creek, Jan. 6 – This place has been torn from centre to circumference during the past few days by the development of hydrophobia, the result of bites given by a strange dog. Some time ago a shepherd dog, whom nobody seemed to own made his appearance in the village and for several days wandered about. There was nothing about his actions that aroused any suspicions and but little attention was paid to him. On December 17 A. G. Harter was at the barn attending to his horse, when the strange dog entered the stall, and making a jump at the horse’s head, caught the animal by the nose, and it was some time before he could be shaken off. Mr. Harter threw him out of the stable but did not give any serious thought to the incident. Later three other dogs were bitten by the strange dog, who had developed a fighting streak, and attacked every dog he met.
On Sunday, December 22, Mary the 11-year old daughter of W.H. Roberts was bitten on the finger by a small dog that had been bitten by the shepherd dog, and on the same day, Leslie, the 6-year old son of Thomas Curtis was also bitten on the finger by a small Spitz dog. Both these animals were shot. It is known that several other dogs were bitten and many of them have since been killed.
On Saturday Mr. Harter’s horse was taken with every symptom of hydrophobia and Drs. Ackerman and Bosler of this city were sent for and after examining this animal ordered it killed. An order has also been issued by the health officer of the town that every dog found running loose within a mile of Knapps Creek shall be killed. As a result almost every dog on the hill is either dead or doomed.
There is no question in the minds of the doctors that veterinary surgeons but that the strange shepherd was afflicted with rabies, and the two children who have been bitten were sent to the Pasteur institute in new York city on train 12 Monday. The people of Knapps Creek are naturally much excited over the events that have transpired, and every dog in the place that is still alive is looked upon with suspicion. It is sincerely hoped that the treatment of the children will undergo while in New York will be effective. The horse owned by Mr. Harter was a valuable animal and its death is quite a loss to that gentleman.
Two more dogs at Knapps Creek have developed rabies and Tuesday one of them bit a cow. The work of extermination still goes on.
Well before there was a vaccine for rabies, people were obviously concerned with strange dogs prowling neighborhoods. New York City enacted a licensing law in 1894 and by 1917 there were uniform laws throughout New York State requiring dogs to be licensed and tagged.
No viral videos here, but the “police dog” (term most likely referencing shepherds of German extraction or similar) saving a puppy had to be an adorable act to behold.
You may call bull on it, but this is actually not the only article like this I came across.
Seems dogs on farms were handy to keep the farmer alive… in another literary reference, the Coates family might agree.
Despite looking, there were no articles about a dog saving a child from a well. A close one was a toddler falling into a bucket of water. The dog in the room pulled the unresponsive child out. That kid was revived but his parents had allowed him to play alone in the basement with a dog and a large bucket of water, so who knows what his life ended up like.
Well, well, well…. A Lassie Moment!
In terms of dogs saving the day, several had a similar theme of warning children of dangerous conditions, or alerting adults to fires or gas fumes, and an instance of miners who were deep in down a shaft that their camp was in flames!
Dogs And Hydrants
If a dog causes an accident, he won’t want a muffin or a pancake but ya can be darn sure it’s the owners fault. There’s a good twofer in this though – a dog who likes to chase cars AND a reference to a fire hydrant. And, bonus points to anyone envisioning the plumber with a big mustache and red hat.
What is a post about dogs without a quick mention of dog shows?
Seems that, while for a looong time people took pride in their breeds and lines, it was mostly for upper crust folks. Mentions of shows really start to appear in Upstate NY newspapers in the 1870’s – though still highlighted by socialites and the wealthy dog breeders, eventually shows became popular in communities where anyone – even kids – could enter their pooches!
In all the wonderful or crazy or downright heartwarming tales of dogs in the news, it is plain to see a deep connection those creatures have with humans. We all know the term, “Man’s Best Friend,” but that often seems to be taken for granted. Recent studies have determined the shape of domesticated dogs eyes have changed over the thousands of years they’ve walked beside humankind, becoming more round and the muscles expressing more empathetically.
Even when the reports are of “mad dogs” it seems there is a tinge of sadness that such animals may be infected, needing to be put down not just for human safety but as a humane gesture to the dog as well.
Dogs Gone Wild
Then again, some people are just jerks. I’ve avoided any article with cruelty to canines – well, mostly because there is too much crap in the world today and it’s nice to have a little break from it. However, and while this was only reported in an Upstate NY Newspaper and happened in Virgina, when you come across a write up like this… really, ya have to share it!
David Brooks has an American History degree from the State University of New York. He currently lives in Northville along the banks of the Great Sacandaga Lake. He serves as the Education Director for the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site and on occasion can be found exploring the Adirondacks hoping to catch sight of Big Foot.