Dogs. Boy do we love ‘em. In this article we are going to take a look at the weird and wonderful world of famous dogs. From history and heroics to celebrity dogs, we will share the best stories with you.
Dr. Brian Hare, director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, postulates that those early wolves that became our first domesticated dogs owe their own survival success not to “survival of the fittest,” but to “survival of the friendliness.”
If ever there was a title tailor-made for a dog, this surely is it!
Modern humans love dogs so much we want them to sleep in our beds, come to work with us, co-star in films and tv programs with us, and journey into battle with us.
Even U.S. Presidents tend to be loath to enter the Oval Office without a bit (and sometimes a lot – Kennedy brought 10 dogs and Reagan brought 6 dogs!) of moral support from man’s best friends.
One recent leader was fond of enough of his canine sidekicks to paint them while in office!
Who are your favorite famous dogs? Are you a dog cartoon-a-holic, getting up early on weekends to watch the fur fly?
Do you love a good, meaty military mystery where the K-9 dog saves the day yet again?
Or are you all-too-prone to “ooh” and “aah” at teacups tucked into tiny tableside purses while their owner is lunching at the latest must-visit see-and-be-seen café?
You’ll have plenty to choose from among the many famous dog breeds we profile here!
Famous dogs in history
The title of most famous dog – ever – most fairly belongs to the Israeli puppy found buried in a tomb alongside a man we can only presume was its owner.
The man was a member of the early Natufian culture in ancient Ein Mallaha, Israel. The discovery represented the first direct visual evidence of man’s bond with the modern dog’s ancient ancestors.
The age of the gravesite? 12,000 B.C.E.
In ancient Mesopotamian society, the people clearly took the protective abilities of dogs quite seriously indeed.
Archeologists have found dog jewelry and dog artwork, plus ample anecdotal evidence that dogs routinely accompanied the gods and goddesses to hunt and to heal.
One amulet found at Uruk, widely regarded by historians as the first true city ever established in the world, featured the image of a dog and an inscription indicating that the owner would be protected from danger “by the power of the dog.”
But it is early Indian canine enthusiasts that modern humanity has to thank for the companionship of modern domestic dogs.
Around 2,613 B.C.E. in ancient Egypt, one now world famous dog, Abuwtiyuw, received the highest honor of a “grand burial,” complete with the finest coffin fit for royalty, fine linens and incense to guide his soul to the next world.
From ancient China, where dogs were the earliest domesticated mammal (far ahead of cows and chickens) to ancient Rome, where dogs were included in Roman Law as protectors of home and livestock, dogs have been held up as protectors, co-pilots, healers, partners in life (and the afterlife), and even geniuses – which, of course, they are!
More recently, the 19th century Skye Terrier Greyfriars Bobby is famed for his long vigil at his masters grave in Scotland and a statue in his memory stands proudly in the city of Edinburgh
Famous military dogs
Dogs have accompanied humans into battle for the entire length of human-canine history. At first, the battles were fought side-by-side to bring down feisty but tasty prey animals that human and canine hunter alike hoped to enjoy later.
Later, the battles became less about what’s for supper and more about who ruled whom, yet once again, dogs and humans stood side-by-side in battles great and small.
Modern military history (post-World War II) is replete with tributes, memorials, awards, and stories about the brave famous dogs who faced grave danger for no other reason save their human asked them to. Often standing between life and death for their human counterpart – literally.
Take the case of Nemo, a German shepherd employed by the Air Force in 1966. He and his human, Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg, were assigned patrol duty at their airbase in Vietnam. Suddenly, the Viet Cong ambushed them in a surprise attack.
He sprang up and leaped between Thorneburg and an approaching bullet, taking the bullet in his eye to save his handler.
Nemo then began to attack the Viet Cong, driving them back with merciless fury.
Having accomplished that, he crawled on top of the unconscious Thorneburg, shielding him from harm until emergency responders could arrive to help.
Gives me goosebumps, that story. Would I have been so brave? Would you?
And then there is Cairo, the famous Belgian Malinois military dog who accompanied now-legendary Navy SEAL Team Six into Osama Bin Laden’s Abottabad compound.
Cairo’s job was to guard the perimeter to prevent breaches while his human compadres did the real job they had come there to do.
Cairo participated in all the same activities the SEALS did, including being airlifted in and then dropped deep into enemy territory to conduct an early morning raid.
Yikes! Now THAT is bravery.
Many, many more famous hero dogs from the K-9 corps exist. This includes some of the most famous dog breeds in history, such as German shepherds and Belgian Malinois.
Amazingly, even now as you are reading this blog post, highly trained and talented war dogs are hard at work in nearly every branch of the military, from the Secret Service to the Armed Forces, the Coast Guard and even the CIA.
Nemo’s and Cairo’s stories thus serve as a monument to courageous military canines past, future and present.
Famous service dogs
According to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), a dog that is working as an official service dog has been specially trained to provide specific services to individuals with certain medical or mental health needs.
For this reason, as long as all the rules and regulations are met, service dogs are legally permitted to be in many places they otherwise would never be allowed to go.
Examples include restaurants, grocery stores, medical facilities, rental accommodations with “no pet” policies, workplaces, public schools and aircraft cabins. They all deserve to be famous dogs.
This explains how “Taxi” Benke, epilepsy sufferer Rachel Benke’s half-lab/half-retriever mix, ended up in her middle school yearbook. Taxi is able to sense Rachel’s seizures before she can and thus can assist and protect her until help arrives.
Figo, Audrey Stone’s golden retriever, helps his 62-year-old handler get around since she is legally blind.
One day, the pair set out to cross the street when a bus unexpectedly lurched into view. It was headed straight for them. To protect Stone, Figo jumped in front of the bus. He took the brunt of the impact, saving Stone from certain death.
Yet, even after being severely injured, Figo refused to leave Stone’s side until paramedics came. You can read more about Figo’s incredible story in USA today.
For his bravery, Figo was honored with being named the ASPCA’s “Dog of the Year”.
Famous dog heroes
What about the hero pooches who don’t work as trained service dogs, are not serving in the military K-9 corps or never made it onto an ancient Mesopotamian cave wall drawing somewhere?
They are equally deserving of our gratitude and praise, as these stories demonstrate.
One day in 2004, Fran Oreto, along with her seven dogs and her grandchildren, were out enjoying the Florida sunshine. Brutis, a golden retriever, suddenly spied a venomous coral snake slithering towards one of the grandchildren.
Quick as lightning, Brutis snatched the snake up in his mouth. The snake (of course) promptly bit Brutis, who nearly didn’t survive the deadly venom.
Brutis was later awarded the National Hero Dog award.
Pit bulls get a bad rap in some circles, but ask Angela Marcelina about her rescue pit, Maya, and the story you will hear is one of a life saved. Angela owes Maya her life for Maya’s efforts to fight off Angela’s would-be attacker, who was intent on raping her and maybe worse.
For her bravery, the Animal Miracle Foundation chose Maya as their “Hero Dog of the Year”.
9/11 is a day that no one will ever forget. But for the workers at “Ground Zero” who heroically dug through the rubble to locate survivors, one K-9 worker, a German shepherd named Trakr, will live on in history – literally.
Trakr’s efforts, along with those of his search-and-rescue team partner, Canadian retired policeman James Symington, led to the rescue of the last living survivor. The team had to dig down through 30 feet of dangerous debris to perform the rescue.
After 15-year-old Trakr’s story went public, he won the Best Friends Again “most clone-worthy dog” contest sponsored by BioArts, Intl. Symington was the lucky recipient of the cloned canine. One of the truly amazing famous dogs.
If you ask the internet, famous dogs are all the rage with the Hollywood set.
Singers, models, actors, comedians, talk show hosts – this otherwise diverse group shares one thing in common: their canine sidekicks.
There are so many celebrity pooches posing like pros in the pages of today’s style-zines that it has almost become possible to forget about Paris Hilton and her two-story pooch palace. Almost.
In fact, perhaps part of the appeal of dog ownership for celebrities is the chance to shift all those paparazzi lenses towards their cute canine sidekicks instead. Because honestly – if you were a paparazzi and you had to choose between snapping yet another pic of George Clooney or snapping a rare pic of his cute rescued basset hound, Millie, which would you choose?
Since there are hundreds upon hundreds of celebrity dogs, each worthy in his or her own way of some major PR coverage, we opted for mentioning just a few of the many celebs who have chosen to rescue their pups.
- Ryan Reynolds and Baxter.
- Amanda Seyfried and Finn.
- Bradley Cooper and Charlotte.
- Ruby Rose and Ru.
- Jack Gyllenhaal and Atticus.
- Ariana Grande and Toulouse (aka the newest face of Coach handbags).
- Orlando Bloom and Sidi.
- Kelly Clarkson and her 30 rescued dogs!
These famous dogs didn’t have the best starts in life, but are now living the dream.
Famous dog movies
Famous dogs in movies….now there is an interesting topic for conversation – without an end in sight!
No discussion would be complete without mentioning Dorothy’s Toto in the iconic film “The Wizard of Oz.”
The male dog character, played by a female terrier named Terry, was never supposed to be a major character, but as furred celebrities tend to do, she quickly carved out a lasting fan base for herself.
Then along came Beethoven, a St. Bernard played by Kris (also a St. Bernard), who stole the household “alpha” position and America’s hearts in a 1992 film by the same name.
And then of course there is Marley from “Marley & Me,” the lovable and completely incorrigible yellow lab that transformed real-life journalist John Grogan’s life forever and, in so doing, also became one of the most famous movie dogs of all time.
Famous tv dogs
Lassie. The name is nearly synonymous with famous dogs on tv. More than 1,500 dogs tried out for the title role, which ended up going to a stand-in dog named Pal. 15 years later, and Lassie’s place in pop culture (and our hearts) is secure forever.
In contrast, Rin Tin Tin, the German shepherd who catapulted to fame via the ABC series “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” enjoyed just four years of on-screen fame (from 1954 to 1959). But in his case, four years was more than long enough to put his name in lights for all time.
And let’s not forget Eddie, a more recent tv fixture, courtesy of Martin Crane on Frasier. Eddie, a terrier, passed in 2006, at the ripe old age of 16. However, he will be remembered in perpetuity, thanks to his son, Enzo, who took over his role, and his legions of adoring fans.
Famous cartoon dogs
Snoopy, anyone? Not only is Snoopy arguably the most famous cartoon dog of all time, he is also one of the longest-lived. Snoopy was born on October 8, 1950, and he is still going strong in pop culture today!
And who didn’t grow up watching Scooby Doo (certainly my brother and I never missed an episode!)? With 25+ million Facebook followers, Scooby is clearly still as relevant today as he was in 1969.
And finally, there is Pluto, the cartoon dog that may yet be able to help his namesake planet recover its former full planetary status.
Pluto the dog, that lovable yellow ball of excitable fuzz, actually got his name from Pluto the planet. It would be years before he would be able to possibly return the favor. After Pluto received a demotion to “dwarf planet” in 2006, the New Horizons space probe captured riveting close-up images of the planet.
These images, when combined with ongoing public interest in Pluto the planet (courtesy of Pluto the dog), have conspired to increase pressure on NASA to reinstate Pluto as our solar system’s 9th official planet.
These famous dogs have been bringing joy to children for generations.
Famous white dogs
If you dread “laundry day,” you are probably already acquainted (virtually anyway) with Jesse, a white-furred Jack Russell terrier who not only knows how to, but wants to do your laundry – and so much more! She’s famous dog for a fun reason!
Last but not least, when your owner is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, it is safe to say you are pretty much born to fame. Such is the case with Zuckerberg’s little white mop-top flufferpuff, the oh-so-not-aptly-named Beast. (And yes, of course he has his own Facebook page, complete with 2 million followers!)
Famous black dogs
If having even amounts of black-and-white fur counts (and even if it doesn’t), then Mishka the Siberian husky is likely to continue to charm fans and followers around the world with her internet-breaking video, “Husky Dog Talking – ‘I Love You’.” To date, Mishka’s debut on YouTube has garnered more than 101 million views.
The current reigning twin black-furred celebrities have got to be Bo, former President Obama’s Portuguese water dog, and his black-furred cohort-with-paws, the lady Sunny.
Bo was chosen carefully so as not to worsen daughter Malia’s allergy issues (Portuguese water dogs do not shed their fur like so many dogs do). Thankfully, Bo also proved to possess a much milder temperament than Sunny.
Famous internet dogs
Guess which celebrity has 17+ million (yes, million) Facebook followers? (HINT: he has paws, not feet). If you guessed “Boo the Pomeranian,” you clearly already know all about the sensation dogs are causing on the internet.
Similarly, Shabu Inu is arguably the most famous Japanese dog in the world today, at least if his 2.5 million Instagram followers have anything to say about it!
The most heart-warming rise to fame, however, rightfully belongs to Donuts, a 9-year-old Boxer/Lab mix, courtesy of his new adopted dad, Matt.
Donuts is deaf and was diagnosed with cancer shortly before the adoption took place.
After the adoption? Well, the internet – and Donuts’ and Matt’s lives – will never be the same again.
This article could have easily become a full-length book.
That is how many famous dogs there are in every corner of the world!
In an era where it seems there are more things every day that could drive us apart, our shared love of wet noses, furry paws, loving licks and soulful canine eyes will always keep us united.
Who is your favorite famous dog?
Have we missed them out? Why not let us know in the comments box below!
- Hare, B. et al, “Opinion: We Didn’t Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us,” National Geographic, 2013.
- Davis, S.J.M., et al, “Evidence for domestication of the dog 12,000 years ago in the Natufian of Israel,” Nature Journal, 1978.