National Geographic : 1941 Dec
Dogs of Duty and Devotion BY FREDERICK G. VOSBURGH In the following two articles, and the accompanying 20 color plates, the National Geographic Society brings to its members the fourth in a series of presentations depicting the Dogs of the World, with paintings from life by Edward Herbert Miner* and detailed biographies of the various breeds by Freeman Lloyd, internationally known judge of dogs. Previous articles have presented the Terriers (February, 1936), Field Dogs (January, 1937), and Hounds (October, 1937). The series will be con cluded in later issues with presentation of Non-sporting Dogs and Toy Dogs.-Editor. IN New York the other night I saw this: A shabbily dressed man ran out of the shadows, grabbed a woman's bag from her hand, and bolted. A policeman tried to stop him, but dropped in his tracks as the robber's gun spat fire. Now another bluecoat appeared on the scene, and with him was New York's young est policeman, only two years old-Boots, star of the police dog squad. As guns blasted in a running duel, Boots leaped into action like a furry dart. The thief fired, missed, and tried to flee, but Boots dived through his legs and spilled him, with a com bination of flying tackle and canine jujitsu. The instant the man hit the ground the dog struck the gun from his hand. Then, until help arrived, he stood over the fallen footpad, who no longer wanted to fight. This bit of melodrama was staged in a demonstration by New York's Police Depart ment. But it typifies many a real-life drama of this and other cities' four-footed police. "Seeing Eye" Trainers Taste Blindness A few miles away, at The Seeing Eye, Morristown, New Jersey, I saw dogs being trained to lead blind men down life's dark road with all the gentleness, care, and patience of a mother with her child. Ninety-five out of a hundred of these dogs are of the same breed as Boots-the versatile German Shepherd (page 775); but occasion ally individuals of other breeds have been used. Among these have been the Doberman and Boxer (pages 787 and 798) and the Pointer and Labrador. Guiding sightless masters through the perils of traffic in various parts of the country today are 650 dog graduates of The Seeing Eye, whose home is a collection of big green-shingle and-white-clapboard buildings three miles from Morristown. Here and in the city's streets 150 dogs a year are taught their lifework in three months-but it takes about four years to train a trainer. Throughout his whole first month a pro spective trainer must spend his days in dark- ness. With a heavy black mask over his eyes, he lives the life of the blind so that he may know to the full their needs and problems. He gropes for his food at table and learns to find it after going hungry once or twice. He stumbles into unseen objects. He dis covers a strange new world, the black world of the sightless. When at last the apprentice is allowed to work with dogs, he still must act like a blind man, though his mask has been removed. If a half-taught dog leads him too near a tree, he must walk directly into it so that the dog will notice and allow more room next time. "I've had a trainer come in with a bad gash from hitting a tree he saw perfectly well," said Elliott Humphrey, in charge of training. "Since you want to see some of the dogs in action, we'll go into town. Most of our training is done on the city's streets." Dogs for the school are not raised here, but are bought from various breeders at ages of 14 months to two years. About three out of five are females. "How do you pick your dogs for this work? What elaborate tests do you put them through to see whether they are suited for such a job?" I asked as we drove toward town. "When I answer that," Humphrey replied, "you'll think I'm lying or hiding something. We tell by looking at them. "There's no one thing you can put your finger on. It's the look in the eye, the bear ing, the way a dog holds its head. It's all those combined and something more-some thing you feel rather than see. "Yet the fact remains that out of ten dogs selected in that seemingly unscientific way, nine will make good. From the rejects we * Members of the National Geographic Society will learn with regret of the death, on October 10, 1941, of Mr. Edward Herbert Miner, of Westbury, New York, accomplished painter of animals, whose finest work, over a period of many years, has appeared in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE. Besides his series of dog paintings, currently appearing, he will be re membered for his portrayal of the world's cattle and for his great series, "Horses of the World," considered the most authoritative presentation of the subject.