A Dogalogue

Throughout history, dogs have made a huge difference in people's lives.

Since my love for dogs cannot be surpassed, I resolved to share a couple unusual bow-wows who have established their place in history.

From the instructional book, "How to Speak Dog," written by Stanley Coren and published by The Free Press of New York in 2000, I added to my already learned connection in dog communication, which far excels my ability to be understood by the human species.

This piece of canine history is a glimpse of English use of dogs four centuries ago or so. I wish to add a new term from long ago in England and possibly spread to Colonial America. The term is "turnspit," a heavy dog with a long body and short legs. It was fastened within a wheel similar to that of a hamster. Why in the world of Old England or New America would such a beloved animal nowadays be subjected to this strange use?

A turnspit turned the wheel by sometimes walking for 12 hours, with the wheel attached to a spit containing a large roast or chicken above fire and embers within the fireplace. The dog's continuous walking thereby turned the meat until done.

This breed also served as a footwarmer for the owner during a church service. During one such service in England, the pastor loudly stated during his oration or sermon, "Ezekiel saw the wheel!" Half the dogs used as footwarmers recognized the emphasis on the word "wheel" and promptly rose from the congregants' warm feet and ran from the church. I wonder if any folks got cold feet and fled behind their pooches.

And now for something completely different. A stray terrier was saved by a post office in Albany, New York during the 1880s. The clerks adopted him and named him Owney. Owney enjoyed riding postal wagons during early rural delivery service. Once he even followed a mailbag aboard a train. The Railway Mail Service employees viewed Owney as a good luck charm, and Owney wound up traveling the whole U.S.A. at the time.

Clerks across the country fastened tags and medals to his dog-sized jacket and collar to record his many trips. Next, he traveled the world aboard steamships, and "today he enjoys a place of honor at the Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C." This quotation and previous data appeared on the back of a sheet of stamps purchased at the . Fortunately, I read the reverse side of the stamps before discarding.


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