Ice Breakers: 10 Dogs That Made It To The History Books

September 19, 2018

|Hugo Marquez
dogs in history

These celebrated dogs made history because they stole the hearts of their famous owners.

When you're trying to break the ice with someone you just met, things can get really awkward really fast. Depending on how nervous you get, you might start talking randomly about anything from the weather to your ex even. We've all been there, trust me, but there are tons of topics that are perfectly safe for breaking the ice, and also pretty cool. Take dogs, for instance. Who doesn't love dogs? (Cat people don't, I know, but we're not talking about them right now.) Dogs are great common ground that'll help you keep the conversation going and maybe get to know the other person better. You can ask if they have one, what their favorite breed is, or if they have any funny dog stories. And, of course, you could even show them pictures of your pooch (just don't make it awkward).

However, in this case, my favorite dog ice breakers are stories and fun facts about famous dogs from history. Which famous dogs, you might ask? Well, stick around to find out.

Greyfriars Bobby

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He was a Skye Terrier from Scotland who lived in the Victorian era. He lived in Edinburgh with his master, John Gray, a police officer, and Bobby was his faithful companion during work hours. In 1858, Gray died from tuberculosis and was buried in the Greyfriars graveyard. Then, Bobby became a local celebrity because for more than fourteen years he refused to leave his master's tomb, until he passed away in 1872. A fountain and sculpture were erected near the graveyard in Bobby's memory. His headstone reads “Greyfriars Bobby – died 14th January 1872 – aged 16 years – Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”


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The Japanese Akita was born in 1923. His owner was Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor in Tokyo who took the train every day in the Shibuya neighborhood. Hachi would join the professor on his way to the train until the day Ueno died of an aneurysm. As a result, Ueno would never come back to the station, and Hachi, ever the loyal pet, waited for him at the station's entrance for almost a decade until his death in 1935. Two statues of Hachiko were built outside the station: one in 1934 (destroyed by the government in 1944 to use the metal for weapons in WWII), and another in 1948, which can be found at the exit of the station. In addition, Hachiko's body was stuffed and is on display at the National Museum of Nature and Science at Ueno Park.


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Laika was the first living creature to make it to the Earth's orbit on Sputnik 2, the second spacecraft launched into space. She was born on November 3rd, 1957, and her name means “barker.” She was a stray dog and was chosen because scientists believed that, since stray dogs endure the difficulties of abandonment, they develop the strength to handle the rough conditions of pressurized capsules. Everyone knew that she would not be able to return to Earth, so animal activists in the United States and UK protested for her rights. Soviet scientists claimed that she would die peacefully, but it was later revealed that she died in agony because of the heat and lack of oxygen. Two memorial statues of Laika were erected: one in 1997 at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Star City, and another in 2015 at a military research complex, both in Moscow.

Dash, Queen Victoria

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Dash, a king Charles Spaniel, became a companion for Queen Victoria in 1833 when she married Prince Albert. Like any other aristocratic pet, not only was he favoured by the princess (he lived at Kensington palace, right before Victoria’s ascent to the throne), but also by painters and sculptors. An account of the affection the Princess had for her dog can be found in several entries in her diary. Dash passed away on Christmas Eve in 1840. His epitaph, written by the Queen herself, is the following: "Here lies DASH, the favourite spaniel of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, in his 10th year. His attachment was without selfishness, His playfulness without malice, His fidelity without deceit. READER, if you would live beloved and die regretted, profit by the example of DASH."

Fido, Abraham Lincoln

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Though Lincoln is famous for abolishing slavery, few people know he was also an advocate for animal welfare. It is said that Lincoln adopted Fido when he was running for president and that the dog could be seen running along with his master during the campaign. However, when Lincoln won the elections, the president and his wife decided that the public life of politics was not suitable for the tranquility of Fido’s temper. So, the dog never lived in the White House and was instead adopted by a close friend of Lincoln's. The specific demands the president had for his friend were for him to keep one of Lincoln’s special chairs, so it would give comfort and a sense of home to Fido, never to hit him, and to allow him to stay around the dinner table. Tragically, Fido was killed by a drunk man in Lincoln's last year in office.

Martha, Paul McCartney

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Paul McCartney got and Old English Sheepdog, who he named Martha, while he was dating actress Jane Asher back in 1966. Martha is famous for being the muse of McCartney’s ‘Martha My Dear,’ a piano song that was part of The Beatles' White Album. She lived in Scotland, at her master’s country house and became the family dog (Linda McCartney took several pictures of the dog and her children). Martha passed away in 1981, at the age of fifteen.

Blondi, Adolf Hitler

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In an interview with The Guardian, one of the nurses who made it out of Hitler’s bunker recalls how sad the crew was when Hitler euthanized Blondi, his female German Shepherd. This breed was Hitler’s favorite, so he had many throughout his life, but Blondi was his ultimate favorite. When the Russians entered Berlin, Hitler feared they would capture and torture his dog, so he preferred to kill her himself. For the people in the bunker, the nurse recalls, the death of Blondi was more painful than Eva Braun’s.

Mr. Xolotl, Frida Kahlo

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Frida Kahlo had many pets throughout her life: canaries, eagles, hens, monkeys, a fawn, and dogs. One in particular stands out from the rest of the dogs: Mr. Xolotl, an Xoloitzcuintle, which is an important breed in Mexican culture since it can be traced back to Aztec high society. Mr. Xolotl was immortalized, as he appears in many paintings by the Mexican icon.

Sage, Jim Morrison

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The rock icon was fond of animals, especially dogs. He adopted Sage in the sixties while in a relationship with Pamela Courson. A few days before Morrison died in Paris, he sent a letter asking for the address of Courson’s sister, so he could send a hundred dollars for the care of the dog. Sage outlived both Morrison and his long-term girlfriend.

Lump, Pablo Picasso

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David Douglas Duncan, an American photographer, was the actual master of Lump, a Dachshund who would be immortalized in paintings by one of the most celebrated artists in history: Pablo Picasso. After Mr. Duncan visited Picasso’s La Californie, his mansion in Cannes, Lump became a long-term guest. Mr. Douglas recalls that, though Picasso had many dogs at his place, Lump was rather special: he was the only dog the Spanish artist would pick up and hug, and was the most playful with his children, Claude and Paloma. Proof of the affection Picasso had for the tiny Dachshund can be found in his fifteen paintings in which Lump appears as co-star. Lump suffered a spinal condition that could not be treated by any vet in Cannes, so Duncan took him back home to Germany and the pooch never went back to La Californie. Lump died one week before Picasso’s death in 1973.


As I wrote this entry, I felt so moved to see the importance of dogs in our lives. Basically everyone has had a four-legged companion since they’re truly a gift that we must cherish, care for, and respect because they give us two of the most difficult things to find in life: loyalty and love. Could you really ask for a better ice breaker than this?


If you liked this post, you might also be interested in the following:

A Poem To Remember Why A Dog's Love Is The Best Thing In The World

Literature Shows Us Why A Dog's Death Is The Most Heartbreaking

Watermelons, Wild Animals, And The Night: The Paintings Of Rufino Tamayo


Other references from this article:

Education Scotland


Presidential Pet Museum

The Guardian


Pamela Susan Courson Morrison

The New York Times

Hugo Marquez

Hugo Marquez

Staff Editor