Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Dog Named Seaman

Yesterday I was reading the Kansas City Star, and I saw an Extremely Interesting article.  I was shocked that this article was not on the front page, and also that it was so small, because I'm sure that many readers missed it.  The article said that a man in the Missouri legislature is trying to make the Newfoundland the official state dog of Missouri!  He chose the Newfoundland because of a very special Newfie named Seaman, who was part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

You may have heard about Lewis and Clark when you were studying history in school, but some of the history books don't talk about Seaman, even though he was an incredibly important member of the expedition team.

Seaman was a black Newfoundland who was purchased by Captain Meriwether Lewis in 1803 for $20.  This was quite a bit of money back in those days, especially to pay for a dog.  But Captain Lewis was obviously a very smart man who realized how important it would be to have a good dog along on the trip.  Here's a picture of Captain Lewis:

Seaman traveled all the way to the Pacific with the group, and then he traveled all the way back to St. Louis.  He did all kinds of important stuff for the men, like retrieving game from the water and scaring bears away from the camp.  One time, he got bitten by a beaver in the hind leg, right in his artery, so he was bleeding a whole bunch, and Captain Lewis and Captain Clark had to operate on Seaman to save him.

And then another time, when they were on the way back from the west coast, Seaman got kidnapped by Indians, who were probably planning to eat him for dinner.  But Captain Lewis threatened to kill the whole tribe if they didn't give his dog back, so they ended up giving him back.

Anyway, that's about all I can tell you about Seaman.  We don't know when or how he died, and he is not stuffed and on display in some museum like Hachiko or Sergeant Stubby are.  But there's a statue of Seaman right here in Kansas City.  It's up on a high bluff where there's a good view of the Missouri River and the Kansas River.  We know for sure that Captain Clark went up on that bluff, so Seaman may have gone there, too.

I think it would be nice to have an official state dog in Missouri, and if it can't be the Basenji, then the Newfoundland would be a good second choice because of Seaman.  Newfoundlands are really big, really hairy dogs, and they drool a lot.  But they are very gentle dogs who are good with children.  Newfoundlands are used for water rescue, and they can also be good guard dogs.

The official colors for Newfies are black, brown, gray, and landseer (black head with a white-and-black body).  Remember how I told you one time about the artist Edwin Landseer?  He's the one who kept painting pictures of black-and-white Newfoundlands, so they ended up naming that color pattern after him.

Anyway, that's the important news here in Missouri.  I don't know how long it will be until we get our official state dog, but I hope it's soon!

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