Richard Clayton, proprietor of a watch shop on the corner of Sycamore and Second streets downtown, gained international fame in 1835 when he flew a balloon from Cincinnati to Monroe County, Virginia. Shortly after lift-off from an amphitheater on Court Street, between Race and Elm, Clayton released a parachute, which descended slowly to earth. Suspended from it was a little (and unnamed) dog, who was returned safely to its owner. The owner refused large sums of money to part with his pioneering aeromutt.
Cincinnati witnessed the birth of a most unusual dog in 1858. A bull terrier owned by Smith Betts of Western Row (today’s Central Avenue) gave birth to a litter including a puppy with three normal legs and a foreleg from which, where a paw should have been located, was a perfectly formed puppy head. According to The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune [May 17, 1858]: “The little curiosity was as lively as a cricket, but Mr. Betts procured the service of a lad, who, for a dime, drowned it in the canal.”
Dog Days at the Zoo
In its early days, the Cincinnati Zoo offered displays of dogs. On the Zoo’s opening day in 1875, visitors could view a Newfoundland, two mastiffs, some poodles, “Danish hounds” (Great Danes), and greyhounds. Some of these dogs were trained performers, but others merely illustrated unfamiliar breeds. Cincinnatians could purchase dogs from the Zoo if they wished. The Zoo advertised Saint Bernards especially as “docile … but a terror to tramps and evil-doers.”
A Canine Con Artist
Attorney John J. McCarthy had a friend who owned a dog who preferred McCarthy’s company to that of his actual owner. As The Enquirer [January 27, 1891] told it, the dog, on command, would sit up, wear a hat and smoke a cigar while displaying the “most sage look.” McCarthy turned down multiple offers to sell the dog, repeatedly explaining that he didn’t own the mutt. Some buyers persisted, however, to the extent that McCarthy took their money and turned over the dog. After every purchase, however, the dog was back at McCarthy’s feet within the hour.
A Dog With a Job
Willie Theobald was a clerk at the American District Messenger Office on Vine Street in 1894 and owned a dog named Purp who followed him to work. In the days before email and faxes, a lot of business communication traveled through the city by messenger, and Theobald supervised a troop of young messengers. While he sat at his desk making assignments, Purp accompanied messengers on their rounds and often delivered messages on his own. Purp waited patiently until the receipt book was signed, then trotted back to Theobald to await his next task.
A Vet’s Pride
Veterinarian L.A. Anderson was known throughout Cincinnati because of his dog, Jeff, esteemed to be the smartest canine in town. One day in 1894, Jeff was holding the reins of his master’s horse while Dr. Anderson attended to some business. When a rainstorm blew up, Jeff led the horse onto the pavement and under the awning of a nearby store. As the rain abated, Jeff led the horse back into the street to await Dr. Anderson’s return.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Oscar A. Stuckenberg, a clerk in the city engineering office, donated to Cincinnati’s Natural History Museum the freshly deceased body of a greyhound pup that had died 36 hours after birth on February 23, 1897. The color of its coat was distinctly asparagus green, except the head, which was the ordinary grey color. Museum curators scrubbed the corpse with soap, then soaked it in alcohol for several hours, but were unable to remove the color. “Mr. Stuckenberg’s assurance that the pup was born with the green color can not be doubted,” they concluded.
Pug in Lieu of a Ring
Margaret Harrison was one of the most sought-after young ladies in Cincinnati, if not for her own charms then for the riches of her father, Learner Blackman Harrison, president of the First National Bank. She accepted the proposal of Ezra Howard Child, son of a wealthy Massachusetts manufacturer but, it being 1900, thought engagement rings were too old-fashioned for a modern couple and requested a dog instead. Harrison’s fiancé complied, and a pug, decorated with a white satin ribbon, accompanied her throughout the ceremony, attended by 100 guests, at her parent’s house on Grandin Road.
Cincinnati’s Most Intelligent Dog
Word got around in 1902 that Prince, a white and brown water spaniel owned by Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Wirthwine of Evanston, could do anything except speak. The Wirthwines talked to Prince continually as they trained him and this, it was believed, educated Prince to understand spoken words, so that he followed every command to the letter. Although 10 years old, Prince was described as frisky as a puppy and much beloved by the neighbors on Harvard Avenue.
Cincinnati’s First Police Dog
Visitors to the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum are greeted by the stuffed remains of a scruffy mutt in a display case. This is Handsome, beloved companion of the Cincinnati Police who patrolled Rat Row, Sausage Row, and the other unsavory neighborhoods that constituted what is now The Banks but was once known as The Bottoms. Handsome’s feats of investigative skill spread far and wide. On his demise in 1915, the cops chipped in and had Handsome preserved through taxidermy. For a while, he decorated police headquarters, but he’s now at home in the museum.
An Extra Leg
In 1926, somebody dropped off an unusual dog to Hamilton County Sheriff Richard Witt who, back then, also served as the county’s dog catcher. There was nothing wrong with the little puppy except that it had five legs. Witt turned the little fellow over to his deputy, Charles “Buck” Hauser, who promised to take care of it. Hauser had a history with freak animals; he also provided a home to a three-legged rooster.
Danny Dumm’s Greyhound
Cartoonist Harold E. Russell inked daily sports highlights for The Enquirer over a 52-year career that ended only with his death in 1966. Along the way, he’s credited with inventing mustachioed Mister Red and the Cincinnati Royals logo. He also created a miniature alter ego named Danny Dumm who provided commentary on Russell’s cartoons for decades. In 1928, promoting racing meets at a Springdale greyhound track, Danny adopted a dog and the newspaper ran a contest to name the pooch. Inundated with thousands of entries, Russell got two assistants to help him pick the eventual winning name (Big Swig) submitted by Evelyn Klopp of Norwood.
Big Jon & Sparkie’s Pooch
For a decade, beginning at WSAI in 1948 and later on the ABC network, the most popular show on radio, Big Jon & Sparkie, was produced here in Cincinnati. Big Jon was the show’s host, Jonathan Arthur Goerss, and Sparkie was an elf from the Land of Make Believe who wanted to become a real boy. Most of the characters were based on writer Don Kortekamp’s Cincinnati childhood, including Sparkie’s mischievous dog, a Boston toy terrier named Bunny.
Uncle Al’s Dog
From 1950 to 1985, it seemed mandatory for every kid in Cincinnati to appear at least once on WCPO’s Uncle Al Show. In addition to host Al Lewis himself and his wife, Wanda (aka Captain Windy), the show featured a multitude of supporting characters. Many of the show’s subsidiary roles were created by artist and set designer Thomas York, including Ringo Rango the cowboy, Lucky the Clown, Chief Red Feather, Charley the Horse, the Merry Mailman, and of course Pal the Dog.
Hattie the Witch’s Hound
At least two generations of Cincinnati children grew up with the Larry Smith Puppets, from his days on the Uncle Al Show through his decade-long run as the host of Larry Smith’s Cartoon Club on WXIX-TV. In addition to “Batty Hattie from Cincinnati,” Teaser the Mouse and Rudy the Rooster, the central canine character in this puppet menagerie was Snarfy R. Dog.
WEBN’s Program Director
When radio station WEBN first went on the air from a small, blue Considine Avenue house on “Price’s Mountain,” the owner and chief on-air personality, attorney Frank Wood Sr., was meticulous in crediting the talents of program director Miles Duffy. Visitors to the station may have suspected something funny about a dog bowl labeled “Miles.” In fact, Miles Duffy was a cocker spaniel, drafted into that significant position to give the impression WEBN’s employee roster was larger than it was. When Miles went to doggy heaven, the Woods had him taxidermied.
Cincinnati Reds in the Dog House
No review of Cincinnati dogs could be complete, of course, without featuring Marge Schott’s Saint Bernards, known as Schottzie and Schottzie 02. Reds managers were subjected to rubdowns with dog hair in often-vain attempts to attract good luck, groundskeepers had to pick up dog poop off the field, players had to dodge the beasts during pre-game warm-ups, and the dogs sat front and center in the team photos during Schott’s ownership of the team.