(Please visit “Airedale Rescue,” and learn more, or donate some, to one of many dog rescue associations after you read this post. Or just spread the word that these missions exist.)
RIP, Dunnigan, the dog.
We’ve got a motley crew of a few dogs in our household – actually, this morning, we woke up to discover that one of those three had moved on to the Great Hunting Ground.
I know what some of you are already thinking: “This is a sports blog.” Well, it is exactly that. We don’t talk about dogs on BSN much, but believe me, there is a grand champion measure of sport in all of them.
Animals are a part of the emotional fabric that we weave around our daily lives. They inhabit our homes, protect us, make us laugh. They are our friends, our mascots. We spend but a brief time with those animals we keep as pets. As they come and go so quickly through our lives, we are reminded how to attack each day with the ferocity and joy of a mutt, and that life, no matter what or who you are, is never long enough.
For that daily reminder, I am very thankful.
Dunnigan, the dog, you will be missed.
However solemn or somber I may feel this morning, that abounding joy that leaps out of the eyes and feet of the Airedale Terrier is still inescapable. It’s something that I wrote upon before, this certain verve and passion that made these dogs so useful in war – and as it turns out, sport.
Walter Lingo, owner of the Oorang Airedale Kennels, organized the NFL’s Oorang Indians in 1922, mainly to advertise his kennel, where he bred his choice breed of dog, the Airedale terrier. Lingo hired Jim Thorpe to put together an all-American football spectacle of men and dogs – a truly unforgettable mark of NFL history.
With the soul of a true marketer, Lingo would lure audiences to his games with the promise of an outrageous halftime show, instead of the promise of good football – the Indians won only three games in two years. Indeed, it was the halftime activities that were more important than the results of the game for the crowds of football fans and those just plain curious.
Lingo used his own Airedale terrier magazine, “Oorang Comments,” to get dog and football enthusiasts buzzing about his product and his team, writing “Let me tell you about my big publicity stunt. You know Jim Thorpe, don’t you, the Sac and Fox Indian, the world’s greatest athlete, who won the all-around championship at the Olympic Games in Sweden in 1912?” Well, Thorpe is in our organization.”
Thorpe was paid 500 bucks a week to organize the team, a great sum for the time for a great undertaking – one might call it “The Greatest Show on Turf,” (pre-dating, of course, the St. Louis Rams).
Lingo and Thorpe’s team consisted of 50 Native Americans, including such names as War Eagle, and Big Bear – the kind of football names that would make an opponent sweat. Heck, the name Big Bear could have made a bear sweat, especially since one of the halftime events was bear wrestling.
But bear wrestling? That was just a sideshow.
“The climax was an exhibition of what the United States Indian scouts did during the war (WWI) against German troops,” Lingo recollected. “Airedale Red Cross dogs giving first aid…Many of the scouts and Red Cross dogs taking part in the event were real veterans of the war…German troops were impersonated by local American Legion men who wore German uniforms furnished by my organization. What do you think of that for a publicity stunt for advertising dogs raised in a little Ohio town (LaRue) of a thousand population?”
Lingo would go on to make a million dollars selling Airedales in just one year, during the height of popularity of the Oorang Indians. His team, or at least Jim Thorpe and the Airedales, set the precedent for all NFL halftime shows to be measured from there on.
Greatest Show on Turf. And trust me, having a dog like this in your own house will keep it packed to the rafters with entertainment each and every day.
So to all of our dogs – our animals, our mascots, our helpers in war and sport: today I send out a heavy-hearted salute:
(The link again.)