Man’s Best Friend

In my recent series on the 1906 earthquake, I related Ralph Rambo’s memories of the day. I especially liked the episode of how he adopted the Doyle School dog after discovering him shivering on the front stoop of the school. Calling the dog, he jumped into the buggy, driven by Ralph’s father, and the dog stayed with them until he died many years later.

I am reminded of my first dog, Teddy, a white, mixed-breed Alaskan Spitz. Teddy was given to me by Mrs. Hubble, my piano teacher, and he followed me home one day after a music lesson. I guess he followed me home because of the short cotton-rope leash around his neck! Arriving home, I was told to take him back, but my pleading, “Aw gee ma, can’t I keep him” finally prevailed, and my life-long love affair with dogs began. There have been many dogs in my life over the years, and I have loved them all.

Two I remember well belonged to John Steinbeck when he lived in the hills above Los Gatos in the late 1930s. It was during my senior year at Los Gatos High School where one of my favorite classes was journalism. Mrs. Mendenhall, a very proper Victorian-principled lady, gave each of our class members the assignment of acquiring an interview. Most of my classmates interviewed a local bank manager or insurance agent, but I set out for a bigger catch. Steinbeck had recently finished The Grapes of Wrath. As I approached his small home, two giant dogs escorted me to his front door. I was glad that I liked dogs and showed no fear, for if I had, I fear that I would have been dog meat. (There will be a future column about my interview with Steinbeck.)

Dogs that I would have liked to have known were the ones that accompanied Fr. Bernard Hubbard, the “Glacier Priest,” on his Alaskan explorations prior to World War II.  His two favorites, Katamai and Mageik, were malamutes, and he so loved the dogs that he had them stuffed and mounted and they are currently stored in the archives of the University of Santa Clara.

My own dog is Traveler, a wonderful red golden retriever. His is a most friendly animal and my best companion. One of the sad things about a beloved dog is that their lifespan is so much shorter than ours, begging the question: where do you bury them? There is only one place to bury them and that is in your heart!


  1. I wonder how many of the Mayoral candidates have dogs? 

    Leonard, I’m looking forward to reading about your meeting with John Steinbeck. It must have been wonderful to live in a time when a local kid could simply knock on the door of a great author to fulfill a school assignment!


    Boxers are the best! Anyone who disagrees will be punched silly!

    Anyone know the real cognitave difference between Dogs and Cats? Is it a real mental capacity issue, or just personality?

    Cats are just so arrogant, makes me think they are only good for chasin!

  3. I have observed through my many years of having dogs of differnt breeds that the ‘muts’ or mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier, smarter, and live longer.

    I have heard some people say that this is because of the inherent strength in genetic diversity.

    However, I have heard others say that this (low intelligence and poor health) is the direct result of breeding techniques by associations such as the AKC, who will breed a dog for ‘proper’ aesthetic physical features rather than health or intelligence.

    Do either of these answers have any legitimacy? Are mixed breeds really smarter, sturdier dogs? Does the same apply to humans?!?!

  4. I am a big fan of dogs.  I’ve had my share of them over the years, mostly over the protests of my mom.  Like Leonard, I feel I can size up a dog pretty well and rarely am scared to approach one.  Only one of those intentionally mal-adjusted pit bulls with the cropped ears would keep me at a distance.

    But guess what?  My current pet who will likely go down as one of my all time favorites, happens to be a black & white “tuxedo” cat.  She was a stray and adopted me, and I swear she is a dog trapped in a cat’s body.  She’ll come when called, wants all the attention you can provide, she’ll run ahead of you and throw herself down and roll onto her back, waiting for some rough-housing, and basically interacts like no other cat I’ve ever come across.  She’s a total nut and entirely entertaining.  So she was a keeper (yes, I did post “found cat” flyers and nobody responded) and I’ve gotta say, with a cat it’s a lot easier to leave home for a few days knowing she’ll be fine with somebody coming in to feed her.  Almost entirely an outdoor cat, but on those cold and wet winter nights she’s allowed in and she heads straight for her little bed and curls up.  Not a “shred” of property damage inside or out as a result of having her around.  Now that the good weather has arrived she isn’t even interested in being inside at night.  I couldn’t ask for a better arrangement.  No litter box (I won’t stand for that) and never anything to pick up in the yard either. 

    But fear not, cat haters, one of these days I’m gonna have a dog again.

  5. Wow, I came back for a visit, and downtown San Jose is a colosal failure!  What highrise housing, touted by the city?  The highrise housing incentive is a joke.  There are alot of boarded up storefronts-alot more than 1 year ago.  Businesses are failing left and right in SJ downtown.  Look at San Diego, it’s flourishing, and they’re highrises popping all over downtown SD.  They have a winning formula!  I agree with David that SJ downtown is the worst in the whole world- the new Detroit urban disaster of the 21st century.  Like Detroit, they both rely on one horse industry that went bust, Detroit’s downtown is new and improved which very impressive.  That leaves San Jose in a horrible position since it’s only the suburb of SF. with a dead-cow downtown.  San Jose is not a good city; it’s a very, very bad city that has absolutely nothing to show for. It’s just the big suburban population which is inflated to be #10.  It’s really a city of 10,000 with other adjoining areas conspire to make SJ the 10 largest city in the U.S.A.  They cooked the population figure.  That’s it.  Come to San Diego, and that’s where the urban action is.  There’s no history left or anything in the future in store for SJ downtown.  Good weather can also be found in Santa Maria.

  6. Lovely stories and memories…dogs are better than people in most cases…and they do live on in our memories just like all our loved ones that have died. You made me remember them today.
    Anne Stahr

  7. Ugly dogs Inspire Ugly behavior by Humans
    SJ Mercury, May 19th, 2006, Linda Goldston

    Nice writing Leonard.

    As Dan wrote, with all the bashing going on…it is good to see the flip side.

    Pretty dogs inspire Pretty words….

  8. Chuck Reed’s dog wears a red, white and blue collar.  Dave Cortese bought his dog in Evergreen, but told the pet shop owner to hide the receipt.  Norcal told Ron that the dog they gave him, named Chequers, has to be sent back to Yorba Linda.

  9. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has voted to make us “wards” and you humans are our “guardians.”  So we want this discussion to cease, or we will all refuse to watch any houses, walk with silly humans, and we intend to march on City Hall.  Don’t worry about flags.  We will be wearing ties with Chuck Reed’s Coat of Arms.

    Fido of District 9

  10. #14, the kind of person who would own either of those breeds is likely illiterate or in jail, and at the very least not interested in the inner workings of their fair city so doubt you’ll find an answer to your question here.

  11. Travler truly is a wonderful dog! I know him well. He remindes me of the last dog that I shot over, a Golden bitch named Tuffy. She would sit next to the duck blind and wait of the incoming birds.  Her ears would move if she spotted some and then look to see if we humans in the tank had also seen them.  God forbid that the shots missed for she would then reach out with a paw and knock your hat off! She always brought back the birds that hit the water.

    Unlike another retriever, a black lab,  that I once knew who was trained to retrieve only “good” birds such as mallards and pin- tails. If you knocked down a spoonie, he would then “trade” it for a good bird!  The hunters in nearby blinds soon learned to hide their kills so that Buster could not get to them.


  12. Good posting Leonard.  Kind of takes the edge off all the screaming going on here.  I’ve had some memorable dogs in my life over the years but none any better than the ones I have now.  They’re like family and treated as such.

  13. Leonard, I agree with Dan, a good post and always refreshing to hear about some local history.  I’m fascinated to learn that you once interviewed John Steinbeck; I await your future column on that subject.

  14. #18 No, you’re absolutely not alone.  Witness what Pyle and Campos have done to Dave C, just for starters.

  15. # 6, in answer to you questions:

    It is my understanding that if you have a child with a cousin or other blood relative; that child will have a greater chance of developing any genetic defect that runs in the family. This is one of the biggest reasons why people throughout history have frowned on matrimonies between blood relatives. It just ain’t right! I’m sure you’ve heard the numerous stories about the Arkansas Moutain People.

    The same pricipal applies to other species. for example, dogs are bread to retain certain appealing features or traits. Unfortunately for the dog, and the dog owner, any genetic defects that are in the bloodline are also inhanced. Unless the defect is identified and bread out, the odds of a breed with defects will probably continue to increase.

    But don’t take my word for it. Your best source would probably be a veterinarian or a kennel club.