5 Dogs Who Were Too Loyal for This Earth
Pet owners have some surprising advice for what you should do if a dog’s master dies. Here it is: Make sure you show the dog the corpse. If the dog doesn’t see the body, they’ll remain forever confused about where their master (or mistress) went. If they do see the body, they’ll sniff it, understand what happened on some level and will fairly easily move on with their lives.
That’s the story passed between one dog owner and another. Some dogs, though, do not move on. Some dogs, when confronted with death, sit and stay.
The Winter Vigil
Our first story comes from Argentina, way down south where the winters are cold. The Quirós family was driving to a ranch in the snow, then their truck went and died on them. The father, Bernardo, headed out in search of help, and along with him went his German shepherd, Talero. A few hours later, the two hadn’t come back, so the wife and kids went out on their own. Their phones quickly got a signal, and so they called for help and safely got out of there.
Bernardo and Talero remained missing. So, that brave rescue party was now the one in need of rescue; as such, a team of baqueanos on horseback went out to search for them. Baqueanos are kind of like cowboys, but this job involves more tracking and less herding than what cowboys do.
Three weeks after Bernardo walked off, the baqueanos ran into Talero at an intersection. He now led them to Bernardo — to Bernardo’s body, that is. Bernardo had died from exposure almost right after he’d left the car. Talero had stayed close to him ever since. Looking close, it seemed as though Talero had lain down alternately at Bernardo’s feet, torso and head. Perhaps the dog had been trying to keep him warm.
The Even Longer Winter Vigil
Ruswarp the border collie had Talero beat. Ruswarp spent the entire winter waiting beside his dead master.
Before that, Ruswarp’s big claim to fame was joining a petition to protect a British train route, the Settle-Carlisle Line. That sounds strange, that a dog should sign a petition, but this petition was organized by his owner Graham Nuttall, and along with 32,000 other signatures, the petition went through with Ruswarp’s paw print on it. This was considered valid because Ruswarp was a legit passenger, who needed a paid ticket every time he boarded the train.
In 1990, the year after they succeeded in that campaign, Graham and Ruswarp went for a walk in the mountains. They set off on January 20th, and Nuttall seemingly died by a stream soon thereafter. Another walker found his body 11 weeks later — and saw Ruswarp still by it.
People marveled not just that the dog had chosen to stay by the body so long but that it had survived that long. It must have eaten something, to stay alive, but no one could figure out what. The dog was too weak to walk back down the mountain by this point and had to be carried. He survived only a little longer, just long enough to attend Nuttall’s funeral.
The Crashed Helicopter
Bernardo Quirós was 27 when he died. Graham Nuttall was 41. For the final of our three stories about people lost in the cold, we turn to Robert Blake, who was 81 when he died in 2014. Despite his age, the guy went walking with his golden retriever Buddy every day, and the day he died in Colorado of natural causes, he was skiing.
His wife reported him missing when he failed to call her from his cabin, so rescuers combed San Juan Skyway for him, from up in a helicopter. Right when they spotted the man’s body, the chopper lost power. It crashed into the trees, and rescuers once again became rescuees as the three-man squad now had to crawl out and await rescue from a second rescue team.
As they waited, the crashed helicopter team found Buddy next to Robert. He had been keeping coyotes from getting to the body. He also now set about trying to keep the rescuers from approaching the body, figuring that they wanted to eat it as well, but they slowly coaxed him into letting them come close. They took Buddy back to Robert’s widow, who declared that dying while skiing in the open air with his dog was surely how the man would have wanted to go out.
The Grave Dog
In 1858, there lived in Edinburgh a terrier named Bobby. He and his owner used to dine at Traill's Temperance Coffee House, which is how we got the portrait below. A fair few years have passed since Bobby was around, so we have dueling accounts of just what his life was like. Some say he belonged to John Gray, a policeman. Others say he belonged to John Gray, a gardener.
When John Gray died, they buried him in a cemetery called Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby went to the grave, and he never left it. For the next 14 years, he remained in that cemetery and became known as Greyfriars Bobby. The SPCA stuck a collar on him, and we have to assume the groundskeepers fed him. When he finally died, of cancer of the jaw, they buried him in the yard, close to the grave of John Gray.
Some people dispute the story of Greyfriars Bobby — dispute all the stories of Greyfriars Bobby. His collar has remained preserved in a museum, and he now has in own monument in addition to his grave, but few details of his life are firmly nailed down. Plus, cemeteries regularly had stray dogs back then, so some speculate that maybe people just kept seeing dogs around graves and built the rest of the legend around that. If you’re unsure about Bobby, don’t worry. We have a better-documented story about a different dog, whose watch also lasted 14 years…
The Long Wait for the Bus
“Fido” has been a common dog name partly because that’s what Abraham Lincoln named his dog. The name comes from the Latin fidus, which means loyal. In 1941, Italian bricklayer Carlo Soriano adopted an injured street dog and named him Fido. For the next two years, they’d walk together to the bus stop, Carlo would ride away to work, Fido would take off and then Fido would come to the bus stop in the evening again to greet his master’s return.
A wartime air raid killed Carlo in 1943. That evening, Fido went to the bus stop as usual, and Carlo wasn’t there. The next evening, he went there again. He kept going to that bus stop every evening for the next 14 years, which added up to over 5,000 visits.
The commune of Borgo San Lorenzo had some rules about identifiable dogs, where they had to be licensed and someone had to pay taxes on them, but they relaxed those for Fido. People fed him at the bus stop, and they watched him come there, every day till he died.
We guess this confirms that advice we heard from dog owners after all. When the master dies, make sure the dog knows. Otherwise, they’ll go on wondering, and waiting, forever.