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Dog + Man: From The Odyssey to Beginners

Posted May 23, 2011 to photo album "Dog + Man: From The Odyssey to Beginners"

In Beginners, the dog Arthur and the human Oliver create an emotional bond that echoes back all the way to Homer.

Arthur + Oliver
Argos + Odysseus
Peritas + Alexander the Great
Gelert + Llywelyn
Guinefort + his Knight
Donnchadh + Robert the Bruce
Urian + Cardinal Wolsey
Pompey + William the Silent
Luath + Robert Burns
Boatswain + Lord Byron
Fortune + Josephine
Lauro + Napoleon
Seaman + Meriwether Lewis
Flush + Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Greyfriars Bobby + John Gray
Balto + Gunnar Kaasen
Hachiko + Hidesaburo Ueno
Balto + Gunnar Kaasen

Balto + Gunnar Kaasen

Gunnar Kaasen and Balto in 1925 (Cleveland Public Library Photographic Collection); Display at Cleveland Museum of Natural History

In January 1925, a diphtheria epidemic was poised to decimate Nome, Alaska. The engine of the one available plane was frozen. So the only feasible way to get the necessary serum from Nenana to Nome was by dog sled. A Siberian Husky named Balto led the dog team that would carry the serum. Norwegian musher Gunar Kaasen drove the team through a blinding blizzard, After they arrived in Nome and were heralded as heroes, Kaasen especially noted the efforts of Balto. News of the heroic dog spread quickly via radio, and within a month, Hollywood producer Sol Lesser arranged for Balto and his fellow team members, along with Gunnar Kaasen, to be brought to Los Angeles to appear in the film Balto’s Race to Nome. The dog’s fame became a national obsession with Mary Pickford being photographed with him on the steps of Los Angeles’ City Hall. Not to be outdone, New York City’s Parks Commissioner Francis D. Gallatin authorized a sculpture of Balto to be created by Frederick George Roth and placed in Central Park. For the next year, Balto and his fellow dogs were celebrated across America. But when the attention waned, their fate turned sour. In 1927, Cleveland businessman George Kimble found the canine hero and fellow team, maltreated and underfed, in a Los Angeles sideshow. Kimble encouraged The Cleveland Plain Dealer to lead a campaign to bring the dogs to Cleveland. When Balto finally died, he was stuffed and made a star attraction of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.