How many colloquial sayings and idioms are inspired by dogs? Tons! Our favorite is the all too common phrase, work like a dog.
Each year, August 5th is National Work Like a Dog Day, and while this particular day is all about humans getting inspired to work hard, we’re going to meet famous hard working dogs.
The Origin of Work Like a Dog
The short answer to where this phrase came from is that work like a dog means to work very hard.
The prevailing idea about the origin of this phrase is that dogs were originally working partners, rather than companion animals. Now dogs are more commonly thought of as our fur-family, but many still endure long work days – sometimes in dangerous careers.
- Dogs are often used for protection work, around the clock, every day of the year, to guard property, herds, and people.
- They’re also commonly used for transportation, such as arctic dog sledding.
- Some dogs even end up with celebrity status in Hollywood. But we shouldn’t be fooled by the glitz and glam. Celebrity dogs are definitely working dogs with long hours and sometimes without representation to get them a steak dinner and a fancy trailer.
- We see dogs used as service animals, helping to guide the blind, calm humans with anxiety, and detect seizures or diabetic imbalances.
- Dogs are employed for hunting. They can hunt animals over long distances. Dogs search for (and rescue) people, such as lost children or avalanche victims. And they can sniff out bombs and drugs.
- We also use dogs in military operations where they risk their lives alongside our soldiers in war zones. Many never make it back to the states to retire, and they often suffer from trauma.
Famous Working Dogs
Working dogs don’t always have it easy. They’re life and workday is indeed very different from the human work day and their relationship with humans is very different from canine companions. So today, we’re recognizing a few famous pups who have touched our lives and our hearts!
Higgins was a mixed-breed dog discovered at a shelter in Burbank by trainer, Frank Inn. He is best known for his portrayal of the fictional character, Benji in the 1960s and 1970s, though uncredited. Later, his progeny took over the role as the franchise continued to see box office success. Higgins was also the uncredited dog in the movie Petticoat Junction. He had a 14-year Hollywood career, longer than most humans in the industry. Higgins lived out his life with his trainer, and when he died, his ashes remained with his human family.
This pup was one of the first animals in space and an often forgotten working dog designated for the ultimate sacrifice. Originally a stray in Moscow, she was selected to be a Soviet space dog and the sole occupant of the Soviet spacecraft, Sputnik 2, which launched in 1957. While our hearts break for Laika, who died within hours of launch from overheating because of a mechanical failure, we do hope she was brave and that the discomfort of her sacrifice was short lived. Originally, her death was reported as six days after launch from oxygen depletion, which may have made some feel better, but we can only imagine how lonely six days in space would have been. We are thankful for the short duration. There is a small monument in her honor in Moscow.
This mixed breed was one of only two animals to be classified as non-commissioned officers by the United States military during WWII. While most soldier dogs are classified as military property, Sinbad was enlisted and served aboard the USCGC Campbell with the rank, K9C Chief Dog. He spent 11 years at sea and even saw combat in WWII. He was eventually retired and lived out his days frequenting a favorite bar and watching the sea.
This Boston Terrier was the other dog to be classified as a non-commissioned officer by the United States military. He was the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, assigned to the 26th (Yankee) Division. Always on alert, this hero saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, comforted the wounded, and once detained a German soldier, holding him by the seat of his pants until American soldiers could find him. He returned home in 1921, a decorated war hero and died in his sleep a few years later.
A yellow Mastiff/Lab mix, this dog actor is most famous for his role as Old Yeller in the 1950s. He was a shelter rescue from Van Nuys, California and quickly became a favorite of his trainer, Frank Weatherwax. He served several roles in both television and movies in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Most notably, he was on The Mickey Mouse Club, and was an onscreen friend to Lassie. Not much is known about Spike’s life after retirement, but he was a member of a family of celebrity dogs. Many say he lived with them until his death, at which time he was buried at sea.
Search and Rescue dog, Appollo was onsite at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, with his handler, Peter Davis of the New York City Police Department. He searched for survivors alongside 350 other search and rescue dogs for 16-hour days. The dogs were often described as being just as distraught as their handlers, mostly because their job was to find survivors, of which there were very few, leading them to believe they were failing at their jobs. Appollo also worked in the Dominican Republic with his handler after a hurricane. He has received several medals for his bravery and service and passed in 2006 at 14 years old. He is often referred to as the embodiment of the phrase, work like a dog, because he reportedly fought with his handler at ground zero to remain onsite and continue to look for survivors. He was one of many canines who serve, almost invisibly, alongside career first responders, police, search and rescue, firefighters, and other brave men and women.
This is a mere sampling of a few famous working dogs who really define the common phrase, work like a dog. So, on August 5th, whether we are inspired to work like a dog on our gardens, in the office, or at a project, take a moment to remember where the phrase came from, and to be inspired by a few of these amazing canines who have truly worked and sacrificed for their companions, the human race.