Home of Bobbie the Wonder Dog
Even on the short list of canonized canines, Bobbie the Wonder Dog is exceptional. He did not earn everlasting fame as a town character or campus mascot or community icon. He did not selflessly and loyally sacrifice himself for those he loved.
No, Bobbie just wanted to get home.
Bobbie accompanied his owners, the Braizer family, on a cross-country summer road trip in 1923. They reached Wolcott, Indiana -- some 2,551 highway miles from their home in Silverton, Oregon -- when Bobbie was chased away by some dogs at a gas station. He never returned, and the Braizers sadly drove back to Silverton alone.
Exactly six months passed. Then, on February 15, 1924, Bobbie hobbled back into town. He was ragged, footsore, and wearing an unfamiliar collar, but he was unquestionably the same dog.
Stardom followed. The Oregon Humane Society, initially skeptical of the story, heard from enough people along Bobbie's route to confirm that the dogged dog really had walked all the way from Indiana, across plains and rivers and mountain ranges, in the dead of winter, to his home. He was featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not. He starred in a Hollywood movie. He was showered with fan mail, awards, gifts. He was the guest of honor at a Portland Home Show where over 40,000 people stood in line to pet him, and where he received a deluxe dog house (in which he would eventually be buried).
Probably the best gift of all, from Bobbie's perspective, was a leash-law exemption that allowed him to roam Silverton freely for the rest of his days.
Bobbie was not stuffed when he died, which perhaps initially limited his potential as a tourist attraction. Silverton held an annual Pet Parade in his memory (the first one was led by his son, and current ones are led by winners of an annual Bobbie Look-Alike Contest), but for 70 years the town essentially slumbered.
That changed in the early 21st century, when Bobbie was resurrected as a reason to visit Silverton. A 70-foot-long mural of his life was painted on a wall facing the busiest street in town. At one end, a life-size statue of Bobbie sits on a square of astroturf, easier to photograph than the always-roaming real Bobbie would have been. Next to the statue is a replica of Bobbie's fancy dog house, much more convenient to visit than the real one in Portland. A half-mile north, a mural of the Pet Parade shows the Bobbie statue being towed in a wagon, while the Bobbie Look-Alike leads the pack.
Bobbie's new role as a civic promotional symbol is perhaps less miraculous than his original return. But the story of his desire to just get home is something that every generation of dog-tired travelers can appreciate.