I love dog stories. I've had nothing but wonderful experiences with all the dogs I've owned. My love and fascination probably started when I first read Jack London's The Call of the Wild. The image of Buck has stayed with me through the years. Today I'm blessed with an Alaskan malamute named Yukon Red. I've had him since he was 8 weeks old, and over the past couple of years I've watched him develop into the 98-pound buddy he is today. The other day, while he and I were coming home from an errand, I happened to spot a handsome three-legged Labrador retriever with his owner out for a walk. Although minus a leg, the dog seemed to maneuver just fine. That's what brought back memories of a story I read several years ago about a dog known as "Tripod of Cornell." His name was Chinook, and his story was told by his owner, Roger Burggraf.
Chinook was a full-blooded Alaskan malamute born in Haines, Alaska, in May 1953. His ancestors lived and worked on the snow-covered trails of Alaska for generations. According to Burggraf: "His father and mother were Army sled dogs who had served their country faithfully during World War II."
When Burggraf went off to college at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., dogs were allowed to roam the campus freely and even attend classes with their owners. Everyone loved Chinook, who soon became the official mascot of Burggraf's fraternity and the unofficial mascot of the university.
However, tragedy struck one day in November 1953. Chinook and another pup were playing when Chinook ran into the street and was hit by a car. It was touch and go for a while. Chinook lived but lost his left front leg as a result of the accident. The veterinarians were impressed with his speedy recovery but believed the dog would only live another four or five years because of the extra strain on his heart. He would fool them all. Chinook recovered remarkably and, according to Burggraf, "soon was able to approach a fireplug with confidence." He refused to be an invalid.
Chinook attended classes with his master, and if the subject was interesting, he would stay wide awake. If the professor droned on, however, he would simply take a snooze. But "Tripod" is probably best remembered for his exploits at athletic events. In 1954, during the Cornell-Syracuse football game, he ran through the entire Syracuse team on the opening kickoff, much to the pleasure of the fans. Of course, because of his antics, Chinook was often expelled from various athletic contests, but only after much effort by police officers, coaches and players. You guessed it: Chinook was quite a cut-up.
After Cornell, Burggraf joined the Army, and Chinook accompanied his master to Fort Devens, Mass., where he became the mascot for the 1st Howitzer Battalion-76th Artillery. After that tour of duty he went with Burggraf back to his native land, attending classes at the University of Alaska. There the scrappy Chinook met canine specimens right out of the Jack London stories and sometimes would end up on the wrong end of a fight.
It was Dec. 20, 1964, when Chinook met his creator after 111/2 years on this planet. Burggraf comments: "He lived a rich and fully gratifying life. The old boy did not let the loss of his leg hinder him and always adjusted readily to changing situations. He was used to facing and overcoming many hardships." He also left behind a brood of strong malamutes.
I can't do justice to the story of Chinook, who sure sounds like a special dog. Because of space, I've left out many of his exploits. But he persevered over incredible odds, which is the point.
Beat the odds,
Charles S. Lauer