I’m looking forward to reading Bobbie the Wonder Dog to an audience of Oregonians during a noon-hour talk on Friday, January 12, at the Albany Public Library. I’ll share details about Bobbie’s walk across America and the research I undertook to write his story, even connecting with descendants of Bobbie’s family. We’ll also talk about Cary Porter’s amazing illustrations and how the book came together. Thank you to my hosts, the Friends of the Library. As usual, I’m traveling with a suitcase full of books. I’d love to see you there.
Ninety-four years ago this month, Bobbie was enduring a solo crossing of the Rocky Mountains. He would swim across the North Payette River and follow the Snake River canyon until crossing into Oregon on a railroad bridge.
Five months had passed since he became separated from his family during a vacation in Indiana. Presuming him lost, adopted, or dead, the brokenhearted Frank and Elizabeth Brazier drove home on the “auto trails” in their Overland Red Bird. Meanwhile, Bobbie made up his mind to walk back. Six months to the day after he was lost, nearly three thousand miles later, Bobbie walked up the main street of town, into the restaurant the Braziers operated, climbed the stairs to their living quarters, and jumped on Frank’s sleeping form in bed. He howled and yipped like a dog hit by a car, off and on, throughout the day. As one local journalist wrote, “nor was he the only one who wept.”
That writer was Albany journalist Charles Alexander, who met the dog after his return, and who chronicled Bobbie’s remarkable journey in a 1926 book for adults titled Bobbie a Great Collie of Oregon.
Describing the dog’s entry into Oregon from the north, Alexander wrote, “On the dawn that Bobbie crawled into Portland, winter had laid down its severest and least expected barrage. Only a powdery snow lay here and there, but the moist earth was frozen and a biting wind sawed at the few and startled Oregonians who were abroad in the outer streets.
“Bobbie came down the Columbia Highway; he had made his westing, he was near home now, and he knew it; but he left a crimson trail behind him, and the edged wind cut through the bag of bones he had become.”
What makes this story particularly heart-rending, I think, is the truth of it and the purity of a dog’s love. Bobbie was not a cartoon character with superpowers, just an average-looking farm dog who (as it turns out) possessed incredible natural abilities coupled with a supreme will to get back to his man.
Next month, on the anniversary of his return, I’ll write about Bobbie’s last two weeks of travel, and the heroic old woman who kept him alive in Portland so he could make his final push.
Bobbie continues to inspire, as he did the child who sent me this letter last year after reading Bobbie the Wonder Dog. What he learned: ” . . . don’t never give up on my goll and eney thing is posable if you don’t giv up.”