Vintage Views: A very special dog

  • A Newfoundland dog. Library of Congress

Published: 1/22/2022 6:22:45 PM
Modified: 1/22/2022 6:21:29 PM

There are times in life when some memories remain, year after year, until you reach the sunset of your life and you smile affectionately as you recall those thoughts. It is with a touch of nostalgia and a bittersweet thought that you are thankful for those that have touched your life, but you do miss them so. These memories are a mixture of people, places, events and often times the pets that have made your life complete. You welcome your pets as members of your family, they become a very important piece of each day, and you sadly bid them a fond farewell with the comfort of knowing they will meet you someday at the rainbow bridge. It is comforting yet very sad, but this is life.

During the year 1860 there was an event that gathered many members of our Concord community. It was a death that was mourned by many, the death of one of Concords favored sons, his name was simply Leo. You see, Leo was a Newfoundland dog that lived in East Concord and he was owned and cared for by the family of Cyrus Robinson. Just like your pet dog and mine, Leo was a member of the Robinson family, a very unique member indeed.

Newfoundland dogs are known as very loyal pets, full of love and dedication, they are hard workers too. They were referred to as the original Ships Dog at one time, and the sailing vessels in the North Atlantic always had a Newfoundland dog as a dedicated member of the crew. The Newfoundland would grasp a rope on the deck and bring it to shore as it waded the icy waters, carry items upon its back to lessen the burden of the people it may travel with, haul dog sleds and provide love to its owners when the difficult tasks were concluded. The Newfoundland dog is very strong with a double layered coat to ward off the cold winters in the north, but as gentle as can be.

There have been stories about the heroics of the Newfoundland dog saving lives dating back hundreds of years and story upon story of their fierce dedication to those they love. It has been said this dog has ancestral roots dating back to the time of the Vikings, with documentation of large skeletal remains of dogs discovered at the northern shore of Newfoundland during archeological excavations at L’Anse aux. The name Newfoundland dog was first recorded as written history in 1775 by George Cartwright when he used the term to identify his very own pet dog on his native island.

The stories are endless, this large dog that is so very loved and revered by all that harbor them for their short lives. The dedication and intelligence are documented time and again, our very own Newfoundland dog known simply as Leo captured many local hearts as he freely journeyed the streets of Concord during the middle of the 19th century.

Leo was a favorite to all that came to know him in Concord. Cyrus Robinson and his family provided a loving home as well as the early education that allowed Leo a level of intelligence not known by other dogs, perhaps some people too. It was with this known dedication that Leo would rise early each morning and travel down the unpaved roads near the Merrimack River, only to return within a half hour with a fresh pail of milk just in time for the family breakfast.

Apparently, Leo befriended a local farmer and plotted his arrival at the neighbor’s barn to coincide with the milking of the dairy cows. The farmer developed a great affection for Leo and decided to share a pail of milk with the large canine. Leo, ever the dedicated dog, would not consume the milk himself. He would return to the Robinson family each morning, a fresh pail of milk grasped firmly in his large mouth, and proudly deliver his possession to the door of the kitchen and a very pleased Mrs. Robinson.

As the days progressed, Leo enjoyed his trips to the Concord Post Office with Mr. Robinson. It was a part of both of their daily routines for a many a day. Days turned to weeks and weeks to months until one day Leo decided he was just old enough to venture to the Concord Post Office on his very own. The Concord postmaster greeted Leo with his usual friendly embrace and a cold dish of water, perhaps a biscuit or two. The Postmaster continued to gaze down the Concord Street anticipating the arrival of Mr. Robinson, but he did not arrive as usual. The Postmaster thinking it odd decided the routine must have changed, he gathered the letters destined for the Robinson house and gave them to Leo. The large Newfoundland dog gently took the letters in his mouth and strolled towards the Robinson house at his leisure. Within a short period of time Mr. Robinson witnessed Leo arriving home with his daily mail, himself a bit perplexed, but life is what it may be. The next day and the following day this same episode occurred with Leo venturing to the Concord Post Office, retrieving the mail and delivering himself to Mr. Robinson.

As the quality retrieval of the mail continued and another year did pass, both the Concord Postmaster and Mr. Robinson became accustomed to the routine and welcomed the celebrity status of Concord’s newest mailman, Leo. With the superior postal service provided by Leo some additional responsibilities were added, if Leo could retrieve the mail from the Concord Post Office each day why couldn’t he also handle the outgoing mail for the Robinson family? So it was, Mr. Robinson gathered his outgoing mail, summoned Leo and requested he bring the outgoing mail to the Concord Post Office.

It was with the delivery of the morning milk, incoming and outgoing mail and a variety of other tasks about Concord, we find Leo to have lived a very satisfying and fulfilling life. Yes, it was during the winter of 1860 the people of Concord gathered at the Robinson residence in East Concord, New Hampshire. A great friend had passed, many local people attended this service for the large Newfoundland dog named Leo.

As I write about Leo 162 years after his death, I find comfort. He wasn’t a statesman, a revered gentleman or the president of a large corporation. Leo was a dog, a dog that touched many lives in a loving way. Yes, there are times in life when some memories remain.

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