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May 19, 1901: Dog can open cans

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History Updated: May 19, 2011 - 9:01 PM
 
This Minneapolis Tribune story is about a resourceful “Esquimaux dog” brought back from the wilds of the Alaska Territory. The Wikipedia entry for the breed, now commonly known as the Canadian Eskimo dog, describes it as “powerfully built, athletic and imposing in appearance.” No mention is made of its sharp teeth, powerful jaws or ability to open sardine tins. To this day, dogs with such skills apparently are quite rare, even on YouTube.

DOG CAN OPENER

 
FRANK SWEET’S ESQUIMAUX HAS
BECOME EXPERT AT IT.
 
Formerly Lived in the Klondike and
Has become an Expensive
Luxury
 
Frank Sweet has a dog. The dog is an Esquimaux crossed on a timber wolf or some other carnivorous animal, and Frank brought it back from Nome as a sort of reminder.
 
Klondike dogs, and those that did most of the toting on the Nome trail, were hustlers. They lived mostly on snowballs and walrus hide, an accomplishment that requires nerve and good teeth.
 
This dog of Frank’s has teeth like a crosscut saw. Out at Nome there was mighty little for dogs to eat, because any kind of meal cost $15. Consequently the dogs developed thievish habits and would eat anything, from a set of harness to a pair of socks.
 
Frank’s dog looks and acts a good deal like his maternal ancestor of the timber wolf species. Since his arrival in Minneapolis the animal has been fed on the fat of a sumptuous land, and too much luxury has caused him to pine for the old wild life with its excitements and adventures.
 
Perhaps this longing is what led to disgrace.
 
A few days ago a grocer of the neighborhood sent Mr. Sweet a bill for two dozen [tins] of mustard sardines. The grocer declared that Frank’s Esquimaux dog had got into the rear of the store one afternoon and eaten the sardines, opening the tins with his teeth.
 
The ordinary defense would be, of course, that dogs do not carry can openers, but in the case of Frank’s dog this would be no defense. The animal does carry a large assortment of can openers.
 
The food supply in the Nome expedition consisted largely of canned goods. Sometimes the dogs go so hungry that they would nip a can of corned beef from the stores and carry it off, wrestling with the can until they had extracted the last morel of meat. A little practice at this sort of thing made the dogs expert can openers, and Frank’s dog was the boss of the lot.
 
He can open a meat or sardine can with the utmost neatness and dispatch. Considering the dog’s known proclivities and abilities in the direction named, there be no protest against payment of the grocer’s bill.
 

The Patte family of 2029 Queen Av. S., Minneapolis, had a lovable dog, I'm sure. But it's doubtful this animal could work up the enthusiasm to open a can of food -- or perhaps even cross the street. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

 

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