The Dog on the Hoover Dam
In 1932 a part-Labrador puppy with a jet black coat and a white blaze on his chest was said to have been born in the crawlspace beneath the first police building in Boulder City. A laborer for Six Companies, the joint venture of construction companies building Hoover dam, began bringing him to the worksite while he was still a puppy, and he became a welcome addition to the workforce. Political correctness did not occur to the men of the time, and they called the dog ”Nig.”
The dog was as sure-footed as any mountain goat and made his way around the canyon and on the construction catwalks that the men used to navigate the dam. Nig could climb up ladders and he followed the men into tunnels without fear.
Friend to All
Just as the men did, Nig arrived on the transport that brought workers from Boulder City where they stayed. When the end-of-day whistle blew, Nig, too, lined up at the elevators to leave with the men. But Nig was happy with just about any type of conveyance and sometimes hopped aboard the train servicing the area and was also once seen in the front seat of a black Cadillac belonging to an executive touring the site. According to Building Hoover Dam, an oral history of the project, the man’s wife was riding in the back seat, and the men were sure Nig was grinning.
Nig was also a dog-about-town. When the men got back to Boulder City in the evening, Nig could supplement his diet from the townspeople who would sometimes feed him candy, ice cream, and other treats. At one point Nig became quite ill from his bad diet, and a notice was put into the newspaper by the town doctor:
I Love Candy but it makes me sick
It is also bad for my coat
Please don’t’ feed me any more.
Your friend, Nig.
When Nig got better, the men decided they would contribute money to improve Nig’s diet. The commissary prepared meals for Nig, and just as they did for the men, they prepared a bag lunch for Nig. Each day Nig picked up his lunch when the men did, and Nig left his lunch in the line where the men left theirs. At noontime, he waited for one of the men to unwrap his meal for him, and he and the men all enjoyed their noon break together.
After construction, the main building crews left but a new group arrived to set up the hydroelectric turbines that would feed power to the municipal utility that was converting and providing water and power.
On February 21, 1941, it was unseasonably hot and Nig looked for shade under an idling truck. Sadly the driver was unaware that Nig had crawled under the rig, and as the driver moved away from the site, Nig was crushed beneath the truck’s wheels.
“Rough, tough rock-hard men wept openly and unashamed,” a newspaper wrote.
He was buried in a concrete crypt near the Nevada abutment and memorialized with a plague identifying him as a dog that adopted a dam. But in the late 1970s the plaque became controversial. A Wisconsin tourist complained to a Reclamation Bureau supervisor. The on-site supervisor ignored the complaint but the fellow, a professor, went home to Madison, Wisconsin and complained to his Congressional representatives.
On March 21 1979, the plaque was removed; many Boulder City residents were very upset by this treatment of the “construction crew mascot,” and the local people petitioned Bureau of Reclamation to reinstate the plaque. Eventually the locals prevailed, but a new plaque was put up that told the story of the dog who adopted a dam but it left off the dog’s name.
When the men poured the concrete in which to place the plaque, they took matters into their own hands. They scratched the word “Nig” in the concrete itself so that everyone would know the name of the loyal dog who was beloved by all—black and white workers alike.