The Colonel, A Very Smart Dog


A dog named Colonel made news in 1876.  The story appeared in The New York Times on May 1 of that year.  Because Colonel’s breed is not specified the best way to set the scene is by providing a photo from the 1870s of Holladay street in Denver on which the hotel where the dog lived was located.

Dog Lived in Denver

Colonel belonged to Charles Kestler, who was proprietor of the Merchants’ Hotel.  One of the dog’s favorite games was playing ball but during the afternoon described, all of Colonel’s family was busy with other things; no one was available to throw the ball for him. What’s more, the ball was in its “keeping place,” the drawer of a writing desk in the main office of the hotel.

The story is told that Colonel sat by the writing desk for some time, hoping that someone would think to get out the ball. When that did not happen, he busied himself trying to figure out how to open the drawer and get the ball.

First, he pressed against the drawer, but that didn’t work.  He then thought of gripping the knob in his teeth but the knob was too small for him to be able to grip and pull effectively.  After again contemplating the problem, according to the reporter who documented these actions, Colonel decided on a “rear” attack:  “Going under the desk, he manifestly observed the location of the back of the drawer, and also saw (and reasoned) that by standing on his hind legs he could insert his front paws between the back of the drawer and the back of the desk, and so press the former forward, and thus secure his much-coveted treasure, the ball.”

Colonel executed this maneuver and then came out in front of the desk, spied the ball and eagerly took it up in his mouth.

Colonel Gets the Ball!

According to the reporter: “The efforts made by Colonel, his temporary confusion and distrust, his perseverance and final triumph, were all witnessed by a number of gentlemen.”

In this day and age, we are all to ready to step in “to help” a young child–and certainly we would rarely think of leaving an animal to his own devices.  Yet how much greater is the experience if one solves a problem oneself?

While it’s difficult to know if Colonel enjoyed the ball anymore for having fetched it himself, I would like to think so!

And for a story of an extraordinary dog, read about Jim, the Wonder Dog.

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