Sunday, September 21, 2008

Poochie — Memphis' Number-One Dog Hero

Posted By on Sun, Sep 21, 2008 at 7:53 PM

f9f8/1242521854-poochie-herodog.jpg On those nights when I find myself alone in the Lauderdale Mansion (that would be Monday through Friday, plus Saturday and Sunday), I often amuse myself by digging through the trunks in the attic, looking for loose coins and poring over the old scrapbooks compiled by my ancestors. Sometimes those contain the most fascinating stories — such as this account, reported in a December 1941 issue (I don’t have the exact date) of The Commercial Appeal, about the life-saving exploits of a mutt named Poochie.

Poochie, according to the paper, was a mongrel, one of seven puppies born to a mother who was a rat terrier and whose father was a German shepherd, so it’s safe to say he was not a particularly beautiful dog. His owner was a fellow named Faber Becton, who lived in north Memphis on King’s Road, and he gave away the other pups, keeping the ugliest for his own. The newspaper reported, “Like a weed in a garden, Poochie grew and thrived. The Becton children loved Poochie and he returned their love.”

Well, one day Becton took Poochie with him to the Mississippi River, just above Memphis, to train him as a pointer. Just as they arrived at the banks, they encountered a tragedy: A group of men and boys who had foolishly tried to swim in the Mississippi were being pulled under by the strong current. Here’s how The Commercial Appeal tells the story:

“Poochie didn’t know what it was all about, but he could recognize the screams of distress, so in he went. He grabbed a drowning boy by the hair and started for the bank. When he had nine-year-old Harold Smith in shallow water, he turned and went back.”

This time he took on a bigger task — a 20-year-old boy named Bubber Jones who had actually leapt into the river to save the others, but found himself in trouble. At first, it looked like boy and dog would drown together: “When Jones started down, he pushed the gallant little Poochie under to get a breath. When he had a gulp of air, he let the dog up for one. This went on for a few moments and then they slipped apart. Bubber grabbed desperately for the dog and got a hand on his tail. Poochie set out bravely for shore, and made it.”

Two other boys drowned in the river that day, but Poochie had done his part and rescued two. For his efforts, The Commercial Appeal proclaimed him, “Memphis’ Number One Dog Hero” and Mayor Walter Chandler eventually gave the noble pooch a medal from the National Humane Society in a special ceremony at Glenview Community Center.

Good dog, Poochie!

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