Sunday, April 19, 2020

Lovable Security --- Day 9/8

Walk: No, Sunday rest
Distance:  0, Yoga, Spin

Keeper William Seiler with Chicago Art Institute watch dogs Billo and Bella, 1938

Ciwt's recent gravitation toward ways people have handled protection brought her to a little known fact about the Art Institute of Chicago.  To wit,  before electrical alarms, the Institute used dogs to guard their priceless collection.

The dogs, all German Shepherds, were trained by hiding 'burglars' in various locations - like antique chests -around the Institute and giving them full run of every room until they located the 'culprit.'  During an entire night patrol, a full run added up to 5 miles or more which delighted the energetic dogs but could be tiring for their human.  After their shift the dogs ate a hearty breakfast, rested a bit then went to a nearby park or their large back yard at the museum to romp freely.  Meanwhile, their human likely headed for 7-8 hours of shut eye.

Prince and Peggy were the first guard couple, and they captured more hearts than gallery intruders.  In the 1930's one Chicago journalist concluded "more pictures in the newspapers have been printed of this famous pair than perhaps of any other in our country."  When both dogs succombed to old age in 1936, their passing was mourned throughout the country, and Kennel Clubs gave them special awards for their faithful service.

Luckily Prince and Peggy had litters of puppies during their ten years together.  Also fortunately three new German Shepherds - Utz von Stornfelds, Bella and Billo - were ready, willing and able to join the Institute's security team.  And soon they too became celebrities.

The dogs went elsewhere to romp at their hearts' content in 1940 when the Institute installed a security system similar to the one used at Fort Knox.  Probably more effective overall, but certainly not as beloved as the dedicated and adored dogs.

Utz von Stornfelds with keeper Bill Seiler

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