Wyoming is known for its beautiful mountains and rivers as well as for hunting and skiing that accompanies this type of terrain. If you're a history buff, especially that history of the old west, I'm sure you know about the development of the Pony Express and how it enabled communications and smaller packages to be transported long distances long before UPS or FedEx came on the scene. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books and movies which depict the activities of the Pony Express, stagecoaches and wagon trains as means of transportation of goods and people from the East to the West as the United States was settled. Wyoming is the home of one of the most important and historic stagecoach and Pony Express stops along the Oregon, California and Mormon trails ... that historic site being none other than Fort Bridger, Wyoming! The Fort was established in 1842 as a trading post, but as time went on, it became so much more for those weary travelers, including Army soldiers as well as the Pony Express riders. It seems that Thornburgh was just a puppy when he was found by Army soldiers in 1879 after a battle near White River Indian Agency in Colorado, being named by them after Major T.T. Thornburgh, an officer who had died in battle the same day they found him. Thornburgh eventually followed that Army platoon to Fort Bridger where he became a trusted canine companion in the camp. He is credited with some heroic acts, which included chasing down and capturing a thief, alerting them of an impending attack and saving the life of a drowning boy. But, his most courageous act occurred when he intervened in a knife battle, biting the hand of the would-be assailant, causing him to drop his knife. The story is told that Thornburgh sustained a knife wound in this altercation but survived to continue his protective duties. He later died in 1888 after being kicked by a mule, being honored with a full military burial.
Our second Featured Famous Wyoming dog is Searchlight. She is a major character in a children's book, later turned into a movie, called Stone Fox, which was released in 1980 and written by John Reynolds Gardiner. The story is placed in Wyoming, on a potato farm owned by Little Willy's grandfather. Little Willy has a canine sidekick named Searchlight who shares the limelight of Little Willy's life with his grandfather. The grandfather is said to be getting more and more despondent by the day and, when the grandfather becomes so sick that he can't get out of bed, Little Willy gets a doctor for him. When the doctor tells Willy that there is nothing wrong with the grandfather, she suggests that attempts be made to find out why grandfather doesn't want to live, which is the ultimate cause of his illness. The reason for the despondency of the grandfather turns out to be the fact that $500 in taxes is owed and he is about to lose the farm. Determined to prevent the loss of the farm, Little Willy finds out that the prize for winning a local dog sled race is $500 and uses his college money to enter the race, using Searchlight as his sled dog. Unfortunately, a Native American named Stone Fox also enters the race, having won the race for the past 10 years, complicating Little Willy's life and plans. There is an interesting and sad turn of events during the last part of the race which helps to teach children about making choices and the reasons behind those choices.
Both of our Featured Famous Wyoming Dogs gave their all for their human families, each of them being remembered for their selflessness in the face of danger and trials. We humans can all learn a great deal from the stories about these courageous canines.