Sunday, June 20, 2021

Shorty --- Chariton's heroic wonder dog

I'm not sure how many bona fide canine heroes Lucas County has produced, but Shorty, a mixed-breed pet of Chariton's Hamilton O. Haley family, earned that distinction during June of 1931 --- and was awarded a medal to prove it.

 Here's the story published in The Leader of June 9, 1931, that caught the eyes of judges associated with the Anti-Vivisection Society of Chicago and earned Shorty, referred to inelegantly in reports as a "mongrel," the successful nomination. The headline reads, "Heroism of a Mongrel Dog Saves Haley Family from Horrible Death in Flames."


Mr. and Mrs. H.O. Haley and two sons today probably owe their lives to the heroism of a mongrel dog. Early Monday morning as the entire Haley family were sleeping, their farm home one and one-half miles north of Chariton and one-half mile west caught fire from some unknown cause. The fire originated evidently in the back portion of the house and the bedrooms of the Haley family were enveloped in smoke before Haley was awakened by the brisk, terrified barking of the dog.

Fighting his way to the stairs through the dense smothering smoke that blinded him, Haley raced to the upper floor to rouse his two boys who were sleeping in an upstairs bedroom.

Some time elapsed before the boys could be aroused from their deep sleep and by that time the lower staircase was a mass of flames. Haley and his sons were forced to leap from the second story window to save their lives.

Mrs. Haley, who was awakened by her husband, made her escape through the front door of the building. Unlike most stories of animal heroism, the dog was not burned, did not die, but today is a highly valued part of the Haley household.

The Chariton fire department was summoned and made the run to the house in time to save other outbuildings. The house, together with all the furnishings, clothing and records in the justice court of Lincoln township were destroyed by the flames. (H.O. Haley was a justice of the peace.)


There's a little bit of inaccurate reporting here, since only one of the young men sleeping upstairs --- James D. Haley, age 23 at the time --- was a son. James had two sisters, Ruth and Ruby, but they were a decade older and had long since left home. James was working as a farm hand for his father; the identity of his companion isn't known.

The announcement of Shorty's award was made six months later, in The Herald-Patriot of Dec. 3, 1931:


"Shorty," a mongrel dog belonging to H.O. Haley, who lives on a farm one and a half miles north of Chariton, Iowa, has been named Iowa's most heroic and intelligent dog and will receive a bronze medal commemorating the deed which brought him the distinction.

"Shorty" was selected by judges in the contest sponsored by the National Anti-vivisection Society of Chicago to determine the country's dog heroes. Awards are made semi-annually in 19 states on June 1 and December 1. The winning dog is selected from verified nominations sent to the society by individuals and newspapers. The Chariton Herald-Patriot brought the attention of the society to the heroic action of the dog following the destruction of the Haley home last summer by fire.

"Shorty" won his medal, the first to be awarded in Iowa, by saving Mr. and Mrs. Haley and their two sons from death by fire when their farm home caught fire last summer.

"Here is a perfect example," Clarence E. Richard, managing editor of the organization, said in announcing the award, "of where a dog has been directly responsible for the saving of human lives at the risk and possible loss of his own.

"In making these hero awards were have but one purpose in mind --- to impress upon the general public that dogs render a real service to mankind and, as a whole, are entitled to better treatment than is usually their lot. Every dog is a potential 'Shorty' because every dog stands ready and willing to lay down his life whenever and wherever the opportunity offers that a human may live. Unlike humans, dogs never count the cost."

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