Silverton Stories and Tips

Footloose and Footsore, The Tale of Bobbie the Wonder Dog

Bobbie: The Prodigal Dog Photo, Silverton, Oregon

[Related locations that can be visited follow this story.]

Mid-August and he’s in Wolcott, Indiana. His curiosity brought three of them upon him, angry and snarling. He flees the sudden violence hoping for an intervention that never comes. Later, he can’t find the rest of his group and realizes he’s lost. He thinks maybe he hears a signal, but he’s disoriented and can’t find the direction.

Days pass and he’s still alone, lonely, and unsure of who to trust. He’s managed as best he could, taking help when offered. Some are caring, some just curious. He may not know where they are now but he knows where they will be at the end. He moves, knowing eventually he can make it there too. He just has to keep moving.

He’s been delayed, held against his will. He’s lost track of time. A moment’s decision to trust is regretted. And yet they thought they were helping, that was obvious. His commitment to keep moving is still firm.

Late November and he’s in Des Moines. These ones will stop him if they can. They almost catch him. Only a mad determined dash breaks their dragnet. He moves and keeps moving. Six days later he’s in Denver. He’s sure he’s headed the right direction, more or less. He moves and keeps moving.

The worst of it is that it’s so tiring. He’s exhausted. He moves and keeps moving. It’s a matter of willpower. He’s been wet and freezing; he’s bled. Sometimes he can barely see. He’s exhausted. But he knows better now which will help and which will hinder. He moves and keeps moving. The closer he get the faster he wants to move.

Mid-February and he’s in… He knows he’s near the end and he’s sure he reached his limit. He hears a sweetly familiar voice. Lifting his head he sees a familiar figure and knows he’s finally really made it. He moves his fastest now. He leaps and lands in the most welcome hug he‘s ever received.

In 1923, Frank and Elizabeth Brazier set off from Silverton, Oregon, to visit friends and family in their old home of Indiana. They had a two-year-old bobtail Scotch Collie (like Lassie, yes, but born without a tail) with a little Shepard in the mix called Bobbie they took with them. By all accounts, Bobbie loved the journey, going on short explorations at almost every stop. In Wolcott, while Frank filled the car with fuel, Bobbie went off exploring.

The next time Frank saw Bobbie, he was being chased by several local dogs. Bobbie must have trespassed. That was the last Frank saw of Bobbie for six months. They searched to no avail, blew the car horn repeatedly -- Bobbie‘s signal to return, but he doesn’t. Having given up, heartbroken, they eventually returned home to Silverton, where they owned a restaurant.

Six months to the exact day, their daughter Nova saw an extremely bedraggled Bobbie-look-alike while out walking in Silverton. Speaking aloud drew the dog’s attention and as Nova fervently hoped, it really was Bobbie. He was thrilled to see her.

He’d made it home. Bobbie was a loyal, loving companion, thoroughly bonded to the Braziers, Frank especially. Bobbie was exhausted and suffered wear from the road. He had a frayed rope about his neck. He’d obviously had help along the way, and maybe some of those people had hoped he’d stay.

He’d also escaped from dogcatchers in Des Moines, they later learned. Many people contacted them with their Bobbie stories. They told him how he searched amongst them, always seeking someone who wasn’t there before moving on. Frank’s odometer showed the trip from Wolcott back to Silverton to be 2,551 miles. But that’s as the road goes, no one knows for sure how far Bobbie actually traveled, but, from reports of those who said they’d seen him during his odyssey, it’s estimated it was about 2800 miles. For six months he struggled to make it back to the people he loved. Determined, he finally succeeded.

Bobbie became a celebrity, included in Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the Oregon Humane Society awarded him with a medal. He starred as himself in a silent movie "Bobbie the Wonder Dog." (Not listed at IMDB.) He was guest of honor at the Portland Home Show, where, within a week, about 100,000 people petted him. They gave him a specially built dog house complete with curtained windows, and an inscribed silver-plated collar. The Braziers were inundated with fan mail. Bobbie was just happy to be home.

Bobbie died three years after his return. About 200 people attended his funeral and famed fellow canine thespian Rin Tin Tin was in attendance. Bobbie is buried at the Oregon Humane Society cemetery in Portland, Oregon, an organization that has made some history of its own, founded in 1868 it’s the oldest such organization in the west and the third oldest in the U.S.

August 15, 1923 Bobbie is lost.
February 15, 1924 Bobbie comes home.
April 1927 Bobbie dies.

Read More
Bobbie‘s story as told by Frank Brazier (Excerpted from Animal Pals.)
--Animal Pals. Edited By Curtis Wager-Smith
(Philadelphia, Macrae Smith Co., 1924.)
--Bobbie, a Great Collie. By Charles Alexander Illustrated by Salem Tamer.
(New York, Dodd, Mead. 1966)
--Silverton's Bobbie: His Amazing Journey - the True Story. By Judith Kent.
(Woodburn, OR : Beautiful America Pub. Co., 2004.) This one is available at the Silver Falls giftshop.

Did this story sounds somewhat familiar? Based on the book (1961) by Sheila Burnford, the Disney film The Incredible Journey (1963), told the story of two dogs and a cat traveling 250 miles cross-country to return to their home. As a child, that movie really had me going, left me vulnerable for similar stories --obviously. Portions of the 1993 remake, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, were shot in Oregon. The remake spawned a sequel. That story, while fictitious, has seemingly been inspirational to a whole generation (at least) of storytellers as its influence seems present in films such as The Brave Little Toaster (1987) and Toy Story (1995), both of which have also spawned sequels. Bobbie’s story is one that really happened, and may have served as Burnford’s inspiration. If only as a curiosity, and, if still existent, it would be nice if Bobbie’s movie were available today.

Places to Visit
The intersection of Water (also Hwy-214) and Lewis (opposite) Streets, a block south of Main, where steps lead down to Gallon House Bridge. (Map below.)
--Bobbie: The Prodigal Dog Mural
A wall flanks the step. To the right (looking towards the bridge) is the mural depicting Bobbie‘s story. Painted by muralist Laurie Webb of La Pine, Oregon.
--Statue & the Replica of Bobbie’s Castle
A few yards to the left of the mural is a realistically colored concrete statue of Bobbie and a replica of the doghouse given him by the Home Show. There is also an informational board here with faded newspaper clippings, photos, and informational sheets telling of Bobbie’s odyssey.

Within the Oregon Garden, about 1 miles south of Silverton on Hwy-214.
879 West Main Street, Silverton OR 97381
PO Box 155
503-874-8100, toll free 877-674-2733, fax 503-874-8200,
Admission charged. See OG website or my entry for information on fees and hours.
--A bronze bust commemorating Bobbie sits atop a raised pedestal at the head of a long, narrow, raised pool fountain.

Oregon Humane Society Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.
1067 NE Columbia Blvd.
mailing address: PO Box 11364, Portland, OR 97211-0364
503-285-7722, fax 503-285-0838, online form
Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm, Sun 12pm-7pm.
Hours for adoptions end 30 minutes earlier.
Bobbie’s grave is within the old pet cemetery.

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