September 11, 2015 | Posted in Discover These Doggies!!
Seaman, the Newfoundland rises from the mists of history somewhere in the year 1803 and continues to make sporadic appearances through the journal of his master till 1806, after which he ceases to appear on recorded timelines. But during the period for which his whereabouts can be vouched for, we can consider him to have been, at that time, the most widely traveled specimen of his species and most definitely of his breed. Who was Seaman and what is his story? Read on to find out. Seaman was a black Newfoundland and he took part in what is today remembered as the Lewis and Clark expedition that began in 1804 and achieved the distinction of becoming the first overland expedition across America, from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast. The expedition was sanctioned by President Thomas Jefferson and aimed to study waterways amenable to movement of commercial goods. Seaman came into life of Captain Meriwether Lewis in August 1803; he was purchased in Pennsylvania for $20. The amount, a handsome one for that time, suggests that Meriwether liked what he saw in the dog. Man and animal were thus placed together for a journey that lasted 4,000 miles and covered many an uncharted mile. Lewis loved Seaman. On one occasion when the dog was stolen by an Indian along the Columbia River, Lewis issued a threat to burn down the Indian village unless the animal was returned. During the course of the expedition, there were periods of extreme hardship and members were forced to eat the pack dogs to avoid starvation. Seaman escaped this fate and was the only animal to have completed the expedition. He proved his worth many times over during the course of the trail. Being a Newfoundland, he was an excellent swimmer and helped stock the larder by retrieving game and catching swimming squirrels. On one occasion, he saved a member of the expedition from drowning. Seaman was an excellent guard dog; he would guard the camp at night against depredations by marauding bears that would be attracted by the scent of fish and meat hanging on poles. An entry by Lewis on June 27, 1805 mentions “a bear came within thirty yards of our camp last night and eat up about thirty weight of buffaloe suit which was hanging on a pole, my dog seems to be in a constant state of alarm with these bears and keeps barking all night” The crew took to the dog wholeheartedly and one journal entry mentions him as “our dog”. On one occasion, the dog had a close shave when it jumped into the water pursuing a beaver and suffered a severed artery on the hind leg from the animal’s bite. The captain’s journal tells us of the difficulty he faced in stemming the flow of blood. For a while Lewis despaired for the life of the animal but Seaman recovered. The last time we get to hear of Seaman is when Lewis writes on July 15, 1806, “[T]he musquetoes continue to infest us in such manner that we can scarcely exist; for my own part I am confined by them to my bier at least 3/4 of the time. my dog even howls with the torture he experiences from them.” Historians are in agreement that even though Seaman vanishes from the pages of history after this date, in all probability he survived the expedition and continued to live with Lewis. Who knows, in a future date some scraps from a long lost document might throw up evidence about what actually happened to Seaman.