Did you know that a dog played a crucial role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition?
When Merriwether Lewis purchased Seaman for $20 in August 1803, he probably had little idea that several years later people would gather to honor the exploits of this courageous animal.
During the winter of 1805-1806, 33 people on the Lewis and Clark Expedition stayed at Fort Clatsop. There was a 34th member of this group, Lewis’s Newfoundland dog Seaman.
According to journals of the expedition members, Seaman has been credited with being a watchdog, hunter, retriever, companion and diplomat.
On July 10, the 26th Annual Seaman’s Day commemoration will be held at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park at Fort Clatsop from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with activities, lectures and chance to see the Newfoundlands.
The park has invited some guest Newfoundland dogs and their owners to volunteer for Seaman’s Day. The public will have two opportunities to meet these dogs at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
Newfoundland dogs are a breed with webbed paws. This enables them to be powerful swimmers, and most of these dogs love the water.
Since some of the soldiers in the Lewis and Clark Expedition didn’t swim, perhaps they felt more secure with Seaman available as a big, furry personal flotation device just in case.
“We encourage visitors to ask the dog handlers to show them the webbing between their dogs’ toes,” said Sally Freeman, a ranger at Fort Clatsop.
Newfoundland dogs have four coat colors: black, brown, white (also called a Landseer because of their resemblance to a Landseer) and gray.
The Landseer is a dog breed, named after the British painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, who owned Newfoundland dogs about the same time Lewis and Clark were beginning their journey. The Landseer is not to be confused with a black and white Newfoundland.
Marty Martin, from Ocean Park, Wash., will attend the festivities with her black and white Newfoundland, Bismarck.
Martin and Bismarck have participated several times.
“He’s getting old now, but he used to chase the red dot just like a cat,” Martin said. “It was pretty funny to see a 160 pound dog leap in the air after the dot.”
Dogs with special skills may demonstrate those skills during the day’s festivities.
Getting to see the dogs, pet them and ask questions of the owners is a crowd favorite.
“We get a decent little crowd for the talks on Seaman’s role in the expedition,” Freeman said.
Dogs on leashes are welcome at the event. Dog owners should avoid the carpeted area of the visitor’s center. The dogs are not allowed in the rooms of the fort.
The Kids Corps will feature dog-themed crafts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the visitor’s center.
Youngsters will have the chance to craft a headband with floppy dog ears attached. There will also be face painting for children and adults, giving visitors a chance to have a dog paw or even their whole face painted to resemble a dog.
“Seaman is a favorite expedition character for the kids,” said Jim Wilson, a volunteer at Fort Clatsop.