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Long line of wonderful creatures have made this city a happy place

by: FILE PHOTO: OSWEGO HERITAGE HOUSE - Legendary Lake Oswego newspaper woman Beth Ryan often used her horse while gathering news around town.  It is shown relaxing at Sunny Hill Horse Farm.Maybe Lake Oswego has not turned out a Rin Tin Tin, a Lassie, a Sergeant Stubby or a Trigger.

Although there is now a Trigger museum at Oswego Hills Winery.

Still, this city has a proud animal heritage. There was Old Dobbin, who against all betting odds, won a swimming race across Oswego Lake. There was Yogi the surfing dog, the surfing partner of Lita Schiel (now Grigg) in the years before she was crowned Miss Oregon. There were the cows who dominated the early days of Lake Oswego and who always seemed to be in line ahead of humans when it came to getting a drink of water in the town square.

The lives and times of animals have been well preserved at the Oswego Heritage House, and executive director Jude Graham is happy to pull out the photos and tell the stories that go with them. by: FILE PHOTO: OSWEGO HERITAGE HOUSE - Yogi the wonder dog goes surfing USA with his owner, future beauty queen Lita Schiel (later Grigg), on Oswego Lake. Although Yogi did not use a regular surf board he still could make waves at water shows.

Like the horse race on the lake that was part of the Oswego Water Carnival in 1933. A surprise entrant in the competition was Old Dobbin, a plow horse and thus a long shot. Yet it was Old Dobbin who finished ahead of sleeker horses and won the race. To prove it was no fluke, Old Dobbin won again in 1935. Old Dobbin set a precedent for future great local swimmers like five-time Olympic gold medalist Don Schollander.

The horse proved to be a ringer put in the race by Herbert Kruse of the pioneer Kruse family.

“Herbert was quite a character,” Graham said. “He knew a lot about animals. Having a horse race across a lake was just typical Herb.”

Yogi was a wizard of the surfboard, trained by Grigg, and the girl and dog became a popular attraction at the water shows that were big in Lake Oswego in the late 1950s.

In Lake Oswego’s early days, animals actually played a great role in the city. Back in 1910, cows were a special constituency of Mayor Jerome Thomas, who knew all of the cows by name. That year city reformers and moralists built a drinking fountain at the intersection of First Street and Avenue A, because women thought men should drink water rather than the booze served in saloons. But there was an unexpected development.

“The cows loved the drinking fountain,” Graham said. “They tried putting up a sign that said, ‘No cows beyond this sign.’”

Of course, cows can’t read so this bright idea didn’t work, and an ordinance was passed that restrained cow patronage of the water fountain. However, cows were allowed to roam everywhere in the city until 1919, when a petition was passed to forbid such practice.

However, one cow broke the new law and was arrested by Marshal Peanuts Dietzen and was interred in a cow pound. This arrest was perhaps the high point of Dietzen’s career in law enforcement. Peanuts resigned because he was only making peanuts, just $16 a month.

Cows sometimes caused dissension in Lake Oswego families. Graham told the story of noted Lake Oswego quilter Eta Bullen whose husband never seemed to get around to repairing the barn. He finally crossed the line when he wrapped one of her quilts around a cow to keep it warm. Eta left her husband and didn’t come back until he rebuilt the barn. She later wrote a poem commemorating her triumph.

There were other great Lake Oswego animals too. Like famed architect Richard Sundeleaf’s dog who used to accompany him on ice fishing expeditions. There was the horse used by pioneer newspaper woman Beth Ryan, who used it to make her rounds around town to gather news and scoops.

Surely, not every Lake Oswego animal reached such eminence, but the many photos at the Oswego Heritage House and the Lake Oswego Public Library attest to the rich history of animals in this city.

(Several of the animal stories cited in this article come from Marylou Colver's book "Lake Oswego Vignettes: From Illiterate Cows to College Educated Cabbage," from The History Press.

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