Women in History: Helen Keller’s life with dogs

Deaf, dumb and blind American author Dr Helen Keller (1880 - 1968) visits St Dunstans Hospital in England. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Deaf, dumb and blind American author Dr Helen Keller (1880 - 1968) visits St Dunstans Hospital in England. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images) /

When it comes to Helen Keller, what comes to mind first? Is it the fact that she was deaf and blind? What about the fact that she was an activist for people with disabilities? How about the fact that she was a dog owner?

In honor of Women’s History Month, we here at Dog O’Day are taking a look at some iconic women in history who have all been dog owners or have had a special connection with our favorite four-legged friends. And up first, we turned to Helen Keller.

As Urban Hounds explained back in 2012, Keller grew up with a Cocker Spaniel thanks to her parents, however that was not the breed of dog that kickstarted her own dog ownership. In fact, it seems that she became a dog mom in 1902 when she was gifted the predecessor to the modern Boston Terrier. At the time, the dog breed was known as the Boston Bull Terrier, and was different from the Terriers we know today.

Named Sir Thomas (we love this name for the dog), the pup was said to have a calm demeanor and an overall sweet temperament. And while he was not an official service dog, his calmness certainly helped him to act in this manner when it came to being at Helen Keller‘s side. In fact, he was often at her side when she would be in these classes.

Helen Keller helped introduce the United States to the Akita

However, while Sir Thomas may have been one of her first doggy companions, he was certainly not the last. And her true love came in the form of the Akita.

It turns out that in the 1930s, Helen Keller visited Japan on a tour of the country, where she spoke about her life and disability. While there, she learned about the famous dog, Hachiko, the Akita who was known for his loyalty after he waited for his owner even nine years after his death. (There is even a movie starring Richard Gere about this amazing pup.)

After learning about the dog and this very special breed, she shared her interest in getting her own Akita. This led to her being gifted her very own puppy by the name of Kamikaze-Go. Sadly, Kamikaze-Go tragically died at just 7.5 months old because of distemper. Upon hearing about the tragedy and Keller’s heartbreak, she was gifted a second Akita puppy, Kenzan-Go, who was said to be the brother of her first Akita.

Her love for the Akita breed and specifically her “Go-Go” (the pet name for her beloved pup) is what truly helped to get the breed noticed here in the United States. She was the first person to bring not just one, but two of the breed into the country. And considering the level of loyalty and affection they show their owners, while also being more aloof with strangers, this meant that this was the perfect pup to act as a companion to Keller.

While there is so much more to Helen Keller’s story than that of a dog owner, we can’t help but appreciate not only her love for dogs, but also the fact that she helped to bring this breed to the United States for the rest of us to fall in love with. (And as someone who has previously owned an Akita, I can’t imagine never having had one of these precious bundles of fur.)

dark. Next. There is currently a dog perfume that has the stamp of approval from Queen Elizabeth II

Did you know that Helen Keller was a dog mom? Did you know about her connection to the Akita breed?