New York City Rehabilitates Togo’s Reputation
February 2 is the anniversary of the end of the “Great Race of Mercy,” the dog-sled relay across the Alaskan wilderness in 1925 to deliver medicine to children suffering from diphtheria.
Over the years it has been the accepted wisdom that Balto, the lead dog of the team that arrived in Nome, was the hero of the relay. After the ordeal, Balto went on tour in the lower forty-eight, he received a heroic statue in New York City’s Central Park, and he was even stuffed and put on display in a museum in Ohio.
But was Balto the real hero of that heroic effort?
The real hero was Togo.
In 2011, Time Magazine named Togo the most heroic animal of all time:
“The dog that often gets credit for eventually saving the town is Balto, but he just happened to run the last, 55-mile leg in the race. The sled dog who did the lion’s share of the work was Togo. His journey, fraught with white-out storms, was the longest by 200 miles and included a traverse across perilous Norton Sound — where he saved his team and driver in a courageous swim through ice floes.”
Disney jumped on the Togo-train (sled?) last year and released a film telling the story of the courageous canine on the Disney+ streaming service.
And New York City has made an effort to rehabilitate Togo’s image. For years a tiny statue of Togo was tucked away, without any identifying plaque, in a dirty patch on the edge of Seward Park on the Lower East Side. (You can read my post about it here.)
But last year, the park was renovated and Togo’s statue was moved to place of honor in a small circle where people can sit and enjoy his company.
Cheers to Togo!