Brad Wilson - Staff Writer - April 4, 2020
An American President And An American Dog
Chesapeake Bay Retriever admirers have long noted the breed’s connection to President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Chessie lovers also commonly note that Chessies are the only retriever that comes from America, having originated around the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Mr. Roosevelt spoke fondly of his Chessie in his autobiography, stating “the most individual of the dogs and the one with the strongest character was Sailor Boy, a Chesapeake Bay dog. He had a masterful temper and a strong sense of both dignity and duty.” It is possible that Mr. Roosevelt admired Sailor Boy’s qualities because they mirrored the qualities that many Americans aspire to possess - independent strength of character, dutiful hard work, and judicious temper.
An American President
Mr. Roosevelt was, in many ways, a president who embodied these timeless American values. Although he was born wealthy, Roosevelt was given a measure of adversity in the form of severe asthma that had to be overcome. As Mr. Roosevelt triumphed over this impediment, a man emerged who embraced a “strenuous life” marked by independent strength of character, judicious temper, and dutiful hard work. He showed his strength of character by dissolving powerful monopolies to protect the common laborer. He displayed hard work in his relentless pursuit to conserve natural beauty by establishing several National Parks. And, although he was known for his anger, he displayed a judicious temper in office with a foreign policy designed to “speak softly, and carry a big stick.”
An American Dog
Like Mr. Roosevelt, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a dog that embodies these timeless American values. A Chessie can be trained, but their independent character will emerge if they think the field command of an owner is contrary to the goal. There might not be a harder working dog than the Chessie, as they were originally bred to handle full days of retrieving in the cold Chesapeake Bay. Chessies also display a judicious temper, “speaking” softly around strangers and other dogs, but reserving the right to wield a big stick. Roosevelt said of his Chessie, “He would never let the other dogs fight, and he himself never fought unless circumstances imperatively demanded it; but he was a murderous animal when he did fight.”
A Hidden Gem
In spite of these American qualities and their American roots, Chessies are far from being the most popular dog breed in America. Labrador retrievers have held the top spot in America since 1990 and Chessies ranked 45th in popularity in 2019. Don’t let the lack of recognition fool you because this versatile dog is like a hidden gem or a restaurant with brilliant food that the masses haven’t discovered yet.