Even dogs can get tattoos

March 4, 2015 • Posted in Dora, Hanni, Harper, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized, Whitney by


Hanni showing off her ear-do.

Hanni showing off her ear-do.

Seeing Eye dogs are so hip that they all get tattoos. That’s how they roll, dude.

I’m sure you’re assuming that my four Seeing Eye dogs all opted for tattoos of hearts with the letters b-e-t-h inscribed inside.


My Seeing Eye dogs all had tattoos long before I met them. The Seeing Eye uses tattoos — a series of letters and numbers inside their right ear flap — to keep track of the dogs as puppies. The tattoos can prove useful later, too, in identifying working Seeing Eye dogs who might get separated from their blind companions.

I learned about these tattoos 25 years ago, when I was training with my first dog Dora. It’s only recently, however, that I found out that someone famous helped come up with the system for tattooing identification numbers on pets in case they were lost. It’s likely you’ll recognize his name when I tell you who he is. First, some hints:

  • He was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1925
  • He was a WWII co-pilot on a B-24 bomber
  • His first post-war job was with a Kansas City film company that made industrial shorts
  • He talked President Truman into having one of his dogs tattooed
  • He sold his first film script to Hollywood in 1948
  • He moved to Hollywood In 1955 and found work directing episodes of shows like Maverick, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Bonanza
  • When he was 45 years old, he agreed to direct a film about a group of irreverent, anti-establishment doctors serving in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital on the front lines of the Korean War
  • His 14-year-old son Mike wrote the lyrics for the movie’s theme song, “Suicide is Painless”

You got it: Robert Altman! I learned all this last month because I subscribe to Writer’s Almanac, and it was Robert Altman’s birthday February 20. Altman ranks as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers in history, but from here on out, I’ll remember him as the man who helped invent and promote a tattooing machine for dogs.

Jean On March 4, 2015 at 4:55 am

My last puppy also has a micro chip.

bethfinke On March 4, 2015 at 6:38 am

Does the puppy have a tattoo as well?


readingwithrhythm On March 4, 2015 at 8:02 am

I have a tattoo! Southeastern used to tattoo all their pups, but not anymore. Just microchips now.

bethfinke On March 4, 2015 at 8:44 am

My last two Seeing Eye dogs –Harper and Whitney –have microchips, but they each have a tattoo as well. I wonder if tattoos make it easier to identify each puppy when they are still in litters? All you’d have to do when approaching a bunch of puppies is lift their ear to see their number? Dunno.


readingwithrhythm On March 4, 2015 at 8:46 am

I believe that that is the very reason they do it! I don’t know how SEGDI tells them apart now without tattoos. I know that they are using colored colors now, but that would be a lot of collars and colors!

bethfinke On March 4, 2015 at 8:52 am

Not to mention, a tongue-twister: colored collars, colored collars, colored collars!


Sheila A. Donovan On March 4, 2015 at 10:09 am

We learn something every day. Thanks for adding to my knowledge!

bethfinke On March 4, 2015 at 10:20 am

And you know, I just got word that someone “tweetted” a link to this post with the comment “Who knew?” I wonder if he meant “Who knew that Seeing Eye dogs have tattoos?” or “Who knew the famous director Robert Altman came up with an idea to make a machine to tattoo pets?”


Diana Conley On March 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

The Empty Pen On March 4, 2015 at 7:55 pm

Whitney shouldn’t have to stop at one tattoo…why not get an “I heart Beth” tattoo, too?

bethfinke On March 4, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Oh, you know how that goes –one tat leads to another, and another, and another… the next thing you know she’d be covered.


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