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.