How one mutt (with a terrible name) endeared himself to even the toughest of Hoover Dam workers…
Nearly a million people flock to the Hoover Dam each and every year to see one of the most remarkable engineering feats of modern history. While the massive, thick concrete dam and its dramatic views catch everyone’s attention, far fewer people notice an inconspicuous little plaque on the side of a nearby boulder paying homage to the Hoover Dam’s one and only mascot, a black lab-mix with a name so offensive park rangers won’t even speak it: N*g the Dog.
Awful offensiveness of his name aside, the story of the pup is a wonderful tale of how a four-legged friend can touch the hearts of even the toughest groups of men.
The dog is said to have been born in 1932 under the first police station in Boulder City (or under a barracks, depending on who you ask) and soon found his way to the dam with the help of a Six Companies laborer (the conglomerate of construction companies working on the dam) who would bring him as a puppy.
As the puppy grew into a dog, he became a fixture at the dam, riding the elevators with the workers and even walking the swinging catwalks, just like the men.
Not beholden to any one “master,” the pooch was known to go to-and-from Boulder City and the dam by car, train, and even a dam executive’s black Cadillac, and over time, everyone in Boulder City knew and loved their roaming labrador.
The problem? Too many people were feeding him (and feeding him junk food). When the lab got sick from his diet of ice cream and candy, the town’s doctor even put a notice in the local paper:
I Love Candy but it makes me sick
It is also bad for my coat
Please don’t’ feed me any more.
Your friend, N*g.
After his candy-induced illness, the workers banded together to make sure their favorite coworker stayed well-fed and healthy… Using money the men pooled together, the commissary actually began packing a sack lunch for him, just like the men. When the lunch whistle blew, the scruffy mutt would post up and wait for a worker to unwrap his food before enjoying a break with the men.
Food wasn’t all the workers bought for him. They pooled so much money for the dog a bank account was opened for him. The funds were used to pay for everything from food to his dog license.
The men’s fierce love for him was most evident one night when the Chief Ranger responded to a report of the workers beating a man to death. When he arrived and broke up the fight, he found a man beaten and bloody. Apparently, he’d kicked everyone’s favorite dog. Chief Ranger Peterson supposedly told the man “he’d love to see them finish the job, but had a duty to stop it.” The man was instead dropped outside of town and told to never come back.
Sadly, after almost a decade of working alongside the men at the dam, the loyal canine met a tragic demise. On a hot February day in 1941, he sought refuge from the sun under a truck, but the driver, unaware of his presence, ran him over.
When word of his death reached nearby Boulder City, it’s said to have created the “quietest afternoon” in the city’s brief history.
One newspaper printed, “Rough, tough rock-hard men wept openly and unashamed.”
While the folks still in the city mourned, workers onsite at the dam chiseled a tomb for him, marked to this day by a plaque.
The plaque has been edited over the years to omit his offensive name, but his impact on the worker morale can’t be understated. While we’re not sure how much of his legacy is based in fact and how much is local folklore, we’re happy to believe it all as true. Yet another story of how a dog can bring even the toughest men together.