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The history of dogs in Detroit

Aug 31, 2015

Credit Flickr user audreyjm529 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

If you count yourself among those who cannot imagine life without your faithful dog by your side, you would have been a pretty rare breed a century or two ago.

That’s when packs of feral dogs were roaming the streets of Detroit.

People lived in fear of rabies, and the dog catcher prowled the streets scooping up the many strays.

Bill Loomis has tracked the history of dogs in Detroit for The Detroit News.

Loomis tells us that during the late 19th and 20th centuries, stray dogs were an issue not only in Detroit, but across the country.

“It was just like rats, they were out of people’s control,” Loomis says.

As a result, rabies was a huge problem, according to Loomis.

“The dogs would bite kids,” he says. “People in general would just run at the sight of a mad dog.… There was over 90% chance that you would die if you had rabies.”

But on the flip side, Detroit also saw pampered pooches long before Paris Hilton carted her Chihuahua Tinkerbell across the world.

Loomis says for many turn-of-the-century dogs in Detroit, life was good.

“You slept on satin pillows and you ate clean chicken and mushrooms,” he says. “You had footmen that attended to you, and you were given special rides. It was almost laughable.”

Bill Loomis runs us through the rest of Detroit’s history with dogs in our conversation above.