Sunday, May 26, 2024

Togo – a husky who saved an entire city

Togo – the brave dog is most deserving of delivering serum against deadly diphtheria that threatened to devastate the town of Nome in Alaska in 1925.

It is never too late to correct injustice, so 95 years after the terrible diphtheria epidemic in the small town of Nome in Alaska, the real truth about this event comes from Disney’s studio.

More precisely, the truth about a dog that has been forgotten and erased from history all these decades, even though he is a hero.

If you’ve ever googled this event or watched the movie Balto from 1995, you will think that the Siberian husky named Balto was the hero of the expedition that delivered a serum against diphtheria to the kids from Nome by sledding on snow and ice in harsh Alaska.

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Because of that heroic feat, in 1925, a bronze monument to him was built in Central Park in New York. Balto was indeed a member of this heroic mission that saved hundreds of lives, but it is true that he led the sleigh on the last section of the road and arrived in the city with the serum, which is why the journalists declared him a hero.

Until recently, no one had even heard of a dog named Togo, who was actually the most important member of this expedition, and who ran the most miles as the leader of the sled dogs. According to the data, about 560 kilometers out of a total of 1,085, which they covered in less than six days, traveling mostly in the dark.

Togo - The Movie
Courtesy of Disney



That is why Disney tried to let the whole world know the real truth and to pay tribute to the greatest hero, the dog Togo, after whom the film is named.

In an emotional, exciting, and at times dramatic saga, you will find out the transformation of a naughty and crazy dog, into a hero who saved hundreds of sick children.


Leonhard with the Huskies
Sigrid Seppala Hanks Collection, Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum


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The main role in the film is entrusted to the maestro Willem Defoe, who plays the character of Leonhard Seppala, a man who was a breeder of Siberian huskies and who trained dogs to pull sleds.

He was a resident of the city of Nome and one of the key actors in saving the inhabitants of this city. The town did not have enough stocks of serum, which was the only cure for diphtheria, and the nearest stocks were more than 1,100 kilometers away, in Anchorage.

The trouble was that in 1925, the winter was the coldest in the last 20 years, so Nome separated the ice-covered space from the serum, and the train as a way of transporting medicine was immediately rejected as a possibility. The only salvation for the residents was the dogs pulling the sleds, and the only man who could organize this action was Sepala.

– I’ve never had a better dog than Togo. No dog was even close to his tenacity, safety, intelligence, and affection. It was the best dog to ever pull a sled in Alaska – Seppala once said.


Leaonhard with Togo
Sigrid Seppala Hanks Collection, Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum



A Siberian Husky puppy named Togo was born in a Seppala’s husky brood back in 1913. He was much smaller and thinner than all the other puppies in the brood, so the breeder was worried about would he survive at all, and wondered what to do with him.

Seppala’s wife was persistent and persuaded her husband not to give up on a weak puppy, and she was right. Although conspicuously the smallest in the brood, and when he grew up, Togo was extremely lively and energetic.

He was constantly making trouble, and once he jumped out of the window of his owners’ house and returned to Seppala’s home.

Togo - The Husky
Sigrid Seppala Hanks Collection, Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum


He constantly bothered other dogs and Sepall himself while training them. Until one day the breeder realized that Togo was able to run faster and longer than other dogs and gave him the role of a pack leader pulling sleds.

This decision, it will turn out later, was one of those that led to the saving of hundreds of lives, because it was Togo that saved the town of Nome thanks to its endurance and intelligence.





By the time Nome residents needed his help, Togo was already known as the fastest dog in Alaska, and his career was overdue to old age. At the time he was engaged in the most important race of his life, Togo was 12 years old.

Although their expedition was in danger of death several times, this brave dog never gave up and the journey ended with only minor injuries. He had an unmistakable flair to judge which way to go, and on which part the ice would not break and the sled would fall into the icy water.

He never backed down or was timid, he stormed confidently and found shortcuts. Dogs dragged sleds across the frozen parts of the Bering Sea, despite snowstorms and temperatures that reached up to -50 degrees! First of all, thanks to brave Togo.

Historical records show that when they arrived in Nome, the dogs were so exhausted that they could not even bark.

Togo - The Husky
Sigrid Seppala Hanks Collection, Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum



After completing the mission, Togo soon got his puppies, and he died in 1929 when veterinarians decided to put him to sleep due to illness. According to the sources, the residents of Nome knew that it was the dog that was most responsible for the success of the mission, and they always celebrated it, but this story remained unknown in the world.

Although almost 100 years later, thanks to the movie Togo, this beautiful dog received the recognition it deserves. And who knows how many times he proved to us that dogs are our best friends on four legs and that they will always show themselves as heroes in trouble.



This town, which in 1925 had about 1,000 citizens, is only about 240 kilometers away from the Arctic Circle. Nome developed more than a century ago when three Scandinavians found gold in a stream, and soon thousands of diggers and opportunists arrived in this part of cold Alaska.

According to the 2018 census, this town has 3,866 citizens.

Togo - The Monument
Togo – The Monument


In mid-January, after an extensive reconstruction of one of the favorite parks of New Yorkers, Seward Park, Togo finally got the monument it deserves.

In addition to new benches, paths, lighting, and stone blocks, this green oasis is now adorned with a bronze statue of Togo, in its most recognizable position – as he runs.



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