A man’s best friend is his dog. In Phoenix over the past one hundred years or so, one particular old dog has stood faithful, true and watchful among the residents. He never barked or snapped at a child. He never soiled anyone’s carpet. He was extremely gentle with children – allowing them to climb on his back and have their pictures taken while he maintained his stoic poise.
He was loved by all Phoenix residents of the early 1890s. Yet, he never really had a name, at least not like any normal dog, not Towser, or Rover, or Spot. Most folks just called him old “Iron Dog”, because, you see, that’s what he was, a metal statue of a dog!
He stood about four-feet high at the shoulders. All the fine points of a big, sturdy, alert, courageous animal were molded into him. Literally, since he was molded in France in 1840 by some long-forgotten craftsman.
Walter Talbot owned a hardware store at 17 East Washington in downtown Phoenix in 1891, and his family coat of arms had a canine figure rampant on a field of blue. He needed something in his store to set it apart from the others in town. So, Iron Dog, selected from the pages of a mail-order catalogue, delivered, and firmly anchored on casters, was rolled out onto the wooden sidewalk every morning and back into the store every night. Kids loved him, as did grown-ups. He became such a fixture that Native Americans knew Talbot’s store as “The Dog Standing Store.”
Like any other dog, or for that matter — man, Iron Dog knew good times and bad. Once he suffered a slight wound during a bit of Washington Street gunplay. On another occasion twin brothers accidentally docked his tail, a mishap which brought parental punishment and payment by their father of a welder’s surgical fee.
In 1930 Talbot sold out to the Phoenix Hardware and Trading Company, and Iron Dog was included in the deal – moving to 220 East Washington. Then, during the second world war Iron Dog skipped the draft and moved to Hick’s Furniture at 1450 East Van Buren. His new master, Colbert Hicks liked the dog so much he renamed the store “The Iron Dog Hardware and Furniture Company.”
Now, one of the youngsters who had admired Iron Dog was named Art Bayless. He became A.J. Bayless, President of a super market chain that bears his name. Knowing A.J.’s fondness for the pet, the employees took up a collection in 1957 and presented the old pooch to the boss.
Now, you might worry that Iron Dog would pass the way of all loyal canines, but fear not, at the ripe old age of 117 he was placed within the front door of Bayless’ “Cracker Barrel Museum” where residents continued to stop in “just to say hello to my old dog.”
But, they really should have called him “spot” or “Rover” or something besides “Iron Dog,” because, you see, He’s was really made out of some sort of alloy – mostly zinc, it has been said.