1940s Portales dog truly amazing

By Clyde Davis

Yakki may have been an exceptional dog by any standards.

Certainly, in respect to trainability, ability to learn and native intelligence, he was at the top of his class. Yakki lived in Portales in the years around the second World War, and was of the breed known at the time as an American Spitz.

Among other abilities, Yakki had the capacity to go for his own treatment. When he needed to see the veterinarian, Yakki would go down the street from the block where he lived and enter the office of one Dr. Black, who served Portales’ animal population at the time. Yakki would jump up on the table and quietly await his turn for healing ministrations.

His memory — or, more accurately, his vocabulary — was astounding. Let us say that your name was Clyde, and you were introduced to Yakki: “Yakki, this is Clyde.”

Then let us say, six months later, you came back to visit Yakki. At the words “Yakki, take Clyde your ball,” Yakki would run to get his ball and bring it to you.

He weighed only about 20 pounds and though many dogs will avoid a fight when possible, well…. To misquote Kenny Rogers in his song “Coward of the County,” “Sometimes you have to fight when you’re a dog.” Faced with an attacker,

Yakki had a surefire method of dealing with canine aggression. I will spare you the details, but let us say it emphasized brains over brawn and would invariably work. 

Yakki broke his neck once. Normally this would be a death sentence for a dog even today, let alone 60 years ago. Yakki, however, did as he was told and lay absolutely still for three months, aided by food and drink from his humans. As a result, he recovered.

Almost all dogs are lovable. Most dogs have one or two flashes of brilliance. For example, my terrier Bonnie does something I have always wanted a dog to do — fetches her own leash. Skye, an Aussie I once had, housebroke after only one negative incident. Mally, my Chow — well, he just knew how to intimidate people who needed it. And of course, all dogs go to heaven.

Once in a while, though, I suppose a genius dog emerges, just as is the case with humans. Yakki must have been such a dog, a dog of many talents. I would like to thank Dr. Henry Hahn, retired ENMU professor of psychology, for his reminiscences of Yakki.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: