Dogie the Cartoon Dog Blasts Off for Space

Cartoons in space

As the crew of space shuttle Discovery prepares for its trip to the International Space Station -- the launch is scheduled for Easter Monday -- the Space Race has been rekindled.

No, not that space race. I'm referring to a contest between two cartoon dogs: one, an iconic beagle loved the world over; the other, an adventurous mutt created by a child more than four decades ago.

Like most kids growing up in the 1960s, I loved the comic strip Peanuts. I also knew from an early age that I wanted to be a cartoonist. When I copied what I saw in the pages of the Omaha World-Herald, however, my father was critical of my imitations, believing that a true artist needed to be "original."

It was soon after that I responded to his concerns. "Dogie the Doggie" stood tall and wore turtlenecks and sweaters, his name possibly inspired by my father singing, "Whoopie-ti-yi yo, git along you little dogies." Soon, I was creating my own "newspaper," naming it after my new favorite dog.

When I wasn't sketching Dogie, I was drawing spaceships. The Gemini and Apollo programs were certainly big news in those days, and a love of space was a bond my father and I shared.

Although I couldn't have fully understood that the moon represented the finish line in a fierce competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, space travel piqued my imagination, allowing me to dream on paper, creating spacemen and rockets that could travel into space on my behalf.

Dogie: First Dog on Moon

It didn't take long for my two passions to join forces. It was in one of my editions of The Dogie the Doggie News that Dogie became the first dog to set paw on the moon.

I was content with Dogie's achievement until 1969, when I was eight years old and came upon a department store display of Snoopy-as-astronaut dolls, a sign declaring that Snoopy had made it to the moon first.

The "proof" of my homemade newspaper was no match for the department store display. Or for that matter, Charles Schulz. After all, the command module for Apollo 10, the last rehearsal for the moon landing, had been nicknamed Charlie Brown. The lunar module was called Snoopy. The astronauts on that mission also took along sketches created by Schulz.

NASA Astronaut Sends 'Greetings from Space'

Eventually, I was off on a new cartooning trajectory, one that would take me to the far less naive universe of politics. Nearly every night, it seemed, the nightly news was delivering news about Vietnam, and soon, Richard Nixon was making headlines.

I had an aunt who insisted I watch Watergate hearings with her, which I'm certain helped me better understand editorial cartoons I read in the newspaper. By the time a peanut farmer from Georgia was elected president, I was fifteen and sketching caricatures of the wide-smiling Jimmy Carter.

I drew cartoons for my high school and college newspapers, and in July 1989, exactly twenty years after the first moon landing -- the real one with humans -- I joined the Omaha World-Herald as an editorial cartoonist.

Keeping up with the news, keeping up with the negative world of politics can weigh a cartoonist down. Yet I have never lost my fascination for space travel; NASA has remained a favorite topic for my ink-stained drawing board.

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