What’s a pair of Maine pooches doing on a West African postage stamp?
Penthea Burns has never been to Togo, much less taken her rare-northern-breed dogs there. Yet two of her pups, wearing sled harnesses in the snow, have ended up on one of that West African country’s postage stamps.
Burns, of Lewiston, owns and breeds Chinooks, large, gentle dogs whose history is deeply rooted in Maine and New Hampshire. She was alerted to the stamp by a Chinook-loving friend, who recently found a trio of them for sale on eBay. “I opened up her email, and I got teary,” says Burns. There was no question that the dogs on the Togo stamp were hers: the composite illustration precisely replicates a photo of Jackman and his late mother, Chocorua. “I went immediately to eBay and bought all three, and they arrived a few weeks later from Scandinavia,” Burns says. “It’s funny to think of the circuitous route: from Lewiston to Togo to Scandinavia to Lewiston.”
The unknown illustrator likely found the photo on Burns and business partner Jessica Maurer’s Great Mountain Chinooks website, but it’s a mystery why anyone thought it would resonate in tropical Togo. Relevance, however, doesn’t seem to be a priority: Togo is a client of the Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation, which produces stamps for about 70 countries. Togo’s postage has depicted everything from Mozart to the cast of the 1960s TV series Lost in Space.
Chinooks trace their lineage to Chinook, the headline-making sled dog of early-20th-century New Hampshire adventurer Arthur Walden. Chinook led the first team to successfully ascend Mount Washington, and he accompanied Walden on Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1929 Antarctic Expedition. After Walden’s death, stewardship of the breed eventually passed to Maine outdoorsman Perry Greene, who was so proprietary about the stock that, by 1980, only
11 breedable animals remained. Today, there are roughly 1,500 Chinooks, thanks to the efforts of about two-dozen breeders, including four in Maine — but none in Togo. — Virginia M. Wright