My Balto Blues
A reflection on my disappointment towards the Dog that saved Nome.
Written and Created by Cameron Mays
I have never had a good relationship with animals. This is not to say I don’t try. I make a great effort to incorporate fauna in my life to no success. Pygmy goats and sheep run to the opposite side of the barnyard at petting zoos. The parakeets and parrots at local pet stores screech like banshees when I enter the premises. Dogs and cats at the local pounds request not to get adopted for fear of getting adopted by me. A giraffe attempted suicide after seeing me at the Drive Thru African Safari. Moses parted the sea, I part the normal social behaviors of animals.
This is why I am drawn to taxidermy. It is much easier to have an amicable relationship with animals when they are behind glass and do not have muscles. On my various trips to nature centers and the Natural History Museum, I have discovered not all taxidermy is created equal. Specifically one mounted subject, Balto. I am not against the mounted Balto for craft reasons, I am against the mounted Balto because I am against Balto. Balto only came in at the last and easiest leg of the Serum Run, yet was given much of the credit for the entire race.
After the fateful Serum Run, Balto went the route of Norma Desmond. Going from critical acclaim in New York to being a washed-up LA has-been, Balto was found in a roadside zoo by Cleveland businessman George Kimble, who organized a massive campaign to buy Balto and company and move them to Cleveland. Balto lived in the zoo for many years before dying and being mounted. Much like Balto, Cleveland stepped in at the last second and benefited for generations with the remains of the dog.
When deciding if Balto belongs in Cleveland, we must consider not what Cleveland has done for Balto, but what Balto has done for Cleveland. He robbed our forebears $2,000 during the Great Depression. He mooched off the zoo for years. My disapproval for Balto runs deeper than that, born out of childhood disappointment, and I have some ideas to rectify Balto’s status in Cleveland. Check out my video to find out the cause of my disapproval, the ideas I have, and more!