Topsy to the Rescue

Disclaimer: This is an article that I wrote for the January/February 2014 issue of the Neighbors of Geneva magazine. The idea for it came from a previous article written in the Geneva Republican on June 3, 1993. Much thanks to Neighbors of Geneva and to the Geneva History Museum for giving me an opportunity to do some nonfiction work and to resurface a fun bit of local history.


Becker’s Salvage Yard (16 Ford Street), circa 1950. Man to the far left is unknown. The two men in the middle are Sam Becker and Officer Ruben Anderson. Photo courtesy of Geneva History Museum.

When one considers animal rescue, the prevalent viewpoint is that human beings are doing neglected creatures a favor by caring for them. That may be, but it should not be forgotten that animal rescue is a two-way street. Sometimes it’s the person who receives the greater benefit from the relationship. From the archives of the 1990’s Geneva Republican column “Old Timer’s Corner” comes the story of a little mongrel dog who proved to be worth his weight in scrap iron.

In the late teens and early 1920’s, “Topsy” found employment with Harry Becker and his salvage yard as a “chaser.” While Becker traveled the Geneva streets in his horse-drawn wagon looking for reusable metal materials, Topsy would follow behind, chasing off any would-be scrap thieves. In the yard, the feisty dog continued his guard duty, more than once driving away human poachers (and a number of rats).

When Becker switched from horse and carriage to a truck, Topsy still faithfully followed behind his master, though the increased pace took a toll on the poor animal’s paws. To remedy this, Topsy began using a rather unique trot. According to columnist Dick Shewalter, “instead of using all four legs all the time, he ran on three legs, first using one hind leg for a few steps, then lifting it and switching to the other.” Sam Becker called this strange maneuver the “put down three and carry the one” run.

In this way, the “scrappy” Topsy served his family for over a decade.


Cartoon drawing by John Jarvis for the “Old Timer’s Corner” June 3, 1993. Image courtesy of Geneva History Museum.

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