GREAT FALLS — Man’s best friend and loyal companion rang true, during Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s expedition west in the early 1800’s.
Seaman, a Newfoundland, was commissioned to the Corps of Discovery; He was a symbol of valor, strength, and comfort through the many unknowns of the journey.
“The expectation is, they think there is going to be a waterway that is going to take them all the way to the Pacific Coast," said Duane Buchi, Director of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center in Great Falls. That they did, the Missouri River, which landed the group in present day Great Falls.
It wasn’t uncommon for the average man to have the inability to swim. Seaman would be on standby during the trek. Fortunately for the men aboard the Keels boats, Seaman’s water expertise was never used.
The journey was long and hard, and when morale was low, a dog’s presence could boost the spirits of all who was around him. Gary R. Lucy, an artist from Washington, Missouri, never excluded Lewis’s companion in his artwork.
Or in this painting titled, "Lewis and Clark, The Departure from St. Charles," from May 21, 1804; Seaman is seen sitting at attention on the raised stern platform, under the canvas canopy.
Fast forward to 2022, a Newfoundland named Butler and his owner Bill Schueller roam the Lewis & Clark Trail as volunteer docents at the Interpretive Center.
“Butler is a living example of the breed of dog that Lewis and Clark took on the expedition," said Shueller.
An addition to the Center that helps bring the legacy of Lewis and Clark to life.
Buchi says, “It’s not uncommon for us to get a phone call and the first question is, ‘Is Butler going to be there today?’ ‘Well, when is he gonna be there if he isn’t there that day?’ ‘Oh, we’ll plan to come then.’”
Butler’s role may not be as valiant as his ancestors, but he has an important role when it comes to the Center’s visitors. “The little kids, if they don’t remember anything else about the center, they remember the big dog, beause we’ve had people come back year after year and say ‘Oh, is Buddy here, or is Butler here,’ depending on which dog we had at the time, they remember the dogs,” said Schueller.
Butler and Seaman share the same role of being companions to their owners, and it’s the presence of a dog that makes the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center a must-visit destination.
Butler and Bill can be visited at the Center on Wednesday and Saturdays throughout the year. It is best to call ahead of time to ensure you get your picture with the star attraction.
It's located at 4201 Giant Springs Road; click here to visit the website.