By SHARON SNYDER
Los Alamos Historical Society
Many famous names emerged from the Manhattan Project years on the Pajarito Plateau, but not all were scientists.
Haskell Sheinberg, who came to Los Alamos as a member of the Special Engineer Detachment and stayed at the lab after the war years, remembered one such name. When Sheinberg was interviewed by the Atomic Heritage Foundation for the Manhattan Project Voices, he commented that dogs “were just allowed to roam” and remembered one such dog named Timoshenko, “the only dog allowed into the Tech Area, the main Tech Area.”
He referred to Timoshenko as a Russian Wolfhound. Others recalled the dog as an Irish Wolfhound mix and some thought he might have been part Russian Wolfhound. Still another believed him to be part Great Dane, but no matter his ancestry, he was a large dog in size as well as in the memory of all who loved him in those years during World War II.
Timoshenko was mentioned most recently in the WGN television series Manhattan when the script revealed, “Yes, Los Alamos was served by an army hospital. Originally staffed by one doctor and three nurses, the hospital grew to include a radiologist, pediatrician, dentists, an internist who had to enlist in the army to accept the invitation to join the staff, a pharmacist, lab technicians, more nurses, and a Great Dane/Russian Wolfhound mutt named Timoshenko who looked after the front steps.”
No one knows who named the dog, but his unusual moniker may have been related to the former Soviet Commisar of Defence Marshal Timoshenko, who led Soviet troops in a major defeat in 1942.
In her book 109 East Palace, author Jennet Conant wrote, “A statuesque redheaded nurse named Harriet “Petey” Peterson presided over the first-room facility, and her dog, an enormous Irish Wolfhound named Timoshenko, sleepily kept guard outside the front door.”
Yet another nurse is said by Elinor Jette to be the owner of the dog. In her book Inside Box 1663, Jette wrote that nurse Sarah Dawson owned the dog but that it took all of her meat coupons to feed him, so perhaps ownership passed to someone else. Jette also mentions that Timoshenko started spending time with the MPs, where the rations were unlimited.
When Jette and her family arrived at Los Alamos, new friends filled her in on life behind the fence. She recalled, “I couldn’t imagine any army parade in a place like Los Alamos.”
“Oh, yes,” her new friend explained, “the military puts on a parade every so often to commemorate a national holiday or something. Timoshenko always leads the parade.
“Who’s Timoshenko?” Jette asked.
Her friend explained and mentioned that the dog loved going along with the mounted patrols of the fences and then added, but “Timmy keeps up his social contacts in town. If he honors you with a visit, you reciprocate with a handout.”
In the chapter Shirley Barnett wrote for Standing By and Making Do, she said, “In addition to its regular staff, the hospital boasted of a member whose fidelity to his post was impeccable. His name was Timoshenko. He was adopted by the staff when “it was discovered that he put in a minimum of ten hours a day living at the steps of the hospital.” She continued to say that he was an incredibly large, white dog and “no description of his physical characteristics could do him justice, but—as a point of information—when he stood up on his hind legs, he towered over most humans.”
When Timoshenko had achieved his full growth, it was felt that a dog his size would probably be a boon to the K-9 Corps, so he was shipped off for training as an attack dog. He was returned six months later, preceded by a courteous but firm letter from the K-9 Corps advising that although his size and strength were unquestionable, he was clearly a pacifist. No amount of training, they declared, could convert him into a belligerent.”
The days of the Manhattan Project were filled with stress, and a noted and much loved dog offered moments away from the tension and perhaps memories of a dog back home.
These articles are written by the Los Alamos Historical Society Staff. Many of these articles were originally published by the