More than a score of persons are credited by various biographical works with having been entitled to the designation "Watchdog of the Treasury." There are pages and pages of arguments weighing the conflicting claims. But Nero perhaps has a better claim than any of them.
Nero was a real, live, canine watchdog. , first of the first United States Mint at , was Nero's sponsor. The Mint paid $3 for Nero. The expenditure is recorded in a handwritten "Account of Contingent Expenses Incurred in the Mint" for the month of January 1793. The $3 item "for a Dog for the Yard" is sandwiched in between notations of the payment of $1 to "Thomas Dobson for an Inkstand & folder" and $2.40 to "Jacob Kinnard for Sundries as per Bill."
There are records of further expenditures over the course of a quarter of a century for food and license tags for Nero and his successor watchdogs. A night watchman was required to visit all sectors of the Mint premises every hour, and Nero went along with him. Nero supposedly took over full responsibility if the watchman was absent. Rules of the Mint forbade the feeding of Nero by any employee except the night watchman, because the Mint did not want Nero to get friendly with anyone else.
The same early records which tell of the purchase of Nero, and of food and license tags for him, also tell of "rum allowances" and "drink money" paid to Mint employees. They ranged from $1 to $3 per month. Non-drinkers appear to have received payments in lieu of drink money. Notice was served in rules and regulations of the Mint published in 1825 that drink money allowances had been discontinued.
An ancient Treasury seal, the origin of which is a matter of speculation, presents still another claimant to the "Watchdog of the Treasury" title. Within a wreath around the seal's edges is a symbolic strongbox, and lying beside the strongbox is a capable looking watchdog with his left front paw securely clasping a large key. The seal bears the lettering "U.S. Treasury."
Just how extensively the seal was used is difficult to determine, but it disappeared long since from Treasury documents. The original plate of the seal is on deposit at the Government Printing Office.
- Treasury Watchdogs; Treasury Department Information Service; August 29, 1948