The first Kill Devil Terrier was acquired by Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1902 at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina while they were waiting out the weather to test their second big glider.
The dog came to the Wright camp with a load of food rations. The old man who drove the food wagon out to the dunes came out with the dog, and no one noticed he did not leave with it until very late in the evening, when the dog appeared over a dune, just in time to lick the pots clean from the evening meal.
It was two weeks before the wagon returned with another provision of food, and during that time, Wilbur and Orville became very fond of the dog who not only kept rats and Grey Fox out of the rations, but who also served as a quick and ready wind sock.
Years later, Orville would note,
"The dog was key. Without him, we might have died long before we got off the ground, for we were terrible at gauging wind velocity. It was Wilbur who noticed that we never had any real success unless the fine fur along the dog's ears was riffling out in the wind. After that, we never flew without asking the dog's permission."
In fact,the absence of a Kill Devil Terrier at Fort Myers, Virginia is said by some to have been the cause of the first avian fatality in the world. While some blamed the crash on a crack in the right propeller, it was properly pointed out that everything was smashed after the crash, and that the absence of the dog, named Flyer, was only real variable from earlier successful flights.
After that, of course, it was considered bad luck by early fliers not to have some sort of representative of a Kill Devil Terrier with them at all times.
Some simply carried a small stuffed dog, or painted a small picture of a Kill Devil Terrier near their landing gear, but others -- particularly early barnstomers -- had the real thing with them whenever they traveled.
Over time, as technology progressed and superstition subsided, fewer and fewer avaiators took real dogs with them in their airplanes, and today many flyers have never even heard of a Kill Devil Terrier.
The last pure Kill Devil Terrier known to exist, prior to a remnant population discovered in 2009 near the Kill Devil Hills, was owned by Amelia Earhart, who disappeared with her dog while flying over the Pacific in 1937.