Dog Lover Extraordinaire: George Washington

 |  Feb 21st 2011  |   6 Contributions


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George Washington and one of his many beloved dogs

Happy Presidents Day! Since we are Dogster, and not Humanster, we get to look at a unique and very overlooked side of the first president of the United States. This will be a history lesson, but one you should really like.

Did you know George Washington was a huge dog lover? He had several hunting hounds, and eventually created a new breed of foxhound called the Virginia Hound. He gave his faithful friends colorful names, from Sweet Lips, Venus, and Truelove, to Taster, Tippler and Drunkard. Can you hear the future first president calling out to Sweet Lips and Drunkard? (It's pretty clear why he wouldn't call them Rex, given his relationship with Britain and the monarchy and all...)

A really interesting article by dog-writer Stanley Coren in Psychology Today describes an incident that tells a great del about Washington as a man and a dog lover. It sits well with your morning tea on this Presidents Day.

Washington's affection for dogs is vividly illustrated in an incident that occurred during the Revolutionary War. It was when American forces were trying to contain British General William Howe's troops, who had occupied Philadelphia. During the Battle of Germantown, which was not going well for the Americans, Washington was encamped was encamped at Pennibecker's Mill.

On October 6, 1777, a little terrier was seen wandering the area between the American and British lines. New York City. It turns out that General Howe's little terrier had somehow gotten loose and had become lost on the battlefield. The dog was identified from its collar, and brought to Washington. His officers suggested that he might want to keep the dog as a sort of trophy which might weaken the morale of the British general.

Instead he took the dog into his tent, fed him and had him brushed and cleaned. Then, to the surprise of everyone, Washington ordered a cease fire. The shooting stopped and soldiers on both sides watched as one of Washington's aides formally returned a little dog to the British commander under a flag of truce.

If only I'd learned this sort of stuff -- info that makes historical figures more three-dimensional -- in history class, I may have actually enjoyed the subject. It's never too late to start, though! I hope someone will soon be offering a class called "History Through Dogs' Eyes." I'll be first on the list of students! It might actually be a great idea for a book, too, but since I slept through history classes, I probably would not be the right person for the job.

(Thank you to The Poodle (and Dog) Blog for digging this one up!)

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