As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his top generals were fighting fierce battles against the Nazis, their dogs were beside them. FDR and Generals Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton all loved dogs, and insisted on having them to help cope with the hardships of war, according to author Kathleen Kinsolving, who recently penned the book “Dogs of War.”
Dogs have long been known to provide benefits to humans – companionship and protection, and many recent studies have shown that they can play an important role in reducing stress, anxiety and blood pressure.
“I think that’s what inspired me to write this book,” said Kinsolving, “to show how important the human-animal bond truly is… we owe these dogs of war a great debt.”
FDR was given his Scottish terrier in 1940 by his cousin Margaret. Fala was a fixture by his side, attending press conferences and cocktail hours. He learned to shake hands and stand on his hind legs during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and had a playpen right outside the Oval Office. The public loved the little dog. As a member of “Barkers for Britain,” his fame helped him raise money for bombing victims in England. When he died, he was buried at the foot of FDR’s grave and was memorialized in a statue at the FDR Memorial in Washington.
General Eisenhower was given his Scottish terrier Telek as a birthday present in 1942. Some historians say Eisenhower was romantically involved with his driver, Kay Summersby, and that the dog was secretly a gift for her. His feisty little dog made his presence known by marking his territory on General George Marshall’s guest bed at Eisenhower’s villa. Telek also made his feelings about the Nazis known by growling after they departed from Eisenhower’s France headquarters when they signed the papers of surrender.
General Patton was known for his fiery temper and profanity-laced speeches, but he also had a soft spot for dogs. In 1944 he requested a bull terrier, and was given a dog who would soon become fiercely protective of his owner. Willie would attack any dog he felt was a danger to Patton. He even went after Telek once. According to Kinsolving, Willie stayed so close to Patton that a leash was never needed. A picture of Willie was what really motivated her to write the book. Willie was not with Patton on the fateful day of his Germany car crash. He was deeply saddened when his master died 12 days later. The photo showed the “heartbroken bull terrier… as he lay down on the floor next to Patton’s footlockers,” she noted.
Nearly 40% of American households have at least one dog. That strong connection we feel with them is also felt by many of our politicians, which is something that makes them more endearing to us. In the cases of FDR, Eisenhower and Patton, it may have what helped them keep their cool long enough to defeat the Nazis.