MOREHEAD CITY —
Dogs first went into war in Asia Minor around 600 B.C., when Alyattes, king of Lydia, commanded the royal dogs to go on the offensive and attack invading Cimmerian warriors.
The Lydian canines obeyed and drove out the enemy, according to Logan Nye, a contributor to the We Are the Mighty website for veterans.
“As warfare modernized, so did the service of dogs,” Nye said. “They gained armor for avoiding injury in combat, and breeders tailored new generations of dogs better suited for fighting. Dogs were pressed into new roles, acting as couriers, sentries and scouts.”
Leading up to the American Revolutionary War, one of the most prominent Virginia colonists, George Washington, inspected the dog kennels at his Mount Vernon estate twice a day to visit and play with his beloved foxhounds.
“Washington delighted in saddling up his horse and riding out with his dogs to hunt at least once a week and sometimes more often,” wrote Linda Cole for a blog sponsored by the CANIDAE Pet Food Co.
“Washington took along his favorite dog, Sweet Lips, when he went to Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress in 1774,” Cole said. (This female hound was a charmer, not a fighter.)
“One afternoon while Washington and his dog were out walking, they caught the attention of Elizabeth Powel, wife of the mayor of Philadelphia, Samuel Powel. She stopped him to admire Sweet Lips, and this chance meeting led to an invitation to dinner,” Cole said.
“The wealthy and influential mayor saw in Washington a man with political and military potential,” Cole wrote. “He introduced Washington to his powerful friends in Philadelphia, they invited him to join their exclusive hunting club. Washington impressed everyone with his riding ability.
“The men liked his honesty, moral convictions, intellect, love of hunting and the care he showed the dogs under his charge. Washington showed his appreciation to the club members by gifting them some of his Virginia hounds,” Cole said. “These men were the ones who would mount a lobbying campaign to help Washington win command of the Continental Army.
“Washington’s love of dogs not only helped shape his legacy, it also showed his character.” At the height of the Revolutionary War, British Commander Gen. William Howe’s troops engaged the Americans at the Battle of Germantown (Pa.) on Oct. 6, 1777. An American soldier spotted a small terrier wandering about on the front lines.
It was determined that the female dog belonged to Howe. Washington surprised everyone when he took the dog to his tent, cleaned her up and fed her before ordering a cease fire.
Cole reported: “Under a flag of truce, Washington had the dog returned to his owner, along with a note that read, ‘General Washington’s compliments to General Howe. General Washington does himself the pleasure to return the dog…and, by the inscription on the collar, appears to belong to General Howe.’”
Gen. Howe would later comment the return of his dog, Lila, was the act of “an honorable gentleman.” Gen. Howe would later resign his commission and return to England.
Continental Army Maj. Gen. Charles Lee was another military leader who had a deep attachment to his dogs. He brought them along to travel with his troops and boost their morale. The prized dogs were forbidden to eat bacon at breakfast with the men, however, “lest it make them dumb.” (The dogs, not the soldiers.)
Gen. Lee’s favorite pooch was a Pomeranian male named Spado. Once allowed to attend a swanky dinner party along with the general, Spado jumped into a vacant chair next to Abigail Adams and extended his paw to shake.
After the war, Washington experimented in dog breeding, as he sought to create a hunting dog that was fast, smart and had a “sharp nose.” After his friend Gen. Marquis de Lafayette of France sent him a few of his favorite French hounds in 1785, Washington dabbled in mating them with his Mount Vernon hounds whose ancestry led back to England.
The American foxhounds, proving to be “smarter and superior ” to their French or British cousins, earned Washington the distinction of being the “father of the American foxhound.”
Curiously, not all of America’s Founding Fathers were as crazy about dogs. Benjamin Franklin wrote the adage: “He who lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.”