About the Book
The unusual and moving tale of Muggins, a famed fundraising dog who became a mascot of the Canadian Red Cross during the First World War.
Born in 1913 in the home of a millionaire philanthropist, Muggins was a purebred Spitz, a sharp-eared, sharp-nosed, fluffy-tailed sort of dog most often seen in the lap of a lady of leisure. But Muggins defied the odds, rising to unlikely fame during the First World War, when he became Victoria, BC’s most diminutive fundraiser. He was taught to wander through downtown during the war with two change donation boxes tied to his back, and ultimately collected the equivalent of $250,000 for charities and causes including the Red Cross, the Blue Cross, food for poor children and prisoners of war, victims of Jewish pogroms, to name a few.
During his short life, Muggins visited ferries and freight liners stopping in Victoria. He appeared in photos with the Prince of Wales and with famous Canadian general Sir Arthur Currie, among other celebrated admirers. He was also a favourite of the rank and file, helping cheer up wounded soldiers at Esquimalt Military Hospital. Muggins was made an honourary first lieutenant by the United States military for his service raising funds in Seattle. And he was so loved by departing soldiers he was more than once nearly taken along to the theatre of war.
Based on valuable documents, memorabilia, newspaper and newsreel accounts of Muggins’s brief but brilliant career, this book tackles the difficult question of human use of animals in war, at home and on the battlefield. It explores how crucial animals, specifically dogs, have been to wounded veterans recovering from physical and emotional damage—both in Muggins’s lifetime and now.
"Muggins the dog is the star of this thoughtfully crafted book . . . The author's love of dogs shines through every page as he contemplates their complex relationship with humans."
"Animal historian Grant Hayter-Menzies recounts this story with much empathy for Muggins, situating the fundraising within the war effort . . . This book provides some of the many fascinating stories from the Great War that bring the era alive for readers today."
—Tim Cook, Canada's History
"A thought-provoking biography . . . Hayter-Menzies’ illustrative language fills any holes left by a lack of written sources regarding Muggins’ life and sustains this representation of a historical moment."
"This book is about Muggins, a small white dog who played an inspiring role supporting the war effort during WWI. However, it is more than that. It is a snapshot of the people and the times on the home front. It also provides heartwarming insights into the nature of the human-canine bond. It is an example of fascinating historical detective work and great writing. A must-read for dog lovers and history buffs."
—Stanley Coren, author of The Intelligence of Dogs
"A fascinating account of the life of an important dog, Muggins—who worked the docks and streets of Victoria to raise funds for charity—and a poignant and thoughtful reflection on the role of dogs in wartime."
—Zazie Todd, PhD, author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy
"Grant Menzies has done it again. In Muggins, he breathes bright and dazzling life back into a most magnificent little dog who last padded the earth a century ago. (And in a bizarre twist, “came to life” again during World War II.) Through his phenomenal research, and his beautiful prose, Menzies resurrects not only the beloved four-legged central character, but the whole era around the Great War. A fascinating read about the world during a devastatingly difficult time, and the dog who helped so many get through it. Enjoy it with a cup of tea by the hearth with your best friend at your side."
—Maria Goodavage, author of Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine and Secret Service Dogs: The Heroes Who Protect the President of the United States
“The true stories of animals whose training and loyalty earned them a supporting and sometimes deadly role in the terrors of war give us unique portals into history. Hayter-Menzies weaves an endearing account of the impact and appeal of a canine in the limelight, whose dogged loyalty throughout his short life made him a bona fide hero of the war effort on the home front.”
—Jacqueline Carmichael, author of Heard Amid the Guns: True Stories from the Western Front 1914–1918
“Muggins is not only a colourful and touching love letter to the little white Spitz of Victoria but to all dogs who selflessly devote themselves to we humans, in wartime and in peace times. May we always rise to display the fine qualities our dogs believe us to have.”
—Susan Raby-Dunne, military historian, battlefield guide, and author of Bonfire: The Chestnut Gentleman