Long before he became President, George Washington was an avid hunter in Virginia as well as a breeder of superior hunting dogs. He would ride out with his dogs to hunt foxes sometimes two or three times a week.
One of my favorite dog writers, Stanley Coren, writing in Psychology Today explains how George Washington’s dogs paved the way for him to become the leader of the new nation that emerged following the American Revolution.
During his younger years as an educated farmer, Washington knew the fundamentals of careful breeding and began to build up a pack of foxhounds that he called “Virginia Hounds.” When the Continental Congress was formed to discuss the relationship of the colonies to British rule, Washington was appointed as one of the representatives from Virginia.
Meeting in Philadelphia, he was very unhappy because he couldn’t mount his horse, gather his dogs and hunt foxes through the city streets. Then his dog, Sweet Lips, that he had brought with him to Philadelphia as a companion changed the course of his life.
Elizabeth Powel, wife of the wealthy mayor of Philadelphia, noticed Washington walking his dog one day and was impressed with the bearing of both. She stopped him to compliment him on his dog. In their conversation he mentioned his unhappiness at not being able to take Sweet Lips hunting.
Mayor Powel was also impressed with the young farmer from Virginia. Through the Powels Washington was offered a chance to ride with the Gloucester Hunting Club across the river in New Jersey. Members of the club, powerful men of the colonies, were impressed with the young farmer from Virginia, his hunting skills, and his extraordinary line of dogs. These were men who would later lobby for Washington to become general of the Continental Army.
The rest as they say is history.
Coren depicts a George Washington most of us never knew with this charming story:
On October 6, 1977, a little terrier was seen wandering the area between the American and British lines. 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. source
If dogs wrote history, this post would be in every history book.