September 11, 2015 | Posted in 1st Doggies
Former two-time Prime Minister of the U.K. Sir Winston Churchill had a history of being associated with the English bulldog, mainly because of his no-nonsense temperament and – ahem – his looks.
But in reality, this popular politician and one-time officer in the British Army, considered to be one of the greatest wartime leaders, had a true soft spot for miniature poodles. He was said to love many types of creatures and the Churchill household was often filled with cats and even a parrot, but his true animal companion was a small poodle named Rufus. The two of them went through the difficulties of World War II together and were often seen strolling or sitting together.
Rufus wandered around the official Prime Minister’s lodgings at London’s 10 Downing Street, dropping in on luncheons and official meetings. However, even Churchill drew the line when the dog found its way into an official and confidential wartime cabinet meeting. “No, Rufus, I haven’t found it necessary to ask you to join the wartime cabinet,” Churchill told him.
It should be mentioned that there were actually two dogs named Rufus that Sir Winston considered part of his family. They were not in the household simultaneously, however. The original Rufus was hit by a car and killed while his master was away at a Conservative Party conference in Brighton, England in 1947. Churchill was devastated.
Not long afterwards, Walter Graebner, Managing Editor of Life Magazine, gave him a miniature poodle that looked very much like the original black/brown Rufus. In fact, Churchill named him Rufus II. But he added, “His name is Rufus II but the II is silent.” Thereafter, references to Rufus became confusing and the two dogs somehow blended into one. The main thing was, each dog was a beloved companion to the popular leader.
During either Rufus’s lifetime, they were encouraged to eat in the dining room with the rest of the family. A cloth was laid on the precious Persian carpet beside Churchill’s chair. No one dared begin eating their meal until the butler had served Rufus as well.
One evening, the family gathered to screen the film “Oliver Twist”. Rufus assumed his position on his master’s lap. Knowing the story well, at the point in the film where the character of Bill Sikes is about to drown a dog to put police off his track, Churchill reportedly covered Rufus’s eyes with his hand and whispered, “Don’t look now, dear. I’ll tell you about it afterwards.”
For all his wit and also tough leadership tendencies, Churchill suffered from bouts of depression which he oddly enough referred to as “the black dog.” During times when he felt the illness temporarily overtaking him, those around him knew “the black dog” was at work. The term has even become part of the psychology community to this day. But clearly, he sought comfort and consolation even during those times from the real dog(s) he cherished.