Filling in the voids in the written history of key historical figures – of the furry variety – is a specialty for Sidney author Grant Hayter-Menzies.
“There’s a lot of little mysteries involved in animals’ lives, they left no records and we’re reliant on what people wrote about them,” he said. The longtime biographer enjoys the challenge of filling out that information, making some educated guesses and completing the picture.
For his 11th book – Muggins: The Life and Afterlife of a Canadian Canine War Hero – Hayter-Menzies reveals the story of a dazzling dog who went from a pampered companion in Oak Bay to a hardworking dog on the streets of Greater Victoria.
The spitz famously raised the modern equivalent of $250,000 for war-related charities, but Hayter-Menzies scoured documents, memorabilia, newspaper and newsreel accounts to fill out the gaps in the dog’s brief but brilliant career.
The book also looks at the use of animals in war – at home and on the battlefield – and explores how crucial animals have been to wounded veterans recovering from physical and emotional damage for more than a century.
Love and respect for animals is a tradition for Hayter-Menzies. “They were treated seriously by my family, as family members,” he said.
It’s a respect the writer honours to this day. He and partner Rudi moved to the Saanich Peninsula specifically seeking safer streets and parks for four-legged family member Freddie.
Muggins remains known worldwide as a Red Cross mascot, one reason Hayter-Menzies will donate royalties to the Red Cross B.C./Yukon branch. Funds will also go to the BC SPCA – a nod to bringing Freddie into his life.
Freddie once won a place in the agency’s calendar contest, and his people had a stamp made of one of his front paws so he could paw-tograph them for buyers.
Autographed and paw-tographed copies of Muggins: The Life and Afterlife of a Canadian Canine War Hero are available at Tanners Books in Sidney. The book is available at local bookstores and online at heritagehouse.ca.
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