Dogs of War

By Kathleen Kinsolving. WND Books. $19.99.

Terrier terrors or terrific terriers, Fala, Willie and Telek all enjoyed something in common – they were front and center on the world’s biggest stage, no matter where they were accompanying their owners, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gen. George S. Patton or Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, respectively.

Kinsolving takes the reader through a kaleidoscope of funny, frustrating and even fiery accounts of each celebrated dog’s role in its owner’s life, chiefly in association with World War II.

Terriers, as anyone who has owned one knows, are challenging packages that develop a Velcro-like bond with their owner. In each of these cases, the owner had plenty of support staff, some of whom were assigned to dog duty for a few hours or a day, which proved a test beyond what some ever imagined.

For instance, Fala assumed he was invited to attend the third inauguration of FDR in January 1941. The Scottish terrier jumped in the open limousine alongside the startled president and had to be removed by a Secret Service agent. After many days of pouting over the incident, Fala fled the White House and was discovered in front of a nearby theater by a passer-by who noticed the dog’s tag read: “Fala, the White House.” Imagine that person’s surprise.

Fala’s bond with the president was so strong that he was buried at the foot of FDR’s grave.

While the legendary Patton was nicknamed “Old Blood and Guts,” many never knew his bull terrier Willie was a bit wimpy despite Patton’s commitment to train the dog to be bold and fierce. It is suspected the fear stemmed from anxiety associated with many RAF bombing raids. Willie was named after Lil Willie Wiffle, a young boy Patton met at a family barbeque, who had eaten a great amount – so did his bull terrier, hence Patton named the dog after the child.

Telek (his name was a combination of Telegraph Cottage and Kay) was the link in the tryst between Eisenhower and Kay Summersby, a former English fashion model and movie extra, who became Eisenhower’s driver and a bit more.

Eisenhower acquired Telek, a Scottish terrier with a red ribbon around his neck, on his birthday, although the general meant the dog to be Kay’s. Smartly, common sense prevailed, leaving him to say, “There would be such a rumpus if it got out that I was getting a dog for my driver. God knows what the people would say – or think.”

Telek had his moments, like the time he peed on Gen. George C. Marshall’s guest bed at Eisenhower’s villa, or the motorcade moment in Tunisia when the dog, seated in the front seat between Summersby and a Secret Service agent “turned himself into a flying missile and launched himself“directly at FDR in the back seat, who was chatting with Ike. Fortunately, Ike managed to grab Telek en route and put him on his lap as the President laughed.

While the little 64-page volume features these three, the Afterword has special mention and acknowledgement of the role of Cairo, a Belgian Malinois that accompanied the Navy SEAL team on the raid of Osama Bin Laden’s quarters in Pakistan last year.

If you’re a history and dog buff, you’ll find this breezy read a sheer delight.