Remembering Muggins, Victoria’s four-legged war hero

Canadian Red Cross

He was one of Vancouver Island’s most beloved canines.

Muggins was a fluffy-tailed German Spitz who became an island icon during the First World War, wandering through downtown with two change donation boxes strapped to his back to collect money for the Red Cross.

The home he used to live in on Gorge Road West is still there today, but when Muggins wasn’t home he was visiting soldiers and sailors and raising money for the war effort.

It’s something he excelled at.

“Muggins was actually considered a unit,” said Paul Jenkins of the Canadian Red Cross. “Looking back over our records there was the Oak Bay Unit, the Fairfield unit, and the Muggins unit.”

After spending hours loading up his tins outside the legislature, Muggins would wander up Government Street to the Temple building on Fort Street.

He’d unload his cash, then hit the streets again, with his owner Beatrice Woodward helping her dog get his tins on.

His persistence earned him instant popularity that extended far beyond Victoria.

LISTEN: MicCHEK sits down with author Grant Hayter-Menzies to learn more about Victoria’s most famous canine

When Gen. Sir Arthur Currie visited the steps of The Empress, the person he wanted next to him wasn’t a person at all. It was Muggins.

And then there were the Canadians on the front lines, the beneficiaries of the thousands of dollars Muggins raised. Some of that money was turned into food packets that were sent to prisoners of war.

“And one of those prisoneres of war wrote a letter to Muggins that was published locally,” said author Grant Hayter-Menzies.

His name was Joseph Diggle, and he had escaped Germany to make it back hom to Red Deer, Alta., before deciding to write to Victoria’s favourite dog.

He wrote: “Well old timer, let me thank you for the grub you sent to us in Germany. If it had not been for you and your pals, we’d be pushing the daisies up now.”

The letter was published in August 1919, near the end of the war. Soon, there would be celebrations on the streets of Victoria.

And when that day arrived, Muggins had his own float winding through the Inner Habrour.

For more on Muggins, you can read Hayter-Menzies’ new book Muggins: The Life and Afterlife of a Canadian Canine War Hero. Partial proceeds from the book sale will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross.

Joe PerkinsJoe Perkins

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