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'Pug' and 'Cat': Winston and Clementine Churchill

A bit about Win and Clem's namesakes!


Winston and Clementine Churchill affectionately referred to each other as 'Cat' and 'Pug' (sometimes 'Pig') in their letters to one another. I took this photo during a February 2023 visit to the Churchill War Rooms in London.


Long before I became Winnie's mum, I knew that I wanted to name my future Scotties after the Churchills. Known for being independent, stubborn, bold, courageous, sometimes irascible... wait, is this a description of a Scottie dog or of Winston and/or Clementine Churchill? Therein lies the inspiration.


Winston and Clementine Churchill pictured in London on 25 September 1940.

Image Source: Picryl


Though Winston Churchill is most commonly compared to a bulldog, I like to think my Scotties could have also fearlessly led a nation through the Second World War while drinking copious amounts of fine champagne. One major and important difference between my Win and Clem and their namesakes-aside from the paws and fur--is that my babies harbour none of the very problematic racially prejudiced and imperialist sentiments that their human counterparts did. I know, this is supposed to be a fun post on a dog blog, but if we're going to admire people for their triumphs, we are also obligated to hold them accountable for their shortcomings.


Among Winston's Churchill's most famous, consequential, and important triumphs is, of course, his role in helping lead the Allies to victory in World War II. His speeches, fearless spirit, and unwavering commitment to the Allied cause is well-known. Perhaps less commonly discussed is the major role that Clementine, Churchill's wife, played in helping to craft and protect this wartime image of her husband.


A World War II-era poster featuring Winston Churchill.

Image Source: Imperial War Museum


General Hastings Ismay, Winston's Chief of Staff during the Second World War, noted that Clementine was her husband's 'rock during that terrible time.' Much to Winston's initial frustration, Clementine felt strongly about advocating for recognition of the important role women had in the war effort. During the 1941 air raids, Clementine served as a nighttime fire watcher. She was also active in the British Red Cross, often joined Winston on trips to see military outposts, and, toward the end of the war, chaired the Red Cross Aid to Russia Fund (for more on Clementine's wartime work, see Sonia Purnell's Clementine: The Life of Mrs Winston Churchill).


Clementine Churchill in Leningrad on 10 April 1945. As Chair of the Red Cross's Aid to Russia Fund, Clementine was in the USSR from 2 April to 11 May 1945 to raise awareness and funds. She was in Moscow, not London, on V-E Day, 8 May 1945!


According to Clementine Churchill biographer Sonia Purnell, another wartime sacrifice Clemmie made for her country was keeping the death of Winston's beloved cat, Tango, a secret from him until news on the warfront improved. Winston and Clementine were animal lovers, and kept the company of several cats, dogs, swans, and other animals over their lifetimes. The Churchills never had the pleasure of sharing their home with Scottie dogs (though Winston did meet Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's famous Scottie, Fala), but they did have two French poodles.


Throughout the war, Rufus, a brown miniature poodle, was always by Winston's side. In My Dear Mr Churchill, Walter Graebner wrote of a moment when Rufus jumped up on the bed with Winston and laid on his chest. Winston reflected:


'I didn't come to know the dog world until late in life. No one should not know the companionship of a dog. There is nothing like it.'

Rufus's tragic and sudden death in 1947 was devastating for Winston. After burying Rufus at his country home, Chartwell, in Kent, Winston slowly began warming up to the idea of introducing another dog to his life. In early 1948, after finding a similar-looking brown poodle, Winston decided to adopt the dog on a trial basis. After several months, Rufus II, as the poodle became known, was a permanent part of Winston's life.


Winston with Rufus II in 1950.

Image Source: Country Life


To end, I leave you with some photographs of Winston Churchill with Fala, the presidential Scottie:


Fala (center) sitting between President Roosevelt's feet at the Atlantic Charter Conference in August 1941. Winston Churchill is seated next to Fala and the President.

Image Source: FDR Library on twitter


Winston Churchill with Fala and Diana Hopkins (daughter of White House aide Harry Hopkins) at the White House in 1941.

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