K-9 Veterans Day

I made these two wallpapers for K-9 Veterans Day some time ago and I’m not sure I’ve ever shared both of them in a blog post. Click the images for nice large versions that you can use as computer wallpaper or share on Facebook. Please check our copyright page for any questions on how you can use or edit them.

Both wallpapers were created using military press-release photos that are in the public domain, and edited using Photoshop.

The group of dogs pictured in the background of both photos represent some of the breeds that have been used as military working dogs by the US armed forces. From left to right, they’re the Belgian Malinois, Doberman, mixed-breeds, Labrador Retriever, and Husky. The dog silhouette with the handler in both photos is a German Shepherd.

Both Dobermans and Huskies were used in World War II. Dobermans were used by the Marine Corps, where they worked as sentry and messenger dogs. Huskies were used by the Army to pull dog sleds and carry packs with equipment. The Army was planning to use sled dog teams to evacuate wounded soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge, but before they were able to deploy the dogs from airfields in France, the weather started to warm up and a lot of the snow melted.

Labrador Retrievers are commonly used as detection dogs trained to find explosives and IEDs. German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois make up the majority of the canine workforce in the military.

The dog shown in the center above is Sergeant Stubby. Stubby was a mixed-breed dog, often identified as a pit bull (though period publications refer to him as a “Boston terrier mix”), who served as a mascot during World War I. Adopted by a soldier and smuggled overseas on a troop ship, Stubby spent time in the trenches with his unit and learned to alert them of gas attacks. He’s even credited with catching a German spy behind the lines. Stubby is often called “the only war dog to be promoted through combat”, although Stubby was never actually a war dog and all his promotions were honorary. After the war, his owner brought him back to the US and he served as the mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas.

Infamous: Hitler’s Dogs

It’s probably painfully obvious that we’re some real history nerds here at Dogs for Defense K-9, since a large portion of our mission revolves around teaching about the history of military working dogs. Naturally, we also have a big interest in the history of our two favorite breeds, the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois. So it comes as no surprise that we’ve done a little bit of research into a group of dogs you might not have heard a whole lot about: Hitler’s dogs.

Adolf Hitler, as most people are aware, owned a German Shepherd named Blondi, whom he poisoned using a cyanide pill just prior to committing suicide himself, along with his lover Eva Braun, inside the bunker in Berlin as the city was being taken over by Russian troops in April 1945. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that Blondi wasn’t Hitler’s only German Shepherd. In fact, the dictator was a dog lover. He liked most breeds with the exception of Boxers and lap dogs (of any variety), and he hated cats (whom he was also allergic to).

World War One

The first dog that makes it into the pages of our history books is a terrier by the name of Fuchsl (meaning “little fox,” and sometimes Anglicized as Foxl in historic narrative), who “leaped into Hitler’s trench during World War I and stayed with him for a year and a half.” (Dr. Boria Sax, “Animals in the Third Reich.”) Fuchsl happened into Hitler’s life suddenly. As author Robb Fritz embellishes, “A small white Jack Russell terrier, apparently the property of an English soldier, was chasing a rat and inadvertently jumped in the trenches where Hitler was stationed.” (Robb Fritz, “Heel Hitler.”)

It should be noted that, although there is no conclusive historic evidence that Fuchsl once belonged to an English soldier, it is a likely story: the muddy trenches of the First World War were commonly overrun by rats, and terriers, whose main purpose is to chase and kill rats, were a common sight. (Here’s a nice WWI photo postcard showing a rat terrier and a large number of rats killed in the trenches.) Regardless of where Fuchsl came from, historians agree that Hitler taught him tricks and that, when Fuchsl suddenly vanished after a year and a half, Hitler was devastated and believed his four-legged friend had been stolen. (Dr. Boria Sax, “Animals in the Third Reich.”)

Fuchsl with Hitler (left) and fellow soldiers during the Great War.

Fuchsl with Hitler (left) and fellow soldiers during the Great War. (No source.)

The Interwar Years

After the end of World War One, Hitler eventually to a Munich apartment at Prinzregentenplatz 16. It’s here that Hitler was first introduced to German Shepherd ownership, but it’s also here that the history of his dogs becomes a muddled, as not every historical account seems to agree which dog came first.

Author and historian James Wilson suggests that the first German Shepherd was given to Hitler was a gift in 1921 and that Hitler named him Prinz. (James Wilson, “Hitler’s Alpine Headquarters.”) Wilson writes, “Prinz was followed by another called Muck. In 1926, he acquired a bitch named Blonda. In 1930, Blonda had pups; Hitler kept one of these, calling her Blonda also.” (James Wilson, “Hitler’s Alpine Headquarters.”) What happened to Prinz isn’t mentioned by Wilson, but other authors suggest that Hitler was forced to give him away because he couldn’t afford to care for the dog at this time – Hitler lived in near poverty and was only just beginning to make a name for himself in the Nazi party. As there is a 1925 photograph of Hitler and Prinz, shown below, accounts that the dog “ran way from his new owners and returned to Hitler” after being given away may well be true.

1925 photo of Hitler and Prinz. Taken by Heinrich Hoffmann.

1925 photograph of Hitler and Prinz, taken by Heinrich Hoffman in Munich. Owned by Rudolf Herz Collection.

We don’t know very much about Hitler’s next dog, Muck (or Muckl, depending on the source) except that his full registered name was Muckl von der Korbinianslinde and that he was a black German Shepherd. Indeed, there’s a series of photographs and some video footage of Hitler in the mountains with a black German Shepherd, which is most likely Muck as contemporary accounts specifically refer to him as “Hitler’s black German Shepherd.” Some of those Hoffman photos, including the one below, are from the photo book “Hitler Wie Ihn Keiner Kennt” (The Hitler Nobody Knows) published originally in 1932, which also features Hitler with a German Shepherd, possibly Prinz, on the cover.)

Hitler in the Mountains with Muckl. Thought to be a Heinrich Hoffman photo.

Hitler in the Mountains with Muckl. Thought to be a Heinrich Hoffman photo.

We do know for sure that Hitler received his first female, Blonda, in 1926. Blonda was a purebred German Shepherd – her dam was Ally von der Grottenau and her sire was Armin von Riedekenburg. Unfortunately, little is known about either of these dogs today and Ally’s pedigree is not listed on the Pedigree Database, although another Von der Grottenau dog, Bella, is listed. Hitler then bred Blonda to Muck, which resulted in a litter of five puppies, out of which Hitler kept a female puppy whom he also named Blonda. Sources suggest that the puppies were named Astra, Blonda, Kora, Treu, and Wolf – but those names may have also been mixed up with names of the litter Blondi had in the bunker in 1945. (More about that later.)

In the photos below, we see two separate dogs, both named Blonda. Your guess is as good as mine as to which of these Blondas is the mother and which one is the daughter. The left photo was published with the caption, “The Fuehrer in his home Haus Wachenfeld,” with an additional caption reading, “The Fuehrer pictured in the conservatory at Haus Wachenfeld with his dog, Blonda.”

Two dogs named Blonda: which one's the mother and which one the daughter?

Two dogs named Blonda: which one’s the mother and which one the daughter?

World War Two

Although we don’t know a lot about Hitler’s earlier dogs, we do have a lot of information about his last German Shepherd, Blondi: she’s the one most often associated with Hitler, the one historians most often mention, and the one who was killed in the bunker in April 1945. (We’re so familiar with her that just about any photo we see published that features Hitler with a dog – any dog – tends to be labeled “Hitler and Blondi.”)¬† By the time Hitler gets Blondi, we know that Hitler’s black German Shepherd, Muck had passed away, but we don’t know he fate of Hitler’s Blondas – they may have either passed or retired to his kennels at the Berghof mountain retreat. (More about those kennels a little further down.)

Blondi was a young dog from a litter bred by Professor Gerdy Troost, the wife of architect Paul Ludwig Troost, and was given to Hitler in 1941 as a gift. (David Comfort, “The First Pet History of the World.”) Some historians believe that Martin Bormann gave Blondi to Hitler, but other accounts suggest that Hitler’s inner circle decided to make this gift to him after his German Shepherd Muck passed way. (Rochus Misch, “Der Letzte Zeuge.”) At any rate, it’s very obvious from the photographs, even for people who know little about dogs, that the young, skinny, sable Blondi is a very different dog from the shorter, thicker-built Blonda seen in previous photos.

Three photos of the young, sable-coated Blondi.

Three photos of the young, sable-coated Blondi.

Hitler’s Blondi was, by all means, a spoiled dog. She had her very own caretaker, military dog handler Feldwebel (Sergeant) Fritz Tornow, who was responsible for most of her training, as well as the majority of her daily care. Not only that, but when Blondi was sick, she was fed a special diet of lean raw meat and eggs. (Heinz Linge, “The Hitler Book.”) Blondi didn’t live in an outdoor kennel like so many regular dogs did in that time period: she had her own wooden box in Hitler’s room, slept at the foot of his bed most of the time, and was even allowed inside the sleeping compartment of his special train. During the last weeks in Berlin before Hitler poisoned Blondi, she lived inside the bunker with Hitler and his staff, having free run of one of the bunker’s bathrooms, which was nicknamed the “Hundebunker” (the dog bunker).

In May of 1942, Hitler acquired another German Shepherd, a female named Bella, from a postal official in Ingolstadt, to “keep his Blondi company.” (Goebbels’ Diary.) However, Bella did not accompany Hitler and Blondi for long before she was sent away to the Berghof: apparently she had the bad habit of getting up early, jumping on Hitler’s bed, and “pawing at him playfully” – since Hitler liked to stay up most of the night to “catch up on his reading,” that did not endear her to him. Nobody tells us what happens to Bella, but it’s very likely that she was kept at the Berghof where Hitler had a kennel facility. (It is possible that she is the black-and-tan dog in these photos.)

hitlerbella

Eva Braun and Hitler with a black-and-tan Shepherd: perhaps Bella?

Hitler’s kennels at the Berghof are mentioned in an article that was published in the British “Homes and Gardens” magazine in 1938. This blog has scans and transcripts of the article. Says the article, “All visitors are shown their host’s model kennels, where he breeds magnificent Alsatians. Some of his pedigree pets are allowed the run of the house…” (Better Homes and Gardens.) That article also includes a photo of Hitler with Muck (the one shown toward the top of this post), captioned “The Fuehrer in the garden, with one of his pedigreed Alsatians beside him.” Some sources suggest that Hitler had a kennel name for his breedings, “von Wachenfeld,” since his Berghof residence was also called “Haus Wachenfeld,” but that’s as much speculation as anything.

In addition to the article, some film footage exists of German Shepherd puppies running around the Berghof, which can be seen in color in the documentary “Hitler’s Private World Revealed.” A clip of this video can be found here, and is dated 1940 – which would put it after the “Homes and Gardens” article and before getting Blondi or Bella, who entered the scene in 1941 and 1942, respectively. Additional footage of this litter inside the Berghof with Eva Braun and her sister Gretl playing with them, can be found here.

Blondi wasn’t the only companion dog in the Hitler household, either. Hitler’s girlfriend, Eva Braun, also had two dogs, Scottish Terriers named Negus and Stasi. Although Hitler gave her the dogs, he didn’t like lap dogs in general and Scotch Terriers in particular, generally referring to Eva’s dogs asHandfeger” (hand brushes) and asked his photographers not to publish images of these dogs. Eva, in turn, was said to have disliked Blondi and, according to Traudl Junge, she would even kick her when Hitler wasn’t looking. (Traudl Junge, “Until the Final Hour.”) While Eva might have disliked Blondi, the young children of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels adored her and enjoyed having her as a playmate.

In fall of 1944, Hitler had special plans for Blondi: he planned to breed her to a suitable male from equally good lines as her own, and he selected Harrass, who belonged to Blondi’s breeder, Professor Gerdy Troost. There’s some debate regarding whether Blondi’s puppies were those of Harrass. Some authors suggest that Hitler attempted to breed Blondi to Harrass in fall of 1944, but that the breeding did not take, and that he then bred her to the dog of Alfred Rosenberg, which resulted in the litter born inside the bunker in Berlin on April 4, 1945.

At any rate, Blondi had a litter of puppies in the bunker where Hitler, his staff, and the Goebbels family were staying as the Russians closed in around the city. Hitler had a box for Blondi and her puppies in his bedroom, although they mostly had free run of one of the bunker’s bathrooms. (Well, Blondi had free run – the pups would have only been 26 days old on April 30th, the day Hitler killed himself.) According to accounts by Goebbels and Traudl Junge, the first male puppy of the litter was named Wolf, and Hitler could often be found carrying and caressing the puppy during the last days in the bunker.

At one point, Eva Braun wrote a letter to her sister Gretl, sending along a photo of Blondi nursing her puppies. The letter said that the puppy marked with an arrow in the photograph was the one Eva had picked out for Gretel. That photo can be found in Nerin E. Gun’s book “Eva Braun: Hitler’s Mistress.”

On April 30th (April 29th, according to some sources), Hitler had Blondi poisoned by Dr. Haase, one of his physicians, to test¬† the cyanide pills that were supplied by another physician, Dr. Stupfegger. Afterwards, her puppies were reportedly taken to the courtyard by dog handler Fritz Tornow and shot. Russian troops later recovered Blondi’s body, as well as that of one puppy, when they searched the area, but never made any mention of other puppies in their records, so we cannot say with absolute certainty what happened to them.

To add to the confusion – and let’s be honest, Hitler’s dogs get very confusing because – there’s mention of Blondi with puppies in October 1944. This begs for the question to be asked whether Blondi had two litters, or whether Bella had a litter that was misidentified as Blondi’s. (A dog’s average gestation time is 63 days, or just over two months … so even if someone were talking about Blondi being pregnant in October, she would have given birth long before April.)