Thursday, March 6, 2008
Dachshunds in History: Mimi, A Most Unpopular Dog During WW2
We love to see old photos and hear the old stories of our forefathers, and this is a great one. As German dogs, we've had some untowardly problems with popularity in our history, and this story documents such a tale of little black and tan smooth 'Mimi' of Bridport, Dorset, UK, and her human, Sheila Naish, during WW2.
This comes from the point of view of a child who grew up in a small market town on the South Coast: Bridport, in Dorset. I was seven years old on 3rd September 1939, as uninterested in the one o'clock news from the BBC as I was in the cricket results, both of which demanded absolute silence over the dinner table. I took the war for granted, just as I did my strictly middle-class, middle of the road lifestyle.
Bridport had a population of some 8,000 at the beginning of the war. The local industry, net and twine manufacture received a considerable boost with the demand for camouflage netting. My father was Borough Accountant, in a reserved occupation, much to his disgust. He took on additional roles of ARP Warden and Secretary (or Chairman?) of the local National Savings Committee. My mother, a qualified musician, took private singing pupils at home. Both had a lively interest in amateur theatricals and were constantly putting on concerts to entertain the troops posted in large numbers to the south coast.
In the 1930's I led what you might regard as a pampered existence as houses on the very edge of the town. I attended a private school some two miles away. We walked or cycled everywhere of course - the sound of a motor vehicle grinding up our steep cul-de-sac was still rare enough to bring the neighbours out to their gates.
Spoiled or not, the war permeated everything, the war changed everything.
Our black and tan dachshund, Mimi, had arrived in a crate from breeders in Harrogate, a trembling jellied eel of a pup, who turned out to be only dachshund in our town and attracted considerable notice She settled and matured.
Then, overnight the poor animal became unpopular, vilified That dachshund or that German Sausage dog now target for hostile comments, e gobbets of spit - so much so that we tended to leave her at home when a walk up town was planned - quick to realize the pointlessness of trying to explain that she had not actually emanated from Germany. The correct pronunciation or translation of the breed was habitually received, coldly. Mimi was anathema and in her turn learned to keep her head down in public.
But the war still trembled on the brink. Perhaps we only half believed it could affect our little routines. One summers day we took an ordinary day out of the kind that would seem laughable a few months later - a trip by train to Weymouth, 21 miles away, dawdled on the sill available beach, wandered round the shops.
There, somehow, Mimi got lost. Somehow we became separated. After a fruitless search we had no choice but to take the last train home, without her.
We spent a tearful, anxious night, and the following morning my mother went to Weymouth by thefirst train only to find the police totally unsympathetic in the fate of a German Sausage, and deeply absorbed inThe arrival of boatloads of refugees from France, Belgium or the Channel Islands. Everpractical, my mother hired a bike and toured promenade and beach areas, as well as visiting thelocal paper to insert an advertisement.
She repeated these labours with variations over the next four but the search became unrealistic the police increasingly hostile. Didn 't we know there was a war on. In any case the news from all quarters grew worse by the minute.
Three weeks after our ill-timed jaunt the household was wakened in the small hours by a desperate howling beneath my parents' window. Mimi had found her way home, some strong instinct had brought her along the coast and back to our house, two miles inland. Thin as a rag she was sustained over the next few days by Horlicks with beaten eggs. How could such stumpy legs have travelled so far? When the story appeared in the local paper Mimi's reputation soared and she ceased to be the target of local distaste.
This story was submitted to the People`s War site by Alan Magson of Age Concern, Bradford & District, on behalf of Sheila Naish. More from the author can be found at the link.
WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar
If you enjoyed this, don't miss Dachshunds in History: The Saga of Sgt. Wally D. Hund