We acknowledge that we live and work on unceded Indigenous territories and we thank the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations for their hospitality.


Cover: Muggins: The Life and Afterlife of a Canadian Canine War Hero

Muggins: The Life and Afterlife of a Canadian Canine War Hero

By Grant Hayter-Menzies

Review By Jody Hodgins

December 18, 2023

BC Studies no. 219 Autumn 2023  | p. 139-140

Muggins is a thought-provoking biography of a canine war hero and his efforts to collect funds in support of the Canadian war effort. Grant Hayter-Menzies, relates Muggins’ life story simultaneously to histories of the animal-human relationship, women’s and children’s organizational support for the war effort, histories of animals at war, histories of returning veterans, and the history of animals in empire. He tackles difficult questions related to Muggins’ training and desire to fundraise for the war effort and discusses the role of taxidermy and animal mascots not simply to illustrate Muggins’ life in intrinsic detail but as a gateway to understanding Muggins as a national symbol.

Divided into nine chronological chapters, Hayter-Menzies begins by taking us on his journey of discovering Muggins’ story and the challenges he navigated to write a thoroughly researched biography of an animal who could not tell his own story. Hayter-Menzies successfully identifies Muggins’ comfortable upper-class beginnings within the context of Victorian society to trace Muggins’ transition to a dutiful dog who was regularly seen “trotting about with the rattling tins at either side, Muggins learned the more coins, the happier [his owner and fundraisers] when the tins were turned out and the cash counted” (64). Working alongside women and children, Hayter-Menzies situates Muggins’ fundraising efforts within histories of the Canadian Home Front before continuing with chapters on Muggins’ rise to fame and the toll “heroism” took overtime, inflicting “serious physical limitations” (94).

As the war ended, Muggins’ heroism was on display in Armistice parades, sitting atop an ambulance that his collections helped pay for (111-112). Hayter-Menzies efficaciously illustrates how Muggins continued his fundraising efforts by supporting the building of the Equimalt Convalescent Hospital (120) and assisting veterans as they returned from war. The fame and heroism Muggins achieved is best emphasized in his analysis of Muggins’ photographic post-cards, two of which were taken with Sir Arthur Currie and Prince Edward, then Prince of Wales. His comprehensive analysis of the post-cards offers insight about the dog’s importance and personality, noting that he chooses to believe the picture with Prince Edward was taken “the moment before the prince knelt to greet the little dog personally, calming, and reassuring him as he said “In the name of the Empire, I salute you!”” (131).

The final chapters discuss Muggins’ Last Christmas and his afterlife, displayed as a mascot to continue his fundraising efforts. Hayter-Menzies offers a critical examination of Muggins’ taxidermy; assessing the dog’s expression, realism, and relating the canine mascot to other animals, like Florence Nightingale’s dog, Jack. He traces Muggins’ last remains and invites readers into a discussion about animals as mascots and the roles animals fulfilled in wars that were not of their making.

Where the sources available do not support a conclusive understanding of Muggins’ life, Hayter Menzies uses “creative musings” and interpretation of images and newspaper clippings to paint a picture that allows the reader to step foot into Muggins’ environment (19). In doing so, the reader feels as though they are standing on a busy street in Victoria, at Victoria harbour where Muggins could be seen collecting from those boarding and offloading from ships, or at a busy intersection where Muggins stood excitedly in anticipation of the next donation. Hayter-Menzies’ illustrative language fills any holes left by a lack of written sources regarding Muggins’ life and sustains this representation of a historical moment.

Publication Information

Hayter-Menzies, Grant. Muggins: The Life and Afterlife of a Canadian Canine War Hero. Victoria: Heritage House Publishing. 2021. 224 pp. $22.95 paper.