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The story of Muggins, the Red Cross fundraising dog

Guest post by Paul Jenkins, Coordinator of the Victoria History Project

During wartime, the Canadian Red Cross provided comfort, support and supplies to soldiers overseas, as well as to the many people left at home. Many seniors today still have stories about the Red Cross’s positive impact on their family, especially during the two great wars of the 20th century.

One of the most beloved wartime stories involves a very special Red Cross volunteer, recruited to help at the Victoria, B.C. office. His name was Muggins. He stood about 12 inches high, and was, by all accounts, quite adorable.

Muggins was a white Spitz dog, owned by Mrs G.W. Woodward of Victoria, and gave his life to the cause of supporting the Canadian Red Cross during World War I. He operated from a mock bunker in a burned-out area in downtown Victoria, beside the present-day Bay Centre at Fort and Government streets. A Red Cross volunteer in uniform tended to him and he would set off each day -- by himself -- on a tour of the downtown area with two Red Cross donation boxes tied to his back. 

He was a familiar sight in Victoria, bringing cheer during the dark years of the Great War. He knew when his boxes were full and would return to his bunker at the end of his work. Over the course of his career, Muggins collected an astounding $21,000 and was awarded seven decorations for his work, including medals from the United States and France. He eventually died of pneumonia.

Google “Red Cross dog Muggins” and you will find tales of his adventures and the friends he made along the way.

Muggins may just be stories from years gone by and faded images on old postcards. Or is he really gone?

In a final twist, an old newspaper article has surfaced, reporting that Muggins’s body was handed over to a taxidermist to be mounted in a wartime memorial, possibly for display in the provincial Legislative Assembly. While we don’t know for sure if this actually happened, we would like to find out how the story ended.

If you’ve seen Muggins, or have heard where he may, um, be living, we’d like to know. Contact Paul Jenkins, Coordinator of the Victoria History Project: paul.jenkins@redcross.ca.
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