Ellen Wilson’s brother, Edward Axson, who graduated from Princeton, wrote to the Wilson children in 1900 about his new job, but they were probably more interested in his reports about Christmas and about his puppy, Prince. “I think he will make a good hunting dog when he gets bigger.” Prince liked to steal shoes from the mine foreman. There are references to dogs scattered throughout the collections, but nothing on the Wilson family having a dog. Margaret Wilson wrote to her father a couple of years later about Cousin Mary having a dog with distemper. The print edition of the the Woodrow Wilson Papers holds this odd anecdote that he told during a speech to mark the inauguration of Charles Richmond to the presidency of Union College:
I used to have an old dog to whom I was very much attached. He was a big fellow, and he had a very aristocratic sense of honor. He would not fight any dog smaller than himself and he went blind, and was very unhappy, not because he could not see other things, but because he could not see to fight. Fighting was the end of his existence, and so whenever he perceived the presence of another dog, he would go and lay himself alongside of him to see how big the other dog was, and if he was not as big as he was, he would go sadly away, but if he was, the interesting proceedings would begin at once.
1909 June 7
Whether Wilson, the famous speaker, actually had such a pet is unclear. Perhaps this was Mountain Boy, the greyhound he had as a boy and frequently drew in his notebooks. While home for the summer from Princeton in 1877, Wilson helped his family give away a dog that he called a viscious little animal that had become a nuisance. A letter from his wife Ellen, when he was a professor in 1899, has a cryptic line about not being able to leave because of the dog.
The internet believes that the Wilsons had an Airedale named Davie while living in Washington. But a 1917 letter to Cary T. Grayson from HEC Bryant discusses the fate of Davie Bones, who went to live on a farm. “You must tell Miss Bones that Davies is in congenial company. If two dare-devils can like each other Davie and my brother Badger will be fast friends.” This dog appears to have been a replacement for another dog named Hamish that had been owned previously by Helen Bones. We are on firmer ground with the story of Bruce or “Whitestock Service Man” a bull terrier that an admirer presented to President Wilson, but this occurred in the last year of Wilson’s retirement, not his presidency. It does not appear that the Wilsons kept any dogs among their other pets in the White House.
A great many more dogs show up in the pictures of the men who served in the military during the Wilson years held in the WWPL collections. Sometimes these dogs appear as unit mascots.
Even Dr. Grayson takes part in a group dog picture.
More often though, we find individual soldiers pictured with their dogs. These can pictures with the dog at home in America before heading out.
Sometimes though, we also see the men in a training camp taking turns getting personal pictures with the dog they all had befriended.
Nothing to remind you of home and normal life like a friendly dog.