Thursday, December 6, 2018

DAY 47: Cairn Terriers. The Churchill Family Dog.

Cairn Terrier puppy
Any one who knows me understands that my dogs are family. I have been owned for much of my life by terriers--Airedales and Westies, in fact--and I'd be absolutely blissful if a rescue Scottie came my way. I'd have been open to gratuitously adding a dog as a character in That Churchill Woman without a second thought. But happily, Jennie was also smitten with terriers. And thus we have an opportunity to discuss what happens when Research and Fiction collide.

Jennie shared her time with Cairns. These are smallish terriers, around fifteen pounds of fighting weight, that are happy-go-lucky rodent hunters bred in the rocky landscape of Scotland. Here's a close-up of Jennie holding hers in the mid-1880s.

searched valiantly for some clue as to this pup's name, origins, age--anything that might inform his (or her) existence in the novel. I found nothing. No reference to canines appears in her letters. Had Jennie lived before the historical turning-point of photographic archives, we might never have known she owned dogs at all. 

But then I stumbled over these two pictures of her teenaged sons in childhood, posing on an immense bit of statuary at Blenheim. And being kids, they're taking turns posing with their dog.
Winston, left and Jack Churchill, with terrier


Jack, left, and Winston Churchill, with terrier
That doesn't look like a Cairn, you say. That looks like some aberrant Yorkie. True, but most terriers were mixed in breeding up to the turn of nineteenth century. Scotties, Westies, Skye Terriers and Cairns were ambiguously known as the catch-all Scotch Terriers. It was only in 1913 that the Cairn was standardized; and as any terrier owner knows, a dog in need of a grooming can look like any sort of clown. The dog pictured above is crying out for grooming.

I was reasonably confident as a result of these images that I could insert a few Cairns into Jennie's life. The first, acquired in Newport after the death of her sister Camille, is Nero; a later descendant is named for Napoleon Bonaparte. Cairns, like all terriers, are small of stature but great of heart. They deserve the names of the Mighty.


For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 



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