Alexine and ‘Trench Dogs’

AM-dogs001Alexine Mitchell, Marion Mitchell’s sister, went to France in December, 1916 and did not return until the Spring of 1920; she was there for almost 3 1/2 years. When she did come back to the US, she brought with her two dogs, Takou and Basoche. Takou was given to her as a puppy by a wounded soldier recovering in the hospital in Nancy where she was stationed; he had found the puppy in a trench. She acquired Basoche while hiking through the Pyrenees after the war. Both dogs only understood French commands. She bred the dogs and sold their puppies after returning to Alameda.

A more famous ‘trench dog’ was found as a puppy in a bombed dog kennel by Lee Duncan who was serving in France as an American Gunnery Corporal. He named his dog Rinty, also known as Rin-Tin-Tin and brought the dog home to the US. Realizing how smart his dog was, he took him to the Warner Bros studios to see if he could get him into the movies.  Rin-Tin-Tin ended upRin Tin Tin IV starring in 26 WB silent movies before he was ‘let go’. At one point it was reported that he was receiving 50,000 fan letters each month. His descendants went on to star in the 1950’s-1960’s TV show The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin and today a Rin-Tin-Tin, reputed to be the 12th descendent of the first one, is the spokesdog for the American Humane Association. A recent book – Rin-Tin-Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean has more information, if interested.

Every side fighting in WWI used dogs in the trenches; their jobs included being a sentry, scout, messenger, mascot, sniffing for explosives, finding the casualties and chasing the rats out of the trench. Sometimes they just helped boost the morale of the soldiers. It’s estimated that about 20,000 dogs were in the trenches with the British soldiers.