The Diary of Two Red Cross Dogs
For next week’s primary source presentation, I chose “The Diary of Two Red Cross Dogs,” a fanciful story found within the pages of an issue of The Red Cross Magazine from 1918. I chose this particular primary source due to its representation of the other evidence that will ultimately support my argument in my final research project. Indeed, a large part of my project involves examining the ways by which dogs were presented to the civilian public in order to boost morale on the home front during World War I. This article, published most likely in several allied nations during the Great War, tells the story of two small dogs named Rags and Tags. Though not the traditional war dogs that were used during the war, these dogs instead were tasked with collecting money for the Red Cross with the little boxes attached to their collars. As mentioned above, this is an entirely fanciful depiction of these dogs, jotting down their thoughts as they fulfill their wartime duties. And yet, its significance cannot be overlooked.
One depiction of dogs during World War I included those dogs that became mythical creatures. That is, those dogs whose stories were so exaggerated and at times unbelievable that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Nevertheless, these kinds of stories were critical to civilian morale. These heroic dogs made the horrors of wartime more palatable and made the muddling through of everyday life a bit easier. It also allowed for civilians to learn the successes of their own dogs they sent to the front, to perhaps understand a bit better that every little contribution can help, and to give a more humane element to the nightmare of new technologies and new, cruel wartime innovations.
How are dogs depicted in this particular primary source? In “The Diary of Two Red Cross Dogs,” Rags and Tags are presented as two spirited canines devoted to doing their duty. The diary is composed of what is supposed to be their thoughts as they become official Red Cross dogs and as they collect money alongside their owners. Certainly, this is not to be taken entirely seriously as we as humans can have no idea what these dogs are feeling or thinking. Nevertheless, this widely available article most likely put a few smiles on some otherwise dreary faces and brightened up an otherwise dismal time. Thus, though it is difficult to measure precise reactions to articles such as “The Diary of Two Red Cross Dogs,” it can be surmised that dogs like Rags and Tags aided in continued perseverance on the home front.
March 2, 2015 @ 7:38 am
Do you know why the Red Cross produced this magazine and who might have read it? That may not be a necessary question if you are finding similar stories about homefront dogs in other sorts of publications where you can intuit a broad audience? Also wondering if the Red Cross talked about/used dogs in other contexts?
March 2, 2015 @ 8:47 am
Hi Dr. Jones,
I have not yet discovered why the Red Cross produced such magazines but I think it would be interesting to unearth their reasoning if possible. Also, I have not found a great deal about homefront dogs therefore, I am not entirely sure how unique this source is. I will definitely do a bit more digging there!
The Red Cross did talk about and use dogs in other contexts. Another of my primary sources is a training manual produced by the Red Cross that is chock full of stories about the exploits of various dogs on the war front. In fact, most of the Red Cross reports concern those dogs that were used for a variety of purposes in battle and not just for ambulance or medical work.
March 2, 2015 @ 11:40 am
I wonder if there are any similar publications by the Red Cross from earlier in the war. Obviously, the U.S. was involved in the war effort for a short time in comparison to other European forces. I was curious if you have found any other publications that were different or similar to the one you chose? Also, I think that using stories where it is hard to separate fact from fiction may lead you into some interesting directions. It reminds me of our myth and memory readings from Oral History last semester. It doesn’t matter if the story is factual. What is important is what you can learn from a story or myth about the people who produced the work and the people who read the stories. I’ll be interested to see how the tales of the war dogs are interpreted and how you navigate through the facts and fictions, if those even matter in relation to their importance in the war effort and morale.
March 2, 2015 @ 11:49 am
I have not found any similar publications just yet but I will definitely look into other Red Cross magazines published earlier in the war, particularly in mid to late 1914 and 1915. I believe this magazine was made widely available in other countries as well as the United States so I am sure there is more out there that I will be able to unearth with just a bit more digging.
I have also not found any similar stories about dogs on the home front, especially one as ‘fanciful’ as this one seems to be. There are surely more out there so again, I will just need to do a bit more looking. And I agree with your thoughts on myth completely; that’s something I had nearly forgotten from oral history, thank you for the reminder!
March 2, 2015 @ 11:55 am
Much like Dr. Jones, I’m curious about who the intended audience was for this particular publication. You mention that it was likely circulated in several Allied nations–is there any way to find out which ones? Would this change how it can be interpreted? Does its publication date help you to understand any shifts in publicity or perception?
March 2, 2015 @ 11:59 am
The intended audience is a bit tricky to pin down and it is something that I need to research a bit more into. I agree, this will most likely change how this is interpreted. I would think that a European audience would perhaps be a little less amused by these dogs with a diary, particularly after they have been entrenched in the Great War for a few years. I think the date is also important as you noted. It was published after America entered the war and as we had limited involvement overall, it is perhaps easy to surmise that Americans would have been much more perceptive to such an embellished story, particularly near the beginning of our involvement. Great questions, thank you!
Kevin "Tiny" Dawson
March 2, 2015 @ 1:07 pm
I really enjoyed your selection for your primary source, t was quite entertaining. I have a sense that these publications were meant to show the happenings within the Red Cross and for supporters to keep up with the news from around the country and world. As for the story itself, I am sure that it was meant to continue with a fundraising project “by” the dogs. Again, this was a fascinating read. Do you think that the Red Cross touted Rags and Tags as heroes of sorts or was this meant to be just a cute story to get people to donate for a cause?
March 2, 2015 @ 1:26 pm
Thanks for your feedback! I am not entirely sure if the Red Cross touted Rags and Tags as heroes. Interestingly, when I Googled “Red Cross Rags and Tags” nothing came up pertaining to those two particular dogs, not even the Red Cross magazine that their story is found in. Thus, I think this may have just been a “cute” story as you said to urge people (and probably Americans, specifically) to donate to the Red Cross cause.