DookieIt was in July 1933 that His Majesty the King - then Duke of York - saw a Pembrokeshire Corgi bitch, Rozavel Prima, which belonged to Viscount Weymouth. This little bitch, with her marvellous repertoire of tricks and her delightful character, so capitvated His Majesty that he decided to buy a puppy for Princess Elizabeth.
The puppy, Rozavel Golden Eagle, bred by Thelma Gray, was bright red in colour and was sired by Ch. Crymmych President ex Ch. Golden Girl. Mrs. Gray had taken three puppies up to 145 Piccadilly for the Duke of York and his family to make a selection. His Majesty chose his dog from a trio of three jolly puppies chiefly because it had a slightly longer tail than the other two. "I would like him to have something to wag," said the Queen, "otherweise we won't know if he is pleased or not."
Dookie with his parents
People have often wondered how "Dookie" got his name. When he was first chosen to be Princess Elizabeth's playmate, he did not answer to anything other than "pup". As he was not yet house-trained Mrs Gray boarded him for a few weeks until the Royal family went to Windsor, as they thought it would give the puppy a better start in his new home to introduce him to their country house rather than to bring him straight to London where they resided at the time. Mrs Gray's kennelman assured her that upon his return, the puppy was so pleased with himself and so proud of the honour conferred upon him and his breed, that he refused from that day forward to eat out of the same dish as the rest of the litter! He somehow was always referred to as "the Duke," which gradually became shortened to "Dukie," and finally, in the kennelman's Yorkshire dialect, to "Dookie." When he was delivered to his new owners, the King asked if he answered to any particular name. It was with some embarrassment that Mrs. Gray confessed that he answered to "Dookie" and hastened to explain the origin of his name. His Majesty was greatly amused, and at once decided to keep the name and so "Dookie" he was.
Dookie was the subject of many articles in the Press, his photographs appearing in all the leading newspapers, and thanks to him, Corgis received a great deal of publicity. The breed seemed to confuse the reporters as Dookie was described from time to time as "a Labrador puppy," a "Welsh Sheepdog" and a "Wesh Terrier" (this last was the most common of all). However, the fact that the little dog was a Pembrokeshire type corgi became understood in time, and the result was an unprecetented demand for the breed. People who had been glad to sell puppies at 30 shillings, or even less, were able to dispose of whole litters at prices ranging from four guineas per puppy, and the progeny of champion parents fetched consideraby more. Corgis had come to stay.
Like all corgis Dookie was a wonderfully healthy, active and hardy dog. The Princesses would feed him themselves, and take him long treks through Windsor Park. They taught him all kinds of tricks which he willingly performed for a piece of chocolate cake to which he was particularly partial. One of his most successful acts was to play leap-frog with Princess Margaret, leaping to-and-fro over her back as she knelt down.
Princess Elizabeth with Jane (left) and Dookie
So popular was Dookie with his master that King George three years later decided to buy another corgi, Rozavel Lady Jane (Ch. Crymmych President ex Pippin of Cogges) so that Dookie could have a puppy as heir. However the King's plans for a palace full of puppies was doomed to failure. Dookie would have none of Jane.
Despite this a new match for Jane was made in October 1938 and on Christmas Eve she had her puppies with Thelma Gray's Tafferteffy. The princesses gave them all festive names and two named Crackers and Carol were kept. Unfortunately Carol showed herself subject to fits and one sad day had to be put gently to sleep. Crackers grew on to be a dog of beautiful looks and charming character and soon became the Queen Mother's favourite. He died in the fall of 1953.
Dookie died shortly after the outbreak of World War II and shortly after his death a poem was published allegedly written by Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984), a popular British poet and author, but it was most probably an anonymous pastiche of his style.
On the Death of Dookie, the Royal Corgi
Dear old Dookie! Now he's resting
In his kennel in the sky.
Times like these are rather testing:
Dead dogs make one want to cry.
Lively Corgi, I recall him
Nipping at my ankle bone
On that very special morning
As I knelt before the throne.
How he made the Palace brighter
With his funny little ways.
Once he ate a Bishop's mitre;
Oh my word, what happy days.
Now, alas, his bark is muzzled.
All around is drear and glum.
Unope'd stands the food once guzzled:
Tins of Pal and cans of Chum.
Royal servant, faithful fellow,
Will we see his like again?
Though the days are turning mellow
We could still be in for rain.
* * * * *
Jane was tragically run over and killed in 1944 by one of the estate employees working in Windsor Park.
As a replacement Princess Elizabeth was given her own Corgi for her 18th birthday on 21 April 1944. The two month old puppy was named Susan (Hickathrift Pippa by Glamorous Knight) and was to become the later Queen's faithful companion for almost 15 years. She even followed the Princess on her honeymoon with Prince Philip. Nearly all of Queen Elizabeth's present corgis go back to Susan's first litter with Ch. Rozavel Lucky Strike in 1949.
Susan is buried in the park of Sandringham estate where all the royal corgis are buried.
"Susan, born 20.02.44, died 26.01.59
for almost 15 years the faithful companion of the Queen".