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Mackenzie King on his dog, 'My little friend Pat'

With his cautious policies and shrewd political skills, he successfully led Canada for almost 22 years. But behind closed doors, he held secret séances and had frequent conversations with his dead mother. As Canada's longest-serving prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King's public persona was staid and serious. After his death in 1950, however, his fascinating private life slowly came to light.

They say dog is man's best friend. But in Mackenzie King's case, that's an understatement. In this heartfelt speech -- recorded in 1944 by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters -- King describes how his "little friend Pat" taught him about honour and fidelity: "If I have been true to some of the great causes that I have sought to remain true to, it's been the example of that little fellow that has helped in many, many ways."

To commemorate King's 25th anniversary as Liberal leader, the CAB had given the prime minister a bronze statue of himself with his dog. King was immensely touched by the gesture.
When this speech is replayed on CBC Radio's Don Harron's Morningside in 1978, Harron is surprised at the highly uncharacteristic candour expressed by King. "Well, that must be the best political speech that Mackenzie King ever made, because it shows the man," says Harron.
• Mackenzie King's close friends, Godfroy and Joan Patteson, gave him a male Irish terrier in July 1924. King named the dog Pat.
• Pat soon became King's closest friend and companion.

• Throughout Pat's lifetime, King almost always mentioned his dog in his daily diary entries. On July 7, 1939, for example, he described a wonderful walk he took with Pat that day with an almost religious reverence. He praised his little friend as "a god-sent little angel in the guise of a dog... a dear little saviour, that is what he is in his faithfulness...asking only to be near one and to share the companionship of perfect trust."

• Pat died on July 15, 1941. King buried him near the ruins at Kingsmere.
• Journalist Bruce Hutchison wrote a fairly lengthy obituary for Pat in the Victoria Times. Of the beloved political pet, Hutchison wrote: "He was a more familiar figure in Ottawa than many politicians and, I fancy, knew a great deal more." Hutchison described Pat as an ever-present entity at Laurier House. "Laurier House will be a lonely, gloomy place without him," wrote Hutchison.

• King received another dog, Pat II, from the Pattesons shortly after the first Pat's death in 1941. Pat II became King's new canine companion.
• Pat II died in 1947, and was also buried at Kingsmere.
• King adopted his third dog, Pat III, in 1948 as he was preparing to retire from politics. Pat III was King's companion until King died in 1950. Afterwards, Pat III was given to King's friends.

• This speech about Pat is remarkable in its sharp contrast to King's usual stiff, wordy speeches. Historian Michael Bliss puts it this way in his book Right Honorable Men: The Descent of Politics from Macdonald to Mulroney: "King's greatest weakness was his inability to write or deliver a good speech in public. He had no oratorical or personal charisma, and was intensely self-conscious and nervous whenever he had to give a formal speech or lead-off debate in the House."
Medium: Radio
Program: Don Harron's Morningside
Broadcast Date: March 7, 1978
Guest: Ernie Dick
Host: Don Harron
Speaker: William Lyon Mackenzie King
Duration: 3:42
Photo: National Archives of Canada

Last updated: August 21, 2013

Page consulted on December 19, 2013

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