This weekend Boyfriend and I did some spring cleaning. Buried away underneath years of notebooks, papers, and writing pads, I found a poem I had written when I was nine, about the kittens my aunt and uncle’s cat had just given birth to. In splits over the dodgy meter of my poem, and over how, as a kid, I would obsessively write rhyming words in a square on the top right corner of the paper before I started the poem itself, I told Boyfriend all about the kittens Toto, Bhutto, and Charlie, who were a regular part of my life for a few years.
White and black piebalds, Toto, Bhutto, and Charlie had been thus named for very specific reasons. Toto was named after a rock band from the 1970s, a time when my aunt and uncle were young and romantic, and liked to think of themselves as rebels. Bhutto, a glutton often found stealing food from her brothers, was named in mockery of a Pakistani Prime Minister with a proclivity for corruption. Charlie was born with a brief swatch of black across his upper lip, and was therefore named after the great Charlie Chaplin.
“Of course, he was as much Adolf Hitler as Charlie Chaplin,” I said, “but no one would want to name their pet Hitler.” Mocking a corrupt politician is one thing, but naming your pet for a genocidal fascist is a whole other level of unacceptable.
“Actually,” Boyfriend began. “Did you know during the second world war, the Nazis tried to prosecute a dog called Hitler, because he did the Nazi salute as a party trick?”
Let me tell you the story the way my nine-year-old self would have told you about Toto, Bhutto, and Charlie:
In a town called Tampere, a long time ago
A dog had a trick that he really liked to show.
He flung his arm in the air, and he flexed his paw
(What treats was he given? I’d really like to know.)
His name was Jackie, and he was a Dalmatian
He lived in Finland, a Nazi-friendly nation.
But his German mistress, the sultry Josefine
Thought the Fuhrer had led her country to damnation.
She liked making fun of him, the sultry Josefine
She liked her husband Tor Borg, who was just as keen
To poke fun at Hitler, to take him down a notch,
Oh, Jackie’s Nazi salute – it just had to be seen!
So they threw a bunch of soirees, fixed up a party
(Nothing like Der Fuhrer’s) it was hearty, and arty!
Jackie was an instant hit; they laughed, “Look, it’s Hitler!”
So he raised one more salute, that dog was a smarty!
But the year was 1941, a war was nigh.
Fear was growing from the earth and raining from the sky.
The German Vice Consul heard of Jackie’s party trick
And decreed with a psychotic luft, “That dog must die!”
So, to the Vice Consul went the gentle Tor Borg
(I’m sure that he felt he was heading to the morgue.)
It wasn’t just the dog, it was his business too
His supplies came from Germany, not Luxembourg.
With his heart in his mouth, he arrived in Helsinki
With great foreboding, he alighted from his dinky
“His name’s Jackie, not Hitler, he’s done no canine crimes.”
Please, just let me go, he prayed, biting on his pinkie.
But the German Vice Consul, Willy Erkelenz
He knew he had the upper hand; this, he could sense.
He growled at Borg a while, the Reich had trained him well
He laughed as Borg stood there, his eyes lowered, brow tense.
Others laughed too, like a Union named Soviet
(Playing, unusually, a role quite appropriate.)
As Willy took the case of Jackie to Der Fuhrer
The Allies pushed the Reds: “Attack and expropriate!”
Caught like a kipper, like a willy in a zipper
Unwilling the Reich slipped, a lily in a clipper!
It was washed with blood, the long road to Barbarossa
But back in cold Tampere, ol’ Jackie was chipper!
Now, you know how this ends, you’re not a green-eared calf
The Nazis were vicious, but too clever by half.
As the world trod slow, the floors of purgatory
Jackie lived happy and long, a bark like a laugh.
(All cartoon images from Disney’s Der Fuhrer’s Face, and Education for Death.)