My Childhood Dog Was a Cold Warrior

Snapshots of life at home.
Aug. 15 2012 9:15 AM

Boopy Goes to Berlin

A Cold War memoir.

(Continued from Page 1)

And so after determining that my classmates and teacher didn’t pose any risks to national security, I got up one afternoon and told everyone about Boopy, repeating exactly what my father had told us:

  • Boopy had been drafted into the Army to fight in the Cold War, on orders from JFK himself. (“And he’s the president,” I added for my classmates who may have missed that memo.)
  • After basic training, he’d been posted to Berlin, where he’d been assigned to a clandestine wing of the Canine Commando Corps.
  • His mission was to dig tunnels under the Berlin Wall and drag people to freedom.
  • According to all reports, he was doing a fantastic job.
  • So fantastic in fact that Kennedy gave him a medal for it—and then gave him a second medal after Boopy went up to Nikita Khrushchev at the award ceremony and peed right on his leg!      

With my sense of geopolitics being a bit underdeveloped at the time, the idea of the Soviet premier being at an American military decorations ceremony didn’t seem odd. It didn’t seem odd to my kindergarten classmates either. After I told them the story, we marched around the classroom (well, at least the boys), waving a flag, hailing Boopy and his critical role in our impending triumph over the Red Menace. Soon, we wouldn’t have to cower anymore in the basement bomb shelter waiting for the “The Big One,” as the older guys called it as they smacked their fists into their palms.

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My teacher Mrs. Fath, however, did shoot me a somewhat dubious look. Sensing she might be less than convinced, I told her that my story about Boopy had to be true because my father had told me the story and he’d been in the Navy in World War II and he was a police officer now and he can’t lie because he could lose his job if he did. She let it go.

After a while, news from the front about Boopy faded, as did my curiosity about his fate. A year or so after Boopy had deployed, however, his memory was revived when President Kennedy went to Berlin. Sitting in front of the black-and-white television as Kennedy gave his famous speech, I listened intently for some indication Boopy was still alive but wound up disappointed.

Relaxing in his armchair, my father told me not to worry. Kennedy was speaking in a secret code that only he and Boopy could decipher. When the president said “Ich bin ein Berliner,” what he was really saying was “Keep up the good work there, pooch.” Then my father raised a glass in Boopy’s honor. Meanwhile, the evening news cut to footage of German shepherds patrolling the barbed-wire no man’s land near the Berlin Wall. They looked ferocious, capable of ripping apart anyone trying to escape. But I knew that Boopy could run rings around them. Dig tunnels underneath them, too.

William McGowan is author of Coloring the News and Gray Lady Down.

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