I started working with Queen Elizabeth II in 1983. I received a call from her veterinary surgeon, who told me his client had a pack of dogs who wouldn’t stop fighting one another.
At first, he was quite coy and didn’t explain who the client was, but as soon as he indicated the location and the breed of dog—nine Pembroke Welsh Corgis who lived at Windsor Castle—I was pretty certain that it was the Queen.
Of course, I felt nervous, anxious, and humbled. Shortly after the phone call, I was taken to Her Majesty’s royal residence. I was introduced to her in the castle’s personal family rooms, where she went through my history and checked out my credentials. The consultation lasted around two hours. She was very passionate and distressed that things were not going well with her dogs.
Back then my views on the Royal Family were fairly neutral, unspoken. One just took the British monarchy for granted, because it was always there and unchanging. But meeting the Queen in person impressed me; her approachability, her interest in asking relevant questions about me. She immediately put me at ease.
Her Majesty was so skilful at making people comfortable, no matter what their role or function was. She had dealt with countless people in various capacities throughout the course of her professional years; so talking to her about something as personal as her dogs, who I felt were like family to her, was very surreal.
It was very clear the Queen was the person who determined everything that went on with her corgis, she did not delegate decision-making about them to anyone else. I’m sure she required help from the household to care for them, but it was obvious these were her personal dogs.
Early on in the consultation, I did hint that having nine dogs in a single pack, unless constantly supervised by someone appropriately equipped, was too many. She rather cuttingly responded to me: “Dr. Mugford, Prince Philip has already told me that I have too many dogs. If I wanted advice of that sort I could have saved your fee.”
My advice was to let numbers of the pack diminish, while implementing a device that uses compressed air to create a sound that would break up fights between the group. Shortly after our meeting, one of the corgis, called Chipper, who was an instigator of the fights, was dispatched to Princess Anne’s home at Gatcombe Park, where he lived out the rest of his life.
I did emphasize she should not obtain any more puppies. Her Majesty mated her female dogs from time to time and I suspected the temptation to keep a few puppies was very strong. The Queen had a very soft heart for corgis in particular.
I know she often walked her Corgis on the lead, usually three at a time, but I expect within castle and palace walls they were essentially free. The sheer number of dogs was a very impressive sight. Of course, she knew each one by name.
Her Majesty would supervise when and where her corgis were fed. I once witnessed mealtime and saw staff from the kitchen enter the room with a large tray carrying nine individual bowls. They weren’t standard dog bowls, they were made of china, porcelain, and silver.
There was no commercial dog food in sight. They were fed recipes that Her Majesty herself would determine, which included homeopathic vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure their health and longevity. She really was a very hands-on owner.
I was even told by sources close to Her Majesty that she would always personally pick up her dog’s mess during a walk. Now, whenever I see a dog owner who doesn’t pick up after their dog I say: “If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for you!”
In 2016, Her Majesty had decided not to own any more corgis and went years without the companionship of her beloved dogs.
However, when Prince Philip was hospitalized in 2021, her son, Prince Andrew, gifted the Queen two puppies, Fergus and Muick, to cheer her up. When Fergus sadly died, he later donated another corgi, named Sandy, as a replacement.
I’m glad that in her latter years she had the company of those dogs, which she loved so much. I’m pleased her corgis helped her through those tough times, including the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh. I think psychologically it was so important for her happiness.
I expect her two remaining corgis, Muik and Sandy, were used to being cared for by various other members of the Royal Family, including the Duke of York. It’s actually very pleasing to me that they are going to be living in Prince Andrew’s home, the Royal Lodge on Windsor Great Park.
I visited the Royal Lodge to work with Prince Andrew’s Norfolk Terriers three years ago. I saw the environment at Windsor Great Park, which is obviously a pretty darn good place for a corgi to be.
It will be a perfect setting for those dogs, it’s fully fenced and escape-proof. Dogs form a strong attachment to a location, especially the wider geographical area. It’s kind of like a magnetic compass for telling them where they are in the grand scheme of things. So, they will know they’re at Windsor, despite not being in the castle. I think it’s the perfect outcome.
I believe that because much of the dog’s care would have been delegated to household staff, especially during the latter days of Her Majesty’s life, the corgis will cope rather well with the change of circumstances.
Her Majesty was such a nice person. She was clever, observant, and skilful. I believe her overriding concern was always the fair treatment of her horses and of her dogs. I think her work and patronages within various animal organizations throughout her life reflects her unwavering commitment to their welfare.
Dr. Roger Mugford is one of Britain’s leading animal psychologists, author and animal welfare advocate. You can visit his website here.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
As told to Monica Greep.
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