837 Wapping Road, Portsmouth
“If there are no dogs in Heaven,
then when I die I want to go where they went.”
Ambrose Burnside. Stephen Hopkins. Richard Morris Hunt. Sissieretta Jones. Ida Lewis. H.P. Lovecraft. Metacomet. Elizabeth Alden Pabodie. Raymond Patriarca. Claiborne Pell. Matthew Perry. Oliver Hazard Perry. Anthony Quinn. Sunny von Bulow. Roger Williams.
You should know these names. They’re all famous, or were in their day. And to varying degrees, their fame shines on beyond their deaths. Apart from their notoriety they all have something else in common: whether they were politicians, actors, writers, singers, mob bosses, generals, Pilgrim offspring, architects, lighthouse keepers, Indian chiefs, or religious leaders—one and all, their mortal remains enrich the soil of Rhode Island.
And let it not be said that “royalty” shuns Rhode Island as a fitting place for eternal rest, for Pookie Windsor also sleeps her everlasting sleep beneath the comforting dirt blankets of the Ocean State.
You say you’ve never heard of her majesty, Pookie Windsor? Well, let me fill you in.
Pookie was the pet of the former King Edward VIII of England and his paramour, American divorcee Wallis Simpson—the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The couple began collecting dogs in 1934, and they brought them everywhere they went. Armchair psychologists speculate the dogs served as surrogate children, as the Windsors never had any human children of their own.
For the first several years of their marriage cairn terriers were the Windsor’s breed of choice. The first was a male brindled gray named Slipper, a present from Edward to Wallis at Christmas, 1934. Never properly house broken, Slipper was given the nickname Mr. Loo. Sadly, he was fatally bitten by a viper in Cande, France, in April 1937. Pookie, a cream colored female cairn terrier from Austria was added to the family next, followed by Detto, another male brindled gray, and Prisie (short for Surprise), a female brindled cream, both born in England. In the early 1950s the Windsors phased out terriers and switched to pugs.
Cairn terriers are so-named because they were used in the Scottish highlands to keep down vermin. The small, agile dogs were adept at searching cairns (man-made stone piles) and other tight spaces for rats and other rodents.
None of the couple’s pets were ever completely house trained, and servants were kept busy cleaning up after them. Anne Sebba, in her book That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, reported an example of how the dogs were spoiled and indulged: They “were often literally spoon-fed from silver bowls by the Duke or Duchess meals that had been especially prepared for them.”
And from The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson by Greg King:
Wallis could not stand wrinkles in her bed… Once the bed was made, a plastic sheet was spread atop the satin eiderdown so that the pugs could climb onto the bed with Wallis; there she would feed them the hand-baked dog biscuits prepared fresh each day by her chef. Usually the pugs slept on the bed with her, although the Duke’s favorite might disappear through the boudoir to his own spot at the foot of his master’s bed.
It was an embarrassment to the Royal Family for a former monarch to be married to a twice-divorced woman, so the Duke and Duchess were essentially exiled from England. They lived for the most part in France, but traveled extensively, Newport being one of their frequent stops.
The Newport Daily News reported on one of their Newport visits in its society pages on September 17, 1943:
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, here for a weekend visit with friends, made their only public appearance today when the former King Edward VIII took a special review of Naval Training Station personnel at the Station at 11 o’clock this morning.
The Training Station display, which was marked by a large turnout, was highlight of a series of private entertainments that have been under way since the arrival of the Duke and Duchess late Saturday afternoon from Boston, to be house guests of Mrs. Duncan Douglas at ‘Cairngorm Lodge’ on Bellevue Avenue.
The Duke and Duchess, according to present plans, will leave Tuesday for Providence, where they take a train for stops in New York and Washington before he returns to his post as governor general in Nassau. Tonight they will be dinner guests of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt at ‘Beaulieu.’
Another Newport visit was noted in the Milwaukee Journal‘s society pages on August 5, 1945:
The event of the season was the arrival of the former king of England and the woman he loves, the duke and the duchess of Windsor. Aside from the formal dinners and dances in the evenings, the duke and his attractive duchess are having an informal holiday. He plays golf every day at the country club and she strolls on the avenue, shopping or walking along the cliffs and stopping in at Bailey’s Beach.
They probably will sail for England Aug. 6. Already many of their belongings have been shipped ahead. Conservative Newport citizens say they will be glad to see them go. For them the Windsors seem not to belong and royalty be darned.
Admittedly, anyone not born in Newport is a carpetbagger and remains an outsider until at least a quarter century of rather rugged residence.
A third visit was detailed in the pages of Newport Daily News the weekend of November 26, 1947. The Windors once more indulged in round after round of luncheons, teas, and dinners, including Thanksgiving dinner at Fairholme, the Newport mansion of their friends, the Robert R. Youngs.
It must have been on one of these visits in 1952 (unfortunately, not reported) that Pookie, by then almost sixteen years old, died. The Windsors decided to inter the pup at one of New England’s first pet cemeteries, located at Potts Canine Country Boarding Kennel in Portsmouth. The first burial took place there in 1938, and as of 1991 it was estimated that more that one thousand beloved companions had been laid to rest on the property. Only a relative handful of these are marked, Pookie’s grave being one.
It’s not known if the Windsors were visiting Newport at the time of Pookie’s death, or were merely in the area, or were passing through. We heard rumors that the pooch passed away while on a “cruise.” Also, that the Windsors visited the grave at least once in later years.
Pookie’s simple white marble stone is about midway along the front wall of the property.
LITTLE FRIEND OF
EDWARD AND WALLIS
DUKE AND DUCHESS
AUGUST 16TH, 1936
APRIL 12TH, 1952
Pookie died just around the time that the Windsors switched their canine loyalties from cairn terriers to pugs. But that’s just a coincidence, right?
Be that as it may, Edward passed away in 1972 and Wallis followed in 1986. They are buried together in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore, Berkshire, England, a somewhat grander resting place than Pookie’s quiet country plot in the colonies.
Potts Canine Country Boarding Kennel became Bow Wow Villa when it merged with a pet grooming salon called Bow Wow House in the 1970s. The grooming business then spun back off in the late 1980s, becoming Perry’s Plush Pooch at another location. The Bow Wow Villa property was purchased by the Newport National Golf Club, and leased to K9 Instincts Dog Training and Kennel. Then in the early 2010s K9 Instincts moved to another location, leaving the property abandoned and overgrown. As of late 2013, the golf course’s plans for the property are unknown.
Pookie’s is not the only Windsor dog grave left in the world. Slipper was buried, probably, near the Cande, France, chateau where he died, as evidenced by an undated photo. The remains of Prisie (1938-1949) reside at Chateau de la Croë, a villa on the French Riviera that the Windsors once leased. And several of the couple’s pugs are buried on the grounds of Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, in Gif-sur-Yvette, Essonne, France, although the grave markers (somewhat worse for neglect) have been moved to a corner by a garden fence. Le Moulin (The Mill) was purchased by the Windsors in 1952, and is now a sort of upscale vacation rental.
Time required: allow 10 minutes for silent contemplation of the fleeting nature of canine existence.
Remember, this is a cemetery. Please be respectful.
Finding it: from Route 195 take exit 8 in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Route 24 toward Tiverton. Travel about nine miles and take the exit toward Middletown/Newport Beaches, merging onto Turnpike Avenue. After 7/10ths of a mile bear right onto Route 138 south (East Main Road). Go 3.5 miles and turn left onto Sandy Point Avenue, then turn right on Wapping Road. Go 1.6 miles to #837. Pookie’s grave is next to the stone wall beside the road.
Bow Wow Villa Gallery