Nazi propaganda famously painted dictator Adolf Hitler as a dog lover, but a new book has dug up some juicy bits that have the media salivating.
According to the book "Amazing Dogs" by Dr. Jan Bondeson, a senior lecturer at Cardiff University School of Medicine in Wales, Hitler thought dogs could be trained to guard concentration camps or serve on the battlefield next to German soldiers. He founded a facility called Tier-Sprechschule ("Animal Talking School") near the city of Hanover, recruited some of the country's smartest dogs and had them trained to speak.
Did it work? According to articles Bondeson dug up in Nazi magazines from that era, yes. One dog reportedly could spell words by tapping out letters with his paw, and even asked a noblewoman, "Can you wag your tail?"
Another dog learned to answer the question "Who is Adolf Hitler" with the words "Mein Fuhrer."
When the book was published in May, it raised some hackles in the British tabloids. Over at the New York Times this week, Maureen Dowd dug up some of the best tabloid headlines, including "Heel Hitler," "Furred Reich, "Wooffan SS" and "Arf Wiedersehen."
Amazingly, Bondeson wrote in his book, "the Nazis, who had such conspicuous disregard for human rights, felt more strongly about the animals ... Part of the Nazi philosophy was that there was a strong bond between humans and nature. They believed a good Nazi should be an animal friend."
Hitler himself owned two dogs, German shepherds named Blondi and Bella (neither of which could speak). He loved them so much that he tested his cyanide capsules on Blondi, killing her, to make sure they worked before he took his own life in his bunker at the end of World War II.
Bondeson's book is full of other, less sinister stories, including tales of a border collie in the 1750s who could perform mathematical calculations, and Don the Speaking Dog whose worldwide tour took him to cities like New York, where he could bark out phrases like "Hungry! Give me cakes!"