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Tour offers a dog's-eye view of Mount Vernon

Saturday - 5/25/2013, 5:36pm  ET

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Dogs and their owners take in the sights of Mount Vernon during Saturday's 'All the President's Pups' tour. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
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MOUNT VERNON, Va. - Everyone knows George Washington was a great military leader and the father of our country.

But did you know he was a huge dog lover?

George Washington's Mount Vernon home held a 90-minute walking tour for guests and their dogs, called "All the President's Pups," on Saturday morning.

Mount Vernon spokeswoman Melissa Wood says the tour teaches about Washington's many dogs and about his home life. "I think it's a great way for Washingtonians to get out and bring their dogs and learn a little history," she says.

Cindy Kiesel brought her two dogs to the tour: Bailey, a mutt, and Liesel, who is part basset hound. "I love it," she says. "It's a great idea and it's fun and it's a beautiful day for it."

Two-year old Indy, a schnauzer mix who's a rescue, is here with his two owners, Lisa Jones and Eric Jones. Lisa says she didn't know Washington was a big dog person until she read about the tour. She says, "It was a surprise but in a good way."

Gail Cassidy, special projects interpreter at Mount Vernon, was Saturday's tour guide. She says Washington had many breeds of dogs at Mount Vernon during his lifetime, but not all of them lived outside. Terrier types, she says, lived inside the mansion.

Cassidy says Washington used dogs, not cats, to keep rats from eating the food that was stored in the basement. She says, "If you've ever see a rat terrier grab a rat, you know they are very good at what they do."

Even though Washington owned many types of dogs, he was an avid hunter, so he had an affinity for hounds. It's said he went fox hunting several times a week.

As an expert farmer, Washington knew about animal breeding and husbandry. He established a new breed of hunting dog that he referred to as the Virginia hound. The names of his hound dogs, such as Sweet Lips, Madame Moose and Vulcan, show a different side of Washington.

The American Kennel Club credits Washington with helping develop the American Foxhound. Wood says you can thank George for the state dog of Virginia which is the American Foxhound.

"George Washington was the father of the American hound," Wood says.

Although there are dogs living on the estate today, Wood says none are descendants from Washington's time.

The "All the President's Pups" walking tour is being offered Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. through the end of June.

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