Doggone it! An Instance of Historical Hearsay

Every history has details big and small. But it’s often the small details that prove the biggest challenge.

No matter the size, historical institutions should strive for accuracy in all the details they offer to visitors and researchers. This must go without saying, but it’s important that we represent our subjects as accurately as possible, no matter how much they have changed. We recognize that it’s frequently infeasible to depict something exactly as it was in the past, but we try to come as close as we can.

Sometimes, though, things happen. Case in point: this cute little guy.

That’s right, he’s the cutest.

This stuffed Scottish Terrier lives in the Lodge House on the Packard Proving Grounds—specifically, in youngest daughter Roberta Vincent’s room. According to conversations with Roberta, she was an admirer of “Scottie dogs” growing up. When this room was refurbished, PPG volunteers incorporated decorations featuring Scottish Terriers to depict Roberta’s childhood love of the breed. And why wouldn’t she love them? They’re adorable!

But here’s where things get complicated.

The PPG also has a pair of stuffed toys from Robert’s childhood—two of her beloved “Scottie dogs.” Here’s what they look like:

They’re a similar size and shape to their roommate on the bed, so they’re definitely terriers. But although much of their fur has been loved away by childhood cuddles, it’s clear that they’re not Scottish terriers. Without consulting their owner, one might guess that they’re either Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers or West Highland White Terriers. So why did Roberta say that she loved “Scotties” as a child–a comment that led the entire redesign of her bedroom–when these plush puppies are clearly not Scotties?

Fortunately, though, we don’t have to guess: Roberta Vincent has clarified the conundrum.

Although her affectionate term for these plaything-pups was “Scotties,” these toys are meant to be “Westies” (West Highland White Terriers). This fuzzy distinction between terrier types was lost in translation over the years, and it’s how the room came to be decorated with puppies with silky-smooth dark coats rather than spiky, fluffy white coats.

On-site, this is one of those funny stories that visitors like to hear and one that’s fun to tell. But it also illustrates how the line between fiction and fact gets blurry sometimes. In this case, we’re fortunate enough to be able to go directly to the source to clarify these details. Through Roberta, we can best represent this remarkable site and the people who lived and worked within it.

(Either way, though, the mix-up wasn’t such a bad thing. It’s hard to go wrong with puppies, regardless of coat color!)

Do you have original Packard documents, photographs, publications, or memorabilia that might be of value to the Packard Proving Grounds Library and Archives? Contact the site for information about our collection focus and donation policies.