By the earliest grumblings of revolution following the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765, Washington was a prominent member of Virginia's social elite. As a staunch and notable patriot, he was selected to represent the colony as a delegate at the newly formed Continental Congress, a position which required him to travel to Philadelphia, away from his family and dogs.
Such was his passion for the animals that he took one of his favorite dogs with him, a hound named Sweet Lips. Soon enough, Washington, with the help of his dog, was welcomed into the inner circle of some of the colonies' most influential leaders -- people who would go on to help propel his storied career.
One day, while out walking with Sweet Lips, Washington caught the attention of Elizabeth Powel, wife to the wealthy Philadelphia mayor Samuel Powel, who stopped him to ask him about his dog, with both of whom she was clearly impressed.
"His movements and gestures are graceful, his walk majestic, and he was walking with a tall, exceedingly graceful dog of the hound type as he strode down Walnut Street," she wrote.
After that chance encounter, Elizabeth invited Washington to have dinner with her and her husband, who immediately saw his potential as a leader. Samuel then introduced him to other powerful and wealthy figures in Philadelphia who were equally impressed with Washington's intellect and athleticism -- and of course, his dog. In return for their acceptance, Washington would gift many of them his home bred Virginia hounds.
When it came time to raise a Continental army to mount a revolution, the confidence Washington instilled from these important relationships won their important support that saw him unanimously selected as the nascent fighting force's commander, and later on the nation's founding president.
But Washington's love of dogs didn't only help shape his legacy, it also had a hand in achieving victory over the British.
At the height of the American Revolution, Washington's primary adversary was a talented general named William Howe, commander of British troops sent to squash out the revolution. After achieving a number of crucial victories, like capturing New York City in 1777, Howe had Washington on the defensive.
During the battle of Germantown, as the Continental army was weakened against the British advance, soldiers rescued a small dog that had been found unattended on the front lines. When they discovered the dog was wearing a collar that indicated the animal belonged to none other than General Howe, they immediately brought it to Washington, suggesting its capture could help lift his army's spirits.
But in a remarkable gesture that hints at Washington's character as a gentleman and a dog lover, he instead cleaned and fed the hungry animal. He then ordered a cease-fire, and saw that the dog was returned to its owner, along with the following note:
"General Washington's compliments to General Howe. General Washington does himself the pleasure to return to him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and, by the inscription on the collar, appears to belong to General Howe."