Small wonder that Frederick the Great sought two great consolations during his life: the letters of his sister Wilhelmina, who had gone through those years with him; and the companionship of his pet dogs, from whom he got loyalty and love. The letters these siblings wrote over the years are full of warm observations about their creatures. When, as pets must, Frederick's beloved greyhound Biche died, his grief is as heartfelt as a boy's:
I have had a domestic loss which has completely upset my philosophy.
I confide all my frailties in you: I have lost Biche, and her death has
reawoken in me the loss of all my friends, particularly of him who gave her to
me. I was ashamed that a dog could so deeply affect my soul; but the
sedentary life I lead and the faithfulness of this poor creature had so strongly
attached me to her, her suffering so moved me, that, I confess, I am sad and
afflicted. Does one have to be hard? Must one be insensitive?
I believe that anyone capable of indifference towards a faithful animal is
unable to be grateful towards an equal, and that, if one must choose, it is best
to be too sensitive than too hard.
--Frederic II, Oeuvres historiques (Berlin, 1846-56) vol. 26
p. 288; from Katharine MacDonough, Reigning Cats and Dogs (New York: St.
Martin's Press, 1999), p. 190.