Stories of dogs, in pictures and in life

September 14, 2009 at 9:32 pm Leave a comment

I was going to riff on Rod Stewart with the headline “Every picture tells a story, don’t it?” but pretty much every journalism blog post ever has used that. So never mind. But anyway, I found this great website of vintage dog photos last week and planned to blog it. And what would a post about vintage dog photos be without one of my own?

KimandAce1961 The picture at the right has been in my photo album since, well, the beginning. I have always assumed that the dog belonged to the neighbors, but I decided to call my mother and get the details. Boy, was I surprised!

“That was Ace,” my mother told me. “Ace was a little bird dog, and Jack and I bottle-fed him and his brother when their mother died.”

“So did the vet think ‘Hey, Kay and Jack have a baby. They’d probably be good at bottle-feeding these puppies,’ ” I asked.

“Oh, no,” was the reply. “We acquired these puppies before you were even conceived. I worked with the wife of a vet, Martha Holcombe. When the mother died, they were looking for someone to take care of the puppies, so we took them. Talk about a chore! We would pen them up in the kitchen when we went to work and when we came home we really had a mess to clean up.”

Huh. Who knew that my parents had a life before I was born? And one with dogs, at that? Both of them have always liked animals, but I never thought of them as the types to bottle-feed puppies.

JackandDempseyOne of my other favorite photos, given to me a few years ago by my great-aunt Jewel, is this one of my father with a dog. I called my dad to get the dirt on him and this dog.

“Well, I had a little bulldog. Is it that kind of dog?”

“No, it looks more like a terrier.”

“A rat terrier? That was Dempsey. He was Uncle Clyde’s dog. He had several rat terriers, but Dempsey was the most famous of them.”

Dempsey, of course, was named after the famous boxer. Photos and stories like this give us an insight into the pop culture of the time. Intellectually, I knew that rat terriers and bulldogs were popular in the 1930s and 1940s, but having a photo of my dad with one brings it to life.

Speaking of dog stories, Alexandra Horowitz has written the book I’ve been wanting to write for several years now. It’s called “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know.” Cathleen Schine reviewed it in the Sunday New York Times, and I can’t wait to read it. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Dogs do not just detect odors better than we can. This sniffing “gaze” also gives them a very different experience of the world than our visual one gives us. One of Horowitz’s most startling insights, for me, was how even a dog’s sense of time differs from ours. For dogs, “smell tells time,” she writes. “Perspective, scale and distance are, after a fashion, in olfaction, but olfaction is fleeting….Odors are less strong over time, so strength indicates newness; weakness, age. The future is smelled on the breeze that brings air from the place you’re headed.” While we mainly look at the present, the dog’s “olfactory window” onto the present is wider than our visual window, “including not just the scene currently happening, but also a snatch of the just-happened and the up-ahead. The present has a shadow of the past and a ring of the future about it.”…

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