Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dickens, dogs, and moi (of course!)

In advance of the Westminster Dog Show beginning on Feb. 15,  which I am unable to attend, Bonhams New York auction house is celebrating the art of the dog. Specifically, we should say, celebrating the art of the foxhound, because its featured painting depicts, naturally, a whole pack of my kin and is expected to bring as much as 700K. A previously auctioned foxhound painting, also by British artist John Emms, set a world record price of $842,500.

Browsing the online catalogue, Mom liked: the Edwardian silver inkwell with its dog figure, inscribed "Joe"(she likes the juxtaposition of the elegant with the ordinary); more Emms foxhound paintings, these much more affordable, but still out of reach. Oddly enough, not a Dalmatian portrayed in any of the lots.

Intriguingly, a 23-inch-long leather and brass collar belonging to the dog of Charles Dickens, inscribed with the author’s name (Mom’s favorite) and address at Gad’s Hill Place, Higham, is up for auction.

    “The large dogs at Gad’s Hill were quite a feature of the place, and were also rather a subject of dread to many outsiders…And the dogs, though as gentle as possible to their own people, knew that they were the guardians of the place, and were terribly fierce to all intruders. Linda, a St. Bernard, and a beautiful specimen of that breed, … and Turk—a mastiff—were the constant companions in all their master’s walks.” We won’t mention the Pomeranian, Mrs. Bouncer, of whom Dickens was unaccountably fond. (“Charles Dickens at Home,” The New York Times, April 6, 1884)

This is the 28th year of the Bonhams event, simply called The Dog Sale, and it starts Feb. 16. It also includes a fundraiser for the AKC’s humane fund.

After viewing the Emms works and the Norfolk hunt video, Mom wondered if I would prefer living en masse with a pack. Then she noticed me cuddled in my new faux shearling blanket. Barn life? No thanks.

Speaking of Westminster, very few hounds have historically been honored as Best in Show, only an afghan and a whippet, besides the recent beagle Uno. Of course, were I eligible…

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Foxhounds aplenty!

My friend Lucy's parents, Pete and Kate, made a fun video of their early morning walk with the Norfolk Hunt foxhounds. You can see it here on Boston's WCVB's uLocal page. I'd like to get to know those hounds, and find out exactly how it is that they all decide to jump into the trailer at the same time, rather than meander around.

Pete and Kate are great neighbors who are good to dogs, horses and people. They had a wonderful pup, Briggs, who conversed in French and was friends with Sparky.  Lucy and I just speak regular dog and get along fine.

I did notice that one of those hounds was handsome, almost as handsome as me, but not quite.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The most famous dog in ... Wellesley? Natick? The world?

So, check it out! None other than moi is Wellesley Booksmith's Dog of the Week—I'm pretty impressed with myself! (Dad's response: "Of the week—that's it?")

The store has a great email newsletter that gives you all of the insider info about great reads and events, as well as a Cosmo-like canine feature. So for the Feb. 3 issue and the foreseeable future, I'm your guy!

I have to admit, Dog of the Decade would be more impressive, but in preparation for my upcoming visit to Oprah's show—you know she had to book me before the whole deal closes—I've taken the Aesop's fable to heart. Remember the greedy pup who wanted both his bone and the one reflected in the water? As he grabbed the second bone, the one in his mouth dropped into the drink.

As my grandpa always used to say, "Don't kick a gift horse in the teeth."

I'm actually very, very thrilled to be selected for such an honor and I am grateful that the terrific Booksmith crew even allows me in their store! I'm rather present when I go in, if you know what I mean.

I scooted in last night to thank Kym for her excellent photography skills, kind friendship and prominent mention of my blog (the latter totally unsolicited, truly). Not only did she promptly give me my back-counter treat (I always start at the back, then raid the front bin), she even offered one from the front counter, too. I was much too embarrassed to take a second treat, given all of the recognition, although I did forget myself for a moment and attempted to leap over both mom and the counter.

Kym loves me, perhaps because I remind her of her beloved Biscuit. It is possible that Biscuit and I are kin, because as you know my bloodlines go way back to our first president, and the genealogy can become a bit muddled even for us purebreds.

What also was exciting is that the moment I plopped for my treat, I was recognized! 

I wasn't exactly incognito; for me it was a spur-of-the-moment visit. Mom forgot to spell out C-A-R, and thus uttering one of my favorite words, was flattened by my hefty bulk flying down the stairs to the garage door. No time for a disguise.

So the astute librarian from the Brown Elementary School in Natick immediately spotted me, and this a.m. a bright young Lilja student, who I see often on her way to school, said she'd read my blog thanks to the newsletter.

As memoirs are in vogue, I'm glad I'm promoting reading. And a great independent bookstore.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beastly treatments: pampering and debarking

I just don't understand people. On the one paw, they dress us up and make us miniversions of themselves. Did you see this week's (Feb. 8) New Yorker cover? It features a plethora of pampered pups who clearly have no idea how to play. They're covered from nose to tail in fleece and down, swathed in sweaters and scarves. They all look toasty warm, and every one looks completely miserable.

I for one prefer going au naturel into the elements, although as I have admitted, I am not a candidate for the postal service: rain, wind, snow and temperatures below 32 degrees have me turning up my (I have used this phrase before, but it is apt) considerably long nose and spurning the invitation of the open door.

My dad, who is very fond of tangential phrases, gives this advice: never resort to the rhetorical error of numbering the points one plans to make, in case you forget some of them. However, he always returns to the place where he left off, even if your brain has become numb trying to keep track of all of the twists and turns of the journey on which you have been led.

So to get back to my point of the other paw: today's New York Times ("Heel. Sit. Whisper. Good Dog.", by Sam Dolnick) reports on the barbaric practice of—shudder—removing a canine's vocal cords in order to have it become a more acceptable member of the family, as well as positively suffer the scrutiny of the co-op board.

I ably demonstrated my vocal abilities just this afternoon, and cannot imagine what I would do without them.

So which is it: pampering, or perilous surgery that isn't even taught any more in vet school? Maybe both practices actually work together to subsume canine companionship into the human hierarchy, rather than just accept us as who we are. Top dogs, of course!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Taste test at Tails

Was tooling around Wellesley Square yesterday after a dump run when I picked up the scent: Tails!
So I hightailed it into the store, where I did a little taste test with Cameron.   
Pizza-flavored treats? Nope.
Peanut butter?
Bayed a bunch of times in thanks. Leroy ran for his crate.

Have you been in Tails lately? It's been redecorated, and it's fab. Still has all the great taste treats and fun duds, plus some new things. Mom liked the necklaces; I liked the jar of tracheas, conveniently located near the cash register. But no dice, as I'm still on the aforementioned diet, yet I have gained (so they say) another 1.2 lbs. Winter weight!

I'm svelte compared to that scary, shaggy German Shepherd at the vet who tried to have me for a mid-a.m. snack. Needless to say, I'm much better behaved. And much, much, much more handsome.

Speaking of handsome, posed for my Dog of the Week photo during a visit last week to Wellesley Booksmith. Be on the lookout for the store's e-newsletter featuring moi. Watch out, Scott Brown—Cosmo's calling next!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

More tails from Catholic school

Before her ooh-la-la Buenos Aires trip, my cousin Pazzo’s mom, being a very diligent reader of my blog, said the Jesus of the Broken Arm story reminded her of her own Catholic school raffle tale. Who knew raffles were such a regular thing in those hallowed halls of hemline-checking?
    Moreover, her story involves a canine, which makes it perfect for my blog. But unlike my mom’s story, hers has a painful ending.

Here goes:
    So the nuns announce a raffle, and instead of the prize being a religious object, it is a puppy! A classmates’ dog, apparently, had a litter, and what better way to raise money from the school than raid those poor little plaid jumper pockets?
    Given that leftover fruitcake was the only other uh, prize, ever offered at Mom’s school, the nuns over at Pazzo’s mom’s place perhaps had some kindness in them. Of course, for those of us who believe that DOG is GOD, a puppy is an object of religious veneration.
    Perfect prize, except that Pazzo’s mom has no money at all in her plaid jumper pocket and the entry fee is 10 cents. Her friend, however, has an entire dollar. Pazzo’s mom not only finagles the entry fee from the friend, she wins the puppy!
    Except that when she comes home with this adorable, cute, squirming puppy in her arms, her parents practically shriek and can’t get it out of the house fast enough.
    Later on, they did get a puppy, a tiny black poodle thing named Pierre, but no one seemed to like him much.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Running to the dogs: great training partners?

Dalmatians were featured as being excellent running partners for humans in today's Times (A Best Friend, Yes. Best Runner, Maybe Not), hounds, well, not so much.

Sparky was bred to run in a straight line; on the other paw, I am true to my breed at being excellent at the dodge, the feint, and the parry, which I ably demonstrated two weeks ago when my collar broke apart and I hightailed it around the swampy edges of the pond. Finally, my pal Jazz' dad tackled me, because as you know, I will not come when called. I mean, really! Have some pride! Plus, she and I were having a terrific time.

However, I am trying to make Mom happy and live up to Sparky's stellar performance. Even after a five-mile run, he used to pull Mom up the hills around our house. He loved to run, and she loved running with him (although he did develop an inconvenient habit of stopping at every other telephone pole to retrieve/send p-mail).

I have to admit, I'm getting pretty good at this running business. In fact, I am becoming quite the student in toto. I received an A+ from my walking pal Kelly (really! an A-plus!) recently and other glowing reports.

BTW, my reader from Buenos Aires turned out to be none other than my cousin Pazzo's mom, although what she was doing reading my blog on her exciting vacation, I have no idea.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dogs in art, the art of the dog, and moi

Reading of the sad death of prolific dog artist Stephen Huneck, I learned of the Museum of the Dog, founded by the esteemed American Kennel Club. How did I not know this before?

It's in St. Louis, and it sounds like a great place: the featured painting in its permanent collection is Sir Edwin Landseer's Deerhound and Recumbent Foxhound (is there any other kind, besides maniacally racing around?) which the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently noted as being "arguably the most important painting in the collection." Of course!

I also learned of the animal art of Sally Berner, whose gorgeous portrait of another recumbent foxhound, unfortunately, has sold. Herewith, I present a portrait of myself, recumbent, that arguably (and I love to argue) is even better.

Don't you think?