Thursday, August 30, 2012


If you ask me, it's woman who is dog's best friend.  It only seems natural that the nurturing gender would make the bigger contribution.  Historically, women trained dogs for domestic tasks and used them for hauling heavy loads.

No accessories were spared in decorating this travois or dog for that matter. Very festive.
Photo: University of Washington

In most Native American cultures women were responsible for dogs. Western travelers noted that Hidatsa (Mandan) women were very affectionate with their dogs, which were called by a name that translates to horse of the woman. And favored dogs slept inside with the family.
Photo: University of Washington

In the Pacific northwest, Puget Sound Tribe women kept medium sized long-haired dogs and used their fur for blanket weaving. Women would swing their dogs through the air in circles prior to sheering them, apparently to make them more compliant during the grooming session.  (If you try this, let me know how it works.)  
Photo: University of Washington
In the 19th century, dog exhibitions provided an opportunity for women to prove their stuff. Women couldn't compete with men on the playing field, but the dog sport was different. The London Times reported, "Woman can view with men and show what they can do in dog-raising." He added, "Bench shows ... and good taste have brought women, not only to admire dogs of race, but to own and breed them and to contend for recognition as successful breeders at exhibitions all over the county... their interest in dogs is not a fad but earnest and to last."

"[Dogs] known to be excellently well adapted for being the companion of the gentler sex" included the Blenheim Spaniel, the Pomeranian, the Maltese Terrier, and the Poodle. In particular the black Poodle which was "coming very much into fashion." 

Photo: Library of Congress

Women were told, "As you should cut your coat according to your cloth, so should you choose a dog." Newspaper society columnists urged ladies to pass up the Mastiff and Chow Chow.

But isn't this a face only a mother could love?
Photo: Library of Congress
Georgia O'Keeffe wasn't known to be a crowd-follower.  She had six Chows in her lifetime. You can see more photos of her dogs at Dog Art Today.
Photo: By John Leongard, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
And heaven forbid if you fancied a Yorkshire Terrier,  King Charles Spaniel or Pug.  One fashionista wrote, "I believe there cannot be an uglier, more selfish little beast of a dog in creation than a mongrel or badly bred Pug." (See more vintage photos of the horribly adorable Pug) Apparently this woman didn't read the advice column. The photo is from the Cabinet Card Gallery.  Click dogs on their menu to see a marvelous collection of vintage dog photos.
Photo: Cabinet Card Gallery
"Disregard fads ... the dwarfs and midgets and "unhappy toys" of China, Mexico and Japan." If pictures tell a story, then very few women listed to the etiquette counselors. This dog-lover is holding two Japanese Spaniels named Ping-Pong and Fiko.

Photo: Library of Congress

Women were encouraged to consider  the Highland Collie, as this was the Queen's favorite, (See my Collie history post) or the elegant Landseer Newfoundland.
Photo: Leighton's Book of the Dog 1907
There is no end to old photos, but I'll finish my too lengthy post with these. Annie Oakley toured the country with her English Setter, Dave.

Helen Keller was a true dog lover and had many, though none were guide dogs.  Here she is with Fizz.
Photo: Library of Congress

Eleanor Roosevelt with Scotty, Fala
Photo: Wikipedia

And here's a favorite from my collection. All girls school, 1908, with their little black mascot dog sitting in the front row. I hope he got to go to class.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


The average active 35 pound dog needs about a thousand calories a day. How many calories does your dog need?  Use the dog food calculator link to find out.  Put in your dog's weight and describe her activity level.

For instance, a 20 pound active dog needs about 650 calories.  That's a little less than two cups of Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Dog Food.

On average, a cup of dry food has between 325 and 600 calories per cup. How many calories does your dog food brand have?  Use this dog food calorie count link to find out.

Dog biscuits count too.  A medium size Milk Bone biscuit has 40 calories, a large one 115.  Find out more at the dog treat calories count link 

"Saving good dogs from bad dog food" is the motto of Dog Food Advisor.  Find out how your dog food rates at this link.

Just like us, our dogs are getting fatter too.  Today we traditionally see the biggest pup in the litter as the healthiest.  But 200 years ago, the smallest was more desirable.  In the 1700s sportsmen were advised to choose the pup that weighs the least, "For that one will be the swiftest."

Read my post about how the rest of the world feeds their dogs at this link.  You might be surprised.

Monday, August 20, 2012


According to the American Kennel Club, for 21 years the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog in America. The Poodle and Cocker Spaniel also had their day in the sun.

But what about the not so popular?  The Harrier, American Foxhound, and English Foxhound, all scent-trailing hounds, have hovered at the bottom of AKC's list for 40 years and longer.


American Foxhound

English Foxhound

AKC tabulates popular breeds by the number of dogs registered in the year.  For instance, more than 124,000 registrations catapulted the Lab to the top, whereas only 11 English Foxhounds, 23 Harriers, and 44 American Foxhounds were registered. 

In fairness, it's not because people don't care for these scent-focused, baying hounds. They were bred to hang out in large packs and consequently are not ideal house dogs.

On the other hand, their close cousin the Beagle, was the third most popular AKC breed in 2011, so go figure.
If Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy, had been a Foxhound, would I be barking up a different tree?

Friday, August 17, 2012


Saint Roch is the patron saint of dogs. (Click here to read more about him in my August 1, 2012 post.) But other saints look after our pooches' welfare, too.  These are some religious icons my sister made and donated to her local humane society in Lawrence, Kansas, for their 2011 auction. 

Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic
The story goes that before Saint Dominic's birth, his barren mother made a religious pilgrimage and dreamed that a dog leaped from her womb carrying a torch in its mouth, predicting her son would set the world on fire.  Whether he lived up to  his mother's expectations is not known.

Saint Sebastian of Aparicio
Saint Sebastian of Aparicio 
The patron saint of safe journeys and driving fast with your head out the window.

Saint Ubaldus
Saint Ubaldus
The patron saint of demonic possession. Is it a coincidence that my sister's dog, Dotty, is in his lap? I think not.

This year's  Lawrence Humane Society fundraising auction is September 28, 2012.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Boston Terrier - most popular AKC registered breed in 1905
In today's media driven society, what makes a breed popular? Maybe winning the Westminster Kennel Club dog show influenced decisions before moving pictures were launched in the 1920s, but it doesn’t play into the popularity equation any more. 

Gathering data for two studies, social scientists combed through 50 years of AKC registration statistics, from 1946 to 2001, looking for a pattern. What they found was no surprise.  

American Bull Terrier -  most popular un-registered breed in 1905
Breed popularity is driven by the same thing that drives most fashionable trends: When people are confronted with different choices, rather than make optimal or rational decisions (like choosing the right breed for their lifestyle), they just copy one another. That is, until a random event, like a Disney dog movie or Paris Hilton flaunting a purse with a Chihuahua in it,  causes an abrupt change and adds a new and novel choice.   Then when the dust settles, the copying continues, increasing the frequency of the novelty, and so on and so forth.
Poodle - most popular dog
for 22 years, beginning in 1960.
The researchers noted that after the 1996 release of the classic film, “101 Dalmatians,” new Dalmatian registrations increased immediately.  In 1985, 6,880 Dalmatians were registered with the AKC.  After the release of the movie, registrations peaked at 43,816. Eight  years later  registrations dropped to 1,112. 

Dalmatian - 73rd most popular breed in 2012
This means people didn't get another Dalmatian after the death of the first one.  Could the reason be that the complex, independent and intelligent Dalmatian is not the saccharine cartoon character that Disney made it out to be?  

According to the AKC's 2012 registration statistics, the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular breed for the last 21 years. Ho Hum (editor's comment).  I wish someone kept records on mixed breed dog popularity.
American Cocker Spaniel - most popular breed
for 18 years, beginning in 1936
Harold A. Herzog, R. Alexander Bentley, and Matthew W. Hahn, Random drift and large shifts in popularity of dog  breeds, Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology Letters 271, 353-356 (2004).

Harold A. Herzog and Steven M. Elias, The effects of winning Westminster on dog breed popularity, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 225 (3), 365-367 (2004).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Saint Roch is the patron saint of dogs.
My sister's interpretation of the Saint Roch story.
The feast of Saint Roch day is this month, August 16th, so prepare to celebrate with all the dogs you hang out with.  As Saint Roch is said to have said, "The least we owe them is to live a life that is worthy of their devotion..."

Saint Roche was born in France in 1295.  He devoted his life to healing the sick, in particular comforting those who were dying from the plague.  While in Rome, Roch believed he'd been infected with the disease, so he left the city to prepare a place for prayer  and death.  The story goes that while praying, he was approached by a small dog carrying a piece of bread.  Not only did the dog give him the bread for nourishment, it also cleaned and healed his wounds. Cured of the plague, Saint Roch and the dog returned to Rome together and continued to comfort the dying.  Saint Roch died in 1327 of natural causes.


Saint Roch was canonized 100 years after his death, in 1427.  
There is no mention of canonizing the dog.

The story demonstrates both the bond between people and dogs and the power of each to heal and rejuvenate the other.  Hence, Doctor Barkman proclaims August 16th as take your dog to church day.

You can get your own plastic Saint Roch statuette at Monastery Greetings

Or a holy card featuring Saint Roch and the dog at Totally Catholic.