About Me

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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Saturday, August 18, 2018

fable: the old dog and his master

Another fable from Aesop that I had never seen before, and one with a particularly bittersweet lesson for those of us watching our dogs grow old.  I've left it in the older English of the source.
* * *
Men ought not to dispraise the ancient, nor to put them backe, for if thou be young, thou oughtest to desire greatly to come to be old, also thou oughtest to praise the acts or deeds, which they have done in their young age, whereof Aesop rehearseth to us such a fable. There was a Lord which had a dog, the which in his youth had beene of good kind: as namely to chase and hunt, and to have great lust to run and take the wild beasts. And when this dogge was come to old age, and that he could no more run, it hapned once that he let goe and escaped from him a Hare, wherefore his Master was wroth and angry, and in great rage began to beat him. Then said the Dogge unto him, My Master, for good service thou yeeldest me evil: for in my young age and prosperity, I served thee right well, and now that I am come to my old age, thou hatest and setteth me backe. Remember, I pray thee how that in my young age I was strong and lustie, and now when I am old and feeble, thou settest nothing by me. Therefore, who so doth any good in his youth, in his old age he shall not continue in the vertues which he possessed in his youth.

 -- from Bicknell, Ethel E. Praise of the Dog: an Anthology. London: G. Richards, 1902. pp. 33-34.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"a small white spanish dog"

public domain courtesy of the livrustkammaren (royal armoury museum, stockholm).
object record here
Years and old lacquer will make any fur look more yellowed than white, and that's most likely what has happened to this oil portrait, which dates from the 1600s. The "Spanish" part comes from the paper label pasted onto the lower left, which reads in translation: "No 22. // An Oil Painting Table // A Small White // Spanish Dog".  No one seems to know why he should be Spanish, as he certainly looks like a poodle (a breed originating in Germany).

Monday, August 13, 2018

on a tortoise and a cat

thanks pixabay

Another find in the "memorial poem" genre:  this one a twofer, turtle and cat.  I chuckled to see that while the poet spoke to the tortoise, he let the cat speak for itself, and assertively too, from the beyond.  Probably wisest.

Slow were thy steps, and yet they reached their goal;
Cold was thy blood, but warm enough for thee;
Thou hadst a will, methinks thou hast a soul—
A breath of immortality.

Let neither fork nor spade upturn this plat.
For eighteen years I had my way;
I mewed, I purred, I scratched, I was a Cat—
And what I am thou canst not say.

-- Ernest Hartley Coleridge, found in Newbolt, Henry John, Sir, 1862-1938, Mary Lancaster Nott, and Kohler Collection of British Poetry. Animal Poems And Stories. London: H. Rees, 1916. p. 15.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

a dog watches

Gift of Arnold Whitcomb Morse in memory of his parents Guilford Alden and Isabel Barton Morse
collections.artsmia.org (PD)
A little boy, wearing the dress-like children's clothing of the time (c. 1835), listens to a ticking watch.  The family dog watches over him with an alert expression, or at least that's what I think he was meant to do; in a larger view you can see that he actually seems to be behind the boy, and so he's actually looking offstage.  It's all part of the charm of this simply fashioned oil portrait by Samuel Miller of Boston, about whom there's not much available.  In its flatness, the portrait also takes on a certain timelessness, which becomes more poignant when we learn that the act of listening to the watch likely indicates this as a posthumous portrait (see the painting's page at the Minneapolis Institute of Art).  The same bright yellow picks out the watch, its chain, and the dog's collar.  Did Miller mean us to contrast how quickly time flies with the patient devotion of the dog? 

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

book review: kaibyo, the supernatural cats of japan by zack davisson

image courtesy of publishers
 A young samurai and his mistress take a leisurely stroll outdoors in a print dated 1777 by Isoda Koryusai.  The man turns to his love with an eager face. He either hasn't noticed, or doesn't care, that his girlfriend walking so gracefully in her chic kimono is . . . a cat. Specifically, she's a bakeneko yujo, a shapeshifting cat prostitute.  She's only one of the many supernatural felines we meet in Kaibyƍ: The Supernatural Cats of Japan by Zack Davisson ($18.95, Chin Music Press and Mercuria Press, copublishers).
This gorgeous little book is full of creatures which will give you new respect for your own household demons.  After all, if they've been around long enough, they might grow a second tail and start walking upright, becoming fierce and frightening magical spirits known as nekomata.  Even scarier are the corpse-eating cat monsters known as kasha, and the Cat Witch of Okabe who lured travelers to their deaths.  Other, more benign creatures are found here too, such as the gotoku neko, who wears a trivet for a hat and likes to keep the fire stoked, and our friend the maneki neko, the inviting cat who's somehow gained a reputation for bringing luck.  Not least is the giant prehistoric Iriomote Great Mountain Cat, rumored but never proven to be stalking the highlands of a remote Japanese island, as illustrated below by Kyosai c. 1860-70:

image believed PD; any omission unintentional
Seiseiyousaiga, Kawanabe  Kyosai
This illustration, I might add, is uncannily like what faces me every morning that I have overslept the cat food alarm.
Davisson's scholarship is detailed and engagingly readable, and includes period stories and folklore as well as a wealth of full-color illustrations.  While it makes a wonderful gift, it's also a solid and useful resource for anyone who takes their cat folklore seriously.

Curator's note: According to the publishers, this is the first of an upcoming series on Japan's supernatural animals.

Monday, August 06, 2018

a magic song on the cat's origins

thanks british library flickr (PD)
"Of course I know the cat's origin, the incubation of 'grey beard';  on a stone was obtained the cat with the nose of a girl, with the head of a hare, with a tail from Hiisi's plait of hair, with the claws of a viper snake, with feet of cloudberries, from a wolf the rest of its body comes."

That is the whole song.  It seems that ancient Finn origin songs are used as charms to shame and humiliate the supernatural cause of a disease or harm, thereby to scare it off and bring healing.  Hiisi was, in essence, a trickster god.

Abercromby, John, baron, 1844-1924. The Pre- And Proto-historic Finns, Both Eastern And Western, With the Magic Songs of the West Finns. London: D. Nutt, 1898. p. 312.