If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In Celebration of Dogs


In Celebration of DOGS  Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace. - Milan Kundera

In human affairs, despite power, fame and fortune, there exists a true unflinching love that cannot lie, a perfect passion worship fed, fidelity and companionship always available in the form of a dog. When you have a dog, you open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness.
The hardest thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.

Rudyard Kipling said:
“….When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear…”
Lord Byron puts it more eloquently than I ever could:
Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown by Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies.

This most profound perspective from Kahlil Gibran:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight…”

With the advent of writing, people began to set dog stories down on page. And, as happens when stories are retold, lines blur between fact and fancy, history and legend.
As a tribute to that enigmatic connection in the way human beings and dogs try to coordinate their confusing lives around each other, we consider some of the most stirring examples of Dog + Man throughout history.

Argos + Odysseus 

Argos Recognizes Odysseus,” Theodor van Thulden (1606 - 1669)
The first famous canine story dates from the 8th century B.C. In Homer’s “Odyssey,” the king of Ithaca returns home disguised as a beggar after 20 years. Two of King Odysseus’ old friends recognize him, his aged nurse and Argos, the only dog to whom Homer gave a name, and as such the first named dog in recorded history.
“As they talked, a dog that lay there lifted up his muzzle, pricked his ears … It was Argos, Odysseus’ long-enduring dog, he trained as a puppy… the moment he sensed Odysseus standing by he thumped his tail, muzzling low, and his ears dropped, though he had no strength to drag himself an inch toward his master.
Odysseus glanced to the side and flicked away a tear.” And with that, on his dung heap, Argos dies. While the story of the steadfast friend and the first recorded tear shed for an animal, may be mythic, the vignette of the faithful hound was a story that would be oft repeated.

Peritas + Alexander
Detail on Alexander Sarcophagus shows Alexander and Peritas
In 345 B.C., 11-year old Alexander was given Peritas. Nine years later Alexander would become King of Macedon, upon the assassination of his father Phillip II, and soon go on to conquer the ancient world, with Peritas at his side. (Peritas was a Molossian, a breed of ancient Greece, now extinct, that is thought to be the the ancestor of the Mastiff.) Virgil wrote, “Never, with [Molossians] on guard, need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or Iberian brigands at your back.”
A dissenting view of Molossian dogs holds that this is "mastiff malarkey" and the dog was really a coursing dog, closer to a greyhound than a mastiff. In either case, Peritas showed up in a number of questionable stories throughout history. In one tall tale, Peritas supposedly protected Alexander from an elephant by biting its lip during the Battle of Gaugamela.
In India, Peritas defended a wounded Alexander from attacking Mallians, holding them off long enough for Alexander’s troops to arrive. In that battle Peritas was mortally wounded, and it is said, used his last bit of strength to put his head on Alexander’s lap.
Alexander named the city of Peritas, India, in his dog’s honor. In “The Life of Alexander,” Plutarch, the only ancient source to actually reference Peritas, writes: “It is said, too, that when he lost a dog also, named Peritas, which had been reared by him and was loved by him, he founded a city and gave it the dog's name."

Gelert + Llywellyn
19th century illustration ; Grave spot.

Llywelyn the Great (1172-1240), the Prince of Gwynedd in north Wales, lived in what is now known as village of Beddgelert with his family and his faithful dog Gelert, who is said to have been a gift to the prince from King John of England, who also provided his illegitimate daughter Joan to Llywelyn as a wife.
“In the 13th century, Llywelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert "the faithful hound" who was unaccountably absent. On Llywelyn's return, the truant stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.
The frantic father plunged the sword into the hound's side thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry. Llywelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed but near by lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain, the prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again.
He buried Gelert here. The spot is called Beddgelert.” So reads the marker on a mound in the village is known as Gelert’s Grave, the invention of David Pritchard, the owner of the Royal Goat Inn, who concocted the legend in 1793 to encourage tourism.

Guinefort + his Knight
De Supersticione, by inquisitor Stephen de Bourbon; from a Medieval illuminated manuscript, Modern rendition.
Pritchard was perhaps inspired by Guinefort, a greyhound who belonged to a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon, France, in the 12th century. The story has it that one day the knight went hunting, leaving his baby boy with his faithful dog Guinefort.
When he returned he found his son’s cot overturned and Guinefort with blood dripping from his jaws. Thinking the baby had been eaten, he killed the dog only to hear the child begin crying, under the cot next to the body of a dead viper. The knight put the dog down a well, and made a shrine to Guinefort.
Thus was born, St. Guinefort, the only non-human saint, though albeit one not recognized by the Catholic Church. Stephen de Bourbon, a 13th century chronicler of medieval heresies, writes: “The local peasants hearing of the dog's noble deed and innocent death, began to visit the place and honor the dog as a martyr in quest of help for their sicknesses and other needs. They were seduced and often cheated by the Devil …” For centuries the church sought to stamp out the cult of Guinefort, which persisted through the 1930s.

Donnchadh + Robert the Bruce
Robert the Bruce; Early drawing of a bloodhound –– “Thierbuch,” Conrad Gesner, 1563.
In 1306, Edward I of England was fighting Robert the Bruce for control of Scotland. To find the Scottish leader, Edward’s man led by John of Lorn attempted to use his own dog, a blood hound named Donnchadh, against him. They captured the pooch, and then let him lead them to Robert the Bruce. But rather than blindly hand his master over the English troops, Donnchadh supposedly turned on the English when it became apparent they meant his master harm. Because of Donnchadh’s fierce defense, Robert the Bruce would go on to become the King of Scotland.

Urian + Cardinal Wolsey
Cardinal Wolsey from Christ Church Picture Gallery; Greyhound detail from Renaissance painting.

More than 200 years later, Cardinal Wolsey accompanied by his greyhound Urian, petitioned Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. At the time greyhounds were among the most aristocratic hounds, cited in Shakespeare’s Henry V (“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game's afoot.”) But when Pope Clement extended his toe to be kissed by Wolsey, the dog’s good breeding went out the door.
Legend has it that Urian reached bit the papal toe, ending in effect any further discussions about the marriage annulment. In The Pawprints of History: Dogs and the Course of Human Events, authors Stanley Coren and Andy Bartlett write, “A historian using counter-factual reasoning could quite legitimately raise the question as to whether the rise of Protestantism and its heated conflict with the Catholic Church might have been avoided, or at least delayed, if a dog named Urian had not chosen to sink his teeth into the Pope’s toe.”
Although there is little to prove this anecdote true, it remains hotly contested, and not just by those who doubt its veracity. The anti-papist John Foxe floated a similar –– probably equally fictional–– story, likely also made up, in his “Book of Martyrs” that Anne Boleyn’s father’s spaniel bit the pope’s toe as well.

Pompey + William the Silent
William I, Prince of Orange, aka William the Silent, by Adriaan Key; 'The New Church at Delft with the tomb of William of Orange', van Vliet, 1667
Originating from China, pugs were believed to arrive in Europe via Holland in the 16th century via the Dutch East India Company. Adopted by the Dutch royals, the toy dogs rose to the stature of the official dog of the House of Orange in 1572 after a pug named Pompey supposed saved the life of William I, the Prince of Orange.
According to legend, while Holland was at war with Spain, the prince was camped with his troops in Germigny, France. In the middle of the night his pug woke him, first with his incessant barking, then by jumping on his face. The camp was brought to alert just in time to catch a Spanish solider who had snuck in with the intent of assassinating William I.
In tribute to the dog, a statue of Pompey rests at William’s feet at his tomb in the New Church in Delft. In 1688, when William III moved to England to rule with his wife Mary II, he brought pugs with him, attending the coronation wearing orange ribbons.

Luath + Robert Burns
Robert Burns and Luath statue in Boston’s Winthrop Square; Wood Engravings by Joan Hassall of the “Twa Dogs”
The Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) had a border collie named Luath, who made history as one of the first talking dogs. (The name comes from the dog belonging to the giant Cuchullin in “Fingal,” the epic poem supposedly written by ancient Gaelic author Ossian, but most likely created out of myths and ballads by the 18th century Scottish poet James Macpherson.)
In 1785, when he was 26, Burns wrote a now famous poem about two dogs, “The Twa Dogs,” in which two friends Caesar, a Newfoundland belonging to a rich man, and Luath, a border collie belonging to a poor man, discuses the depravities of the rich and the virtues of the poor. The bard’s brother Gilbert, wrote this about the poem: “Robert had a dog, which he called Luath, that was a great favorite. The dog had been killed by the wanton cruelty of some person, the night before my father’s death.
Robert said to me that he should like to confer such immortality as he could bestow on his old friend Luath, and that he had a great mind to introduce something into the book under the title of ‘Stanzas to the Memory of a Quadruped Friend,’ but this plan was given up for the poem as it now stands. Caesar was merely the creature of the poet’s imagination, created for the purpose of holding chat with his favorite Luath.”

Boatswain + Lord Byron
“Lord Byron in Albanian dress,” by Thomas Phillips, 1835; Boatswain by Clifton Tomson, 1808)

Lord Byron’s favorite dog, a Newfoundland named Boatswain who was brought from Newfoundland by the British Navy, died after contracting rabies from having a fight with another dog. Through his illness, Byron nursed him by hand with no fear of contracting the disease.
When Boatswain died, Byron buried him at Newstead Abbey, the family’s ancestral home. When Byron himself died he wanted to be buried with Boatswain, but his family interred him in a nearby church. To commemorate Boatswain, Byron wrote “Epitaph to a Dog,” a poem that is sometimes called “Inscription on the Monument to a Newfoundland Dog.” (Actually, later scholarship showed that the poem was really written by Byron’s friend John Hobhouse.)
Near this Spot
Are deposited the Remains of one
Who possessed Beauty Without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning flattery
If inscribed over Human Ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
"Boatswain," a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland, May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey, Nov. 18, 1808.

Fortune + Josephine
Josephine and the Fortune-Teller (1837) by David Wilkie
Josephine entered her marriage to Napoleon Bonaparte with a pug named Fortune. In 1796, when they got married, Napoleon reportedly refused to let the pug come up on their marriage bed, so the pug bit emperor on the leg.
Josephine supposedly said that if the dog was not allowed to stay in the bed at night, then neither would she. So the three of them slept together.  Perhaps as a harbinger of Bonaparte’s own political fortune, the little pug that conquered Napoleon was later killed in a scuffle with the chef’s English bulldog.

Lauro + Napoleon
Despite his experience with Fortune, Napoleon had a special place in his heart of dogs. After one battle, the general, seeing a dog howling and licking the face of his now-dead human companion, remarked: “This soldier, I realized, must have had friends at home and in his regiment; yet he lay there deserted by all except his dog. I looked on, unmoved at battles, which decided the future of nations. Tearless, I had given orders, which brought death to thousands. Yet here I was stirred, profoundly stirred, stirred to tears. And by what? By the grief of one dog.”
During his first exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba, Napoleon had a dog called Lauro, who you can presently see stuffed Musee de l'Armee in Paris.

Seaman + Meriwether Lewis

Statue of Captain Meriweather Lewis, Captain William Clark, and Seaman at the City of Saint Charles Park, Mo.; book cover
At the start of their transcontinental voyage, Captain Meriwether Lewis (of the famed Lewis and Clark pair) acquired a black Newfoundland dog he named Seaman. The heroic dog soon became an essential part of the expedition, appearing regularly in Lewis’ journals.
Lewis recounts about his various encounters with the wildlife along the way, from retrieving geese to scaring off bears. In May, 1805, Lewis recounts how Seaman was seriously bit by a beaver. Lewis noted simply, “it was with great difficulty that I could stop the blood; I fear it will yet prove fatal to him.”
A week later Seaman pops back up in the journal, standing guard. In July 1806, Lewis notes that the dog was “much worried” about a wounded moose. And in then his very last entry about the dog, on July 15, 1806, Lewis describes the dog’s persecution by mosquitoes: “my dog even howls with the torture he experiences from them." It’s a mystery what happened to Seaman after this last entry, but the dog fame continued in books, civic statues, and documentaries. .

Flush + Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Watercolor by the poet’s brother Alfred Moulton-Barrett, 1843; photo of Virginia Woolf and her cocker spaniel Pinka.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) immortalized her red cocker spaniel Flush (born 1842) in the poem, “To Flush, My Dog,” which tells of a faithful dog who keeps his ailing mistress (the neurasthenic Barrett) company:
But of thee it shall be said,
This dog watched beside a bed
Day and night unweary
Watched within a curtained room,
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
Round the sick and dreary.
And this dog was satisfied
If a pale thin hand would glide
Down his dewlaps sloping
Which he pushed his nose within,
After—platforming his chin
On the palm left open.
When the poet was discouraged from including a poem to her dog in her published volume, she responded, “Leave out Flush!! –– Why for love’s sake I could not do it…the public must have an introduction to Flushie.” 
The bond between the two was so famous, that Virginia Woolf wrote a novel/biography Flush, A Biograph. Drawing on letters from the humans, Woolf spins various tales about Flush, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. In one, after the two poets had become a couple, the jealous pooch tries unsuccessfully to bite Robert. And then there are the stories when Flush was kidnapped—and ransomed—three times. Elizabeth’s father disapproved of her paying the ransoms almost as much as he disapproved of her younger husband. Woolf herself had a cocker spaniel named Pinka, that she would often write about to her lover Vita Sackville-West.

Greyfriars Bobby + John Gray
Statue of Greyfriars Bobby; Grave site.
In the Victorian era, stories about dogs and their human companions proliferated. Among the most famous was the tale of a Skye terrier named Greyfriars Bobby, whose life has been immortalized in books, films, and legend. Bobby was the companion of John Gray, a night watchman for the Edinburgh City Police.
For two years the pair were said to be inseparable, but on Feb. 8, 1858, Gray died of tuberculosis. He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in the old part of Edinburgh, and for the next 14 years Bobby sat on his Gray’s grave, leaving only to eat at a nearby restaurant and perhaps to take refuge in a nearby house during cold winter days.
When a law was passed by the city that all dogs without owners were to be put to death, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, paid for Bobby’s license out of city funds making him the responsibility of the city council. When Bobby died, he was buried at the gate of the graveyard (as an animal he couldn’t be buried on consecrated ground).
His tombstone reads: “Greyfriars Bobby, Died 14 January, 1872, Aged 16 years, Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.” Bobby’s grave is now a shrine at which dog lovers pay their respects, leaving flowers, dog toys and, of course, sticks.

Balto + Gunnar Kaasen

Gunnar Kaasen and Balto in 1925 (Cleveland Public Library Photographic Collection); Display at Cleveland Museum of Natural History
In January 1925, a diphtheria epidemic was poised to decimate Nome, Alaska. The engine of the one available plane was frozen. So the only feasible way to get the necessary serum from Nenana to Nome was by dog sled. A Siberian Husky named Balto led the dog team that would carry the serum. Norwegian musher Gunar Kaasen drove the team through a blinding blizzard, After they arrived in Nome and were heralded as heroes, Kaasen especially noted the efforts of Balto.

News of the heroic dog spread quickly via radio, and within a month, Hollywood producer Sol Lesser arranged for Balto and his fellow team members, along with Gunnar Kaasen, to be brought to Los Angeles to appear in the film Balto’s Race to Nome. The dog’s fame became a national obsession with Mary Pickford being photographed with him on the steps of Los Angeles’ City Hall.
Not to be outdone, New York City’s Parks Commissioner Francis D. Gallatin authorized a sculpture of Balto to be created by Frederick George Roth and placed in Central Park. For the next year, Balto and his fellow dogs were celebrated across America. But when the attention waned, their fate turned sour.
In 1927, Cleveland businessman George Kimble found the canine hero and fellow team, maltreated and underfed, in a Los Angeles sideshow. Kimble encouraged The Cleveland Plain Dealer to lead a campaign to bring the dogs to Cleveland. When Balto finally died, he was stuffed and made a star attraction of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Hachiko + Hidesaburo Ueno
Photo of Hachiko; Offerings during the April 8 Hachiko ceremony

Hachiko was a purebred Akita dog, one of the few in Japan, back in 1924 when Hidesaburo Ueno acquired the golden brown dog as a pet. Hidesaburo taught agriculture at Tokoyo University and each day when the professor returned from work Hachiko greeted him at the Shibuya Station.
One day Hidesaburo had a cerebral hemorrahage and died, never to again return to the Shibuya station. Yet every day for nine years, Hachiko went to the station to wait for his master to return, arriving at precisely the moment the train was due. When the Asahi Shimbun, a big Tokyo newspaper, published a story about Hachiko the dog became an overnight celebrity.
He became a role model for Japanese children, a paragon of unwavering fidelity to family and country. In 1934 a bronze statue of the Hachiko was erected at Shibuya Station. He died in 1935 of cancer, yet he remains, stuffed like Balto, for all to see in a glass case in the National Science Museum of Japan.
During World War II, Hachiko played his part for the war effort when his statue was melted down. A new statue was erected in 1948, where it stands today at one of the five exits of Shibuya Station—the “Hachiko-guchi” [Hachiko exit]. Each year, on April 8, hundreds of dog owners gather at Shibuya Station to honor the dog.

Arthur + Oliver

It is a rare film that offers a realistic portrayal of the human-dog bond, but writer/director Mike Mills does just that in his new, very personal, movie, Beginners. Ewan McGregor stars as Oliver, who is not only navigating his father’s final years (Hal, played by Christopher Plummer) but also a burgeoning love affair in the company of his father's Jack Russel Terrier portrayed by the incredibly charming Cosmo.
Oliver and Arthur's relationship is just one aspect of this understated tale of self-discovery, love and loss. It shines as an honest view of our lives with dogs. The film is not about Arthur or dogs specifically but, people who live and love with a dog. The dog is not there for laughs or a plot device, he simply is an important part of the characters’ lives, and this natural portrayal is rare among films.

*J. Bleifuss

~Through the hurt and loss,
LOVE endures.

You will live on in my heart
my friend so true,
and memories of you
will fill my mind
until I go to you.

I don't know when, but when I do,
I will come and cuddle you.
I think about you everyday.
My heart will never feel the same way.

Until we meet again some day,
Together forever and never apart,
You'll be forever in my heart.
In loving memory of Junjun ~


  1. we love them

    and they love us ....

  2. Outstanding tribute Cora! I didn't know this was coming, but maybe I changed my profile name to Moon Dog for a reason. : - )

    On a serious note, Lately, I've been thinking about adopting a pup from the ASPCA. This post could provide the impetus to make me do it.

    I know you must miss you dog.

  3. Utterly adorable!
    When he looks up
    and gives you
    that kind
    of earnest gaze
    full of expectation,
    eagerness and
    your heart just melts.
    What's his name?

  4. Thank you, dear Markus.

    Moon Dog...
    quite a fetching name.
    I wonder what you
    have in thoughts
    when you chose
    this particular name:

    The process of
    grieving is so gnawing.
    Yet, Life can provide
    opportunities to
    make adjustments.
    Hence, this tribute...
    Ironically, I would
    not want to forget
    and be rid of
    all the pains --
    I want the joy
    of memories
    to live on
    forever in my heart.
    I hope this simple tool
    provides you a haven
    of inspiration for
    opening your heart
    and home to a dog.
    Yes, please... rather than
    going to shops
    that sell dogs,
    the best thing
    you can do
    is ADOPT and
    give one pup
    his forever home....
    I did so.

  5. I am sure there is a name for this lovely dog
    but I don't know
    it is not my dog.
    Till befor a few years
    I had a cat
    which died after 21 years.
    I never picked ontother cat
    to share my home
    maybe later.
    I never had a dog
    and as long as I will live in Aabia
    I shall not have a dog
    but when moving back to Europe
    a dog like the one on the picture
    would be a perfect partner and friend.

  6. Everyone can't stay,
    as mortals flicker
    and flash and fade.
    But, Wow...
    21 cat years
    on earth with
    a caring person
    is a life well-lived.
    She died but
    part of her will
    never ever go away
    in your mind and
    in your heart.

    When you get
    back to Europe,
    be owned by a Dog :-)
    The most marvelous of
    all things in life is love
    progressing between a
    human being and a dog.
    One discovers that
    something Else is more
    important than any
    prize possession.
    It is the happiness to
    know that
    you are needed;
    to enjoy simply the
    sunshine and light,
    the joy, brought to you
    by one who loves
    without limit,
    who teaches us
    the virtue of nurture,
    devotion and loyalty,
    who never lets us down,
    who understands it all
    as the years increase,
    who appreciates
    even the smallest
    act of care.

    The world may be
    different because
    I was/am important
    in the life of a DOG.
    It is far better NOT
    to live in a gray twilight
    that knows not
    the deep grace
    and joy of sharing
    a life with a dog....

    I love your Dog pic.