BY KRIS MANTY
“There is nothing truer in this world than the love of a good dog.” — Author Mira Grant
Anyone who has ever had a dog knows there are no truer words. We love our dogs, and the world is a much better place with them in it.
Every dog has its day and on Aug. 26, they all will, in celebration of National Dog Day. This special day, observed worldwide, celebrates all breeds, pure and mixed, and serves to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year from shelters and other places. National Dog Day honors family dogs and dogs that work selflessly to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort. Some dogs put their lives on the line every day — for their police partners and blind companions, for the disabled, for our freedom and safety, and even the advancement of mankind, like the heroic Laika, the Russian pooch sent into space who became the first animal to orbit Earth.
Humans and dogs have entwined history
There is no other animal more closely linked with humans than dogs, and our entwined history goes back at least 14,000 years (and likely longer), when dogs broke from wolves to become our companions. As the relationship between dogs and humans became increasingly domestic, more objects and household items featured imagery of dogs, from porcelain and pottery, artwork and vases to fine jewelry and accessories.
Collecting canine-themed pieces is one of the easiest ways to keep yourself surrounded by our best friend. You can find antique and vintage collectibles in every breed imaginable, including lifelike mid-century spaghetti poodles (selling online for $5 to $250+), Meissen porcelain dogs (selling between $300 and $6,000+), and Hubley cast-iron creations (selling from $20 to $1,000+); and collectibles of cartoon characters including Snoopy (from a silver-plated coin bank from 1958 for $18 to a set of 1980 “Snoopy for President” Fire King mugs for $6,000), Goofy (from a refrigerator magnet for $7 to a 1946 Japan wind-up tin toy for $1,200), and Huckleberry Hound (from a 1960s children’s silver spoon for $10 to an animation cel for $400).
Canine rescue leads to online shop
Donna O’Connor has been collecting canines for more than 20 years and she opened an online shop, A Dog’s Tale Collectibles, more than eight years ago. She started it for one of the key reasons why National Dog Day came about: canine rescue.
“I have always been a dog lover, and I cannot recall a time in my life when I have not had the pleasure of the company of at least one dog. When I began A Dog’s Tale, I had five dogs. Even closer to my heart is canine rescue. I found out early that I couldn’t give my time directly to rescue organizations without wanting to bring every abandoned or abused dog home, and had nightmares about not being able to do that. I could, instead, create an enterprise that could contribute back, monetarily, to the canine rescue community. So that is what we do. We work our ‘tails’ off all year and at the end, we give a portion of our earnings back to the canine rescue community,” said O’Connor.
“Dogs have to rely on humans to tell their stories, and to work to place them in their ‘forever homes.’ Antique and vintage dogs are not much different. Thus the name ‘A Dog’s Tale,’” she said. You can browse through all of the well curated and unique antique and vintage dogs up for “adoption” at her website, adogstalecollectibles.com, and also on Ruby Lane (rubylane.com/shop/a-dogs-tale-collectibles).
Most collectors pick specific breeds
Scott Thompson has been collecting dog antiques for about 10 years. He said he has lost count of how many he has, but guesses 100 or more.
“My interest in collecting dogs actually was sort of accidental. I had always collected rabbits and hares, but stumbled across a Boston Terrier doorstop that I just had to have. It grew from that point on,” he said.
Some people collect specific items such as Bakelite dog brooches, Royal Doulton ceramic figurines or stuffed Steiffs, while others collect a specific breed they love, as most of O’Connor’s customers do.
“While a portion of our customers are simply dog lovers and purchase our dogs based on appeal, or a desire to decorate with dogs, the majority of our customers are breed-specific buyers. They want to add to collections of a breed that they currently own, or used to own, like a childhood pet, for example,” she said.
O’Connor noted that Scotties, Greyhounds, Boston Terriers, Dachshunds, and Bulldogs are some of the popular breeds they sell.
Dachshunds are near to Thompson’s heart as well.
“My wife and I have always had Dachshunds, over the past 27 years, and we just love dogs in general. Dachshunds have always been our favorite breed. We’ve had three male smooth-coat Dachshunds. We currently have a three-year-old chocolate/tan longhair female named Carly and a four-year-old Mountain Cur mix female named Copper,” he said.
Not surprisingly, he has Dachshund pieces in his collection. “I just added a 1930 Dachshund doorstop by Taylor Cook ... and I’ve always wanted a Bradley and Hubbard Dachshund, but have yet to find one,” he said.
Thompson said he looks for any dog collectibles by Hubley, National Foundry and Albany Foundry from the late 1800s through the early 1900s, and prefers cast iron or bronze pieces. One of his favorites is a bronze life-size Pug. “We’re still not sure of its age, but have been told by a couple of experts that it’s at least 100 years old.”
O’Connor said that being as immersed in vintage and antique dogs as she is, it’s difficult to choose a favorite, but she loves dogs that “tell a story” and there are a few that stand out, such as a bronze sculpture, “Bitch with Pups,” by P.J. Mene “that is both a heart-warming and a heart-wrenching piece that seems to tell a dramatic story of survival and love.” She is also fond of a Dahl-Jensen porcelain Pekingese puppy (#1134) that is light-hearted and whimsical that she has sold several of, but has always kept one for herself.
“We recently sold a gorgeous antique Conta & Boehme German porcelain inkwell with dog and puppies, circa early 1900s. It tells the wonderfully whimsical tale of a mother dog, seated atop a table, and who is watching her three rambunctious puppies, pulling at the tablecloth, in their attempt to get at the bones and dog dish, which are on the top of the table. To have that going on — and it is an antique, porcelain inkwell as well — is just tremendous,” she said. “I also love the ways dogs have been incorporated into functional items. A vintage light bulb lamp with a Scottie filament, a butter mold with a lineup of Pugs, or an antique Edwardian sterling silver Bulldog paperclip are all fascinating and wonderful to own.”
Thompson said that he and his wife have many of their dog collectibles displayed around their home, inside and out, and the rest are currently in climate-controlled storage.
Variety of ways to decorate with dogs
The same creative and inventive ideas for collecting and displaying that you see in decorating magazines work equally well for canine collectibles, and every room in your home can lend itself to a unique take on a canine theme, O’Connor said.
“I have had the opportunity to be invited into the homes of a variety of canine collectors, and I learn something new every time. Certainly, massive collections of a particular breed, housed in magnificent, glass front armoires, are stunningly beautiful. However, a frolicking, porcelain pair of black and white terriers, grouped with a small cluster of potted houseplants, a sterling silver Borzoi figurine placed on a dining table beside an antique silverplate tippler, or a soft pink Shawnee pottery Cocker Spaniel planter, placed near a baby’s changing table to hold cotton balls, are each equally wonderful, decorative canine touches that would certainly be noticed and appreciated,” she said.
When it comes to collecting dogs, O’Connor said there is a true art in placing them around your home without feeling overrun by them. She said the best compliment she received was from a friend who had stopped by to visit her at her new home. “After socializing and getting caught up for a while, she stood up and turned in a circle and said, “I didn’t realize it until just now, but there are dogs EVERYWHERE, and I LOVE IT!”
Dogs add so much to our lives
Thompson said he thinks dogs strike such a chord with us because they are so lovable. “It seems that no matter what your mood is, dogs are always there to make everything OK again. Our dogs are not only our best friends, but my biggest stress reliever,” he said.
O’Connor echoes that sentiment.
“Dogs bring out the best in us. Just like peanut butter and chocolate … each one tastes even better alongside the other. The same is true of collectible canines. Giving them a place of honor in our home, in turn, gives our home warmth, beauty, and sometimes even a touch of whimsy. However, the really special magic occurs when each one that is placed in our home also manages to acquire a place in our heart.”