Behind Estate Gates: Oyster Bay, Long Island ~ Circa 1925

Horses Parading Around ~ Including American Pharoah  

Horses and parades go together like peanut butter and jelly! This partnership began millennia ago when horses were paraded around to celebrate battle victories. More recently, the Horse Guard Parade, those beautiful black horses of the British monarchy stabled at the Royal Mews in London, codified the daily practice of ceremonial parades in 1745. There is even a type of horse in America called the Parade Horse. This breed is used in a sport the celebrates the Southwestern tradition where stylishly dressed ranch owners would ride into town on their high-stepping horses in saddles dripping with silver.

Today, I rode in my first parade, a mounted costume parade through the streets of downtown Danbury. Hosted by Happy Trails Farm, nearly 20 horses — and one donkey — ridden by a costumed clown, giraffe, queen of hearts, cowboy, ghost, Game of Throne’s winter, and even a pair of horseflies, paid homage to Halloween and horses. Dressed as Downtown Abbey’s Lady Mary out for a hunt my trusty steed Oz and I proudly marched across busy city intersections and bustling suburban woodlands with ease. He was such a good boy! And it was his first parade too.

Oz waits to head off on his first parade!

Oz waits to head off on his first parade!

But, the best part of the day was watching the spectators stare in awe at the horses. People came out of their apartments to wave. Others stopped their SUVs to watch the horses stroll down the cityscape. Dogs hung their heads out of car windows to get a glimpse, or bark a greeting. Many residents came to the curb to take photos of horses in their ‘hood. One man shouted, “You made my day!”

American Pharoah’s Post Parade

His remark reminded me how rare it is today to see a horse on any given day. On Halloween this year most people who saw horses, saw them in a different kind of parade, the iconic ‘post parade’ of Thoroughbred racing.The ‘post’ is the starting point of the race. It’s name comes from the early days of racing when only a post at the rail marked the beginning of the race. It’s why today, horses have ‘post’ positions, not starting gate positions. Before each race, the horses are called to the ‘post’ by a bugler playing some form of First Call. Once played, jockeys mount up, leave the paddock area and ‘parade to the post’ in front of the grandstand. It’s this pre-race parading that gives fans and bettors a good look at their favorite horses.

American Pharoah in the Post Parade at Saratoga Race Course

American Pharoah in the Post Parade at Saratoga Race Course

After his post parade, millions of TV viewers watched Triple Crown Champion American Pharaoh make history with his Breeder’s Cup Classic win at Keenland Race Course in Kentucky. A new achievement in America’s oldest sport was born, the racing grand slam — winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes, and the Classic. As a huge AP fan, I cheered him on as he pulled away at 6 and half lengths. Announcer Larry Collum screamed,  “He’s a horse of a lifetime!” as he crossed the finish line in a track record of two minutes. Jockey Victor Espinoza turned and smiled for the finish line camera to mark the end of AP’s triumphant racing career.

For most viewers of this historic achievement, sadly, television or social media will be as close as they ever get to see, not only a horse of a lifetime, but a horse in their lifetime. American Pharoah reignited the sport of horse racing and I’m hoping that with it the preservation of the horse, all horses, has truly begun. No longer are horses the mainstay of transportation. No longer do they pull plows for farmers to create food. No longer do small stables offering riding lessons or backyard barns to keep a pony for the children dot the landscape. There just aren’t as many opportunities for people and horses to cross paths and connect in the modern world. In cities we may occasionally see carriage horses, mounted police officers, or those in parades! In the suburbs, apart from secluded private farms, horses are even harder to spot in daily life.

I don’t want the horse to disappear from the landscape. We need horses in our lives. If you have never been in the company of a horse, go find one today, bring them a carrot, and say hello. They will change your life. They are magnificent animals with a deep, historic bond with humans. Oz and I may have done our post parade while following a black horse ridden by a bumble bee, but we were happy to share the beauty of horses with others. AP’s trainer Bob Baffert said it best about his charge — and all horses — when he called him, “a gift from God.” Let’s cherish them all.

A Carriage Ride Brings Back History

From city livery stables to carriage houses on large estates, my great-grandfather was known to drive a four-in-hand team with skill. A career coachman, he came upon his vocation at the turn of the 20th century, when carriage popularity was waning.

My great-grandfather Oscar Nelson drives a well-matched pair on Cortland Street, Sleepy Hollow, NY circa 1910

My great-grandfather Oscar Nelson drives a well-matched pair on Cortland Street, Sleepy Hollow, New York circa 1910

Last year, a carriage horse and driver took me on a wonderful tour of New York City’s Central Park, which ignited a desire to learn more. And while I may carry coachman’s DNA, I have never taken over the reins from a driver until last week when a friend offered to take me for a drive around my neighborhood with one of her horses pulling a light, two-wheeled ‘buggy.’

Tyler and his carriage at New York City's Central Park

Tyler and his carriage at New York City’s Central Park

Carriages by Brewster & Co. 

Carriage making was a major 19th century industry. The Brewster family had vast showrooms filled with Landaus, Broughams and Lady’s Phaetons, with factories in New York City and New Haven dating back to 1810. Brewster & Co. produced beautiful hand-built carriages, even earning a gold medal at the Paris Exposition in 1878. Business boomed for decades as they became known as the “Carriage Builder for the American Gentleman.” Among their customers were Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors and J.P. Morgan, each with their own colored coaches, not to be owned by anyone else. But steam-powered train transportation exploded between the1830s and 1860s and signaled the beginning of the end for the horse-drawn carriages. The end came with a new invention called the “horseless carriage” during the Gilded Age.

Brewster Carriages, built in the 19th Century, were the finest in the world

Brewster Carriages, built in the 19th Century, were the finest in the world

By 1896, the first electric car was built by Brewster & Co, and by 1905 the company had ceased making horse-drawn carriages in favor of automobile bodies. But even then, the custom-made “coaches” couldn’t compete with mass-produced automobiles and in 1925 Brewster & Co. was sold to Rolls Royce of America.

William Brewster, Brewster & Co.s final president had a daughter named Barbara Brewster Taylor who lived in Southport, CT. Each year she would graciously open her estate – surrounded by natural jumping obstacles simulating a fox hunt – to host the Fairfield County Hounds annual hunter trials up until the late 1970s. I remember the gracious white-haired lady would come to watch occasionally. All I knew at the time as a teenager was that her father made “world-famous carriages and buggy whips.”

An 1887 Park Drag Brewster Carriage pulled by a team of fine bays

An 1887 Park Drag Brewster Carriage pulled by a team of fine carriage horses, possibly Cleveland Bays

Royal Coaches 

Despite progress, you can still find the world’s largest collection of working coaches and carriages at London’s Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace. Among them are the gilded, golden Coronation Carriage built for Catherine II and the sleek, black Glass Coach, my favorite when I visited the Mews, which carried Lady Diana Spencer to Westminster Abbey on her wedding day in 1981. Another popular open carriage, drawn by six of the Queen’s horses, is the 1902 State Landau which carried Kate and William, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, back to Buckingham Palace after their wedding in 2011.

The Glass Coach returns from Opening of Parliament

The Glass Coach returns from Opening of Parliament

Driving Versus Riding Horses 

Sitting in the two-wheeled buggy I felt like royalty as we headed down the road. “Clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop,” sounded the hooves striking pavement. Feeling the motion of a small carriage is very different than horseback riding. A rhythmic bounce that can be softened by bracing your feet against the carriage floor and pushing your back into the seat. Before my friend turned over the reins, we had a safety lesson. “Always wear your seatbelt,” she told me. A little loop at the end of the reins placed over your pinkie finger. “The last thing you want to do is lose your reins while driving a carriage!” “Don’t stick your hands near the moving wheels or you will break your arm.” All valid points.

Walk on! My first drive!

Walk on! My first drive!

Carriage horses are trained by voice to “walk on,” “trot,” “walk,” “whoa,” “stand,” and my favorite, “come around.” This last maneuver moves a carriage on a turn, the horse executing a side-step, leg over leg turn on the haunches to turn a carriage left or right. Unlike riding where you have your seat and your legs, you only have a few aids left to control your horse: your hands, your voice and the fabled buggy whip.

Heading down the road

Heading down the road

Easily I got the hang of using my hands. The long reins held between the pointer and index fingers to drive a horse versus between the thumb and index finger while riding. The mechanics of steering, turning and stopping were executed with a stronger bit. And, just like riding, when you are on the road, and a big, loud, scary yellow school bus comes barreling down the road behind you, focusing your horse’s attention on anything but the school bus is paramount. You focus on the gait, “Walk on.” You point the horse’s head away from the impending confrontation. You hold your breath! And when the bus followed by eight cars passes, you tell the horse, “Good Boy!”

Good Boy Butter!

Good Boy Butter!

Despite the slow speed of a horse-drawn carriage compared to today’s cars, they can be dangerous places as horses can be unpredictable, and occasionally, will bolt despite being harnessed to a large wooden structure. “Always have an exit strategy,” was part of the safety lesson. If you don’t, you can get seriously injured, as evidenced by many carriage accidents with runaway horses recounted in The Bee’s ‘Way We Where’ from 100 years ago. This time, however, I got a delicious taste of a bygone era, when horses pulled carriages and people needed them to explore and discover their world, at a much slower pace. The sky, the fields, the trees, the flowers, the birds, all came into view on their own, just waiting for my discovery.

Heading back to the barn

Heading back to the barn

Riding London’s Rotten Row 

There’s nothing quite like urban horseback riding. Today equestrians can ride where kings once ruled and the city’s elite came out in livery carriages ‘to see and be seen’ along an historic path called Rotten Row in London’s Hyde Park. A plaque in the park tells us its story: Rotten Row The King’s Old Road Completed 1690 – This ride originally formed part of King William III’s carriage drive from Whitehall to Kensington Palace. It’s construction was supervised by the Surveyor of their majesties road, Captain Michael Studholme, and it was the first lamp-lit road in the kingdom. Designated as a public bridleway in the 1730’s, Rotten Row is one of the most famous urban riding grounds in the world.

Rotten Row Rituals

Hyde Park Stables, on a quaint side street called Bathhurst Mews her the park, offers horse rentals. During one trip to London I mounted up. As we exited the lane, the sound of iron horseshoes landing on ancient cobblestones gave rhythm to our walk towards the park. Our group of eight waited briefly beneath the Archery Tavern pub sign before crossing heavy traffic on Bayswater Road to enter the park beneath Victoria Gate.

Waiting by London's  Archery Tavern on our way to Hyde Park

Waiting by London’s Archery Tavern on our way to Hyde Park

Sitting tall in the saddle, feeling the horse’s stride lengthen, we both relaxed with each stride as we walked along the West Carriage Drive. As we crossed a bridge over The Serpentine, the park’s biggest lake, we gathered up behind the Albert Memorial. Surrounded by greenery, tall trees and bushes brilliant in their fall colors, we stepped upon the famed Rotten Row.

“We are all going to wait, until I tell you to go, and take a canter, one at a time,” our instructor said. POW! A small bay pony burst forth down Rotten Row with a little boy astride. He was kicking his little legs, that barely reached below the saddle, and flapping his little arms like a bird trying to take off. Elbows pointed skyward came slamming against his sides in unison with his legs hitting the pony’s barrel side.

“Stooooop Him!… Stop Him!…” came the call from our leader. Little boy must have been deaf as the more he was yelled after, the faster his fluttering legs and arms moved. Now, the leader took off after him, making a daring grab of the reins to pull the pony to a stop. Many in our group were having a good chuckle. Then once all back in formation, one at a time — pony and boy sent to the end of the line — we did our own impressions of fluttering legs and arms to get our bridle-path weary horses to canter down Rotten Row.

Leaving the group to canter down Rotten Row on Sedrick, a handsome buckskin from Hyde Park Stables

Leaving the group to canter down Rotten Row on Sedrick, a handsome buckskin from Hyde Park Stables

Most were obliging, others needed more coaxing. The mile long canter down a 75-foot wide path of fluffy tan footing made for a nice ride. Compared to the hard packed cinders on Central Park’s bridle path, it was like floating on a cloud. The challenges in any park setting, waiting for something to dart out into your path that might spoke the old steed, were ever present. The scenarios were endless. Dogs, children, children chasing dogs, balls, children chasing balls, dogs chasing balls, children chasing dogs chasing balls, errant tourists, police on horseback in pursuit of suspects. You get the picture. After safely making it down Rotten Row to Queen Elizabeth’s Gate at Hyde Park Corner, we stopped to collect our breaths and release a sigh of relief. What a lovely calm ride.

‘Ware Traffic

Our group gathered near the Archilles Statue and made a left turn to head down Dorchester Ride, another fluffy lane to canter. Basically, we heading back home to the mews. One at a time, we were launched. Asking Sedrick for a canter this time was not even necessary. Like all good hack horses, he knew where to walk, trot, and canter. And canter he did. Full out this big buckskin boy began, having the time of his life. Nothing I did slowed his canter home. Quickly I realized it was time to enjoy the ride and not be in control (those who know me can chuckle here) but not before I saw the bus.

Heading towards Queen Elizabeth's Gate at Hyde Park Corner

Heading towards Queen Elizabeth’s Gate at Hyde Park Corner

I looked to my right and there at eye level was a red double decker bus speeding down Park Lane, a busy highway parallel to the park. Sedrick was in a race with the bus. It seemed like the bus was heading towards us. We got so close, I could the terror in the tourists’ eyes as they looked at us, seeing the terror in my eyes. As Sedrick passed the Joy of Life Fountain, with the bus getting closer, I thought for a moment it might turn into my personal End of Life Fountain. But the trail then veered left away from Park Lane and the bus.  Now, I started to breath, but still cantering while taking in the sights and sounds of London around me.

As Speaker’s Corner appeared I could see the Marble Arch in the distance. I could hear pigeons flapping and police activity. I could smell the diesel fumes from the traffic that swirled around the park. And then, as if on cue, bomb-proof Sedrick slowed to a walk, blew out his nostrils, lowered his head and headed home on the North Ride with the rest of our herd. I wore a smile from ear to ear. Cost of horse rental £85 – Cantering next to a double decker bus taking tourists to Harrods in Knightsbridge – priceless.

Next time you’re in London – book a ride at www.HydeParkStables.com

Celebrate “National Purebred Dog Day” May 1

This Friday marks the second annual National Purebred Dog Day (NPDD). Last month, Colorado was the first state to recognize May 1 as NPDD in a joint resolution of the House and Senate. The founder of the day, Puli breeder and dogknobit.com blogger Susi Szeremy, hopes the idea will spread across all 50 states, some of which have a purebred dog as their State Dog, like the Boykin Spaniel, in South Carolina and the Plott, a hunting hound, in neighboring North Carolina.  Her purebred passion is contagious. I was intrigued to learn more about the day, so I contacted her and conducted a Q&A. Check out the video!

Scottish Terrier - Purebred Power

Scottish Terrier – Purebred Power & Puppy Love 

Q: Why Start National Purebred Dog Day? 

A: These have been difficult times for purebred dog ownership and ethical breeders; animal rights advocates and hard line adopt-don’t-shop proponents have painted owners whose dogs were acquired from an ethical breeder, and the breeders of those dogs, with a very broad brush. To hear them speak, the only “good” purebred dog is a rescue, and they continue, there’s no such thing as a “good breeder” because all breeders crank out unhealthy dogs in assembly line fashion only to create pet “overpopulation.”

These statements are simply not true, but in the national conversation about responsible pet ownership, the voice of the purebred dog owner hasn’t been heard. Stories about well-bred purebred dogs acting in service to their country, working as search and rescue dogs, therapy dogs, conservation dogs, and so much more have been largely ignored in favor of “feel good” adoption and rescue stories. Balance is needed in this dialogue.

The emphasis shouldn’t be about whether someone buys a rescue dog, adopts from a shelter, or gets their dog from a respected breed invested in their breed. It should be about potential dog owners doing their homework and getting the best fit of dog for themselves so that they have a long-term relationship with that dog. For some, a mixed breed from the pound is a great match while others prefer the predictability of a purpose-bred dog bred by a breeder who will stand by their puppies. Both choices should be respected.

Old English Sheepdog "Swagger" in the Colorado State House! First State to recognize National Purebred Dog Day.

Old English Sheepdog “Swagger” in the Colorado State House! First State to recognize National Purebred Dog Day.

In the course of research for an article I was writing, I realized with shock that while there is a National Dog Day, National Mutt Day, National Rescue Day, National Puppy Day –  even a National Poop Scoop Day – nothing existed to honor the contributions of purebred dogs. I simply filled the void by creating National Purebred Dog Day in order to celebrate the diversity, heritage and predictability of the purebred dog. From Uggie to Snoopy, from Rin Tin Tin to Lassie, from Brian Griffin to Santa’s Little Helper, and including Presidential dogs, Bo, Barney Bush, Fala and Laddie Boy, purebred dogs have held a place in American culture and history.  Add to this the fact that some of our dog breeds are in danger of extinction, it became obvious to me that creating their own day of recognition has been long overdue.

Q: What will happen on May 1? 
A: I’m encouraging dog owners to get out in the public square with their purebred dogs. There are a great many people who’ve never seen a Borzoi, Lundehund, Puli or Havanese, to name a few,  in person and we know from Meet the Breed venues that the public loves to see our dogs. There will be an eruption of photographs on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms this Friday that feature happy owners and their purebred dogs. Many photos will include an “I (heart) Purebred Dogs” sign to show their connection to National Purebred Dog Day (sort of like holding up a “Happy Birthday” sign).  There are a few fun photo challenges on NPDD’s Facebook page that day with prizes generously donated by companies and individuals that believe in the message.

Q: What can purebred dog lovers do on May 1 to show their support? 

A: First, be proud, but humble, to own a purebred dog. Our breeds are living legacies of the cultures that created them for a reason, “museum pieces with a pulse,”  you could say. Learn about their heritage so that it can be shared with others who may only THINK they’re looking at, say, an Alaskan Malamute, until they learn how uniquely adapted the breed is for its native environment. After that, make an “I (heart) Purebred Dogs” sign, get out with your dog in the public square, take a selfie or have someone else take the picture, then post it on Facebook and Twitter using the #purebreddogs and #nationalpurebreddogday hastags. There is strength in numbers and on May 1, I hope to show that there are many of us who love and take pride in our purebred dogs.

Q: Explain the I (Heart) Purebred Dogs sign. Where have you seen them? 

I Heart Purebred Dogs

A: The genesis of the “I (Heart) Purebred Dogs” sign was again rooted in the fact that to my knowledge, it hadn’t been done.  I needed visual shorthand to convey in a photograph that the holder of the sign was “with us” in the sentiment that it’s ok to own a purebred dog. Every year, I’ve been fortunate to have a celebrity pose with the sign for a photograph, and this year it was Mary Carillo, former professional tennis player, Olympic sportscaster, co-host of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and one fabulous lady. My fantasy is to have it not only become “cool” to pose with the sign, but that more folks will want to.

Who loves purebred dogs? We do!

Who loves purebred dogs? We do!

Q: What is it about purebred dogs that you love? 

A: My first dog was a sweet mixed breed, but I grew up with the family Cairn Terriers (and more than a few rescued dogs along the way). When my own circumstances made it a good time to finally own my very own dog, I got a Puli which has been my breed since 1978. My love of purebred dogs isn’t just for the predictability of some 300 different breeds in the world. I value the history of the cultures from which these dogs came. Most breeds are as much an inherent part of a culture as that culture’s music, art and dress. A Scottish Terrier is instantly recognized as being a natural component of, say, Scottish Highland Games, just as an Irish Wolfhound fits into a St. Patrick’s Day parade, one reason you won’t find a Vizsla as part of either cultural event.

Everybody loves purebred dogs!

Everybody loves purebred dogs! Look at that bloodhound. 

Q: Why did you decide to become a breeder? 
A: Though the Puli is now regarded as an “uncommon” breed, it was considered rare when I got my first one. The breeders were fanciers who encouraged me to show my puppy, and as so often happens, after one show, I was bitten by the bug. I had good mentors who helped me learn the importance of determining “why” one would consider breeding their dog. As my mother used to say, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”  After doing my homework, and with the help of more experienced breed friends, I bred my first litter out of which came a National Specialty Best Puppy in Sweeps winner, and his littermate, a multiple group and multiple AOM winning dog. I hesitate to call myself a “breeder” since it’s been a few years since my last litter, and the number of litters I’ve bred in my life hardly put me in the same league as the dedicated people who stand center ring at Eukanuba or Westminster for “Breeder of the Year” consideration. When the time is right, my dogs are all health tested and cleared, and there’s a compelling reason to do so, I’d like to breed a litter again some day. 

Let’s Celebrate Purebred Dogs!

#purebreddogs and #nationalpurebreddogday gets your voice heard on Twitter and Facebook

-“Like” NPDD on FBhttps://www.facebook.com/NationalPurebredDogDay?ref=hl

Watch the NPDD videohttps://youtu.be/DwbWOrmkLmg

– Game Day plan: http://dogknobit.com/2015/04/22/game-day-and-the-game-plan/

Download the I (Heart) Purebred Dogs sign:  To download the “I (heart) Purebred Dogs” sign, click on one of the links below. You DO NOT need to open a Dropbox account to access these files, simply exit out of the prompt window that wants you to open an account and proceed to the links.

For the PDF format:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/7g5n3tlt5y7zrom/I%20Love%20Purebred%20Dogs%20pdf.pdf?dl=0

For the PNG format: https://www.dropbox.com/s/k2gvp5ee6ff75j4/I%20Love%20Purebred%20Dogs%20png.png?dl=0

Morris & Essex Kennel Club Dog Show ~ Redux

Since its commemorative reincarnation a decade ago, the Morris and Essex Kennel Club dog show has become a modern classic with a serious nod to its traditional roots. A new book just published, The Golden Age of Dog Shows: Morris & Essex Kennel Club, 1927-1957, not only celebrates those roots but raises funds to help keep the tradition alive. With a forward by William Secord, famed canine fine art historian and gallery owner, this photo-filled book promises not to disappoint.

Morris & Essex Kennel Club 1927-1957 Book Cover

Morris & Essex Kennel Club 1927-1957 Book Cover

Last month, as part of Women’s History Month, I included M&E’s founder, Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, as my nominee for important women in history. You can read the tribute below, which first appeared in my weekly column Lisa Unleashed published in The Newtown Bee on March 13, 2015:

Since 1995 U.S. Presidents have passed resolutions declaring March as Women’s History Month. According to womenshistorymonth.gov the celebration is a “tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society.”  Nature and the planet are two pretty broad categories when singling out individuals who have made an impact. Dogs are also part of nature and the canine-human bond is felt all over the planet. As such, I’d like to contribute my nominations of one woman whose commitment to ‘dogs’ have “proved invaluable to society.”

Many have called Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge the “First Lady of Dogdom” of the 20th century. Daughter of William Rockefeller Jr., as well as John D. Rockefeller, Sr.’s niece, she along with her husband, Marcellus Hartley Dodge, heir to the Remington Arms fortune, founded the Morris & Essex Kennel Club in the 1920s. When they married in 1907 at the Fifth Avenue mansion of her father in Manhattan, the newspapers called them “the richest couple in the world.”

Morris & Essex Dog Show 

Lisa & Gail show off their hats at Morris & Essex

Lisa & Gail show off their hats at Morris & Essex in October 2010

With this vast wealth each year from 1927 to 1957 Mrs. Dodge hosted the famed Morris & Essex dog show for thousands of dogs. Dozens of tents decorated the polo field of their vast estate “Giralda Farms” in Madison, New Jersey as top breeders and handlers came to exhibit their purebred dogs. For decades it was not only a valuable place to come study dogs but also a stop on the social scene. It was a special show, with Mrs. Dodge offering sterling trophies, lavish flower decorations, and the famed boxed lunch for all the exhibitors in attendance.

M&E had become the most prestigious dog show in the country, more important to some breeders and fanciers, than even Westminster, with around 4,000 dogs of all breeds in attendance. A win at M&E was a stamp of approval of a well-bred dog. For breeders, it was a paradise to come and see fine examples of dogs to study and watch as one was determining how a great dog or bitch might fit into a breeding program to improve their line.  As a dog breeder herself, Mrs. Dodge understood the importance of a gathering place to see many well-bred dogs in action together to further the sport of purebred dogs. Show fanciers in the sport had large kennels and many litters of great dogs planned for the show ring also made their way into American homes as pets.  But like all good breeders, the welfare of all dogs, whether we bred them or not, whether purebred or not, was equally important. Mrs. Dodge, herself a Best-in-Show judge at Westminster, also saw to it that those dogs less fortunate than her prized pups did not stay in that station of life for long.

St. Hubert’s Giralda – Founded in 1939 as a non-profit shelter, Mrs. Dodge wanted to not only advanced the study of breeding dogs but also to care for those injured and lost in her community. In addition, the shelter named after the patron of lost animals, at one time offered animal control services to six towns in Morris County, New Jersey. Today, the organization she founded in her backyard, is known as St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center and its expanded mission states its, “dedication to the humane treatment of animals. Its services to the community include pet adoption and animal rescue, animal assisted therapy, humane education, dog training, and pet loss support.

In 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, St. Hubert’s agreed to take in the first of many airlifts of displaced dogs from Louisiana. As part of a team from AKC, who had funded the airlift through disaster donations, I waited at St. Hubert’s before heading to the airport to unload dogs. At one point I found myself face-to-face with some of the remaining artifacts from Mrs. Dodge’s life with dogs in a meeting room. As I glanced at trophies, books and other ephemera, I was struck by her depth of care and compassion for all dogs from show dogs to just those that needed to survive.

Many people today, including some dog show people, have no idea who Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge was, or her dedication to the welfare of all dogs. It’s heartwarming that nearly 50 years after the last Morris & Essex Dog Show, her legacy of St. Hubert’s Giralda lives on by helping a plane load of dogs who had lost their way after a devastating hurricane. Or also in 2005, the first ‘revived’ Morris & Essex dog show, held once every 5 years, would be established to keep her vision alive on the dog show front as well. This is the legacy of a great woman in history who has advanced man’s best friend and their care which in my opinion “have proved invaluable to society.”

A Gentleman’s Dog – Revolutionary War Style

In a way, we have George Washington’s love of riding horses and breeding fox hounds to thank for his iconic role in the American Revolution. More importantly he upheld the standard that, even in wartime, a gentleman’s dog is not to be messed with. One of my favorite books, General Howe’s Dog: George Washington, the Battle of Germantown, and the Dog Who Crossed Enemy Lines, by Caroline Tiger (Chamberlain Bros., 2005) captures a little know act of kindness between opposing generals after a battle.

GeneralHowesDogCover001

Homesick for Hounds 

From Tiger’s well-written and researched account we learn that in 1775 Washington was homesick for his horses and hounds while a Virginia Delegate at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Away from his stable full of horses and his kennel full of hounds in Mount Vernon, Virginia, he brought one of his favorite hounds, Sweep Lips, to stay with him for comfort. One day as Washington walked Sweet Lips in the city, he came across the wife of Philadelphia’s Mayor Samuel Powell, an influential politician who also loved to fox hunt. After a dinner at the mayor’s home and through an  introduction to the Gloucester Hunting Club in nearby New Jersey, Washington met other influential men who eventually secured his appointment as command of the struggling Continental Army. Tiger suggests we should thank Sweet Lips for being a chick magnet on the streets of Philadelphia and as a result securing our independence.

A fine pack of PennMaryDel Hounds

A fine pack of PennMaryDel Hounds

However, freedom didn’t come easy. Commander of the British troops, General William Howe, triumphed over Washington for years in many battles, always seeming to let the General retreat enough to fight another day. During the war, they politely wrote letters to each other complaining about food supply blockades, troop behavior, and burning buildings among other unfair tactics of war. In 1776, after the Delaware River crossing on Christmas morning, followed by victory at the Battle of Trenton against the Hessians, luck was beginning to change for the Continental soldiers. Washington, who likened war to hunting, foolishly galloped to the front lines during this battle and said afterwards, “It’s a fine fox chase, my boys.”

By September 1777, the British had captured Philadelphia, considered the nation’s capital, and encamped their troops northwest of the city in Germantown. Washington attacked in Germantown and nearly defeated Howe, before both sides retreated amidst confusion, fog and intermingling of troops. While Washington’s troops retreated back to their encampment at Pennypacker’s Mill, a fox terrier had joined them. Once discovered, one of Washington’s men read the inscription on the collar only to learn that the small dog belonged to General Howe. In all the confusion of the battle, the dog had followed them for 25 miles back to their camp.

General Howe’s Dog

Washington had to make a decision about this new interloper. According to the rules of military engagement at the time, dogs couldn’t be kept as prisoners of war and a man’s personal property should be returned. What to do? Being a gentleman, and ignoring an officer’s suggestion to make the dog a mascot, the General asked Alexander Hamilton, would who go on to become the first Secretary of the Treasury after serving as Washington’s aide-de-camp, to write a note to Howe.

George Washington looks over at the New York Stock Exchange

George Washington looks over at the New York Stock Exchange

The note as reproduced in the book reads: “Note to Sir William Howe. General Washington’s compliments to General Howe, does himself the pleasure to return him a  Dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the collar, appears to belong to General Howe. October 6th, 1777.”

Tiger goes on to describe the dog’s return via a solider on horseback traveling 25 miles back to Germantown with a white flag in one hand and the little terrier in the other. She speculated that British troops most likely laughed at this solider deep in enemy territory carrying a little dog. One of Howe’s men wrote about the incident later: “The General seemed most pleased at the return of the dog. He took him upon his lap, seemingly uncaring that the mud from the dog’s feet soiled his tunic. Whilst he stroked the dog, he discovered a tightly folded message that had been secreted under the dog’s wide collar. The General read the message, which seemed to have a good effect upon him. Although I know not what is said, it is likely to have been penned by the commander of the rebellion.”

George Washington Statue on the steps of Federal Hall, New York City, to commemorate his first inaugural speech at that site.

George Washington Statue on the steps of Federal Hall, New York City, to commemorate his first inaugural speech at that site.

Unfortunately, as with much of history, Tiger tells us there is no record of what that second note tucked into the terrier’s collar might have said or what General Howe wrote back to Washington in return. She does tell us that, “We know that he appreciated the gesture, since later he referred to the incident as ‘an honorable act of a gentleman.’” To learn more about this book and its author visit www.carolinetiger.com.