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2009-11-04 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

More Finds in Search for Sensation: We are inching closer to the 1887 grave of Westminster’s symbolic Pointer. Google Books is a Godsend to research. As more 19th century material enters the public domain, key word searches of vintage publications, recently digitalized, are available on home computers. Just discovered, an antique book and a familiar periodical provide new details about the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) kennels and the lifestyle of the 200 dogs on the Babylon property near Southards Pond. Take a look:

•Although the 1887 book- Dog Stories and Dog Lore by Thomas Wallace Knox is listed as juvenile fiction because the author pretends to have a narrator conducting a tour so 2 boys can learn about rearing and training dogs, a Westminster incident cited has been verified by multiple sources. Knox (1835-1896) was a Civil War correspondent and international journalist who sold the government a Morse Code system later used to transmit weather maps. He also wrote many travel logs for young people. Therefore, I am considering Knox’s remarks about the dogs as accurate.

WKC Babylon kennel showing high wire fence, Harper’s Weekly, 1892. WKC Babylon kennel showing high wire fence, Harper’s Weekly, 1892. Pages 76-77 segue from the Madison Square Garden dog show to the Westminster complex in Babylon. Knox says that WKC owned 80 acres when actually the club had 64. This mistake is in several old journals. He goes on to write: “every morning and every evening the dogs are allowed to run on the grounds, but during the middle of the day they are kept in the kennels or tied among the trees. The manager of the kennels devised a plan of letting the dogs’ chains run on wires stretched between the trees, so the animals can go a great deal farther than the length of the chains.”

There is a drawing of a doubleswivel dog chain. This is the first I have seen about the dogs being chained whereas an 1886 Sportsman’s Journal describes the kennels opening upon roomy exercise yards enclosed by high “picket” fences while a sketch in an 1892 Harper’s Weekly shows pens with high “wire” fencing.

His next paragraph hit a familiar chord. Knox explains: “Sometimes the dogs are taken for a swim in the lake [Southards]. The manager gets in his boat and rows away from shore, and the entire pack of dogs, big and little, follow him.” Then he recounts how Sankey, a Spaniel, saved Wasp, a Skye Terrier, from drowning. Sankey received a life-saving medal from the WKC members. This 1881 rescue had been reported in the June 1881 Chicago Field and Forest & Stream, plus the canine heroism was also noted on June 18, 1881 microfilm of the Babylon newspaper- The South Side Signal. (See “Pets” Beacon May 17, 2007 for the full account.) Both Sankey and Wasp were entered in the first WKC dog show at the first Garden in 1877.

•The 1891 Cosmopolitan Vol. 12, yes, “Cosmo” has an article called “Kennel Clubs and Kennels” by medical doctor W. M. Bangs which also misstates 80 Babylon acres; then mentions the dogs loose and in the enclosed yards rather than chained between trees. He also gives precise clues to where the kennels were which parallel our recent rethinking that the clubhouse faced south, not east, as we first surmised. (See “Pets” Post April 29, 2009.)

Dr. Bangs states: “The kennels are long, low structures wherein the dogs, when not running free or in the exercising yards, are comfortably sheltered. Many of the dogs are housed in individual kennels in a grove of tall pine trees in the north-east corner of the eighty acre [sic] grounds now owned by the club. The main kennels, however, are in a one-story building about 100 feet in length, at the northern end of the grounds facing south” Later he says the dogs have free range unless the presence of members or their guests make it desirable to restrict them. Then the dogs are confined to 100 square foot yards enclosed by high open wire fences. Cosmopolitan, like other accounts, agrees the concrete kennel floors kept the dogs dry and safe from illness.

The north-east end would be near Morrison Street close to the pond, not where any buried cement has been reported by present residents. This location is still logical. The kennels would have been away from the shooting grounds and far from access by townspeople, buffered by the plot to the north that belonged to WKC member Wagstaff. An 1888 Outing eyewitness report of a good view of the kennels from clubhouse dining room still supports placing the clubhouse at the suspicious sandpit. The puzzle pieces are falling into place.

Early on Dr. Bangs praises Sensation, the WKC logo Pointer who had died in Babylon in 1887 and says that Naso of Kippen was now the head stud (Pointer) of the club. Presently there is a handsome, young English Pointer who romps at Southards Pond along with a Swiss Mountain Dog and Lab. His owner once told me he was related to “Holly” who happens to be the Pointer owned by a WKC member and Best In Show at last year’s AKC Eukanuba show. Perhaps this Pointer pup’s presence is more than a coincidence. It is dog destiny.

Special Dog for Adoption: “Tucker” is an 18 month old neut. fellow from Afghan Hound Rescue of the Mid-Atlantic (AHROMA). He looks like my Edgar Afghan Poe. Tucker was hit by a car and abandoned at an emergency hospital where he lingered for over 3 months until a client took him home and contacted Afghan Rescue. Via AHROMA, Tucker had his needed hip surgery / rehab and is now fully recovered. He is being fostered in Greenwich, CT where he is happy and active with kids, other dogs and a cat. To find out more, please contact slavtoanaf@ gmail.com or call 484-431-3099.

Back at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Winston” & “Penny” are the last of 9 cats and a dog that lost their home due to an eviction in May. Both lobby cats are purrsonality plus. They need not be adopted together. The shelter has a huge selection of felines.

Female: older yellow Lab Cage 33; beige Shepherd mix Cage 29; brindle “Roxy” Cage 25; “Hallie” patient Pit Cage 38.

Male: last week’s Jack Russell mix poster pup had dentistry when he was neutered; Lab/Corgi Cage 3; “Teddy” Retriever mix Cage 6; Coonhound mix pup Cage 14.

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