Man’s best friend: they can sniff out drugs and bombs, and cancer and diabetes. Their calming disposition makes them invaluable as therapy dogs for all ages, their training abilities make the ideal companions for the disabled, blind and wheelchair-bound. This we know. But did you know that in WWII, a Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky served in the Pacific alongside an American GI, travelling in his backpack, entertaining the troops, and credited with saving his life by warning of incoming shells? Probably not. The story of this “angel from a foxhole,” as she was called, is just one of the many amazing stories of our best buds in the new American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog which opened its doors this month.
Silent Sorrow. This is Caesar, a favorite of King Edward VII of England, and it was the King’s request that that the dog participate in his funeral procession. Here he is resting on his master’s armchair.
Called the “world’s largest repositories of canine fine art,” the museum encompasses two floors in the AKC headquarters at 101 Park Avenue near Grand Central. On display are paintings, drawings, photographs of the beloved dogs of royalty, who retrieve the prey of hunters, and keep a herd of sheep in line. And there are the poised portraits of owners with their well-groomed lapdog. We see examples of the “Best in Show” trophies, the shiny silver tea trays, and show ribbons; in the museum’s corner library, visitors can read up on canine history, watch black and white AKC footage, draw their favorite doggie breed, and do a crossword or word-find game.
AKC Best In Show Trophy
Interactive exhibits include the “find your match” kiosk that pairs guests with the breed that complements their face (mine was the Yorkshire Terrier!); the virtual-reality training area where a Golden named Molly shows her listening abilities; a touchscreen that gives the background and traits of every breed; and another that provides advice on choosing the best breed for your lifestyle. The museum’s app is a helpful guide for visitors, especially the youngsters who can go on a scavenger hunt and be toured around the museum by Arty, the virtual canine guide.
The Museum’s Library
Take note of the magnificent oil paintings, so lifelike and full of expression whether the animal is working in the field, laying by a roaring fire, playing with its friends, or mourning the loss of its owner. These are truly labor of love works of art. There’s also a very moving tribute to the dogs that have helped humans in search and rescue operations, the dogs of 911, and those trained to live with sufferers of PTSD and other mental illnesses. This is a one of a kind salute to our “best friend.”
The AKC was formed in 1882 seven years after the Westminster Kennel Club had its first meeting at the Westminster Hotel in New York City. During the early 19th century, owners were becoming more and more captivated with the beauty of their dogs, not just their function. Besides the famous shows and exhibitions, the club also offers the “canine good citizen” program which tests all breeds for temperaments, the AKC Reunite program which is a national pet ID and recovery service, and the Humane Fund which assists in dog rescue activities and promotes responsible dog ownership.
The AKC’s Museum of the Dog is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10am – 5pm. For more information, log onto museumofthedog.org.
Photos by MJ Hanley-Goff
Top: Millie on the South Lawn, by Christine Merrill. (Barbara and George H.W. Bush’s beloved English Spring Spaniel.)