Thursday, October 16, 2014


Here is a painting of a very happy cat who found some lovely, fresh fish to eat in the kitchen while no one was paying attention.  This cat has her paw on the fish, as if she is saying, "It's mine!  I found it, and it's most definitely mine!"  Also, there are two more fish hanging on a hook, so after the cat eats the big fish, she will have those others to eat also.

Still Life with Cat and Fish, by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Nelson-Atkins Mseum of Art

This picture was painted in 1728 by a French artist named Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.  The official name of the painting is Still Life with Cat and Fish.  I think this is a very good name for the painting because it describes exactly what is in it.  Mom took a photo of the painting in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, while she was working there one day.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (who, in my opinion, has a name that is much longer than it really needs to be) was born on November 2, 1699 in Paris.  He spent most of his life without ever leaving the city.  He lived on the Left Bank until Louis XV granted him a studio and living quarters in the Louvre.  His professional career began officially when he was admitted as a member of the Royal Academy of Painting in 1728.   

Self Portrait, 1771, Musée du Louvre
What's with the weird turban?

Chardin's paintings were reproduced as engravings, and for this reason, lots of people could see and admire his work.  In addition, the artist was able to earn income from the engravings.  Nowadays, we would call this "royalties."

Still Life, 1728,
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Many times, Chardin painted copies of his own work, and it is often hard to tell these copies from the originals.  You can see that the painting above is another version of the cat and fish picture from the Nelson.  The main difference is that the painting from the Madrid museum has a mortar and pestle instead of a tomato.  Or whatever that red thing is.

Another hungry cat!

Chardin worked slowly and only painted about 200 pictures total, which was an average of 4 per year.  His work wasn't much like the Rococo style of painting that was happening in France at the time.  Most artists painted subjects from history, but Chardin preferred still lifes.  He is now thought to be the most important painter of the still lifes in the 18th century.

Woman Cleaning Turnips, ca. 1738

Another thing Chardin liked to paint was ordinary people in their daily activities.  He got the idea for this from the 17th-century Low Country masters, who were his inspiration in teaching himself to paint.  Chardin found patrons among members of the French aristocracy, including Louis XV.  In spite of their humble subject matter, the paintings have a formal structure and a sense of harmony.  The artist is quoted as saying, "Who said one paints with colors?  One employs colors, but one paints with feeling."  

Saying Grace, ca. 1699
Unfortunately, other painters thought this lower level of society was not worth the bother of painting.  Toward the end of his life, as his eyesight began to get worse, Chardin worked more in pastels than in oils.  His last known oil painting was dated 1776.  The last time he showed work at the Salon was 1779, where several pastels were featured.  On December 6 of the same year, at the age of 80,  Chardin died in Paris.

Monday, October 6, 2014


In the beginning, Airedale Terriers were called Waterside or Bingley Terriers.  They looked really different from the Airedale Terriers we see today.  The name "Airedale" came from a valley in Yorkshire, England.  The English call valleys "dales," which is an old Viking word that stuck around, even after the Vikings went away.  And also, the British like to use words that are confusing to us Americans.  So anyway, there is a river called the Aire, and it cuts a valley (dale) through some mountains in northern England, and this area is called Airedale.

The red blob is the West Riding section of Yorkshire
where Airedale is located.
Wikipedia; Attributed to Hogweard

The people who lived in Airedale a couple hundred years ago noticed that there was lots of small game and also some annoying vermin in their valley, and they wanted a dog that could help hunt these animals down.  So they used a black-and-tan type of terrier that doesn't exist nowadays -- either that, or it is what came to be the Welsh Terrier -- and they bred it with the Otterhound to make a terrier who was a better swimmer.  Then they may have also added in some Manchester Terrier.

The River Aire at Bingley
Photo:  Graeme Mitchell

In 1879, the breeders of this new terrier decided to give it the official name of Airedale Terrier.  The Kennel Club of England formally recognized the breed in 1886.  Airedales were imported to the U.S. starting in the 1880s.  The first Airedale in America was named Bruce, and soon after he arrived in 1881, he won the terrier class in a New York dog show.

The original use of Airedale Terriers was for hunting otters and other small animals.  The wealthy hunters used a pack of hounds and terriers together.  The hounds scented and pursued the quarry, and the terriers would dig down into the animal's burrow (which was called "going to ground") and make the kill.

Thunder, a Bingley Terrier, one of the founders of the Airedale Terrier breed,
from The Illustrated Book of the Dog, London/New York, 1881

Airedales were also used in a gambling sport that involved hunting water rats.  In this event, two dogs competed.  They would first sniff out a rat hole, and then a ferret was sent in to make the rat come out.  After that, the dogs chased the rat through the river until one of them caught and killed it.

During World War I, lots of Airedales helped carry messages and mail to soldiers behind enemy lines.  The Red Cross used the dogs to find wounded soldiers on the battlefield.  After the war, Airedales became really popular because people had heard stories about their bravery.  Also, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding all had Airedales.  President Harding's Airedale, Laddie Boy, was the first White House pet to gain a kind of celebrity status.  By the 1920s, the ADT had become the most popular breed in the U.S.

Laddie Boy, President Harding's dog

Some people still use Airedales for hunting, including for big game in India, Africa, and Canada.  They can also be used to herd livestock.  However, if the terriers are not well trained, they may just chase the animals around instead of herding them, and that's not good.  Here are some other things that Airedales do:  guarding, rodent control, tracking, military work, police work, and competitive obedience.

Nowadays, Airedales are most often used as companion dogs.  They generally do well with children and make good family members.  They are intelligent, brave, loyal, and fairly friendly with strangers.  But they can also be independent, strong-minded, and stubborn at times.  Because they are high-energy dogs, Airedales need quite a bit of exercise.  They are not good choices to live in apartments.

Wikimedia, Photo by amonja

Airedales are the biggest of the terriers.  Males are 22" to 24" tall and weigh between 50 and 65 pounds.  Females are somewhat smaller.  They have an outer coat that is hard and wiry, and an undercoat that is much softer.  Officially accepted colors are tan-and-black or tan-and-grizzle.  Dogs who are being shown have their outer coats stripped by hand several times a year.  Companion dogs only need to have this done every six months or so.  A coat that is stripped will not shed, but if it is not stripped, it will produce lots of fluff, even if you trim and brush it.  The beard needs to be washed often because food sticks in it.

The average litter size for an Airedale is 9 puppies!

In most European countries, the U.K., and Australia, it is illegal to dock dogs' tails, so Airedales have natural, fluffy tails that are long and slightly curled over the back.  In other countries, such as the U.S., tails are docked within five days after a puppy is born.

Airedales are usually pretty healthy, but the issues they might have are hip dysplasia, eye problems, skin infections, and bloat.  The life expectancy of an Airedale is about 10 to 12 years.  A survey that the U.K. Kennel Club did in 2004 showed that the most common causes of death were cancer (39.5%), old age (14%), urologic (9%), and cardiac (7%).


I think Airedales are cute, but we don't really need one at our house because an Airedale would probably chase our cats, and we have had enough trouble with that kind of thing already.  My Aunt Cheryl, in Austin, does Airedale rescue, so we have seen pictures of some dogs that her group has rescued.  Sometimes these dogs have been living in very sad conditions, but Aunt Cheryl's group gets them all fixed them up and finds them nice homes where they can live happily ever after.  And what more could any dog want?

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Today I will show you some pictures that Mom took at the art gallery where she works.

This first one is an altar figure that is on display in the American Indian gallery.  It is from the 13th century, which happened a very long time ago.  It was found in New Mexico, and it was probably made by the Anasazi or Mogollon people.  The label on this altar figure does not say what it represents, but I think it is quite clearly a dog.   Which means that people back in those days had the good sense to worship dogs.

On September 16, I wrote a blog entry about the book Black Beauty.  Here is the painting that made Mom think about reading the book again.  It is called Brutality, and it was painted by a man named John Douglas Patrick in 1888.  Mr. Patrick was born in Pennsylvania, but he lived the last part of his life in Overland Park, Kansas.  He painted this picture while he was studying in Paris from 1885 to 1888.  He was trying to show the mistreatment of horses, which is the same thing Black Beauty did.

When the painting was on display in the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris, the horse drivers in the city tried to get the painting taken out of the show.  But it wasn't removed.  Instead, it won a 3rd-place medal.  Six years later, the French Society for the Protection of Animals made it illegal to abuse and overwork horses.

This is a foo lion, and we know that it is a male foo lion because he has his paw on a ball.  Female foo lions always have a baby foo lion under one front foot.  Sadly, there is only a male foo lion at the art gallery, so there won't be any little foo cubs.

And speaking of lions, here is the foot of one in the Chinese sculpture area.  The lion used to be in a cave someplace in China.  It has big feet, like a real lion.  You can see this because Mom's hand looks small next to the lion's paw.  Mom did not touch the lion, of course.  She just put her hand close to the lion's.

Here's another Chinese item, and it's a cart with an ox pulling it, all made out of clay.  I like how the ox looks happy, which is probably because he has bells on his harness.  Also, the cart wheel has a fancy decoration on it.  I think it would be fun to ride in this cart.

This picture shows a miniature room with miniature furniture, backgammon game, chandelier, rug, and lots of other little things.  If Mom's hand was not there, you might think the room was just regular-sized.  I don't know how people can make anything so tiny, but I guess they can do it because they have opposable thumbs.

And finally, here's a picture of Mom's feet.  She was standing in front of the pillar thingies that hold up the railing of the Rozelle Court balcony.  I think she must have been pretty bored the day she took this photo!

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Mom taught us a dance that we can all do together.  We had to let Latifa the cat dance with us because Daphne was too shy to dance, but otherwise, it is a perfect dance!  And I have the starring role, of course.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014


When Mom was a little girl, one of her favorite books was Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell.  Mom's mom used to read it to her, and it was a book she liked to hear over and over.  The other most favorite books Mom liked to have read to her were Old Yeller, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and The Bobbsey Twins seriesAfter a while, Mom learned to read these books and more all by herself, which is good because if she went all the way through school and never learned to read, that would be very sad.

Anyway, not too long ago, Mom got the urge to read Black Beauty again, so she bought a copy of the book on CD.  The Year of the Horse seemed like a good time to reread this old favorite book, and now that I have done a little in-depth research on it, I will tell you about the book and its author.

First edition cover, 1877

Black Beauty was published in 1877 by Anna Sewell.  It was the only book she ever wrote.  She spent the last few years of her life writing it while her health got worse and worse.  She died on April 25, 1878, only five months after the publication of her book, but at least she got to see its early success.  Ms. Sewell died of either hepatitis or tuberculosis.  Her book went on to sell fifty million copies, which made it the sixth best-selling book in the English language.

Anna Sewell

Anna Sewell was born in Great Yarmouth, England.  She had one brother, who was an engineer in Europe.  At the age of 14, Anna fell while she was walking home from school in the rain.  She injured both of her ankles, and they never healed up properly.  So for the rest of her life, she had to walk with a crutch, and she could not walk far or stand for very long.  She began learning about horses, and they provided a good way for her to get around town.  Also, she drove her father to and from the train station every day so he could go to work.

This copy of the first edition of the book
was dedicated by the author to her
mother.  In June 2006, it was autioned off
at Christie's in London for £33,000.

Ms. Sewell's mother, Mary Wright Sewell, wrote best-selling children's books.  Anna helped edit these, and this was her introduction to writing.  Anna Sewell never married, even though she met lots of artists, writers, and philanthropists while she was visiting European spas.  She wrote Black Beauty between 1871 and 1877.  As her health got worse, she sometimes could barely get out of bed.  She wrote on little scraps of paper, and her mother copied these into a nice manuscript.  Local publishers, Jarrold & Sons, published the book when it was finished in 1877.

Beauty spent several years as a cab horse.
Life was hard for both the horses and the cabbies.
Black Beauty was not intended to be a children's book.  It was meant for people who drove and took care of horses.  It talked a lot about animal welfare and also about how to treat other people with kindness and respect.  The narrator of the book is Black Beauty himself, who tells his whole life story, which includes many different masters, grooms, and drivers.  He also does a lot of different types of work.  In each part of his life, Beauty talks about the good ways and the bad ways a horse can be treated.  He has some other horse friends that tell him their own experiences, such as when Captain talks about being a war horse.

One of the worst things for horses in harness was the "checkrein" (or "bearing rein"), which was a strap used to make the horse hold his head up really high.  This was supposed to make him look flashy, but it was very uncomfortable for the horse and could ruin his health.

Anna Sewell's house in Old Catton,
where she lived the last part of her life.

After reading the book, lots of people got angry about the conditions that horses were made to work in, and laws were passed to do things like ban the use of checkrein.  This happened in the U.S., too, where  two million copies of Black Beauty had been sold by 1879.

 Even today, people still recognize the impact the novel had.  The authors of The Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, Claudia Johnson and Vernon E. Johnson, called Black Beauty "the most influential anti-cruelty novel of all time."

I think it's a very good thing that Ms. Sewell wrote a story about a horse named Black Beauty.  Her book helped a lot of horses to have better lives, and I hope they are grateful!

Saturday, September 13, 2014


If I retired, I'm afraid I would be bored out of my tears.

I like my hot dog with cheese and onion and mustered.

Our phones were ringing off the lines.

A dog can sure burro into one's heart.

Some phrases seen in antique malls:

primitive plain

petrifide wood

chex pottery

chessy pizza

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


If you were paying attention at all back in April of 2007, you might have heard that NFL quarterback Michael Vick got busted for running a dog-fighting operation.  Dog-fighting is highly illegal, which it definitely should be, because it is cruel and horrible.  So Michael Vick had all his dogs taken away from him, and he ended up going to prison for a while.  A lot of stuff got written about the Michael Vick dogs, but I'm only going to talk about one of the dogs today.  If you want to read more, you can get a very good book called The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant.

Anyway, the pit bull I'm going to tell you about is named Audie.  At least, that's his name now.  He was only a puppy when he was rescued from the Bad Newz Kennels.  At first he was just called Chesapeake 54902.  He and the other dogs that came out of those bad conditions had to first spend five months isolated in shelters, so that they could be evidence against Michael Vick.

In the past, when dog-fighting rings were broken up, the dogs were put to sleep after they weren't needed as evidence anymore.  This was because people thought that pit bulls who were bred and trained to fight were all vicious, and that they could not ever be family pets.  But in the Michael Vick case, a bunch of rescue groups, including BAD RAP in San Francisco, asked to have the chance to prove that all the old beliefs about pit bulls were wrong.

So nine temperament-testers worked with the dogs to find out how they acted in a bunch of different circumstances.  In the end, only one of Bad Newz dogs had to be put down because of a bad temperament.  After several months of tests, seventeen dogs were allowed to leave the shelter with people from BAD RAP, who had driven all the way across the country to get them.  One of these dogs was Chesapeake 54902, who was now given the name "Dutch."

But the couple who fostered Dutch didn't like his name, so they changed it to "Audie," in honor of the World War II hero Audie Murphy.   Audie had an amazing amount of energy, and he was very much focused on people.  His foster parents realized that he might make a good agility dog.  They also knew of someone who was looking for a new dog to train for agility, Linda Chwistek.  And even though Audie was full of nerves and crazy energy when she first met him, Ms. Chwistek said, "I could tell, deep down inside, he just really wanted to please everybody.  I think inside he had a rock-solid temperament, and there were just some environmental things he had to go through.  He's really just an ordinary dog who came through an extraordinary situation."

Linda Chwistek and husband, Bill Cook

At first, Audie was afraid of everything.  He didn't know how to go up stairs.  He ate weird stuff such as cigarette butts, and he had to have surgery because he swallowed a sock.  Later, he needed surgery on both knees.  While he was healing up, his mom spent a lot of time with him, teaching him to sit and do some other basic commands.  When he could go out again, Ms. Chwistek would take Audie down to the waterfront, where people got on the ferry.  At first, he was very nervous to be around all those people, so they had to sit a long ways away.  But they gradually moved closer.  It took about two years before he got used to all the activity and started making friends with people.

Audie was also afraid of dogs he didn't know.  If he heard a dog barking, he couldn't tell if the dog was happy or if it was about to attack him.  When Augie went to agility training, the other dogs in the class had to hide at first while Audie took his turn.  But finally he got more comfortable being around other dogs and people.

After two years of training and getting Audie used to everything, Ms. Chwistek registered him in the AKC's Purebred Alternative Listing program as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  Then they started competing.

Audie has now earned a bunch of agility awards, plus his first title in the new sport of nosework.  Also, he earned his Canine Good Citizen® award.  In the future, Ms. Chwistek hopes to compete in obedience with Audie and maybe also do therapy work with him.

A woman named Dorothy Hinshaw Patent published a kids' book in 2011 about Audie.  It's called Saving Audie:  A Pit Bull Puppy Gets a Second Chance.

Audie also has his own Facebook page, which is where I got the photos for this blog entry.  Anyway,  I guess you could say that Audie has really "arrived."  Who would have ever though he would have a life like this, knowing how he started out?