So I thought this month I’d raise a controversial subject: are you a ‘dog person’ or a ‘cat person’? The nation seems fairly evenly split – so maybe it’s time to wade into this debate from a Stella Books perspective. Whilst we do have some cat lovers here, I think it’s safe to say that the dog lovers are in the majority!
Before the current pandemic, we would regularly have 4 dogs in the office. So, I thought I’d write a little piece about my love of dogs, a short bio on each of our 4 office dogs, and finally try and find a tenuous link to books!
When I was a young lad, my parents decided it would be good to have a family dog. I’m not entirely sure of the motivation – I think it may have been security – but then they brought home Ben, a gorgeous Black Labrador puppy. He’d be much more likely lick an intruder to death before biting them – especially if they had food! Ben was the faithful family pooch for many years, but as Ben was aging, my parents bred him with a friend’s black lab bitch and we had one of the puppies – Max. I have many fond memories of walking Max in my teenage years. We lived in a small Welsh rural village with no shortage of paths to explore. I think this is where my love of dogs comes from – their companionship, the ever-positive disposition, the ability to sense the mood you’re in and, if necessary, to lift your spirits.
About a year after Maria and I got married my parents found an abandoned dog and, when she wasn’t claimed, they decided to give her a home. A short time later eight adorable puppies arrived. We couldn’t resist keeping one of them and so Holly came into our lives. She looked like a small collie or kelpie, mainly black and white but with some tan markings. When Holly passed away at the age of 13, Maria decided to apply for a Hearing Dog. I was overjoyed when we heard that Maria had been paired with Betsy – a gorgeous black lab! Anyhow, we’ll come back to her in a minute - what about the other office dogs?
^ Sammy, Onyx, Betsy and Molly
Sammy is the senior office dog, named after Tolkien’s Samwise Gamgee. He’s a 12 year old Swedish Vallhund and oozes character. For those who have never encountered a Vallhund, he is the shape of a Corgi (but with slightly longer legs) and the colour of a husky. Originally bred as cattle dogs Vallhunds are still used as herding dogs in Australia. Sammy is on a permanent diet as he is very fond of his food and puts on weight very easily. He also likes walks but his favourite pastime is bossing his humans around! In the office he’s the only male dog but he seems to let the others take charge and is generally pretty laid back.
Onyx is Sonia’s Hearing Dog. She’s a 10 year old black ‘cockapoo’ – a cocker spaniel crossed with a poodle. She is quite excitable and does laps of the office when Maria and I arrive in the morning! She is Sonia’s loyal companion – and has been especially hard-working during lockdown alerting Sonia whenever the shop doorbell is rung.
Betsy is Maria’s Hearing Dog as mentioned earlier. She is an 8 year old black lab with loads of character. She is very motivated by food, but loves walks, cuddles, and assisting with loading the dishwasher. She’s generally very chilled, very little worries her and she very rarely barks. She just takes everything in her stride. She’s a super hearing dog and wakes Maria every morning to the alarm. Although she doesn’t believe in letting us have a lay-in – if the alarm doesn’t go off at the usual time she assumes we’ve forgotten to set it and wakes us anyway!
Molly is the newest member of the pack. She is a rescue dog from Portugal, approximately 18 months old. Having been abandoned, she was found in a hole in a wall and taken to an animal shelter where two days later she gave birth to three pups. All the pups were adopted but Molly was left alone in a cage. Chris offered to foster her ‘for a short time’ until a forever home could be found. Needless to say, Chris fell in love with her, adopted her and brought her back to the UK. Although a little insecure and wary of other dogs, she has settled into her new home very quickly and now gets on really well with our pack. She has a sweet personality and is very loving and gentle. She loves cuddles and tummy tickles – and being spoilt by Chris!
When it comes to books about dogs and cats, two illustrators spring to mind immediately – Cecil Aldin and Louis Wain. Cecil Aldin’s beautiful studies of dogs, often in pencil, capture both the appearance and the emotions of the subject. Many of his illustrations involve humour, well illustrating the mischievous character of the dogs.
^ All images from 'An Artist's Models'.
Louis Wain is equally well known for his beautiful cat illustrations. While many are realistic and again capture the personality of the subject, Wain also illustrated anthropomorphic tales of cats up to various mischievous antics.
I’ll conclude by mentioning a book I discovered while writing this article. It’s ‘Jack and Jill’ by Cecil Aldin. It’s the beautiful tale of a ‘singularly handsome terrier’ and a ‘nice affectionate pussy-cat’ who are the best of friends.
So dog person or cat person? Maybe you can be both!
Contributed by Steve
(Published 27th May 2020)