|Ulysses James Joyce — 'Ulee'|
A dog reflects the family life.
Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family,
or a sad dog in a happy one?
Snarling people have snarling dogs,
dangerous people have dangerous ones.
― Arthur Conan Doyle
When I was a child, for years I
pleaded whined asked for a dog of my own, but my mother would not allow it. In later years Mom would say it wasn't so, but I used to think her prohibition against dogs had to do with my mom not wanting dog hair and other unsavoury dog-related bits in her home; however, over time I have come to believe there may have been another reason.
Shortly before my mom passed away, we were looking through some old photographs together, and we came across this adorable photo on the right, in which my elder brother Michael is making a mischievous move toward a dog. In part, the caption on the back of the photograph reads: 'Junior is trying hard to pull out the dog's tongue.'.
|'Junior is trying hard to pull out the dog's tongue.'|
My brother Michael, at almost 2 years of age.
The photograph was taken in late 1956 in the garden of the Ball family home in Ringsend, Dublin. When we found the photo, to my great surprise, Mom referred to the dog as ‘our dog’. It appears from the notation on the back of it that my mother had sent the picture to my father, who had emigrated away from Ireland earlier that year in order to set up a home for them in Canada.
Although my mom said she did not recall the dog's name and did not know what became of him, it is clear she had to leave behind her family dog when they emigrated. Perhaps that loss is what made my mom feel as though she never wanted to have another dog.
We also came across a photograph (inserted below) in which my dad Michael, then aged about 12 years, is holding what looks like a short-haired terrier. I do not know if the dog belonged to him or to a friend or neighbour; however, given the way in which he is embracing the furry fellow, I suspect he may have had a special attachment to that little dog.
|My dad Michael, at around 12 years of age,|
holding a Terrier that may have been his.
Unfortunately, the whole story about the relationship between my parents and the dogs in their lives is lost to time, but for whatever reason I had to wait until I moved away from home before I was able to consider having a dog. Of course, life has a way of changing a little girl's dreams, and it was not until many years after I left my childhood home that my husband and I welcomed a four-legged family member into our own home. Now I cannot imagine ever living without a dog.
The sweet face in the image at the very top of this page belongs to our seven year old family dog, a purebred Australian Silky Terrier whose registered name is, in part, Ulysses James Joyce — a big name for a little dog — so he is better known to us as Ulee. Our boy is a joyful little fellow, full of the joie-de-vivre and high energy for which his breed is known, and we try our utmost to match his zest for life.
Ulee is the second Silky Terrier with whom we have had the privilege to share our home. His elder sister Sarah was the first. We were sure our hearts would break completely when we lost Sarah to an aggressive form of cancer in 2012. (Here is Sarah’s story). Although those readers who have never loved a dog may not understand, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say Ulee surely saved us from our sorrow.
Dogs have long been welcomed into some of the families on our family tree, as revealed by the extant records of the Ireland Dog Licence Registers1. These records tell us not only which family members had dogs and when they had them — for those families with a paid licence — but also include details such as the breed type and number of dogs in their care. Some of the entries even include the dog's name. Most of our family members who farmed had working dogs, but there are a few small terriers in the mix.
Our little Ulee loves to whip around our garden like a whirling dervish, so I’m certain he would love to have had the run of some of the acreage our ancestors once farmed.
Dogs bring joy into our lives, and give us unconditional love. They take us for long walks, even when we may not feel up to it, and they never judge us — unless the food dish is empty. Dogs make it okay to act silly and not take life so seriously. They also teach us about gentleness and kindness, and our relationships with them truly say something about who we are as human beings.
Be sure to stop by the Sepia Saturday blog to connect with others who have been inspired by today's theme.
Have dogs played a role in your family history?
|Ulee playing with a furry friend.|
1. FindMyPast Ireland is a website that offers a selection of Ireland Dog Licence Registers online, with some dating from 1866. Access to their records is via either paid subscription or pay-per-view, and they offer a free 14 day trial.