Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sepia Saturday #270: A furry, hairy mirror: 'A dog reflects the family life'

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.

'Junior is trying hard to pull out the dog's tongue.'
My brother Michael, at almost 2 years of age.
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.'.

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.
Note:

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.

©irisheyesjg2015.

20 comments:

  1. What a lovely tribute to your dogs. I laughed at the sentence about the dogs taking you on walks. Some of our neighbors have big dogs and I always wonder who is walking whom. The best sight though is a young man who must have a pet-sitting service or something because he comes by on a skateboard being pulled by a team of dogs of various breeds. I don't know how they don't get tangled.

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    1. Wendy, thanks very much for your comments. I think we're pushovers, but at times it does seem like not only our walks, but our lives, are governed by this sweet little creature who weighs only 5 kilograms. Now that it's almost spring here, dogs of all descriptions will be coming out of the woodwork.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. We are proudly owned by Buster, a tri colour shitzu which we inherited from our daughter and family, when they moved overseas. The plan was to give him back when they returned, but the bond between us was too strong, so the grandchildren declared him to be the family dog. He has occasional sleepovers at their place and is always very excited when they visit. We simply can't imagine life without him,they simply melt into your heart.

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    1. Crissouli, thanks very much for your comments. I love that you admit that you are owned by Buster, and as you say you can't imagine your life without him. I know exactly how you feel.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  3. A lovely post, and Ulee looks like a real little charmer. When you lose a beloved pet - whether it be a dog or cat or bird or whatever - you feel the loss very emotionally. People who have never had pets really don't understand. Fortunately, the size of our hearts stretches to include new pets and we love all over again!

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    1. La Nightingail, thanks very much for your comments. Ulee is indeed a charmer, as was his sister Sarah. I have a very stretchy heart for these sweet beings, and thank goodness they seem alright with it.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  4. We always had cats until my father married a woman who already had a dog and although I loved him, he wasn't really my dog. Donald and I have had DJ for almost 8 years now, and you're right, I can't imagine life without him now. Lovely photos and stories.

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    1. Anna, thanks very much for your comments. There truly is nothing like your own sweet fellow, as you know from having DJ. They steal our hearts away.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  5. We have cats now but I have dog fever which is barely under control. Thanks for the great links...I'm following some new paths and learning a few things.

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    1. Helen, thanks very much for your comments. We had two cats as well at one point; quite a little menagerie with all four of them underfoot. Ulee was somewhat shy back then, but now with the house — and us — all to himself, he seems quite happy.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  6. As I said on another blog, I'm not a dog lover. And I recently found out I'm allergic to dogs. But I do share the same affection which you have with your dog, with my cats...so I understand how much they are a part of your life.

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    1. Barbara, thanks very much for your comments. These little creatures, in whatever form they may come, steal our hearts and add a special dimension to our lives. Human beings are very fortunate to share the world with them.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  7. I can see why your mother was reluctant to have another dog after having to leave one behind. It took my Mum quite a lot of persuading too, but she relented thank goodness. Lovely pictures.

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    1. Little Nell, thanks very much for your comments. It does make sense doesn't it that the loss of her dog may have made her shy away from having another. Mom certainly loved my dogs and those of my brother, and was very gentle with them. I'm glad you like the pictures.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  8. We always had a dog when I was a boy. My wife and I have never owned one but my daughter and one of our sons have made up for this, You have given us a lovely family story and Ulee is gorgeous.

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    1. Bob, thanks very much for your comments. Having always had a dog when you were a boy, and being around the dogs belonging to your children, I'm sure you appreciate what it is to love a dog. Thanks for saying Ulee is gorgeous. If he could read, he'd be telling me you're his new best friend.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  9. They have big time, and still are. I just adore that Doyle quote!

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    1. Karen, thanks very much for your comments. I'll bet you are a dog lover, so the words of Arthur Conan Doyle are a perfect fit.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  10. Playing catch up. LOVE this post. ALL OF IT!

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    1. Carol, thanks very much for your comments. Given that you love your fur kids as much as I love mine, I knew this one would catch your eye.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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