For the Love of Dogs, Then & Now

How much is your dog worth? Five bucks? In 1854, that was the reward offered for a “large white pointer dog” that was stolen from the Falls Hotel. That seems pretty cheap, until you consider that $5 then is worth about $140 today.

In the mid 19th century, dogs weren’t invited to restaurants or spoiled with Busy Bee toys, they were mostly bred for usefulness. As industrialization began to increase during the mid to late 19th century, many families were moving to urban centers from farms and small villages. The dogs they brought with them were not yet the pets (i.e. family members) that we know today. They were relied on for their usefulness as ratters or guard dogs or sporting animals.

In Philadelphia, it was a mixed bag for dogs and much of a dog’s fate had to do with luck and breed. Strays ran rampant in the streets. Some were lucky enough to find someone that could care for them. Others were killed or died from malnutrition and puppies were routinely drowned by owners who could not care for them. Other breeds, like pointers and toy-type dogs, were luckier, being useful for hunting or as status symbols for upper class women.

Sporting dogs (perhaps like our lost pointer?) were one of the few well-bred types of dogs. According to Katherine C. Grier in Pets in America:

Having a purebred dog in America in 1850 meant something far different than what it means today. Until the American Kennel Club was founded in 1884, there were few written breed standards…or registry books in the United States. Well-bred dogs were prized, just as highly bred horses were, but they were relatively uncommon except among the brotherhood of sport hunters, where some dog owners worked to maintain bloodlines of good setters, pointers, and hounds.

Young man and his dog looking out a window, their gazes fixed on the same point. Either the dog showed remarkable discipline during the exposure to make this shot work, or the photographer used the old trick of releasing a caged bird at just the right time to freeze his movement. Circa 1850s. Courtesy of Cowan's Auctions, where the photo sold last year for over $4,000.
Young man and his dog looking out a window, their gazes fixed on the same point. Either the dog showed remarkable discipline during the exposure to make this shot work, or the photographer used the old trick of releasing a caged bird at just the right time to freeze his movement. Circa 1850s. Courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions, where the photo sold last year for over $4,000.

So was the lost pointer some hunter’s sporting dog? Perhaps. The building of Scheutzen Park in the vicinity a decade later speaks to a local interest in shooting and, in all likelihood, hunting. The influx of farm workers to the factories of the Falls of Schuylkill meant that many habits of country life, including hunting as a means of self-sufficiency, came along with them.

What ever happened to that dog and his owner in 1854? It may not have been a happy ending for our pointer, since dogs were stolen as much for dog fighting then as they are now.

But we do know of one story of a lost dog that turned out just fine. Meet November, Hawley family member, haute dog, Cow Tale aficionado, and one-time stray:

Novi with cowtails and hearts

His story in the Hawley household begins years ago, when the Hawleys lived in Oklahoma.

One day driving, Felicite and her daughter Soleil noticed a dog in the middle of a busy intersection. He was acting strangely, which is understandable given that he was spooked by cars on all sides of him. He was too scared to leave the intersection or let anyone approach him directly. The solution? The girls’ patience and the only food they had in their car — a bag of Cow Tales candy! November’s hunger finally got the best of his fear and he was soon in the back of the family car and on the way to safety.

And why November? For the month he was saved of course. The Hawley’s assumed such a beautiful dog would’ve been claimed before the month was out. Last we checked he was still enjoying his happy new life with the Hawleys, playing with three active kids and his dog buddy Stout (who seems thrilled to have such a fine 2nd lieutenant in his “command”).

We love a good dog story at East Falls House. That’s why we’re partnering with the East Falls Dog Park Committee to create a local dog park.

Upcoming events include:

Sunday Pack Walks — Meet your neighbors for a social stroll around East Falls with your four-legged friend (walks meet 9:30 at McMichael Park every other Sunday, next one is this Sunday, June 8).

Foodery Yappy Hour/BYOD (Bring Your Own Dog) at The Foodery on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough on Saturday June 21 from 3 to 5 PM. Admission is $10, including music, food & drink specials in a big outdoor patio in back of this craft beer bottleshop. Pick up your wrist band at the Foodery, or — better yet! — come by the East Falls Dog Park table at the East Falls Flea Market and Craft Festival on Saturday June 14 from 9 to 3 (rumor has it there will be Free Draft Beer coupons for every purchase that day).

If you’re going to the Yappy Hour, don’t forget a good strong leash. You don’t want to lose your best friend and $140!

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