Days like these

Anecdotes on the dogs in my life



Man with Calf and Dog
2400 BCE (Old Kingdom, 5th dynasty), Egypt
Carved limestone, red pigment
43 x 101 x 3.5 cm
Collection of The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

It is late morning. I wake with the Egyptian sun bearing on my back. The warmth spreads across my fur and I sigh in contentment.

Around my neck my master has tied a rope collar finished with two large distinguished knots. I walk proudly with my head held high next to my master, whose walking cane matches my stride four for one. I spend my days close to my him, following him closely like a shadow. I am never far from him and he is never far from me. At night, I sleep curled up at the foot of his bed, and his is the first face I see when I awake.

He calls me many names, but Beha is the one I treasure most.1 To me, Beha means freedom, companionship and family. It means him passing me bread and meat from his dinner plate; it means the soft pats and belly rubs I have become accustomed to; it means the hunting trips we go on together. I am a member of his pack, with his companion, his children, and the other dogs that he keeps of whom I am the leader. I know I will follow him to the ends of the world.

Days like these are easy to pass.

Limestone votive statuette of a hound seizing a hare
5th–1st century BCE (Classical or Hellenistic Period), Cyprus
Limestone
16.5 x 6 cm
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The wind howls past my ears as I chase my prey. My body is built for aerodynamism, and I leap through the grounds of the forest in bounds. The foliage around me blurs in my peripheral vision, and all I see is the peppered grey fur coat of the hare in front of me. It has been days since my last full feed, and I am ravenous for my fill. The chase is half the thrill.

Hound
386 – 534 CE (Northern Wei dynasty), China
Earthenware, pigment
14 x 10 x 4.6 cm
Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourn

Sitting is not a graceful act for hounds of my size and stature. My cavernous chest, which contains the large lungs that help propel the speed I am known for, render my body a top-heavy load. I would much rather lie down, or when I am feeling even more at peace, to roach with my stomach exposed.2

I sit, when I am asked verbally, because it grants the humans who feed me some small pleasure. This act of obedience – in their eyes – makes them my master. But I wonder whether I am the true master, for through this simple act I can command their attention, their treats, and their praise.

The Devonshire Hunting Tapestry: Boar and Bear Hunt
1425 – 1430
Tapestry woven with wool warp and weft
3.8 x 10.2 m
Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It is a hectic affair that takes days if not months of preparation. We hunt not for necessity, but more so for festivity and fanfare. The feast afterwards is always a joyous delight. My blue collar and leash, recently washed and cleaned, hang around my neck in the bold emblematic colours of the Talbot family.

The herald lifts the horn to his mouth and blows.

My body knows what to do at the sound of the fanfare. With my pack mate, we grab the boar by its brown ears while the hunters plunge their curved spears into the body of the animal. The taste of blood fills my mouth as the boar grunts its final cries of death.

As the sun sets and dusk settles, the faraway lights of Blackmere beckon us home.3

Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Baciccio)
Diana the Huntress
c. 1690
oil on canvas
158.75 x 211.46 cm
Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis

Diana is a formidable foe, a huntress whose divine skills grant her a reverence amongst humans and gods alike. But the Diana I know is the one who reclines at my side, her gaze lingering over the landscape before her, as she runs her hands along my spine. My teeth chatter in contentment.4 This is my Diana.

Giuseppe Castiglione
Young Grey Dragon, from Ten Imperial Hounds
18th century
Ink on paper
247.5 x 163.7 cm
Courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei

The damp ground feels soft beneath my paws and all around me the smell of spring fill my nose. Walking the grounds of the garden after the rain is my favourite past time in spring. My master calls me ‘little dragon’ by way of affection, and I dream of being up in the clouds in the sky, with the mist gently engulfing me as I gaze down at the land beneath me.

Noel McKenna
Rosie
2017
Ceramic hand-painted tile
14 x 14 cm
Photo by the author

My days are spent in a form of musical chairs. I start the morning in my fluffy pink bed, and retire to the human’s bed after breakfast until the late afternoon. If the sun is out and the door is open, I lounge on the raised sun bed on the balcony. The couch is another option, but it is usually occupied by my brother Rocket, and he takes up too much space for my liking.

When I walk with my family down these inner-city streets, people often ask “did she race? Did she win? Is she a winner?”

I don’t understand this question, because my life has always been one of leisure. I have never worked a day in my life. But I see the fear in my brother’s eyes when strangers approach him, and I understand his life as one that is different to mine; one where his value before he came to live with us was one judged by the merits of his wins.

For me, winning is time spent with my pack. It is the sneaking possum droppings into my mouth when I think the humans aren’t watching (they are), it is the playful barks I exchange with my brother when we wake up in the mornings, and the happy tail wagging as I exchange greetings with Salty,5 Tiny,6 Bonnie, Damo,7 and all the other friends I have made in the neighbourhood.

Days like these are easy to pass.



  1. “Man With Calf and Dog: Description,” The Walters Art Museum, accessed 27 July 2021, https://art.thewalters.org/detail/22038/man-with-calf-and-dog/
  2. Gail McGaffigan, “Why Do Greyhounds Roach? How to Interpret this Oddness”, Greyhound Homecare, accessed 27 July 2021, https://greyhoundhomecare.com/why-do-greyhounds-roach/
  3. Ann Claxton, “The sign of the dog: an examination of the Devonshire hunting tapestries,” Journal of Medieval History, 14:2 (1988): 127-179, doi: 10.1016/0304-4181(88)90024-3
  4. Emily Kane, “10 Bits of Greyhound Lingo You Should Know Before You Adopt”, dogster, published 27 September 2013,
  5. See https://www.instagram.com/thesaltyhound/
  6. See https://www.instagram.com/tinylongblack/
  7. See https://www.instagram.com/a.dog.named.damo/