Bittersweet Memories...

We began our dog book collection back in 1971. We had only been married a few months when one of Harve's co-workers invited us to his house to see his litter of Weimaraners. Most of the puppies cavorted on the lawn, but one little female walked over and plopped herself down in my lap. Naturally, she came home with us. At our friend's urging, we joined the local Weimaraner club, started attending obedience classes and then show classes and, well, you know how the story goes.

I wanted to learn everything I could about dogs and so, I began to read. After I'd exhausted all the books in the library, I began to buy books. I haunted old bookstores and ordered catalogs. Every time we went on a dog show circuit or a vacation, we scanned the phone book, in advance, to locate bookstores in the area. It was years later that my books took on an added significance.
During the 1980s, we moved to an isolated log cabin in the mountains of northern Alabama. I began to write about rural life and moving back to the land. In the mid-1980s, I entered a contest sponsored by Dog World magazine. The contest fizzled, but the editor liked my writing and encouraged me to pen a series of articles for the magazine. Soon, I was writing my first book, A Celebration of Rare Breeds. Since the nearest major library was 60 miles away, my collection became an invaluable resource. Several years later, I became an editor and later head of the dog publishing division at a small press. My books came in handy for fact checking and to lend material to other writers.

But now it's time to part with the collection. As I write up the listing for each book, it's like taking a stroll down memory lane. You dyed-in-the-wool collectors will know exactly what I mean. So many of my books come, for me, with their own pedigree. I remember my excitement at finding them and just where they were when I plucked them off the shelf and held them in my greedy little hands. I sure did the "happy dance" when I found many of these volumes.

I can't resist chuckling as I list Dalziel's 1888 The Saint Bernard. Harve and I were in Virginia and stopped at a bookstore. We were in a hurry so, rather than browse, we just asked if they had any old dog books. "We have a big shelf of them," the owner said and led us through a maze of bookcases until we came to a dark corner at the back of the large store. I had just pulled the Dalziel from the shelf when the lights went out. Total darkness. We waited about 10 minutes, but the electricity remained out and a storm now raged
outside. We could hear the voices of people as they made their way to the door to leave. I wasn't leaving without that book and, by now, I was dying to know what other goodies were on those shelves. What to do? Harve came to the rescue. He made his way, in the blinding rain, to the car and returned with a flashlight. Huddled on the floor, we plucked treasure after treasure from the shelf and, finally, our arms laden with books, felt our way through the store to the checkout counter. That's when we learned that the electronic cash register wouldn't work and we didn't have exact change. Once again, Harve came through. He went next door to a deli, returned with the exact amount and a bag filled with thick roast beef sandwiches and slices of spicy sour pickles. The owner spread a blanket on the floor, we feasted and talked about collecting books. Just as we were about to leave, she said, "By the way, did you check the hunting section? I think there might be a couple of dog books there." We almost left, but said "what the heck." Boy, am I glad we did. There was only one dog book, but it was a copy of Hochwalt's 1923 The Modern Setter.

Sitting on top of a box soon to be listed is Montgomery's 1950 The Complete Kerry Blue Terrier. When I see the book, I think not of Kerry Blues, but of Boston Terriers. Sounds strange, I know. We discovered the book on our first visit to a small store in Miami. It was located in what we would now call a strip mall and was operated by a retired couple. They may have been the owners, but the shop was presided over by a pair of Boston Terriers: Boots and Rosie. Everything about the store seemed like a contradiction. The owners were from London and still retained their charming British accents. And yet here they were, in sunny Miami, owned by a breed that was all-American. I'm not sure if our weekly stops at the shop were to look for books, to visit with Boots and Rosie or to have tea with these transplanted Brits. We would walk in the door, and the owner would say, "I'll put on the tea." She would spread a little table with an Irish lace tablecloth, bring out the delicate porcelain cups with their exquisite pink roses and place some buttery shortbreads (sent to her by a sister in England) on this majolica platter shaped like a cabbage leaf. Then, usually with a Boston Terrier on my lap, we would drink Earl Grey and talk about dogs and books.

I could tell you about the North Carolina bookstore that bought a small dog book collection from a local owner in 1949. We stumbled upon the store in about 1975. "You know we bought that collection and since then we haven't had one person interested in dog books," the owner said as she led us to the bookshelf that housed them. What a find and the owner just totalled up the 1949 prices and added 10 percent! I think she was just happy to get rid of the books.
Or, I could mention the shop we stopped at while we were at a dog show in Tennessee. "I'm afraid," the owner sighed, "that we recently had a dog book collector in here who cleaned us out." As we dejectedly headed for the door, he called us back. "Don't know if you'd be interested in it, but there was one book that was too large for the shelves. I put it on top of the bookcase and forgot to tell the other buyer to look at it." And what was that oversized book? A 1902 copy of the Melbourne Sporting Library's Dogs.

Okay, okay. Now you know why I preferred writing books to articles. I tend to be long-winded and, when I'm talking about one of my favorite topics, it's hard for me to shut up. I hope you have had fun reading about our books and enjoyed the photos of our dogs from years past. Hopefully, you'll have as much fun with your collecting as we have had.

Cathy, Harvey & Cocoa