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Louis, the library dog!

Hebba Haddad

The Kennel Club: My Visit to Europe’s Biggest „Dog Library“

In London, there is a library devoted entirely to books about dogs. Astonishingly, it’s not the only one in the world, but it is at least the largest in Europe. I paid it a visit, and got a crash course in dogs.

By Johnny Bliss

Reality Check_Johnny's Audio Odyssey_ Kennel Club Library

I’ll be honest: when I booked an appointment to visit the dog library at the headquarters of London’s Kennel Club (an organization devoted to the care and feeding of dogs, dog sports, dog breeding, dog training, and dog health), I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, yes, it’s funny, a library with dog books. But how interesting can a library full of dog books really be?

Reality Check, 19th-23rd March

In a series running on FM4’s Reality Check, join our roaming reporter Johnny Bliss in London, visiting Europe’s largest collection of canine related literature at the Kennel Club. A series for dog lovers and fans of literature alike, every day this week on Reality Check, and afterwards seven days on demand.

Check this spot at the end of the week for the Reality Check podcast!

Very, very interesting, it turns out.

My first clue was that there was an adorable little Chinese crested dog named Louis running around, barking at me and demanding to be played with, something else you wouldn’t expect to see at an ordinary library. My second clue came in the form of the librarian, Ciara Farrell, who was more than happy to show me around. An incredibly articulate, well-informed woman with a genuine joy in her job, she managed to convince me that dogs, their relationship with humankind, and their working history are a topic that should interest literally everybody.

Normally this would have been a hard sell for me, but because her enthusiasm was so contagious, for at least the period that I spent in that library with her, I found myself totally interested in everything Dog-related.

Kennel Club Ciara Librarian Portrait

Hebba Haddad

The following is a small collection of some of Ciara’s best quotes.

Who Goes to a Dog Library?

„It’s anybody who is interested in dogs. We did have somebody once who was trying to track down their grandfather, because back in the 1920s, he had left their family and moved away, and married somebody else without getting divorced. But he couldn’t give up dog showing, so all of the information we found out about him was after he’d left his first family, and gone and founded another one. But he loved Irish Terriers so much that he kept showing them, so his name and address and everything about his new wife was in our documents, so his addiction to dog showing is what made it possible for them to find out that piece of family history.“

„A lady came in one day who wanted to see some information about golden retrievers. She was very excited and got a little bit tearful to find a photograph of herself and a dog when she was very, very small. We noticed that she had the same name as the dog, so we asked her, was the dog named after her? No. She was named after the dog. Her family’s champion dog, and she was extremely proud of this and very overcome and excited to see this photograph of herself and this dog when she was a child, that she hadn’t seen before. But that gives you an idea of how much people value their dogs. Not merely did that family name their child after a dog, she was very happy to be named after that dog. She found it a point of great pride.“

On the library’s resident dog, Louis

„His name is Louis, which is short for Louis Vuitton. He is a Chinese crested dog. He came from rescue, and a dog like Louis, in older cultures, would have been a sort of status symbol. A wealthy person would have carried him to prove that they were wealthy, that they could afford a dog that didn’t have to do any work, that they could afford to feed an animal that was not functional. And they were also used to keep people warm! Louis would have gone up the sleeve of your robe, or inside your dress.“

Louis library dog close-up @ Kennel Club

Hebba Haddad

On a medieval dog who was accused of witchcraft

„Boy’s a very interesting dog. This is a dog who is a character, he’s an individual. He dates from the mid-seventeenth century, in the middle of the English civil war. Boy belonged to a handsome young man called Prince Rupert of Bohemia, also known as Prince Rupert of the Rhein.“

„When he was about seventeen, his uncle arranged for him to have a poodle. Not like a modern poodle! Poodle means pond, means water, means a dog that swims. They’re duck-hunting dogs.“

„So he came back to London with his beautiful poodle; no one had ever seen one in London before. It was a sensation, everybody knew this dog. So when the Civil War broke out, he’s on the King’s side because he’s the King’s nephew. On the other side are the Parliamentarians, some of them are extremely religious, and they’re very frightened of witchcraft. So this book attempts to slander Prince Rupert, by accusing him and his dog of witchcraft.“

Looking at old books, pt. 3 (prince rupert)

Hebba Haddad

What older books can teach us about dogs

„These are things which are typically kept in boxes or kept under acid-free plastic. But we do take them out to show people. The oldest book in the library dates from 1598, and the second oldest one dates from 1607.“

„These books are where you can see what dogs did in the past. Dogs all originally had a job. They might not have to earn a living now, but it is helpful to know what they did, back when they did have to earn a living. Knowing what a dog was for tells you things you need to know about their behaviour, their lifespan, what they’re good at, what they’re bad at, and what you need to do as an owner to make sure they’ve got a fulfilling life.“

„Recently, Alaskan malamutes and huskies have been popular, because people have seen the wolves on Game of Thrones, and said that they wanted dogs that looked like that. But you’re taking on a dog that needs a huge amount of exercise, lots of outdoor time, works in a pack, and might not be suitable for living in your city centre flat! So, those are the things that people really need to think about, understanding where your dog came from is really important.“

Looking at old books, pt. 1

Hebba Haddad

Why dogs sometimes suddenly attack their owners

„Generally, they’re reacting to stress and fear. They’re not doing it out of malice, they’re not capable of that. They’re doing it because something has been triggered within them, usually to do with how they’ve been treated in the past! If you’re not the dog’s first owner, you really should find out that dog’s background. You may treat your dog very well, but if it has been cruelly treated in the past, particular circumstances can act as triggers, that you might not be aware of. Also, sometimes dogs can have a health condition that’s undiagnosed, or something else that causes them pain, that can cause a snappy reaction. But if a dog is being regularly vet-checked and regularly looked after, you should be alerted to those things quite quickly.“

„Some people believe that they have trained their dog well, when the way they have trained their dog has involved cruelty, and hurting the dog. A dog may obey you for a period of time when it’s treated like that, it doesn’t mean it’s going to obey you like that forever. So, at the Kennel Club, we recommend non-coercive training methods; dogs must only be trained through kindness and reward. We campaign to outlaw cruel training methods such as shock collar or prong collars, and we’ve had some success with that.“

„I recommend a book by Barbara Sykes called ‘Understanding and Handling Dog Aggression’. This talks about how to recognize it, how it develops, how to deal with it, and how to restore confidence in you and your dog.“

Why dogs become aggressive
Searching for books @ Kennel Club

Hebba Haddad

The 19th-23rd of March: In a series running on FM4’s Reality Check, join our roaming reporter Johnny Bliss in London, visiting Europe’s largest collection of canine related literature at the Kennel Club. The librarian named Ciara, will be showing him (among other things) some of the library’s oldest books, which date from as early as the 1500s and address topics such as dog sorcery and witchcraft, medieval veterinary medicine, and the historic roles different dogs have played in society. A series for dog lovers and fans of literature alike, every day this week on Reality Check, and afterwards seven days on demand.

Check this spot at the end of the week for the Reality Check podcast!

Reality Check_Johnny's Audio Odyssey_ Kennel Club Library
"A Gay Dog", the book

Hebba Haddad

About the book, "A Gay Dog"

Dog-showing and feminism

What does dog-showing have to do with feminism? Quite a lot, actually! For the next few months (until the 29th of June), the Kennel Club are hosting an exhibition on Significant women who have made a difference for dogs.

Queen with Dogs Painting

Hebba Haddad

Art by Terence Cuneo, Copyright Kennel Club

'Women who have made a difference for dogs' exhibition @ Kennel Club

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