A Formal Postcard Portrait of a Little Old Dog

Blog scans When I bought this postcard, I had recently lost my beloved terrier mix Patti to congestive heart failure. (You can see a photo of Patti and me together under the heading “My Pets.”)  I recognized that whoever brought this little old dog into a photographer’s studio felt the way I did about Patti.  And I can see why:  this dog, who is probably looking intently at his owner, has a wise and patient expression.  This is a portrait of a true friend.

Judging from the collar with license tag, the table and shaded background and the card itself (which was never sent and does not name the dog), I think that this photo was taken in the 1920s or 1930s.  It’s a little hard to tell, but I think the dog is male;  if it’s female, it never had puppies because I don’t see extended nipples.  And this little fellow was well-fed!  Other evidence of how the unidentified owner felt about the dog is in the use of a small padlock on the collar so that it could not be removed  from the dog.  This is a practice that dates from at least the 18th century, when dog theft was a real problem.

Professional photographers often produced photo postcards for their clients through the 1930s.  Except for using the table as a platform to get the little dog off the ground and closer to the camera lens, the approach of this photograph mirrors formal portraits of people in the use of a “three-quarter” view.

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