Documenting the history of play with pet animals is a challenge. Think about your own games with your pets. They are casual, often lasting a few minutes in odd moments of leisure or pauses during housework. They may take place while something else is going on: I often find myself throwing a small rubber ball for my dog while I watch television. Nowadays, quick snapshots and short videos of play with pets record these casual yet pleasurable and emotionally satisfying moments for posterity — and in enormous numbers. (As I write this, a Google search for “dog video” yields 204 million results.) But finding manuscript sources that recount these games in an earlier era is a treat. And this real photo postcard, sent in 1910, even includes a snapshot of the dog in question! What it does not include, however, is the name of the writer, the name of the dog, or information on who took the photo. Oh, well.
Real photo postcard with cyanotype snapshot, postmarked 20 October 1910, Sweetwater, Texas. Unsigned, and photographer unknown.
Here is a transcript of the message: “The Intermission.” “The scamp” paused for an instant on top of the storm-cellar, and, huffing and panting, “dared” me to romp with him some more! I “snapped” him and then jumped at him – and off he dashed, plowing the dust up so that Arnold had to wash his paws again before taking him into the house. His hair dries in tufts, as you see here, and I call him “an old porcupine” until he gets combed out!
The message seems to describe one of those spontaneous running-and-chase games where the dog tucks his butt and runs in circles; at my house, we call this “scudding.” I’m not sure about the breed of the dog. He seems to be a collie or a collie mix of some kind. And we know that he was a house dog.
Verso of postcard of “The Intermission.”
The verso of the postcard, above, recalls a day spent with Mrs. Burnside, the recipient, and mentions an “S” who is apparently near the end of a fatal illness. But it is unsigned.
So pause in your labors and make your dog (and you) happy by inviting her to play.