Celebrate your 4-legged soulmate at New York's Museum of the Dog

Celebrate your 4-legged soulmate at New York's Museum of the Dog

The famous canine museum opened in early February after relocating back to Manhattan. Our collaborator checked out the vibe and the canine exhibits during its opening weekend.

May 16, 2019 By Sherri Telenko

“I was told that the rescue dog I was fostering might take a while to place because he's not very cute,” said a woman in line at opening weekend outside the American Kennel Club (AKC) Museum of the Dog in New York City. “Within 3 weeks, I filled out the adoption application myself,” she confesses. “He's the sweetest dog I've ever met.”

Stories like this drift through the museum like mist. Everyone here is talking about one thing: dogs. Their own dogs (mostly), dogs they've met, advice about dogs, dog breeds and benefits of mixed mutts. Dogs and what they mean to us is the unifying theme for everyone who patiently waited to push through the doors of the newest best kept secret in NYC.

OK, it's not that secret.

For 30 years, the AKC's museum attracted canine fans to St. Louis, Missouri. With attendance faltering, plans unfolded to move the museum back to the Big Apple, home to AKC's head office, where, in its new location, the museum is aiming to attract 80,000 to 100,000 people in 2019.

The Museum of the Dog—proudly housed in a shiny office tower at 101 Park Ave, near Grand Central Station—opened in mid-winter, the same weekend as the Westminster Dog Show. Out of courtesy to the AKC's neighbours, dogs are unfortunately no longer admitted to the museum (excluding service dogs and invited demonstration dogs), which—if online comments are an indication—is a contentious issue.

Nevertheless, the museum's opening exhibit “For the Love of All Things Dog,” encapsulates what many visitors are expressing. “Dogs have worked alongside humans for centuries. As both our hardworking partners and loving companions, all dogs have a purpose. Their endless love and devotion has bonded us to them and made them our loyal best friends,” announces a sign at the entrance.

What's on show?

Mostly dog art, ceramics, sculptures and paintings, organized by breed. While the AKC, which is responsible for the pure breed registry in the US, is controversial in some circles for focusing on breeding rather than rescuing, the museum also takes it on the chin when breeds are not represented here. They take their mission seriously and understand that, yes, people are invested in their pets!

Exhibits of many Victorian-style portraits—several with people and their dogs—will rotate. But favourites such as “Millie on the South Lawn,” depicting President Bush's dog; William Wegman's famous canoeing Weimaraner, and an Edwardian-style Chihuahua dog house will likely remain on permanent display.

Speaking of sit and staying

The library on the Museum's third floor can keep you happily entertained for hours, and the interactive tech center—which playfully matches you to your canine twin from among their artwork collection—draws howls of laughter from everyone. Truly .... everyone!

I comb the images looking for the closest resemblance to my 4-legged soulmate. In this breed-focused museum, I know I won't find a black Cocker Spaniel / Jack Russell / Poodle cross. But, a painting of a cheery white Westie does indeed evoke his spirit.

Photo 1: The exhibition celebrates the return of the AKC Museum of the Dog to New York.
Photo 2: The permanent collection of the museum is one of the largest collections of canine-related art and artifacts in the world.
Photo 3: The AKC has maintained a collection of art and artifacts since its creation in 1884.
Photo 4: Children can enjoy a variety of interactive activities.

Photos credit: The American Kennel Club – David Woo.

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