Sunday, September 20, 2009


Less than five miles from my house is a unique destination that I've driven past for decades, but today I stopped and I visited the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, AKA Dog Museum of America, which has the country's largest collection of art and artifacts dedicated to man's best friend.

The museum was founded in New York in 1982 and moved to St. Louis in 1986. It is housed in the Jarville House in Queeny Park, which was once owned by Edgar Queeny, the president of Monsanto Chemical Company. The museum's collection soon outgrew the original house, and an addition was built in 1989.

When you walk into the lobby, the original house is to the left, up a flight of stairs, and the addition is on the right. Over 700 pieces of art are on display in a variety of media--paintings, drawings, pastels, prints, sculptures, ceramic figurines, and photographs. The museum's art spans the centuries. There were sets of wooden Chinese dogs from the 16th century, and works produced just a couple of years ago. Each piece of art's identification label had the usual information you'd expect to find-the name of the piece, the artist's name, the media type, and who donated it. But at this museum there was an additional line-the name of the breed.

I especially enjoyed the selection of posters from mid-20th century movies featuring Lassie and Old Yeller, among others, and the All-Star Dogs Hall of Fame exhibit which showcased champion show and field dogs, famous dogs from movies (such as Lassie and Toto from the Wizard of Oz), and dogs that have contributed to society, such as the rescue dogs of 9/11 and drug-sniffing dogs who work at airports.

I think the most outrageous artifact was a Palladian style doghouse by the Chilean decorator Juan Pablo Molyneux. I'm guessing it was at least three feet square, with a columned portico in front, windows on all four sides, and faux-painted decorations. The special exhibition was a display of dogs featured on matchbook covers. I actually remembered seeing some of themwhen I was a kid!

What would a museum be without a gift shop? This one was staffed by a friendly lady and her canine companion, who was delighted when I gave her a scratch on the head.