Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships

Drawing of Puppy Love title and concept in Victorian style

Puppy Love: An Exploration of Victorian Pet-Owner Relationships
Hankamer Treasure Room, Second Floor
January 15, 2022 – August 15, 2022

Curious about what their pets were thinking and feeling, Victorian authors lent animals emotions, thoughts, and even voices in their writing. Elizabeth Barrett Browning tried twice to represent Flush’s thoughts and emotions in poetry, and included tales of his antics in her letters. Although nineteenth-century literature about pets was often dismissed as frivolous, the issues raised were serious. As the increasing wealth of middle- and upper-class Victorians enabled them to purchase pets, a surge in dog ownership brought accompanying problems of misguided canine care and the use of pedigreed dogs as status symbols. Meanwhile, dognapping rings sought to profit from owners’ emotional and economic investment in their dogs. The stories of Flush and other Victorian dogs reveal both the possibilities and problems of pet ownership. Interacting with pets as fellow-creatures can increase humans’ capacity to give and receive love; however, the relationship is always imperfect. Like Victorian pet owners, we struggle at times to understand and meet our pets’ needs. 

An exhibition curated by Allison ScheideggerArmstrong Browning Library Summer Intern

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