At most of the estate sales I've attended lately, there have been a number of antique (or rather, vintage/retro) dealers and collectors interested in what they call "Mid-Century" items: stuff from the 1950s and 1960s, the "Mad Men" era. Pastel pink appliances, pale gold Naugahyde chairs with short narrow wooden legs, "Jetsons"-looking lamps and bowls all fly out the door at good prices. There is one particularly dedicated set of young men who, I suspect, may run a flourishing business selling Mid-Century items to interior decorators and Hollywood set designers.
I haven't noticed that this increased interest in Objets Mid-Century has extended to the family dog, however. Many of the ads I see in magazines from the mid-20th century feature dog breeds that, for whatever reason, have fallen out of favor or popularity. For example, how long has it been since you saw someone walking a Collie? A Scottish Terrier? Or especially an Irish Setter?
The Irish Setter used to appear in all sorts of magazine advertisements in the early to mid-20th century. His glossy red coat and happy smile were used to sell everything from dog food to silverware to whisky. The Irish Setter's dark chestnut coat also appeared on the backs of playing cards, like this one I found a couple of weeks ago:
Now, if you do an Internet search for "Irish Setter," the first thing that pops up is a brand of shoes.
Who knows why the red dog fell out of favor? Perhaps it's because not every dog owner has the time and energy to take care of a Setter. As the American Kennel Club website notes:
One of the most distinctive Sporting breeds, the mahogany red Irish Setter is an active, aristocratic bird dog.... Over two feet tall at the shoulder, the Irish is known for his style, powerful movement and clown-like personality.
A rollicking breed, the Irish Setter is high-energy and requires regular exercise. His outgoing and stable personality make him a favorite with families. Their long, glossy red coat, although beautiful, must be groomed regularly to prevent snarls or mats.
In other words, the Irish Setter can be a bit of a drama queen, and will take it upon himself to get regular exercise, whether his owner feels like going "walkies" and playing fetch, or not. Every knock on the front door, every squirrel scurrying up a tree, is a good enough reason for the Irish Setter to rev up and explode in a shower of ecstatic barking and running. And if you don't take him to the groomer every few weeks, he'll start looking like a walking curly red haystack. He's rather high-maintenance.
And yet whenever we take the red dog who lives at our house for a walk, strangers rush up to pet him and indulge in a little nostalgia.
"You don't see Irish Setters very much any more!"
"We had one of those when I was a kid! He was the dumbest dog I ever saw, but he was so friendly...."
"When I was a boy growing up in New Jersey," said one older gentleman who stopped to pet the Irish Setter, "the family who lived next door to us had two of these guys. Mick and Molly were their names. We usedta take 'em out into the woods and let them run. Man, those dogs could run, and so could I." He paused thoughtfully. "I don't remember the names of the kids next door, but I sure remember those dogs...."
It's good to remember the happy times. And the Irish Setter is happy to help you do it.
Happy Saint Patrick's Day, everyone.