Thursday, February 20, 2014

This IS Soda: A Long-Overdue Update

All the way back in 2011, I made this post based on a guess that this little dog might be Soda, a well-loved Jack Russell terrier from the Livingston household.  The problem came from the fact that all I had was an unmarked slide, found in my old curator's closet--not a very positive marker.  The best identifiers I had were the the fireplace (which looked to be Clermont's library) and eventually I also noticed that the one-of-a-kind balloon clock is up on the mantle (see below for an image of the clock).  So at least I knew that this was a dog living at Clermont.

Well it wasn't too long ago that while doing some work in collections, I finally came across the original and at last confirmed it--this IS Soda.  The original I found was a memorial card, lovingly constructed around the time of the dog's death with beautiful green foil and several useful details pasted to the back.  I also have to update some inaccuracies in my original post:

For one, I misidentified Soda as male, and this is definitely a little girl dog.  Sorry girl!

Secondly, I had inherited some misinformation from whomever originally told me the story.  Soda apparently started out as Clermont Livingston's dog, and when Clermont died in 1895, she must have been inherited by his son John Henry.  This comes from a note on the bottom of the card that reads, "'Soda' Beloved to Clermont Livingston."

Secondly, I got her death date wrong.  Soda died in 1902, not 1901--which is a pretty silly error since I clearly didn't read the tombstone very closely.  Doh!

Last of all comes the sad part of Soda's story, which I did not try to relate in the last post.  "Little Soda" unfortunately died a violent death, "killed by someone" in the nearby town of Madalin (now part of Tivoli).  I was once told by an older visitor to Clermont that Madalin was considered the "questionable" part of town when she was a little girl in the 30s or 40s, and she was discouraged from ever going there.  Whether that is true or not, I don't know.  The "Brutes" did their deed on May 31, 1902, and the little dog was entombed some five days later with a nicely-carved headstone--an honor paid to only one dog before her and two afterwards.

Finally, as part of their mourning process, the family assembled this pretty memorial card, complete with a newspaper cut-out of poetry to express the grief they shared over the loss.

Unfortunately, this little card is a sad reminder that the feelings and lives of animals were long viewed by a great part of the populace as being greatly inferior to those of humanity and even downright unimportant.  But it is also a touching reminder of the deep personal connection that the Livingstons shared with their pets and the positive changes that were taking place on this front in the early 20th century.

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