A Gentleman’s Sporting Life

In a Regency era story I’ve been working on, my hero is a sporting man. Whatever the sport, he loves it: Fencing, boxing, fishing, shooting—they’re all on my hero’s list of favorite things to do.

Fencing at O’Saunessy’s Rooms in St James Street in 1820, by Cruickshank.

While researching different sports that were popular at the time, I came across a reference to the sport of hare-coursing.

A portion of a 17th Century painting on silk of a hunter and his dog hare-coursing.

Hare-coursing is a violent sport in which dogs are turned loose to hunt down hares by sight.

That’s all the description I’ll provide, because I find the concept of the sport too upsetting. I’m an animal lover through and through, so I’m glad to know the sport is banned in most places today.

Still, it was a normal gentleman’s pastime during the Regency, and while I’d never write about it in a story (except to condemn the practice), I was intrigued to discover there was a specific style of dress men wore for the sport.

I did a previous post (which you can read here) that featured gentlemen dressed for shooting pheasant or other game birds.

Likewise, when I stumbled upon a description of hare-coursing, I also found this image of a coat a gentleman would have worn that was specially designed for the “sport.”

From the John Bright Collection

The coat itself is made of wool, trimmed with velvet, which leads me to think hare-coursing was a popular pastime during the colder months of the year.

The coat has two deep pockets on either side of the back skirt. The size of the pockets indicates they may have been used to carry the dead hares.

But what I found most interesting was the buttons on the coat. They were cast with images of a running hare, which makes me think the garment belonged to a wealthy man who could indulge in a custom coat to wear just for engaging in hare-coursing.

I’d never glorify hare-coursing by including it in a story, but this image does inspire me to rethink my hero’s wealth. Is he the kind of man possessed of such an extensive wardrobe that he’d naturally have a custom coat made up to wear only one or two times a year?

Or would that be too vain of him?

Maybe I’ll have my hero be a little more altruistic—the kind of man who would rather put his wealth to better use.

Hmmm, the possibilities are endless!

A Special Month for My Special Friends

In my last post I described an old English tradition called Whip Dog Day. It’s one tradition that is best forgotten.

Today I want to talk about a twentieth century American tradition that is best remembered. It’s celebrated every year throughout the month of October. I’m talking about Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.

This is a celebration I can really get behind. I’ve had several pets during my long life and almost all of them joined my family after I found them at a shelter.

Let me introduce you to a few of my family members who came from dog shelters . . .

This is Byron, a corgi/basset hound mix, who is probably the smartest dog I’ve ever known.

He knows lots of words in Human, which is impressive when I realize I don’t know a how to say a single word in Dog.

Here’s Keats, a corgi/Dachshund mix:

He, too, was a shelter dog. He’s not as smart as Byron, and he had some very concerning behavioral issues when I first brought him home; but once he settled in and learned to trust me, I discovered something I hadn’t expected: he’s unfailingly happy all the time. An added bonus: if you toss a squeaky toy to him, he will be your devoted slave for the rest of his life.

Based on my photos, you may have noticed some trends in my preference for pets.

I tend to adopt dogs with black fur, because I once read that black dogs were less likely to be adopted than dogs with lighter hair color.

I tend to adopt dogs who have been at the shelter the longest. They are more likely to have medical or behavioral issues that make them less desirable for adoption. And that means they are more likely to be put down than other dogs.

I also tend to adopt dogs that no one else seems to want. So far, it seems no one wants dogs with satellite dishes for ears, but I do.

You may also notice that I have a predilection for naming pets after 18th Century Romantic poets.

Byron.

Keats.

By all rights, the next dog in line for adoption should be named Shelley, just to complete the triad.

That was my plan . . . But then something unexpected happened. Lacy came into my life.

Lacy, too, was a shelter dog when my cousin adopted her a few years ago. But when my cousin fell ill and had to be hospitalized, Lacy came to stay with me.

It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement; but a few days soon turned into a few weeks, then months, as my cousin remained hospitalized.

Unfortunately, my cousin never left the hospital; she passed away last February, and Lacy became a permanent member of my family.

Lacy blends right in, and since her arrival, I’ve realized that my dogs and I have a lot in common. We’re all motivated by treats and praise.

We all have short legs. And we all hate the vacuum cleaner.

But the key thing my dogs and I have in common is that we want to be loved, and we have plenty of love in our hearts to give back. With those kinds of benefits, there’s no reason anyone should believe they have to wait until October rolls around again to adopt a shelter dog.

I adopted Byron in the month of June. Keats came home with me during May of 2015. And Lacy became mine in February of 2016. So I can say from a place of experience that any month is the right month to bring a new pup home.

So even though today is the last day of October—and the last day to celebrate Adopt a Shelter Dog Month—there are plenty of reasons to visit your local animal shelter in November (or any other month) and find that special dog just waiting for you to take him or her home.

I’m tempted to go visit my Denver shelter in the next few weeks myself, just to see if they might possibly have a dog that would make a good addition to my own family . . .

. . . A small dog with black fur who wouldn’t mind answering to the name Shelley.