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Papers going to the dogs (and ‘hogs). May 23, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, pets, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I start our mornings with two newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call. Today, both had front-page stories related to animals.

The Wall Street Journal decided to feature an obscure and disquieting dog-related phenomenon that stubbornly refuses to die: knitting with dog hair. I’ve been aware of this activity, which sounds like a sick joke but is perfectly serious, since being sent a review copy of the seminal book on the subject, Knitting with Dog Hair, back in 1994. According to the WSJ, seventeen years later, there’s still an enthusiastic band of spinners and knitters trying to take dog-fur yarn mainstream. But now they’re calling it “chiengora” (chien being the French word for dog).

Okay, so I screamed at OFB (“Eeeewwww!!! Knitting with dog hair!!!”) when I saw the article, but then I read it. And it appears that many chiengora enthusiasts are saving fur from grooming sessions with their own beloved pets and sending it off to be spun into yarn so they can knit or crochet a wearable memento of a cherished companion, sort of a proactive memento mori. There’s certainly a precedent for this in the Victorian passion for making brooches and rings from the beloved deceased’s braided hair, though in their case, it was humans, not dogs, who were being commemorated.

OFB and I were just brushing our own beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, yesterday, and it’s true, there couldn’t be a more lustrous black coat on the face of the earth. (That’s the reason black shepherds are called “lacquer blacks” in their native Germany.) A glossy black Shiloh sweater, tank top, or skirt would make any fashionista proud.  But frankly, even with as much fur as we brush off Shiloh, I can’t imagine collecting enough for a scarf, much less a piece of clothing. And, according to the WSJ, dog-fur yarn is very pricey for that exact reason (not to mention that it has to be hand-spun).

Now, I’m an enthusiastic knitter who loves knitting scarves form beautiful yarns as mindless relaxation and for gifts. And when I saw a reference in the article to a golden retriever scarf, I’ll confess, my attitude towards knitting with dog fur abruptly shifted. As noted, I still wouldn’t collect fur from my own dogs to send to a spinner. But were someone to present me with some skeins of lustrous black German shepherd fur or golden retriever fur (which brings to mind our beloved goldens Molly and Annie) or mahogany-and-white Springer spaniel fur (recalling my childhood Springers), it’s true, I would not only knit them into scarves but wear those scarves with pride and pleasure.

Call me a chiengora convert. (And head over to www.WSJ.com to read the article, “In This Yarn With [sic] a Tail, Our Heroes Thirst for Hair of the Dog” by Stephanie Simon, May 23, 2011.)

Meanwhile, our local paper also featured a creature on its front page. But this wild thing wouldn’t make anybody’s heart sing. It was a groundhog that managed to sneak into somebody’s car, chew its way through the passenger seat, and then become stuck underneath the seat.

If you ask me, this doesn’t speak well for the IQ of Pennsylvania’s own Punxsutawney Phil and his prognostications about the duration of winter or arrival of an early spring. But, like the famous Phil, this groundhog became an instant celebrity, attracting the neighbors, the local police, a Deputy Wildlife Control Officer, and the local mayor, not to mention the screaming owners of the vehicle in question.

The article, “New Tripoli driver doesn’t dig his hitchhiking critter,” by Kevin Amerman, is hysterical, and shows photos of the groundhog in flagrante delicto, stuck under the passenger seat, as well as in a live trap on his way to being released back to the wild. Check it out at www.themorningcall.com.

Fortunately, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a groundhog here at Hawk’s Haven, so I’m hoping our veggie gardens are safe for another season. But I wonder what those dog-fur knitting enthusiasts would make of groundhog fur?!

               ‘Til next time,



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