Monday, November 5, 2012

Field Trip: The World's Largest Dog Museum

Lately we've been finding ourselves on the road from San Antonio to Dallas. This is not an exciting four-hour trip by anyone's definition. The best way to describe it would be...flat. If there are scenic routes and cultural detours along the way, we aren't familiar with them, nor have we wanted to take the extra time to seek them out. We're in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B and back again, which has thus far meant a stop at the Flying J or some other mega-truck stop (the kind with showers and laundromats) and then another stop at one of those bare-bones truck stops (the kind that's just a cluster of picnic tables, vending machines and bathrooms alongside the freeway). I'm a big fan of roadside attractions, weird museums, funny stores, flea markets, old-school diners so it pains me to be making this road trip—with our kids—and not trying to get something out of it. So this past weekend we resolved to do better than stopping at an HEB in Waco and calling it a day.

Early on Sunday morning, despite suffering the effects of drinking way too goddang much Champagne and letting the kids stay up till midnight just cuz it was daylight savings so how bad could it be, we resolved to hit a few points of interest that we'd noted along I-35. First stop was going to be a shimmering silver monolithic dome called the Starship Pegasus in Italy, TX, but it was closed (it's for sale, though, if you're interested). Next stop was The World's Largest Dog Museum. Hey, we like dogs. And this one was affiliated with an antiques mall, the excellently named Antiquibles. Turned out the museum occupied the back corner of this massive warehouse.

I get pretty excited when confronted with something that reminds me of the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I knew my kids weren't going to give me more than ten minutes of browse time before they started clamoring to leave. And that would be after they cashed in on their bribes (you can get anything you want for $2 or less! Now leave Mommy alone!).

I was pleased to see the Green Party had made in-roads in these parts; this is definitely not the sort of sentiment you expect to encounter out in the open just north of Waco...

I was also pleased to encounter a new (to me) genre of literature...

But, really, I should know by now not to get excited about antique malls in Texas, even if they are massive and have a great name and a dog museum housed in the back. I hardly ever find anything I want. The inventory tends to be all overpriced Western collectibles and Texana (stuff I used to purchase ironically when I lived in NYC) and oak furniture and prints and dolls. Blah. I bought two vintage children's books and a totally gratuitous stuffed bear for the 5-year-old ($1.95—she cashed in on the bribe while the older one didn't want to look, she just wanted to LEAVE).

I hit the Dog Museum on my way out; the rest of the family had thoroughly explored the exhibit during those fleeting moments I was shopping. I think the term museum is used loosely here; it is most definitely a massive collection (over 7,000 they say, and I believe them) of dog tchotchkes of every stripe. Some showcases were loosely organized by breed (poodles and greyhounds were very well represented); others were devoted to canine pop cultural icons (Nipper, Pluto, Lassie et al.). I don't think anyone is spending a lot of time with a feather duster in there. Apparently the owners started the collection back in the late ’60s and it just blossomed, the way collections do, into something much bigger than that. As their sign proudly proclaims, the museum was the subject of a segment on An American Moment, a short-lived late-90s TV series hosted by Charles Karault and James Earl Jones. Would that all of our collections could achieve that kind of recognition! I'm thinking particularly of an estate sale I went to a couple of weeks ago, at the home of a woman who obsessively collected and crafted owls. Her grim little tract house was certainly The World's Largest Owl Museum, or at least the largest one I've ever seen. Will post the pics soon.

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