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Dog's Head: Joe

1938 or 1939
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Fairfield
Overall: 12 x 12 x 10 1/4in. (30.5 x 30.5 x 26cm)
Burl walnut with glass eyes, leather collar, metal clasp, and brass dog tags
Given in memory of Eric S. Gunnion by his parents
Acc. No. 1990.701.1
Dog's head carved out of burl wood. The head has been screwed, at the back, onto a beveled wooden wall-hanging plaque, with a hanging hole near one point, so that the whole hangs on the wall as a diamond shape, not on the square. A leather collar covered with 10 brass dog tags circles the dog's neck. The dog's snout, nostrils, mouth, and underjaw are carved smooth; the rest of the head consists of natural burl wood, which suggests very curly (poodle-type) hair covering the top of the head and extending down and back over where the ears would be (no ears are actually visible). An inscribed paper label is affixed to the side of the proper right jaw. Large brown glass taxidermist eyes are set in the burl wood with a very friable, powdery white material, possibly a wood filler. The smooth carved section of the head is stained.
Label:This head is loving memorial to old Joe by his owner, John Eiker. Eiker likely carved the walnut burl in the likeness of his beloved companion soon after the dog’s death. The figure wears a real dog collar to which are attached Joe’s yearly licenses from 1930-1938. Affixing the sculpture to a wall plaque must have seemed logical to the avid hunter, who had several similarly mounted game trophies. The flesh-and-blood Joe probably worked as a scent dog and retriever, accompanying his master on hunting trips. Eiker kept this tribute to Joe until his death, at which time it was sold at the estate sale and purchased by Eric Gunnion “for respect of Eiker and our dog.”
Provenance:Presumably Eiker carved this memorial to his dog soon after the dog's death (presumed to be in 1938, based on the latest dated dog tag on the figure's neck). The carving remained in the maker's possession until the time of his death; it was included in his estate sale Oct. 10, 1981, and AARFAC files include a xerox of the sales slip. It was purchased by Eric S. Gunnion and inherited by his (Eric's) parents, following his death. It was given to AARFAC by Eric's parents, Vernon and Jacqueline A. Gunnion of Lancaster, Pa.
Mark(s):The following stamped lettering appears on the dog tags mounted on Joe's collar. They are not mounted on the collar in year order, but in the order given here, beginning at the clasp: "ADAMS/43/1938/COUNTY PA", "ADAMS/57/1934/COUNTY, PA", "IF FOUND/PLEASE DROP/IN ANY LETTER BOX/JOE./PROPERTY [OF]/J. S. EIKER/ FAIRFIELD." "ADAMS/1158/1930/COUNTY PA", "ADAMS/812/1931/COUNTY, PA", "ADAMS/803/1933 COUNTY, PA", "ADAMS/178/1937/COUNTY, PA", "ADAMS/95/1932/COUNTY, PA", "ADAMS/183/1935/ COUNTY, PA", and "1936/ADAMS/265/COUNTY, PA".
Inscription(s):In ink on a paper label adhered to the proper right side of the dog's jaw is: "MY OLD SETTER/DOG, JOE/GOD BLESS HIM/John S. Eiker." Of the inscription, only the final signature is written in script.