“What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion.” –Lupita Nyong’o

I highly recommend watching the now-viral speech by Lupita Nyong’o given the week before she won her Oscar. In it, she discusses her own self-doubt and loathing, brought on because she did not believe she was beautiful.  Her interpretation of her own beauty, or lack thereof, was not just influenced by, it was created by, what she saw in the media.  She has a powerful message, and it is only about 5 minutes long.

It was sheer coincidence that I watched that video (again and again, actually) the same day I was sorting and culling 75-100 year old pictures of dogs from the New York Public Library. Most of the pictures are from advertisements for cigarettes. Some of the pics are post cards, some are from books or magazines, and some are from private photo collections. There are thousands – it is worth the time to peruse them at

New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Several articles and blogs have been published recently exploring the extreme breeding that some breeds have been subjected to. It is easy to look at the English Bulldog and wonder at the thinking that went into its facial development, and who can look at the modern German Shepherd Dog and not be concerned about the structure of their hind quarters? I was completely surprised, though, to see pictures and descriptions of dogs like the Rottweiler from just 75 years ago. What sacrifices of health and temperament must have been made to change their appearance so radically? It is important, of course, to recognize that while 75 years is not so long in human development, it might mean 40 or more generations of dogs.

One of the most moving quotes from the talk by Luipa Nyong’o was this: “What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion.” I wish we could apply that standard of beauty to our dogs more, and focus less on the extremes of physical manipulation that lead to so many health and temperament problems. Perhaps we are a little closer today than yesterday. 

All of these pictures were published originally from 1934-39.

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The following are contemporary pictures of Dexter, on the left, and Biscuit. Their breeds, if any, are unknown.

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Dexter

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