Pet-friendly outings usually don’t include visits to museums, which are famously protective of their precious possessions. The newest museum in the gallery-packed Berkshires region of Massachusetts is a charming exception: a fun collection of artworks and artifacts about dogs — even some artworks by a dog — where both dogs and humans are welcome to wander the gallery and even touch the pieces on exhibit.
Dogs even get preferential treatment at Museum of Dog in North Adams. They don’t pay admission (humans do). They get free snacks (humans don’t). And if a human wants to rest on one of the sofas in the gallery to flip through the book of New Yorker dog cartoons, and a dog sneaks onto the sofa first, well, tough luck, human.
The bowwows are off the leash and are the kings and queens at Museum of Dog.
David York opened the small museum a few months ago after decades of owning rescue pups and collecting hundreds of dog artifacts. York, 58, spent his career in private-label clothing lines in New York City helping to develop Aeropostale and other brands. He also co-owned the Dumplins restaurant chain and founded Barking Hound Village dog day care.
A former resident of Washington, Conn., York moved to the Berkshires, bought a 200-year-old, 8,000-square-foot building and turned it into a shrine to man’s best friend, including some of York’s best friends.
“I thought the museum would be fun. I wanted more for people to do when they are here, who are limited in what they can do with their dog,” York says. “It’s informal. Touching is encouraged.”
Artifacts And Artworks
One gallery is dedicated to revolving exhibits. Currently, the show is black-and-white images by pet photographer Jesse Freidin: Boston terriers, golden Labs, cocker spaniels, basset hounds, a Jack Russell terrier frolicking on the beach at the Golden Gate Bridge, a delightful shot of two smiling Airedales. Large, white ceramic statues of dogs stand sentry over the exhibit in that gallery.
York said the next exhibit in the rotating gallery, opening Sept. 1, will be a collection of photographs of elderly dogs by Jane Sobel Klonsky from her book “Unconditional,” as well as a video installation by Klonsky’s daughter, Kacey Klonsky.
Other items are permanent exhibits. Some emphasize the history of dogs: 18th-century dog collars and garden dogs — because who needs garden gnomes when you can have a garden dog — 19th-century dog licenses, vintage dog tags, a meerschaum pipe carved with dogs, antique plush dogs owned by York’s grandmother, fireplace tools with dogs’ heads on the handles, a vintage Steiff dog puppet, 19th-century tapestries and a tobacco-and-snuff humidor decorated with dogs.
Dogs in popular culture are represented throughout the room. A hollow plastic dog statue was created as a promotional item by RCA Victor Records, whose logo featured a dog named Nipper listening to a gramophone. A colorful print by Mark Tetro — which was seen in the show “Friends” in Central Perk and which York bought at a “Friends” prop auction — hangs next to Nipper. The Taco Bell Chihuahua, the classic Fisher-Price doggy pull toy and Slinky Dog, made famous in “Toy Story,” make an appearance.
A few items recall McGruff the Crime Dog, the spokespooch for National Crime Prevention Council’s “Take a Bite out of Crime” campaign. A cover of Three Dog Night’s debut album has nothing to do with dogs, but is present due to the band’s name. York has a print of the ever-popular Cassius Marcellus Coolidge image of dogs playing poker, as well as other Coolidge prints.
No dog museum would be complete without a few originals by William Wegman, who is famous for photographing Weimaraners in whimsical poses. York has some, as well as a lovely Mary Engel sculpture of a dog made with buttons and an abstracted painting by Rebecca Kinkead.
Much space in the museum is taken up with homages to York’s own pets: Sophie the cocker spaniel, Roxanne the Viszla, Daisy the Weimaraner, Hope the chocolate lab mix and his foster dog, a redbone coonhound named Buck.
“Sophie was my first rescue. She was found chained to a tree. She lived to be 18,” he said. “When she died it was one big shiva that lasted forever.” Items in her memory are on show, including paintings of Sophie and Sophie’s favorite chair, which visitors wouldn’t know was dog-related without a sign attached.
That room also exhibits news articles about York’s dog-rescue activities, including articles written when he testified in court against two teenagers who shot Hope and buried her twice before he adopted her.
York goes a step farther with Daisy. A room in the back is dedicated to artworks “created by” Daisy, including a car seat the spirited dog tore to shreds and a car window still marked with Daisy’s nose-prints.
York plans a coffee shop, food truck and restaurant in North Adams, all of them pet-friendly.
MUSEUM OF DOG is at 55 Union St. in North Adams, Mass. Admission is $5, $1 for children, free for pets. Hours are Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Tours are available. museumofdog.com.