November 1

Pet City

MOHAI’s new exhibit, It’s Raining Cats and Dogs, highlights Seattle’s history with four-legged friends.

As more and more newcomers take up residence in growing Seattle, an increase in furry felines and canines is sure to follow. It seems like dogs are everywhere you look in the city these days (crazy cat ladies, don’t fret—cat ownership in Seattle does in fact outpace dog ownership). Whether it’s fetching at a park, curled up at a pup-friendly pub, or leading a young tech worker by their leash down Westlake, Seattle’s pupulation is unavoidable. Dogs (and cats) even outnumber children in Seattle.

But Seattle’s embrace of dogs and cats is nothing new. MOHAI’s new exhibit, It’s Raining Cats and Dogs, attempts to portray Puget Sound history through stories of dogs and cats. The exhibit showcases rarely seen objects that demonstrate how dogs and cats went from workers to family members.

Dave Unger, Director of Curatorial services at MOHAI, says that the exhibit came to light after looking at the museum’s collections for new material. “It started off as a bit of a joke, ‘It’s raining cats and dogs…’ but we explored the topic further and found there was lots of history with animals in the city. We’re always looking for different ways to show the things we have. Our collections team found that there were plenty of fun items that have cats and dogs among the 100,000 3-D artifacts and millions of photographs and maps. We have such a wide selection of objects and images so we could show off a little bit of the breadth of the collection in one place,” he says.

Unger explains that the exhibit shows Seattle’s development as a city. In its early days, cats and dogs served utilitarian purposes—dogs stood guard and cats hunted vermin. Gradually they turned into pets as Seattle turned from a frontier town to a growing metropolis. “Now we are seeing a continuing evolution of relationships to animals and the spaces they inhabit. Leash-free parks, for example, are an interesting bookend to the story that started from 30s to the 50s that required dogs to be on leashes. In the early 20th century, there was a big effort to control animals, but now we are turning a page and asking ‘how can we create shared space that animals need.’”

One of Unger’s favorite parts of the exhibit is a display of photographs from some of the earliest cameras. The photos depict something specific going on, but in each image there is a cat or dog hiding in the frame. It’s never a focus of the photography, but the images remind us that cats and dogs, whether in everyday life or in historically significant events, are and have always been there in the background. Think of it as a game of Where’s Waldo, but with cats and dogs.

MOHAI developed the exhibit it conjunction with PAWS, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Unger says that It’s Raining Cats and Dogs is an excellent way to view PAWS’s story, too. “They demonstrate local innovation in animal welfare. Working with them brought perspective to animals in the city. It’s also an organization that’s looking forward—it’s really an animal welfare facility,” he says.

The family-friendly It’s Raining Cats and Dogs exhibit runs through May 31.

The SLU Life of Pets

Here are some neighborhood spots and resources for your four-legged friend.

Park It: Blink and you might miss the tiny 1,000-square-foot dog park tucked underneath The Spheres at The Regrade. The off-leash dog park features various rocks and platforms for dogs to climb and play on. plus a doggie drinking fountain and artificial turf. Denny Park is also home to an off-leash area.

Daycare: Downtown Dog Lounge (1011 Mercer St) offers daycare, walks, grooming, and boarding services. The Barking Lounge (222 Dexter Ave) also offers daycare and boarding, with a portion of its proceeds going to support its on foster and adoption program.

Healthy Pets: Lake Union Veterinary Clinic (1222 Republican) provides preventative pet medicine, annual exams, geriatric care, laboratory diagnostics, internal medicine, ultrasound, dentistry, digital radiology, and general surgery.

Story by Ethan Chung, MOHAI Images Courtesy MOHAI, Dog Park Photographs by Daniel Berman.

At The Center

SLU is the geographical center of Seattle