Friendship; Or, Representing More-Than-Human Subjectivities and Spaces in J. R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip

  • Shun Yin Kiang
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


“Dogs read the world through their noses and write their history in urine. Urine is another and highly complex source of social information,” writes J. R. Ackerley in My Dog Tulip (47). Published in 1956, Tulip, a memoir, chronicles the 16-year companionship of Ackerley, a gay writer working for the BBC, and Tulip, a female Alsatian, unspayed for most of her life. Together, this dyad share an apartment in London, spending most of their time in the city negotiating their copresence in the urban landscape. Nor does it get easier in the countryside. In a letter to his friend Herbert Read, dated October 3, 1950, Ackerley took pains to detail the accommodation that Tulip might require, should he accept Read’s invitation to visit Yorkshire:

I would love to come and see you this year, and love, of course, to bring my bitch … it would be alright, of course, if she had access to the garden in the night—or if you could give me a camp bed somewhere on the ground floor or in an outdoor. But otherwise I fear your beautiful house would be in danger during our first night—tho’ I must say she is jolly considerate usually in selecting linoleum for her operations, or the oldest and darkest mat. (Quoted in Braybrooke 83)

This letter, among others Ackerley had written in response to (humans-only) invitations, encapsulates not only a commitment to human-animal companionship that often disrupts the accepted forms/flows of sociality, but also an awareness of and appreciation for animal emotion—“She is jolly considerate”—whose complex nature is sometimes overlooked or, worse, ignored.


Public Sphere Urban Landscape Nonhuman Animal Animal Life Urban Green Space 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Shun Yin Kiang 2016

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  • Shun Yin Kiang

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