Pets and the Headley-Whitney

George Headley’s love for art was second only to his love for his pets.  Pets played a large role in Headley’s legacy, becoming as known for his love of dogs as for his bibelots.  Always eccentric, locals remember that Headley was never without his beloved dogs.  Some remember that his dogs would precede him wherever he went, heralding his arrival: wherever the dogs were, George was sure to be following shortly behind!

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George Headley with two unknown dogs.

Pets were treated as beloved members of the family and were often featured as prominently in photographs as their human counterparts.  The Museum’s collections house several scrapbooks dedicated solely to the Headley pets and their exploits.  In one, a family celebration for a pet’s birthday was commemorated with a photograph!

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“Baby Louise has a birthday party
LtoR: Sovey, Jetty, Louise, Biffy, Sparky, Buttons
’62.


Headley’s pets also played a prominent role in his marketing schemes at his jewelry boutique in the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, California during the 1940s and 1950s.  According to legend, during a lull in sales, Headley would send one of his beloved dogs out to the pool modeling one of his lavish jewelry designs in the hopes of bringing customers back to the shop!  In this photo from the Museum’s collection, one of Headley’s dogs, a Dachshund named Ernie models some of his master’s jewelry designs.

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Ernie models some of Headley’s designs.


Additionally, Headley loved his pets so much that he constructed a “Pet Cemetery” to commemorate their lives.  Stones give glimpses into his beloved pet’s personalities, from the poignant to witty:

Jetty

1950-1969

Snored So Gently

Ernie

1942-1957

“There was a little ern”

Little Bibelot

Only 3 months old

July 8, 1969

Bijoux

My Buddy for 18 years

May 1980

Kitty White Sox

Thought She Was a Dog

The pet cemetery, still on the Headley-WhitneyMuseum’s grounds, commemorates the lives of twenty-one of the family pets (twenty dogs and one cat) and is still a part of the Museum tour.

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About Headley Whitney Museum

We are a decorative arts museum located in the heart of the Bluegrass. Opened in 1968 by George Headley III, a noted jewelry designer from the mid-twentieth century. Our permanent collection includes the Marylou Whitney Estate dollhouses, Library, Jewel Room and galleries for temporary exhibitions.
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