“Marie and Chewy,” 2012. From the Mike Carlisi Collection, Montauk Library Archives.
We are in the thick of the “dog days” of summer. The reference comes to us from ancient Rome, when our brilliant forebears ascribed the excessive summer heat and humidity between July 3rd and August 11th to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the “Greater Dog,” so this sun is also called the Dog Star. Sirius shines so brightly in the summer, in fact, that the “ancient Romans believed it actually gave off heat and added to the sun’s warmth, accounting for the long stretches of sultry weather,” according to the weather experts at the Farmers Almanac. Therefore, the ancient Romans (and Greeks, too, according to some sources) named these days the “dog days.”
This week’s TBT is a beautifully composed portrait of Marie Sluri and her dog, Chewy, a Tibetan terrier mix, but it’s also a portrait of a perfect summer day in Montauk. This is the quintessential “walk on the oceanfront” shot. Marie’s son, Mike Carlisi, took this image with his camera phone in 2012. We included it in our “Montauk Pets” exhibit in 2019 and at the time, cited the location as a beach at Ditch Plains. However, Mike now says he thinks he shot the image in the Hither Hills area. No matter which beach, the photograph perfectly captures the qualities that compel summer tourists to Montauk. We can almost feel the cooling breezes as Chewy and his owner make tracks along the sand.
For archivists, this camera-phone image falls under a category called “born-digital.” A born-digital photograph is an image that was created using a camera phone or digital camera, not a regular camera loaded with Kodak or other film. When an original photograph that was developed in a darkroom is placed on a scanner to create a digital image, it’s called digital reformatting, but it’s not considered a born-digital image. Some archives refuse to collect born-digital materials because of preservation and other challenges, but the Archives at the Montauk Library has been collecting born-digital photographs for years.
Chewy was rescued on a busy thoroughfare in the South Bronx. The dog was a stray, wandering aimlessly, no doubt terrified. Marie picked him up and brought him home. Love and devotion ensued. Chewy enjoyed rides in the car and walks on the beach. Also, rather unusually, he adored cats!
What’s notable about the Mutt and Jeff relationship in this portrait is that even though Marie and Chewy are walking away from us, their bond is obvious, in spite of our not being able to see their faces. When they met, their connection was immediate, a recognition between twin flames or stars, like the binary star Sirius. Sirius, with a Sirius A and Sirius B star system — a Mutt and Jeff team of two inseparable suns — would shine much less brightly without the existence of the much smaller “Chewy,” or Sirius B.
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