Edward Albee is one of the most renowned American playwrights of the 20th century. The writer of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Albee has followed in the footsteps of greats such as the Irish Samuel Beckett in his American version of the “Theatre of the Absurd,” tragicomedies that take an unsympathetic view on modern American life.
But he has another connection to the Irish - he loves Irish Wolfhounds.
Pet owner and journalist Sharon Sakson, a dog lover herself, heard Albee deliver a speech at the Miami Book Fair some years ago, in which he said: “Man thinks that he is the only species capable of feeling emotion,” he said, “but anyone who owns an Irish Wolfhound knows that’s not true.”
From this statement, the author of “Paws & Effect: The Healing Power of Dogs” was inspired delve a bit deeper into the brilliant playwright’s affection for dogs. She interviewed Albee on his love and appreciation for the Irish Wolfhound, and here’s what the writer had to say:
“I became interested in Irish Wolfhounds because a friend had one. He was a painter. He invited me over to look at his canvases and this dog came up and leaned against me. I sat down to look at a painting and he sat down and looked with me. We moved out to his studio to look at another painting, and this big dog sat down next to me again. We went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and he was still with me. He stuck to my side. He had this big head and wherever I sat, he put his head on my knee and looked up at me with his big dark eyes. We became very good friends. He was the dog who introduced me to Irish Wolfhounds. They are the loveliest of creatures. I decided I had to have one.”
“I’ve had as many as three Irish Wolfhounds at a time. The Wolfhound breed is very special to me, but I like all dogs, of all kinds.
“Back when the Romans first came to Ireland, they took some of the early Irish Wolfhounds back to Rome with them and paraded them around. I wanted to parade mine around in New York. I got a big leather collars for them.
“We would go to Central Park and walk to a huge hill. The dogs and I would stand at the top. The hill sloped down before us for about 300 yards. If they saw a squirrel at the bottom of the hill, they would take off and race down it, knocking over people and bicyclists on their way. They just had to chase the squirrel. It was inconvenient for the people, but the dogs loved it.
Albee’s Irish Wolfhound’s names were Samantha, Harold, Jane, Jennifer, and Andrew. Albee told Sakson,“I have been deeply touched by all of them. Each one had a distinct personality, with their own likes and dislikes. It was a pleasure to get to know them.
When reminded of his comments in Miami about Irish Wolfhound owners recognizing emotion in the beloved dogs, Albee revised his original statement. “I should have said, ‘Anyone who is owned by an Irish Wolfhound.' That’s closer to the truth. I find them to be very emotional animals. Very sympathetic and understanding. I know there are scientific articles that claim that dogs don’t have emotions. But I’m not interested in reading such things. I know my dogs. I know they have feelings and emotions. No scientific study is going to change my mind.”