Albert the dog


I miss my People when they are gone—not only because I can’t reach the treat jar by myself, but maybe because I’ve already been given up once. I will always harbor a fear of abandonment, though it has diminished a little over time. Still, when they leave me alone, I am less likely to go to my Cozy Cave than I am to curl up on an article of clothing they’ve left lying around.

The Lady tells me the Cozy Cave cost a lot, while the sweatshirt was a free gift that came with her checking account. But the sweatshirt smells of Her  (as the Guy’s gym shirts smell of Him), and that makes me feel safer when I’m here alone and the fear of being left forever threatens to overcome me. At such times, these ordinary things comfort me a lot more than my expensive dog bed.

Albert at entrance

Earlier, I posted this picture and asked if you could identify the memorial in New York where it was taken.

Reader katrinatennis wins a copy of Good Dog for correctly identifying it as the Irish Hunger Memorial, located on the waterfront in Battery Park City. The memorial is a dog-free zone, but we feel it is nevertheless worth visiting if you are in New York. So I sent my secretary back to take photographs and compile a report.

This work of landscape art is a humble memorial, so humble that it is easy for humans to walk right by without even noticing it. Many are busy looking at the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty in the harbor, and they don’t even register the cantilevered structure to their east.

The memorial is dedicated to the Irish Hunger and migration of 1845-1852, but it also aims to bring awareness to contemporary hunger worldwide.

… the visitor approaches the Memorial through a formal ceremonial entrance that recalls the court cairn or graves of the Irish Neolithic period that are found in the Irish northwest. The ramped passageway ends inside the ruined fieldstone cottage that was brought to New York from the townland of Carradoogan near Attymass, County Mayo.

The size of the cultivated area of the Memorial, one-quarter of an acre, is significant. In 1847, Sir William Gregory proposed an additional clause to the Irish Poor Law stipulating that no person occupying land of more than one-quarter acre was eligible for any relief. This law had a devastating effect and contributed to the suffering. The unroofed abandoned cottage reminds the visitor of the stark choice between survival and holding home and hearth.

Irish Hunger Memorial,

Though surrounded by skyscrapers, the site gives visitors a sense of being transported to Ireland the moment they emerge from the passage. The landscape is green and a little wild.

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Scattered throughout are 32 stones, one from each county in Ireland. Each of these stones is carved with the name of its county.

Stones from Counties Carlow, Leitrim, Galway, Clare, Kildare, Louth, Dublin, Armagh, and Cork

Stones from Counties Carlow, Leitrim, Galway, Clare, Kildare, Louth, Dublin, Armagh, and Cork

In addition to the stones, native Irish grasses and flowers cover the grounds, including yellow flag irises, foxglove, bearberry, gorse, and heather. It’s a little bleak and windswept in January, but in the spring, the sloping field is lush and verdant.

These ordinary things—a cottage, plants, rocks, soil—evoke a strong emotional response, perhaps better than a grand statue or monument would.  So can humble, everyday objects—a familiar sweater, a much-used wooden spoon—conjure deep, bittersweet feelings when the person who owned them leaves us.

Construction of the Irish Hunger Memorial started in the spring of 2001 and was completed the following year. It is very close to the more well-known September 11th memorial. From inside the roofless cottage, you get a sense of how close they are:

One World Trade Center is up the street and visible from inside the memorial.

One World Trade Center as seen from the Hunger Memorial.

If you are visiting New York and plan to go to the 9/11 Memorial, I hope you will take a few moments to walk over to this modest but moving work of landscape architecture.

But leave the dog at home.

The Irish Hunger Memorial is located at 290 Vesey Street in Battery Park City. There is no charge for admission. Dogs are not allowed on the site.


4 thoughts on “Remembering

  1. Albert, your people will never abandon you but it is entirely understandable that you harbour insecurities. The Bean is very lucky because I seldom have to leave her working as I do from our home. Your advice should be taken to heart by all dog companions – something that has been worn by them is the best thing to snuggle when they are away.

    Thank you so much for showing me the Irish Hunger Memorial. I am so ignorant that I didn’t even know it existed but I will certainly visit when I am in the US. The Bean will understand (not!). What a beautiful and appropriate commemoration of those that perished in that awful (and avoidable) famine.

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    • Thank you, Ms. Osyth. I do know that they won’t really leave me, but sometimes if I’m all alone, the fear takes over. Fortunately, I am never alone for very long. The Bean is very lucky indeed.

      You shouldn’t say you’re ignorant–it is quite a small memorial and does not get a lot of fanfare compared to the many more notable attractions in the city. But we believe it’s worth visiting if you are in the neighborhood.

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