With Christmas approaching it's time for one of my favourite annual traditions - the unveiling of National Museums Liverpool's free online advent calendar! Each year we ease you into the festive season with daily treats from our collections and displays, including a few surprises, incredible tales and fascinating facts along the way.
Last year's advent calendar featured cats from our museums and galleries, so to restore balance to the universe, the theme for 2017 is dogs.
They may be known as man's best friend, but dogs also seem to be good chums with curators as there are lots of them scattered throughout our collections - so many in fact that we had a tough job narrowing down the selection to just 24. Naturally, I can't tell you which dogs will be included as I want it to be a surprise. However I can reveal one of the dogs which didn't make the cut, for reasons which will become obvious.
Fido on display at Merseyside Maritime Museum © Pete Carr
Fido, pictured here, is a wonderful cuddly toy, which was given to Nancy Mildon more than a century ago by her mother. Nancy named him Fido as she thought he was a dog. He was suggested for inclusion in the 2017 advent calendar by a curator who is very fond of him. However, he fell short of our strict selection criteria, as he is in fact a lion, despite his misleading name. He's lovely, but he just isn't a dog, so we rejected him.
This may seem cruel and heartless, but rest assured that Fido has had a very good life and has always been very popular. After spending six years in Canada, Nancy and her family returned to England in July 1916. They sailed across the Atlantic on Cunard’s 'Alaunia', and during this wartime voyage, 7 year old Nancy cuddled Fido for comfort.
Nancy was upset when her mother lent Fido to fellow passenger Ruth Merrington during the voyage. In return, Ruth drew an illustration of Fido and wrote a poem which Nancy treasured for many years.
You can see Fido on display in the Lusitania gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum. And if you want to see some actual dogs (not lions) from our collection, then open our advent calendar each day from 1 December.