Iheart art almost as much as I heart dogs, so over the years I’ve managed to amass a collection of dog-themed artwork in various mediums, from painting tophotography, silhouette cutting to sculpture. To me, a house just isn’t a home without at least onedog in residenceand one piece of dog art on the wall.
Many of the works in my collection are portraits of dogs I’ve loved and lost – like Jennifer Weinik’s classical, life-size bronze bust of my beloved blackpit bullSam, who died last year, or Martha Szabo‘s strikingly modern double oil-on-canvas portrait of Daisy, my very first rescued pit bull, wholeft for the Rainbow Bridgein 2002.
Others areimages of dogs who are still going strong – such as photographer Lev Gorn’s larger-than-life, black-and-whiteprofile portrait of Tiki,my charming Chow-Rottweiler… Carol LeBeaux’s silhouette of my Border Collie Sheba… anda Danger Dog sign depicting my short, sweet pit bull Lazarus.
Two Christmases ago, the artist Heather LaHaise, who portrays dogs exclusively,surprised me by giving me a painting as a gift. We became friends after I commissioned a portrait of my white pit bull Angus, who now lives with my ex,and shecreateda stunning triple portrait. The Angusportrait (above)is remarkable for perfectly capturing three of that lovely dog’s very distinct moods, and has been a great comfort to me in Angus’s absence, conjuring only happy memories.
Around Christmas 2009, Heathersensed thatI was feeling low (I was) and that the gift of a dog paintingmight lift my spirits (it did). She mailed me a painting she had in her collection, so I could add it to mine.
The painting she gave me isn’t a portrait of one of my dogs; in fact, the dog it depicts didn’t look anythinglike any dog I’d everknown. It’s an extreme closeup view of a smiling pit bull’s face, painted in Heather’s signature style thatartfully collidespet portraiture with abstract color fields and paint drips, boldly cropping out certain K9 features to draw attention to others.
Heather never met the subject ofthis painting. AK9 composite of several dogs she saw on the web sites of various rescuegroups, he’s a red pit with the coat color of a Vizsla, reddish-brown eyes, and a thin, white blaze from snout to forehead. He’s a handsome devil, and he’s wearing what we pit lovers like to call a “$#!t-eating grin.” And he’s smiling so wide, the skin on his cheek is all wrinkled up! Hence the title Heather gave this painting: “Grin Reaper.”
Fast forward a year, to this past Christmas. On December 22, 2010I received an email alert about a beautiful dog on the city shelter’seuthanasia list for Christmas Eve, a red-nose red pit with cropped ears, a thin, white blaze,and the saddest, softest eyes. Likea significant percentageof New Yorkers, myself included,this dogwas clearly suffering from the Yuletide blues. But he’d aced his temperament test with the highest rating: No Concern. Somehow, he looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t imagine why.
I pulledthe dogoff the euth list; he came home, newly neutered,on Christmas Eve, the very day he was previouslyscheduled to die. Because of the timing and the dog’s coloring, I named him after Santa’s lead reindeer: Rudolph the Red-Nose Pit Bull, Rudy for short. He is an extraordinarilyhandsome creature, with an aristocratic bearing and a white neck markingthat gives him the rakish appearance of a tuxedo’d1930s matinee idol whosewing collar just slipped.
In the short month that he’s been part of my family, Rudy has been an absolute delight, the best Christmas present ever. He’sinfinitely patient, whether I’m dressing him up in a skintight red bodysuit or applying a skintight blue rubber boot to his injured paw.Around the house, he sits and waits so elegantly, instead of charging ahead and cannonballing through the room like some dogs I know.
Rudyloves a nice stretch, and never misses an opportunity to assume the Downward Dog yoga posture. He still has moments when he furrows his brow and looks like the saddest dog in the world; I frequently have to wake him from nightmares. But most of the time, he’s happily in the moment, smiling from ear to close-cropped ear.
The other day, as I paused to marvel yet again at my good fortune in adopting this urbanzen hound, K9 Rudy stood up, planted his forepaws on my shoulders,andgave me ahug and a big, satisfied smile. It suddenly dawned on me that life – specifically, Rudy’s life – had imitated art. Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Here was the essence of the dog in Heather’s painting, brought to magnificent, three-dimensional life. Surreal! OK, so the real Rudy is off by a red nose;in the painting, his doppelgangerdog’s schnoz is black. But still – surreal!
Has your life ever imitated dog art, whether it’s a painting, photo, movie, book, or song? Please shareyour experiencein the comments.