Let me start by saying that I love you. No matter what else becomes true in the chaos surrounding my leaving, my feelings for you will remain. There is no force on or above this earth that could shake you from my heart.
The world of people is complicated. It’s not just about who smells nice or is easy to get along with. Even people with wonderful personalities and exceptional smells aren’t always made for one another. Things change. Souls evolve. Challenges emerge. People meet, connect, intertwine and separate.
Your person and I thought we had everything figured out. We didn’t. It’s nothing you did. We just ended up in over our heads, like an emotional version of the time you swam too far into the lake chasing geese. We believed we could love like dogs— pure, joyous, unconditional—but in the end we could only love like people. It is a flaw of all humankind.
I am sorry to have to leave. Know that it is difficult. Know that I would never “willfully” abandon you. Know that I will be there should your person ever need someone to care for you. Let me reiterate: I love you.
Other people will come. Please love them the way you loved me, without fear. This is your gift. Love your person, as well. She needs you most in moments like these. She is more your responsibility than you are hers.
I promise this is not the end. I will see you again. I will call your name and bury my face in your fur. We will dance together, your paws in my hands. To you it will seem like no time has passed at all.
The painting depicts a boy and his dog in a style that has become known as American Regionalism. It is signed “Benton” for Thomas Hart Benton, the movement’s greatest practitioner, best known for his murals embracing the populist idealism of pre-WWII America. On this painting’s reverse side is inscribed “For T.P.’s birthday/11 years old/From Dad.” The painting depicts the artist’s son, T.P. Benton, and his beloved dog, Jake.
Last November, the painting was one of more than 500 works from the A. Alfred Taubman collection auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York. T.P. and Jake was painted in 1938 and was estimated to fetch between $1.5 and $2.5 million. After a flurry of bidding, it sold for $3,130,000. Appropriately, the sale of the painting benefited the Sam Simon Charitable Giving Foundation, dedicated to saving the lives of dogs.
T.P. was eight years old when his mother, Rita, found Jake on a farm west of Kansas City, MO. The Bentons adopted him as their family pet and he became particularly devoted to the young boy. When Jake died in 1946, Thomas Hart Benton wrote Jake’s obituary/biography and dropped it off at the offices of the Vineyard Gazette in Martha’s Vineyard, where the Benton family had summered for decades. It also ran in their hometown newspaper, the Kansas City Times. We’re pleased to reprint it here.
He was with us for 11 years before he died.
Rita found him on a farm west of Kansas City. She was learning to ride a horse there and he followed her about. He was friendly, and Rita took to him. The farmer who owned him saw this and said, “If you’ll give that dog a good home you can have him.” So he was brought to our house.
T.P., our boy, who was then eight years old, was delighted. So was the dog, but because he had never been in a house he was a little gawky and clumsy, and slid on the rugs. He was named Jake because he was a country dog, a country jake who hadn’t learned city ways.
Jake had a laughing face. His mouth was so set that, active or in repose, he had to smile. Even when he was sad, as when he was not permitted to go with us in the car, this smile persisted. His mournful moments had thus the appearance of an act. There was also something humorous about him which made you say, “Jake, you old faker,” and which also too frequently made you yield to him and take him along whether you wanted to or not. Jake became a very adept actor. He calculated his effects and in the course of years became master of most of the family situations that concerned him.
Jake was a traveler. He sat with T.P. in the back seat of our car on the long trips from Kansas City to the summers on Martha’s Vineyard. He was fascinated by the speeding world out of the window. He would sit upright on his haunches, his tongue rolling out of his laughter, his ears erect and with the spit of well-tasted pleasure dripping off his lips. When he got tired he’d lie down on the seat and he and T.P. would battle for room. They loved each other.
On Menemsha Pond T.P. had a rowboat with a small centerboard. He rigged this up with a homemade mast and a three-cornered sail and called it the Red Jacket. It was supposed to be a pirate ship. Every afternoon T.P. and Jake would board this vessel and sail the pond. Sometimes Jake would sit in the stern with T.P. and sometimes by himself in the bow. He would bark at the gulls. If he got tired of this he’d jump overboard and swim to land, sometimes nearly half a mile. Then he’d bark at T.P. from the shore, running up and down, full of a tense glory of life.
In the winter, back in Kansas City, Jake went along when his pardner was taken to school. He learned the way, and A Dog Named Jake The painting depicts a boy and his dog in a style that has become known as American Regionalism. It is signed “Benton” for Thomas Hart Benton, the movement’s greatest practitioner, best known for his murals embracing the populist idealism of pre-WWII America. On this painting’s reverse side is inscribed “For T.P.’s birthday/11 years old/From Dad.” The painting depicts the artist’s son, T.P. Benton, and his beloved dog, Jake. Last November, the painting was one of more than 500 works from the A. Alfred Taubman collection auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York. T.P. and Jake was painted in 1938 and was estimated to fetch between $1.5 and $2.5 million. After a flurry of bidding, it sold for $3,130,000. Appropriately, the sale of the painting benefited the Sam Simon Charitable Giving Foundation, dedicated to saving the lives of dogs. T.P. was eight years old when his mother, Rita, found Jake on a farm west of Kansas City, MO. The Bentons adopted him as their family pet and he became particularly devoted to the young boy. When Jake died in 1946, Thomas Hart Benton wrote Jake’s obituary/biography and dropped it off at the offices of the Vineyard Gazette in Martha’s Vineyard, where the Benton family had summered for decades. It also ran in their hometown newspaper, the Kansas City Times. We’re pleased to reprint it here. Masterwork 60 Bark Spring 2016 sometimes when the long wait for the return trip was too tedious, he’d slip away and run the two miles or more to the schoolhouse and wait outside until closing time. Then he’d play with T.P. and the other boys until Rita arrived. He went coasting and skiing and participated in all the games that eight- and ten-year-olders devise.
After three years had passed, Rita took T.P. to Italy to visit her mother. This was a sad time for Jake. Up to now he’d given me little attention. Rita fed him and T.P. played with him. Of what use I might be he had little need to consider. I was just there, good enough to shake hands with occasionally but not important. Now, however, he clung to me, and I took him on a long roundabout tour of the South, which ended, after seven weeks, at the docks in New York where we met the boat returning his real master and mistress.
There was a high rail fence between the passageway for debarking passengers and the people who had come to meet them. I stood by this fence trying to catch a glimpse of Rita and T.P. in the crowd of voyagers. But Jake beat me to it. The chain leash in my hand twisted suddenly and before I knew it Jake’s full-grown 70 pounds of muscle and tawny hair was soaring over the fence.
No one who saw that meeting of boy and dog could ever forget it. The travelers and those who met them stood aside to watch the play of Jake’s ecstasy. They forgot their own emotions in the more intense one of a delighted animal. This was a high point of life and those who saw, recognized it.
Jake and T.P. grew older. They continued sailing in summers each year, now in a larger boat. Jake didn’t much like the later boats. They went over in the wind too much and he jumped overboard oftener. But he could accustom himself to changes. He accepted things.
When T.P. started playing the flute, over long practice periods he lay quietly at his feet, though he would have preferred to be out and doing. When we had musical evenings he took his place by T.P.’s music stand and after things got started he’d wander about among the guests to be petted. Sometimes he’d nibble on the back of one of our cats. Jake loved cats.
When Jessie was born into our family, Jake was opposed to her. He would turn his head disdainfully away as she was brought into the room. But after a while, and as T.P.’s older concerns failed to provide him a proper share, he relented and took her into his life and played with her and helped her grow up.
The war days came for T.P. and took him away. Jake then went fully over to Jessie, though for many weeks, and especially when Jessie was in bed, he’d sit up with his ears cocked, listening and listening. We knew he was on the alert for a sound of T.P. He’d moan in his sleep and sometimes wake up with a bark and go upstairs and sniff around T.P.’s old room. Then he’d go back to listening.
Half shepherd and half collie, with the shepherd blood predominant, Jake had always liked to go out and wander at night, especially on moonlit nights. He generally fought on these expeditions, for there were wild and half-wild dogs living in the woody sections of the parks surrounding us in Kansas City. Jake was always full of cuts and scars but he took them laughing.
One morning last autumn he came home in a bad fix. His ears were slit and his legs torn. A big slash was over his eye and the front teeth between his fangs were broken off. This was his last nocturnal spree.
After this he’d go out on the porch, cock his ears up, and stand with one leg lifted and curved in a dainty sort of way and listen to the wild dogs baying. His ruff would bristle and he’d bark, but he let his urges go at that and in a little while scratch at the door until one of us let him in. He slept a great deal on the stair landing, moaning and talking more and more in his dreams. We often wondered what kinds of images were built up in this interior life of his sleep.
Jessie’s return from school always snapped Jake into life, though, and he’d romp and play with her as if he were still a pup. He rode east this summer, taking his old place in the car, laughing the miles by. For three years, due to the war, he’d been traveling unhappily on trains and he seemed now to be revivified by this return to old and familiar ways of going places
June and July were gay. T.P. was in far-off Tokyo, gone out of Jake’s life, but Rita was here to see that he got his food, and Jessie, now seven years old, was a pretty good substitute for his lost master. She made daisy chains for his neck and watched him chase the wild bunnies, which he never caught, which he never tried very hard to catch, and which certainly he would never have killed if he had done so. Jake was not a hunter. He had no instinct for the kill. Cats were to be chased, all right, but merely to be nibbled on when caught. Other animals were the same.
Dogs, of course, had to be fought, but with Jake this seemed a sort of ritual, a ceremony by which status was maintained, particularly status on his home grounds. No strange dog would be suffered in his own house or even too near the door.
But outside of this hangover of suspicion and violent appeal, coming down from the savage centuries of his blood’s past, Jake was gentle. He was polite. He bowed, front feet stretched out, tail wagging in the air. Sitting close by a steak in preparation for the grill, he’d waggle his ears and drool mightily but never touch it. With his red tongue, his smiling mouth, and gentle eyes, with his tawny ruff and his pointed ears, he was immensely pretty and appealing in such moments of polite restraint. But he was always pretty.
Last week Jake returned to sleeping a great deal. When he was awake he was subdued and given to listening again. With ears up and head cocked sideways, he strained as if for something very far away and faint. Was he listening once more for T.P., for his voice or the sound of his flute? Certainly he was trying to hear something. Trying very hard.
Maybe, though, it was not toward anything he’d heard before that he reached. Maybe he was listening for something which would tell him the meaning of the change he could feel was coming to him. Maybe, because Jake knew something strange was near.
I like to believe, however, that a part of him was pointed back to the early times with T.P., back beyond the days of the flute-playing to those of the little boat with the red sail, where he sat with his devoted partner and sailed Menemsha Pond and barked and laughed in the fullness of young vitality and joyous companionship. Those were Jake’s ultimate days, the days of his high success, and surely they were not lost to his old dog’s memory.
On August 2 Jake played with Jessie as usual. In the evening after supper he went out. He had a green ribbon gaily knotted around his neck. Jessie liked to dress him up. Returning from a visit about 10 o’clock, I was surprised to find him greeting me as I put the car in the garage. It was a late hour for Jake to be out. He jumped up and I petted him and we went into the house. He had taken to sleeping under a couch in the living room and as soon as we were in he crawled under, thumping his tail on the floor in a sign of satisfaction.
About three in the morning Rita and I were both awakened by a strange, prolonged wail. It was high-pitched and mournful, so utterly mournful that it made a creeping in the flesh. It was wild and without definite locality, like something coming out of far spaces or distant times. We were startled, sharply so, but hearing a panting of breath we said to ourselves, “It’s just old Jake, dreaming again,” and went back to sleep.
When we got up we found Jake dead. His head was lifted a little, his ears were erect, his eyes were open, and his smile was still with him. Jessie’s green ribbon slanted jauntily across his neck. He looked as pretty in death as he had in life. His face was happy. We wondered how this could be in view of the utter sadness of his death cry.
Jake is buried beneath a young pine tree in front of our house.
A young sculptress, who has a dog of her own and knows what it means, is carving his name on a stone. The stone comes off the beach at Menemsha Pond over whose waters and about whose shores Jake tasted most of the sweetness of his life.
Wellness: Healthy Living
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Forget the idea of the solitary researcher toiling away in his lab. At the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS) at Colorado State University, they decided long ago that cooperation beats isolation, and that inspiration and innovation can come from many different places.
With more than a century under its metaphorical belt—CVMBS celebrated its 100th birthday last year—the college is consistently ranked among the nation’s top vet schools. It also operates the first, and largest, animal cancer center in the world. “We really started the idea that you could treat dogs with cancer instead of just throwing up your hands,” says Robert Ullrich, PhD, professor of oncology research at the Animal Cancer Center. “We’ve also been at the forefront of researching and treating spontaneous tumors in dogs, and translating that knowledge to human medicine.”
“We have grown in many ways and directions,” Robinson says, “but we’re still unique. Several other vet schools have added acupuncture or herbal medicine, but none have an approach solely committed to scientific and evidence-based explorations and scrutiny. And to my knowledge, no other schools have a dedicated faculty position for scientifically based complementary and alternative medicine.”
This is a big deal, she says, because more and more dog owners are looking into CAM for their pets. In fact, in 2006, CVMBS did a study of owners whose pets were being treated at its Animal Cancer Center and found that more than 75 percent were using complementary and alternative medical approaches, including herbs, supplements and acupuncture. Owners said they were looking for ways to improve their pets’ overall well-being as well as to improve immune function and reduce pain.
Unfortunately, the study also found that many owners didn’t tell their veterinarians that they were utilizing these remedies and didn’t ask veterinary experts for advice. This lack of communication creates potential for serious problems, such as drug interactions or overdose.
That’s where CVMBS’s program comes in. By conducting rigorous, science-based research and training vets in the proper use of alternative remedies, Robinson and her colleagues hope to expand the knowledge base regarding these therapies, and spread that knowledge to practicing veterinarians.
“There has been a lot of interest in the program, and it’s growing,” Robinson says. “Over a third of each veterinary medicine class takes our critical overview of CAM class, and many go on to take the ‘Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians’ course.”
Late last year, Robinson spearheaded a joint effort with CSU electrical engineering students to build “SimPooch,” a simulated Labrador Retriever designed to help students learn correct acupuncture techniques. The life-size model, based on MRI data gathered from a real dog, reproduces bone, muscle, skin and fat in all their respective densities so that students can get realistic feedback as they practice the various techniques. In the next few months, the engineering students will complete the computer software that will both teach and test acupuncture students on their point-locating ability. They have already reproduced the head in a virtual reality environment that interfaces with the physical model.
It’s all part of Robinson’s science-based approach. “Anatomy is the foundation of medicine and of acupuncture,” she says. “We need to move away from the notion that acupuncture works by stimulating invisible energy systems and recognize its anatomical basis.” Looking ahead, Robinson says she anticipates an expansion into more research, “from nutraceuticals to herbs to acupuncture, laser therapy and more.”
And what does she say to skeptics? People who dismiss complementary and alternative therapies as nothing but hocus-pocus? “I tell them that I am as skeptical as they are. We are not here to promote CAM, but to study its effectiveness and measure its safety.”
High-Tech Meets High-Touch
“This truly is a state-of-the-art facility,” LaRue says. “We’ve been doing radiation therapy with dogs since 1957.” The latest innovation: a Trilogy Linear Accelerator, which is the first of its kind in any veterinary clinic or college in the world.
The Trilogy has the capacity to target tumors with a precise dose of radiation, one that is custom-fit to the tumor’s depth, shape and size, thus sparing healthy cells. It also has a built-in CT scanner and digital X-ray machine that allow doctors to monitor a tumor’s changing shape and position with each treatment. The Trilogy can even be programmed to deliver radiation timed to the dog’s respirations in order to prevent misfires if the tumor moves as the dog breathes.
“One type of cancer we’ve really struggled with in dogs is nasal tumors,” says LaRue. “Think about the shape of the dog’s head: You might have a tumor wrapping around the eyes or brain, or going all the way from the dog’s nose to the top of his head. These tumors can have a very complex anatomy.” Before now, she says, treating them was more than tricky, in part because doctors couldn’t administer a big enough dose of radiation for fear of damaging the all-too-important structures nearby. “Now we can get the dose high enough to get the tumor control we need,” she says. “We don’t want to put dogs through this if we’re not going to get cures.”
But while the treatments are space-age, dogs visiting the center are treated to an old-fashioned welcome and plenty of personal attention. “We think that the patients who come in should be happy,” says LaRue. So instead of a standard hospital setting, the center’s waiting area looks more like a doggie day care, with a safe area for dogs to play and relax while waiting for their treatments. “They really like it, and they’re a lot less stressed than the owners,” she says. Most dogs get lots of attention from LaRue’s staff as well. “They get very bonded to my staff and follow them around,” she says. Unlike human oncology patients, she says, dogs really can enjoy the treatment experience, and keeping it as low-stress as possible is one of the group’s goals.
The Supercluster essentially takes the business model of an economic cluster—Silicon Valley tech companies, for example, aggregated hubs of brainpower and marketing muscle—and applies it to biomedical research and veterinary medicine. Economic clusters create a kind of critical mass, where technology and production facilities attract other businesses and thus create a powerful momentum that benefits everybody.
The Cancer Supercluster includes the College of Veterinary Medicine, plus four others: the Colleges of Natural Sciences, Applied Human Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Engineering. The program includes 65 faculty members from 12 departments who conduct research in all aspects of cancer treatment and prevention, including risk assessment, diagnosis, therapeutics and genomics (the study of the relationship between genetic structure and biological function).
Much of the Supercluster, however, is based on the work of the Animal Cancer Center. For example, research from the center is being applied to a new product that will be used in human medicine. “Often, in cancer, if you can identify specific changes in the chromosomes, you can help diagnose problems,” explains Ullrich, who has studied cancer and its genetic components for more than 30 years. “Sometimes, cancers involve taking part of one chromosome and moving it to another, something called translocation. In other cases, part of the chromosome becomes inverted—this happens in some cancers and also in certain birth defects.” Until now, he says, scientists couldn’t identify these changes. But, using 15 years of research at the Animal Cancer Center, a new Supercluster company is developing a method of identifying these chromosomal inversions, and plans to launch a new birth defect–screening product for humans. “The next thing is to identify these inversions in cancer, which will help us create new markers for diagnosis and new targets for therapy, both in dogs and in people,” he says.
Applying an innovation in veterinary medicine to human patients is a fairly novel idea; most often, the protocols go the other way, says Ullrich. “Typically, we take things that have been used in humans and try them with dogs. The difference here is that we’re developing things that are so cutting-edge that they’re being moved into the human arena.”
This, perhaps, is the most compelling aspect of the work that’s being done at CVMBS, in the Animal Cancer Center as well as the Supercluster program: Developing treatments that can help today’s animal (and human) patients as well as tomorrow’s. “We are absolutely a research facility,” says LaRue. “Realistically, we couldn’t have invested in all of this equipment solely for the purpose of treating animals. But our translational research is invaluable. We can evaluate how these patients respond to treatment, and this information can go directly into the human clinic, or back to our own practice, where we can use it to help more animals down the road.”
Founded in 1907 as the Department of Veterinary Science; renamed in 1967
Number of applicants (2007): 1,604
Best known for—
Dog's Life: DIY
Ami Ami Dogs
Anyone looking to add an extra dash of kawaii (cuteness) to their canine crochet should take a peek at Mitsuki Hoshi’s book Ami Ami Dogs. These big-headed amigurumi (Japanese for knitted stuffed toy) fit in the palm of your hand, and Hoshi’s easy-to-follow patterns will have even novices needlers stitching them up in no time. Gather your crochet hooks and download the PDF below to test out the Beagle puppy Chihuahua pattern—and show off your results by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: We apologize for the confusion with the Beagle puppy pattern. We did not realize when we posted it that it referred to earlier patterns in the book. Harper Collins has graciously permitted us to post the Chihuahua pattern from Ami Ami Dogs, which is complete and does not depend on other patterns in the book.
Please note: If clicking the pattern doesn't prompt you to save it, then Right-Click the link below and select "Save Link As".
Visions of Gold
To have vision, says Danelle Umstead, “is to have sight, an idea or a dream.” Her immediate vision is to win gold for the U.S. in alpine skiing at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Danelle’s husband Rob Umstead, her coach and sighted guide, will be leading the way through the courses.
Last summer, Danelle’s longtime guide dog, a black Lab named Bettylynn, developed optic-nerve atrophy and had to retire, so Aziza, her new canine guide, will be rooting the couple on in Sochi. Bettylynn, the first guide dog to represent the U.S. at the Winter Olympics in 2010, will be pulling for the couple back home in Park City, Utah, along with their son, Brocton.
When Danelle was 13, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye condition that eventually causes complete darkness. Her vision is “spotted,” and she can only see up to five feet in front of her. Even then, colors have to be highly contrasting for her to make them out, and she sees little to no detail. Then, in 2011, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Still, neither of these hurdles has kept her from achieving her best.
Her father introduced Danelle to adaptive skiing in 2000 and acted as her guide. She quickly fell in love with the sport—the freedom, the speed, the exhilaration. She began training and working full-time with Rob in 2008, and competitive success soon followed: Paralympic Bronze medals at Vancouver (2010), nine World Cup podiums and Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Championships. Her success relies heavily on the 100 percent trust and communication she shares with Rob as he guides her down the hill at top speed. It’s similar to the trust and communication she had with Bettylynn and is working to build with Aziza.
Danelle and Rob have created Vision4Gold.org as a way to mentor junior disabled athletes by sharing her story and offering encouragement. We’re confident that Danelle will realize her vision.
Dog's Life: DIY
A fun project for the whole family.
Making the Dog Shape
Lay two sheets of newspaper flat on the table, one on top of the other. Scrunch up three balls of newspaper and line them up on top of the flat newspaper sheets. Then roll the flat sheets around the balls, forming a tube shape, and tape the tube together with masking tape
Bend the tube into an L shape to form the head and neck. Use masking tape to tape the bend in place.
Shape a scrunched-up piece of newspaper into the shape of a snout. Tape the snout onto the head with masking tape.
Use cardboard for ears. Draw two triangular shapes on the cardboard, then cut them out and tape to either side of the head.
Tail and Legs
Use a toilet paper roll to make the tail and legs. Cut a toilet paper roll in half lengthwise, then roll each half back into a tube and seal it with tape to form a leg. Use another half roll to form the tail. If you’re making a larger dog, you can use an entire toilet paper roll to form each leg.
Cover Dog with Masking Tape
Cover entire dog with two layers of masking tape, being sure to cover all the newspaper and cardboard. Smooth the tape down flat, leaving no gaps or air bubbles. This will ensure that the papier-mâché paste dries hardened.
1. This is a messy activity! Be sure to cover table with newspaper, butcher paper or a big plastic bag.
2. To make your papiermâché paste, whisk together 2 cups water, 1 1/2 cups flour and 2 tablespoons salt in a bowl. Add more water if the paste is too thick.
3. Tear sheets of newspaper into long strips one to two inches wide.
4. Dip the paper strips into the paste. Slide your fingers down the paper strips to wipe the excess paste back into bowl. The strips shouldn’t be too heavy with paste.
5. Start to cover the dog with papier-mâché strips. Flatten down the strips to make your dog smooth.
6. Cover the entire dog with two layers of papier-mâché strips.
7. Let the papier-mâché dog dry thoroughly for one to two days. To avoid mold, do not let the dog dry in a humid or damp room. If possible, dry it in sunlight on a windowsill — or even outdoors.
Painting the Dog
You can use children’s poster paints or acrylic paint. Paint the entire body first. Once the body has dried, paint the eyes, nose, mouth and any other creative details! Send a photo of your paper dog to us — we would love to see your handiwork! email@example.com
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The training app iClicker (iOS) is easy and free, and it’s particularly handy if you can’t find your clicker, or want to do a quickie lesson while out at the park. The noise-box feature also works as a “say cheez” prompt for photo ops. (App Store)
WoofTrax’s Walk for a Dog app (iOS, Android) makes fundraising easy and healthy for you both of you. When you and your dog start out on your walk, press “Start Walking for —” for a prompt to choose an organization. (More than 4,000 organizations are registered; if your favorite rescue or shelter isn’t in their network, you can request that it be added.) After your walk is finished, hit “stop” and the walk is credited to the org. The app also tracks walk distance, duration and route, making this a good way to record your rambles. Just think of the miles pro dog walkers can rack up!
Even the apocalypse can’t keep good dogs down.
You wouldn’t think dogs and post-apocalyptic horror comics would go together, but you’d be wrong. In Avatar Press’s six-issue series, Rover Red Charlie—now available in collected form—writer Garth Ennis and artist Michael DiPascale put our best friends in the worst of circumstances: at the end of the world. Well, the human world, anyway. Fortunately, these canines are more than up to the challenge. Rover Red Charlie offers an uncanny insight into dogs and what life must be like from their point of view.
The comic features three dogs—Rover, Red and Charlie—trying to survive in a world in which all the humans have gone crazy and become violent for unknown reasons. We’re immediately shown the terrible predicament of seeing-eye dog Charlie: his leash is wrapped tightly around his owner’s hands, and his owner is on fire. Charlie is rescued by Red and Rover, who chew through the leash.
Rover, a Bassett Hound from England, is the cynic of the bunch; this character allows Irish writer Ennis to utilize plenty of appropriate slang. Red (a Red Setter) is the dumb, sweet, brave one who is also obsessed with the smell of his butt. Charlie, a Collie, is ever-proud of his guide dog vest and, as the most trained of the three, least equipped for the chaotic new world. The three pooches band together to survive and explore this new environment, meeting a variety of dogs and other critters in a cross-county journey from (as the dogs put it) the big splash to the bigger splash.
In Bleeding Cool, Ennis—well-known for classic runs on Marvel’s The Punisher and creator-owned Preacher—explained that the story “was inspired by an old painting that used to hang on the wall of my grandparent’s kitchen and now hangs on the wall of my office. It’s just head shots of three dogs. I think it was called ‘Faithful Friends,’ and I guess I waited 40-odd years to send them on an adventure. The other inspiration was when I figured out what dogs were saying when they barked.”
Ennis decided that barking means, “I’m a dog! I’m a dog!” This refrain is used powerfully throughout the book, with a few humorous variations, such as puppies yapping “I’m a pup! I’m a pup!” and an oddball Dachshund proclaiming “I’m a fish!” For Ennis, doglish is English plus these dogs’ own distinctive vocabulary, in which people are feeders, cats are hisspots, a heart is a thumper, the ocean is the big splash, fire is the burn, chickens are bork-borkers and Chihuahuas are me-dogs (because they bark “What about me? What about me?”). I’d buy a companion glossary to this comic in a second.
Our three heroes have differing views on the feeders and this changed world. Red and Rover are more accepting of the new state of affairs; Rover expresses a thought all dogs might have if they could put together a sentence: “Any time I got near anything interesting, I hardly had time for a sniff before I heard—Rover! No!” Charlie, the service dog, has more trouble letting go. He doesn’t want freedom, even when the three dogs pretty much have it made on a farm. The saddest words in the book might be Charlie’s plea: “I just want to be told what to do again.”
DiPascale’s art is naturalistic, kinetic and humane. You can tell he’s spent a lot of time around dogs because he nails not just the specific breeds, but dogs’ distinctive body language. Whether they’re feeling playful, confused, scared or defiant, DiPascale puts them in poses dog owners will recognize as true. There’s also a visual sense of humor to match Ennis’s wit: for example, the way he draws Rover running—flying folds of flapping flesh—is both true-to-life and funny. The real triumph of DiPascale’s beautiful painted art, however, is the faces, which are equally cartoony and realistic, expressing openness and honesty. Even if these dogs weren’t born charmers in terrible circumstances, you’d love them just for their mugs.
I asked Ennis by email why comics about dogs are so appealing, and he guessed anthropomorphism, adding, “…watching a dog sniffing around, frowning and shoving his nose in things, you can't help but attribute human motivation to him. Logically you know he's thinking—food, food, food, food, water, food, food, food—but your mind automatically comes up with thoughts that appear to match his expression and actions.”
A warning: This series isn’t going to work for squeamish readers. It is a horror story, and there is some gruesome violence, some of which happens to dogs. That’s usually a dealbreaker for me; I stopped watching the TV version of Fargo after a gratuitous dog death. But the violence in this comic is necessary for the horror genre, and without spoiling things too much, I can say the ending is far from a downer.
In fact, the ending is pretty damn inspiring: it makes you think that if we feeders were gone and the world literally went to the dogs, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Dog-safe “mutt cups”
Beyond biscuits—here’s a homemade nutritious treat perfect for those festive occasions.
Yield: About 24 mini-mutt cups and 24 garnish cookies
For the Filling
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Store in sealed container until ready to fill with cheese mixture.
For the Filling
From Good Treats Cookbook for Dogs by Barbara Burg © 2007 by Quarry Books; used with permission.
Today’s inbox brings us a special bit of eye-candy (also known as publicity pitches) that we think is worth sharing. It’s a video featuring NFL quarterback Tom Brady playing fetch with his dog Lua. This short contemplation on hard work, success and man’s best friend is a promotion for UGG, the Australian shoemaker who employs Brady as their official pitchman. We don’t know if it will make people run out and buy their shoes, but maybe a few will be inspired to adopt a Pit or Pit-mix ... like Tom.
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