Green transportation for around-town travel.
These days, anyone who slaps Bark’s bumper sticker—Dog Is My Co-Pilot™—on a car is conscious of rising fuel prices and looming environmental crises. More and more, people are paying attention to the fuel economy and emission levels of that bumper-sticker-bearing vehicle. Some, especially in urban areas, have opted to go the old-fashioned route and get around town on two, or in some cases three, wheels. And, more for fun than for grocery shopping, there’s even a dog-powered scooter. “Emission” levels notwithstanding, is there anything more eco-sensitive than paw power? Whatever mode we choose, one thing’s for sure: Our pups will want to come along.
Purchasing a vehicle that makes a low contribution to air pollution and greenhouse gases is one way to do less harm to the world. Last fall, J.D. Power and Associates published the Automotive Environmental Index, a study based on information from the Environmental Protection Agency as well as on data collected from consumers. In the study, they listed 30 of the top environmentally friendly cars, eight of which were, as expected, hybrids. One interesting statistic that came out of the survey was that more than half of consumers who were thinking of buying a new car in the near term were considering a hybrid.
In fact, the research firm forecast that hybrid vehicles (which use gas to get the car going and power from a battery when cruising) would increase to a 5 percent share of the U.S. market by 2013.With fuel prices rising to a national average of nearly $3 per gallon and with images of drowning polar bears and shrieking hurricanes scrolling across our TV and movie screens, these results are no great surprise. (For a rundown of hybrids currently available and in development, visit Hybrid Cars.)
Though hybrids have been getting most of the attention when it comes to environmentally friendly cars, there are other ways to hit the road these days. For example, if you’ve got the dollars, you can join the likes of George Clooney and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and plunk down a cool $92,000 for a Tesla—a new, 100-percent-electric car that’s slated to hit the streets this year. These aren’t just emission-free vehicles, they’re also truly performance cars that go from zero to 60 in four seconds and have a top speed of 130 MPH. Their technology is also notable. Rather than a heavy lead-acid battery (such as was used in the original fleet of GM-developed electric vehicles, for example), they employ a lithium-ion battery—a larger cousin of the battery used in laptops—which is lighter, energy dense and much more efficient when it comes to miles-per-battery-charge.
Another attention-grabbing motorized vehicle new to the U.S.—but a familiar sight on streets from India to Sri Lanka—the Bajaj autorickshaw might be just the ticket if you’re looking for something that, with its three wheels, is more stable than a two-wheel scooter and gets a whopping 80 miles per gallon. When he was looking for a clean alternative vehicle, Bark reader and Santa Cruz resident Larry Lewis did his homework. As he says, “I chose the Bajaj autorickshaw, which is low in cost and just a complete work horse and charmingly ugly, but burns clean and is simple to maintain.” It may be the only one in town, but Lewis likes the fact that it makes a statement.
ArgoUSA started importing these autorickshaws from Pune, India, about two years ago, making sure that, unlike the golf carts they somewhat resemble, they were street legal and safe; among the added features are dual headlights and a fully hydraulic braking system. At about $6,400, the Bajaj autorickshaw is also priced right. In terms of emissions, the autorickshaws have a clean four-stroke engine, though ArgoUSA President Al Kolvites thinks the fact that they come only with manual transmissions may limit their popularity in the U.S. Nevertheless, these vehicles, which are designed to go no more than 40 mph on city streets, are definitely a novel and environmentally friendly driving alternative.
In cities these days, it’s not just bike messengers who are pedaling the streets. It doesn’t get much more environmentally friendly than pedal power, and manufacturers have taken notice and are producing a wider range of recreational cycles for those of us who aren’t quite up to the Tour de France. For example, you just might see a tricycle pass you by on the way to the store. That’s right, three-wheeled tricycles aren’t just for kids anymore (actually, tricycles—or trikes—for use by adults actually date back to the 1860s).
Today’s trikes offer a range of amenities. You can opt for a cool (and expensive) electric version, such as the eZee Carro, which includes a front-mounted motor that, with the turn of a throttle, takes over the pedaling chore. Among the more traditional, non-electric trikes are the Port-o-Trike three-speed and the folding Trifecta single-speed, both of which are sold online and at some of the big-box stores and go for between $300 and $400. Most tricycles come with wide seats, safe and efficient dual brakes, and a large basket that fits between the two back wheels.
For those who wouldn’t be caught, um, dead, on a three-wheeler, the Dutch Citybike from Vancouver-based Jorg & Olif supplies buckets of retro panache. With its wide seat and traditional bell, this bike is built for city riding; among its niceties are fender guards; pre-installed lights; and Shimano gear systems that come in one, three, and eight speeds (great for those hilly cities). The technical styling and beautiful design don’t come cheap, however—the Citybike runs between $795 and $1,295. (According to the manufacturer, a lower-cost but equally reliable model will be available soon.)
A Dog’s Place
Speaking of city streets (and bike paths), many are too crowded for your dog to run safely at your side, which is another good reason to look into these handy accessories. Dog trailers come in a variety of styles, support a range of weights and incorporate several safety features; most are easy to assemble and to attach to your bike.
The base kit usually includes the dog wagon itself, a towing bar that attaches to the bike and the bike connection. Since there are no American Society for Testing and Materials standards for pet carriers, it’s up to the consumer to take a close look and do some comparisons when making a buying decision. Among the things to look for are a strong but lightweight base, a low center of gravity to keep things stable, reflective materials for visibility, good ventilation and a frame that can be zipped closed. Three to consider are the Burley Tail Wagon, the Pet Ego Sport Wagon and the Wike Wagalong.
The newest Burley Tail Wagon (about $400 with the stroller kit), has a 75-pound carrying capacity and is suitable for most dogs. For more than 30 years, Burley has been known for its well-crafted bike trailers for children, and the company applied this expertise to its dog trailers. The Tail Wagon has a UV-resistant, water-repellent, fabric-enclosed frame; a suspended floor; and large mesh screens that allow the free flow of air through the trailer. It comes with a bright orange flag for good visibility in traffic, and the zip-up frame helps ensure that your dog doesn’t make an unscheduled exit en route. Factor in the fully removable sun and rain cover and optional We! Ski kit and you’ll have everything you need for year-round dog transporting.
The Pet Ego Sport Wagon is another new trailer on the market, and at about $500, one of the most expensive. But for big dogs, its size and strength—it holds up to 165 lbs.—make it a good option. This one also has zip doors for easy access, and to keep your dog (or dogs) cool, it has a nice sunroof that can be removed and stowed. (If you have a smaller dog, there’s a Sport Wagon sized for her as well.) For small dogs, the Wike Wagalong ($300) may be the way to go. A lightweight trailer, it comes in two versions, one of which is appropriate for dogs under 30 pounds. It has ventilation panels, a bug screen in the front, and rear and side reflectors. Your pooch will also appreciate its two-inch cushioned floor.
Just because a dog is elderly, less mobile or recuperating doesn’t mean she wants to stay at home, and optional stroller kits make outings both practical and safe. Attach the front wheel and a handlebar and voila! The kits make it possible for even bikeless dog folks to take advantage of these trailers, which can be particularly useful for navigating crowded sidewalks with your dog.
As you might imagine, this scooter is practical for medium to large dogs. To determine whether a dog is strong enough to power a rider’s weight, Schuette’s rule is to add 100 pounds to the dog’s weight; so, for example, a 60-pound Boxer should be able to power a 160-pound person. As Schuette joked with San Francisco Chronicle writer Paul McHugh, “People talk now about generating energy by combusting pet poop. Well, using this, you get work out of the kibble before it even leaves the animal.”
It’s doubtful that dogs care whether your vehicle is powered by gas, diesel, ethanol, a battery or muscle power. But in the long run, if we think green, our co-pilots will benefit.
Why can’t we all get along?—The message behind this joyful song
The economy? Foreign policy? Urgent matters, but they could wait. Speaking directly to his young daughters, Barack Obama discussed another topic early in his landmark election-night acceptance speech: “I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”
The announcement is sure to have elated Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, who, as the nation knows, have long lobbied their parents for a dog. Obama, the first black man elected president of the United States, and his wife Michelle, recently revealed that the “First Puppy” will join the First Family once they’ve settled into the storied residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
Uplifting news for dog aficionados across the political spectrum, revelations about the forthcoming canine addition to the Obama family hold special resonance for Bernard LaFayette, Jr. A distinguished scholar-in-residence at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, LaFayette is also the co-writer of a famed civil rights anthem, “Dog Dog.”
Available on the 1990 release Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the tune (also known as “My Dog Loves Your Dog”) features these lyrics:
My dog a love a your dog and your dog a love a my dog
As for the song’s pedigree, LaFayette, 68, explains, “I was raised in Florida during segregation. There was this white family and my family, and we both had dogs. It didn’t make any sense to me that we kids couldn’t play together when all the dogs would just rip and run and get along fine.”
Determined to help improve race relations, LaFayette later became active in the civil rights movement. He recalls that he was in the thick of organizing a student protest in Nashville when childhood memories inspired him to compose, with a friend, the music and lyrics for “Dog Dog.”
“I’d been a tenor in various church and street-corner choirs,” he says. “So, the song just seemed to evolve naturally out of the spirit of the times. Music was a major mobilizing force for civil rights activists. ‘Dog Dog’ was always well-received because it takes a child’s perspective and points out the silliness of discrimination in a humorous way.”
Indeed, Yale University sociology professor Ronald Eyerman brightens when he recalls his discovery of the song while conducting research for a book. Coauthor (with Andrew Jamison) of the 1998 volume Music and Social Movements: Mobilizing Traditions in the Twentieth Century, Eyerman appreciates “Dog Dog” for its engaging, secular charm. “It is very different from most other civil rights anthems in that it is non-religious and about everyday life,” he observes. “Also, what struck my mind was that it took rhythms from popular music. It’s kind of a doo-wop children’s jingle, a non-serious piece with a serious message.”
Like LaFayette, Eyerman notes the influence of music in civil rights struggles. “The impact was stunning and robust,” he says. “The use of song to build collectivity and maintain courage and solidarity in the face of enormous threat got people through things they might not have otherwise. Song was also a great pedagogical tool, as the ‘Dog Dog’ song attests.”
Founder of the legendary a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bernice Johnson Reagon counts “Dog Dog” among the most popular songs in her extensive repertoire. A student civil rights leader in her hometown of Albany, Ga., Reagon says she learned the tune in the early 1960s from Cordell Reagon (whom she later married), an organizer who came to southwest Georgia to lead voter registration drives and train emerging activists.
Later a member of the acclaimed Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers, Reagon says that the group performed “Dog Dog” at nearly every concert. “It was a wonderful song because it taught lessons people could learn from their pets. Dogs seemed to be ahead of humans on the social level in the South.”
Retired from Sweet Honey since 2004, Reagon says she was cheered to find “Dog Dog” on the ensemble’s Grammy-nominated 2007 children’s album Experience … 101. “They sent me a copy of the CD and it includes a version of ‘Dog Dog,’ she says, with a smile. “It’s so clearly a song for the young and the young at heart.”
Oakland musicologist and choir director Melanie DeMore recognizes the entertainment value of “Dog Dog.” “I usually teach it in three-part harmony,” she says. “I encourage both adult and children’s choirs to add barking sounds and to be very animated during its performance. It’s hysterical when you see a whole bunch of folks on the stage delivering the powerful message of the song and still having fun by jumping up and down like puppies and barking.”
In another interpretation, Harry Belafonte, on his 1967 album Belafonte on Campus, adds a rousing calypso beat to the song, which also includes this verse:
My little doggy was a playing one day
Reflecting on the historic victory of President-elect Barack Obama, Bernard LaFayette says “Dog Dog” serves as a reminder of the stunning racial progress achieved in the past 50 years.
“Dogs are therapeutic,” he declares. “They can be unbiased eyes and ears for us in so many ways. When dogs get to know each other, regardless of their breed, they inevitably become friends. They show us how to break down barriers, overlook differences and focus on common bonds. I consider ‘Dog Dog’ a benchmark of how far we’ve come since segregation. It seems only fitting that the Obamas would welcome a puppy to the White House.”
The Real Deal
These days it seems if you want to sell a product, all you need to do is slap the image of a dog on it. So an authentic—historic, even—dog-inspired label, such as Pointer Brand, stands out from the pack.
The Pointer in the Pointer Brand logo isn’t some imaginary dog conjured by Madison Avenue types to capture hunters’ imaginations. He’s Carolina Bill, the favorite birddog of Landon Clayton King. Legend has it, Bill was “very intense” and “showed excellent style and character” on point—making him the perfect inspiration for a line of tough and durable working clothes.
King founded the L. C. King Manufacturing Company in Bristol, Tenn., in 1913. He reasoned that if he could raise championship birddogs, he could produce championship bib overalls, coveralls, carpenter jeans, hunting apparel and denim chore coats. It’s a leap but there’s no denying this classic, affordable outdoor wear is well-suited to dog-centric activities. The indigo shop apron, for example, is a perfect match for grooming sessions.
Pointer Brand is seriously old school. Having survived two floods and a fire, it still operates out of its original location, with great-grandson Jack King now in charge. The clothes are sold mostly in mom-and-pop shops—as well as in über hip specialty stores, including Hand-Eye Supply in Portland, Ore. They do have a website, but they still take phone orders by hand.
The best part of the website is Pointer Brand People, an online bulletin board with photos of customers sporting the denim, duck cloth and hickory-stripe apparel, frequently with their dogs. Customers who send in photos receive either a free Pointer Brand cap or T-shirt.
We’ve got the goods …
Mounted Custom Fishing Lure Boxes
Adirondack Pet Bed
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Can a board game teach your kids about the animal rescue industry? Petsapalooza CEO Carianne Burnley designed Fur- Ever Home: The Animal Rescue Game to increase awareness of the challenges shelters face and dispel some myths about the animals who end up in rescue. Each player runs a shelter in Straytown, where they try to place cats and dogs in their “Fur-Ever Homes.”
Players face many of the same decisions and challenges real shelters deal with every day: hiring staff, fundraising, treating sick animals and overcrowding. Burnley says children who play the game are often surprised to learn that customers sometimes return the pets they’ve adopted. “It’s making children ask questions.”
Just like real shelters, Straytown shelters have a wide array of dogs and cats available. Although some pets are harder to adopt out because of their age, breed or behavior issues, there are plenty of puppies, kittens, purebreds and Canine Good Citizens. Burnley says, “I wanted to help people understand there are great dogs in rescue.”
For each game they sell, Petsapalooza is donating $5 to one of over 70 rescue organizations across the United States.
A new team takes the field.
We can hardly wait for that hallowed winter Sunday when, along with millions of other Americans, we crowd around our television and cheer as our favorites run, tackle and tumble toward a hard-won touchdown. During a break in the action, we may also flip the channel to the Super Bowl.
Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl trotted onto the Discovery Channel’s Super Bowl Sunday lineup in 2004, offering three action-packed hours of outrageously adorable puppies frolicking on a miniature football field. Though it was originally added to the day’s broadcast schedule just for fun, it has become a record-setter.
“The idea was supposed to be ‘Who’s going to watch anything but the big game?’” says Melinda Toporoff, executive producer for Animal Planet. “It almost started as a joke, like the Yule log on your TV screen. But it’s turned into a cult hit.”
Last year, more than 8 million people tuned in, making Puppy Bowl IV the highest rated program in its series and Animal Planet’s top-rated adult-viewed telecast of the year. It’s hard to resist a screen full of lovable pups cavorting in a 10-by-19-foot stadium constructed in the studios of the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet’s parent company, in Silver Spring,Md. So what if they occasionally drop the ball—or any of the dozens of toys that litter the field? So what if they occasionally cause a foul —isn’t that what the referee and his cleaning products are for? And when the players need a nap, cue the Bissell Kitty Half-Time Show and its stage full of cuddly kittens beneath disco lights.
“We wanted to play up the whole concept of the spectacle that is the Super Bowl,” explains Rob Burk, executive producer for Discovery Studios. That includes drafting all types of athletes.
One of the few facts Toporoff and Burk would divulge about the monumental Puppy Bowl V, to be broadcast Sunday, February 1, is that all players will be from shelters in the Washington, D.C., area (many of the previous bowls’ contestants were from private homes). Adoptions, which have been encouraged throughout the series, will be a major theme this year.
Staffers worked with Petfinder.com to reach out to the shelter community for likely prospects. Forty-one puppies made the cut and packed the locker room (a production facility conference space) for the two-day filming early last October. As usual, humane association and shelter personnel were present.
“We kept them well fed and hydrated,” Toporoff said of the team members. “We want them to rest, but they’re pups and love to play.” And when they do, each move is narrated by Harry Kalas, famed broadcaster for the NFL and the Philadelphia Phillies.
The game is over too soon, but is frequently rebroadcast to the delight of fans, some of whom hold Puppy Bowl parties and blog about the experience. And who, this year more than ever, might be inspired to visit a shelter to find their own most valuable players.
Love Is a Dog exhibit
Artist Dan Adams packs a lot of dog energy and expressiveness into his compact oil paintings.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Reader submitted photos
The mystery writer talks fictional and real-life rescue dogs.
With the help of her downstairs neighbor, Mr. Contreras, V.I. shares her life with two dogs: Peppy, a Golden Retriever, and Mitch, a half- Golden; each came to her via a case and each has a distinct personality, but both help her unwind from her complicated life. After a road trip promoting her book, Paretsky took time to tell us more about the dogs in her own life.
Bark: Why did you decide to add dogs to V.I.’s story? And why Goldens (or in Mitch’s case, a half-Golden)?
Sara Paretsky: I grew up not liking dogs, and then married into a family of insane dog-lovers. My husband and his three sons were in between dogs when we married and I thought we would stay that way, but the lobbying was intense. When English friends were looking for someone to baby-sit their Golden, Capo, while they went to the UK for a year, I agreed — I thought, One year, I can do this; by then, my stepsons will be leaving home and we’ll all be dog-free.
When we took on Capo, we didn’t know that she had already been in five different homes. She was the sweetest dog in the world, so why home number one gave her up, let alone homes two through five, I’ll never know — unless it was because she was on a mission from the Great Dog in the Sky to convert me.
Tim, our second son, is a great athlete, and Capo was seriously fat. He started running and swimming with her, and within two months, she was a sleek, bright-eyed animal. Tim was her best friend; she slept with him, waited for him to come home from work and basically left me alone, which was great with me. When our friends returned from England, they saw how much healthier she was with us, and how happy, and they let Tim and my husband keep her. I didn’t mind — I just ignored her. In those days I was a marketing manager and was gone most of the day, anyway.And then, two years later, Tim moved out. Capo was desolate. She curled up outside his bedroom door and wouldn’t move, except for brief trips outdoors to relieve herself. She stopped eating. I thought she would die. I still didn’t like dogs — I didn’t like touching them — but I couldn’t let her die, so every evening when I got home from work, I would curl up on the floor next to her with my arms around her. She didn’t know I didn’t enjoy this, she just felt comforted. And after three or four days, she started eating again. And then attached herself to me. When I was ill, she slept next to me, not leaving my side even to eat. When I went swimming, she herded me to shore where she could keep a closer eye on me. When she died at 15, I was inconsolable.
B: It was great that V.I. essentially rescued Peppy; what made you decide to introduce her that way?
SP: Good friends of mine had had a Golden named Peppy, and I used to make fun of them for their adoration of their dog. After Capo converted me, I was so ashamed that I had to give V.I. a rescued Golden named Peppy. And since we had sort of rescued Capo, I decided to introduce V.I.’s Peppy in the same way.
B: Do you feel that adding the dogs changed V. I., or the way she views the world?
SP: For V.I., having dogs in her life means she has to think much more about rooted personal relations than she did before. She has responsibilities that she has to think about every day, but she also has a source of comfort. One of the challenges for me as a writer is not to get bogged down in details, and I realize as I’m writing that I spend a lot of space on the details of how V.I. looks after her dogs.
B: How many of V.I.’s interactions with her dogs come from your experience?
SP: Our first Golden, Capo, was perfectly trained. She responded to both voice and hand commands, and we never needed to have her on a leash, but she did live to swim — the first time she saw Lake Superior, she jumped from a 20-foot cliff into the water. We didn’t know until then that our perfect dog needed to be on leash when she was near water! V.I.’s Peppy is like Capo. Mitch is more like our current (third) Golden, Callie. She, too, is very sweet, but she is incredibly high energy, and even though we have been working for seven of her seven-and-a-half years, and she stays and sits and lies down like a champ, she will not heel. And she gets wild fits where she roars around — we just have to stay out of her way until they pass.
B: Tell us more about Callie, your “senior C-dog.”
SP: That’s a funny one. I set up a solo corporation about 15 years ago, when we had our second Golden, Cardhu. I wanted the name to reflect me, my husband and the dog. My husband’s name is Courtenay; he served in the Royal Navy during WWII. Roosevelt’s code name for Churchill was “seadog,” because Churchill had been First Lord of the Admiralty at one point. So my husband was a seadog, or a C Dog, and my corporation is called Sara & Two C-Dogs, Inc. When Cardhu died from bone cancer, we were so distraught that we thought we would never have another dog. But after four years, we couldn’t stand it, and we got Callie. Because of our adored Capo, we stick with Goldens. And because my company is Sara & Two C-Dogs, their names start with C. Courtenay vetoed Chernobyl, so I chose Calliope, Callie for short, because she’s a merry-go-round.
B: Just for fun, how would you compare V.I. with Peppy and Mitch — any personality traits in common?
SP: V.I. is definitely more like Mitch — high energy, hard to control. Maybe that’s why she enjoys Peppy’s company more.
A painter’s view of family and friends.
In one of his earliest paintings, simply titled Woman with Dog, the painter of private French life Pierre Bonnard caught his sister Andrée as she solemnly leaned down to touch the family pet; in response, the dog knowingly raised a paw to “shake.” In this gentle, sweet scene, the figures turn inward; at the bottom, near the center of the composition, hand and paw come together, forming a triangle within the frame of the painting. Despite the apparent unity of the scene, the dog’s attention strays; his eye, a beady brown spot of paint, looks into a world beyond the frame. The dual nature of this scene—domesticated dog with a wandering eye—recurred in varying forms throughout the artist’s career. Photographs taken at family gatherings and sketches drawn in private moments at home tell us that dogs were a primary presence in Bonnard’s everyday life. They were companions in his daily walks, and he wrote of them in his letters. A memorable photograph taken by the noted photographer André Ostier shows an aged Bonnard tenderly cradling his Dachshund on his lap. In this picture, Bonnard stares solemnly at the camera and the dog looks away—as in his paintings, intimacy and isolation exist side by side.
The year after he painted Woman with Dog, Bonnard set out on his own eccentric path to domesticity when he met Maria Boursin, the woman who called herself Marthe de Méligny. The two became lovers, living together for 32 years before marrying in 1925, the year the artist bought a house in Le Cannet in the south of France. Over the course of their lives, whether in a Parisian apartment at the foot ofMontmartre or at their house, Le Bosquet, in the Midi, Bonnard followed Marthe from room to room, sketching her as she bathed, dressed and ate.He later synthesized these sketches into major paintings—some were of Marthe and their Dachshund at table, others were scenes of Marthe in her bath with the dog nearby. In these works, the model and muse dissolves in light and fuses with the interior space. In contrast, the dog gazes outward, a dark and witty presence in an otherwise harmonious scene.
In 1913, Bonnard began a series of etchings for Dingo, the classic tale of a wild Australian dog by Octave Mirbeau, a popular Parisian writer and critic.Uncorrupted by social institutions, the maverick pup tried, and usually failed, to adapt to French civilization.At about the same time as Bonnard began these illustrations, a dignified Dachshund, the very opposite of the raffish Dingo, found a place in his paintings.
In Dressing Table with Mirror, for example, painted in the year he began the Dingo etchings, Bonnard abandoned the freewheeling stray in favor of his own little pet. Here the dog is triply trapped, enclosed once by the actual frame of the painting, next by the frame of a mirror and finally by a small square red rug. For all its apparent normality and pretty color, Dressing Table with Mirror presents an uncomfortable scene. In the foreground are ordinary objects: a brush, a soap dish, a vase of flowers, bottles of perfume and a large oval bowl, emblems ofMarthe’s private world. In contrast, in the reflected scene above the table, the dog tensely crouches at the bottom of a bed;Marthe sits at the other end, a decapitated nude. One can only wonder at the brutality suggested by that view. Yet table, objects, mirror and nude blend together in soft shades of blue, orange, lavender, white and cream. A solid dark form of the Dachshund, squarely centered inside the mirror’s frame, strikes a dark, dissonant note in a tranquil sea of pastels. But there is a contradiction here. This pup is funny, too. Out of place, incongruous, he solemnly shares a bed with his mistress.
In the 1890s, Bonnard belonged to a brotherhood of adventurous artists; they called themselves the Nabis (the Hebrew and Arabic word for prophet). Each member of the group had a nickname; Bonnard was punningly called the “japonard.” Captivated by the flat planes of color and intimate interiors he found in Japanese woodblock prints, the artist liberally borrowed these forms and conventions for his own work. In prints, Japanese artists often signed their names against a rectangular block of color—the signature carefully set apart from the scene. In Dressing Table with Mirror, the dog on his rectangular red cloth mimics the form of these signs.
In one dining room scene, Woman with a Basket of Fruit, a pannier bursting with overripe apples, pears and bananas rests on a snowy white cloth and dominates the composition. At the top,Marthe, a remote figure behind the basket, rests her head on one hand as she dreamily looks off into space. Her head echoes the shape of the basket, her blouse blends into the tablecloth, and her red collar and cuffs repeat the apple red of the fruit. Though she is physically one with the scene, her gaze reveals that her mind is wandering afield. Below, her canine companion, a profile head without a body, pokes his nose hopefully upward—a silhouette against the white cloth. Though the tip of the dog’s nose aligns neatly with Marthe’s nostril above, there is no eye contact between the two; the dog’s eye, like that of a pharaoh, stares unblinkingly outward. This could be a quick snapshot of ordinary life, an unremarkable moment with Marthe and her dog. It is as well a funny correspondence of noses. But viewed in another way, the scene echoes with loneliness. The figures catch separate scents, those that evoke longing for different worlds beyond a limiting frame.
Though there is no clear equation of dog with artist in this dining room scene, a correspondence occurs, as it did in the Dressing Table with Mirror, in some later works picturing Marthe in the bathroom at Le Bosquet. The strangest and perhaps the most magnificent of these bathtub paintings was also one of Bonnard’s last works. He began Nude in Bathtub in 1941 and worked on the painting long after Marthe died in January 1942. Even four years after his wife’s death and a year before his own, the artist continued to add touches to the work. In this scene,Marthe lies entombed, floating in a narrow oval tub that, in turn, floats in the shifting space of the room. Intense, prismatic colors describe a grid of tiles on the walls and floor; these colors—orange, yellow, blue and magenta— bleed from the background and define Marthe’s body. Hazy brushstrokes fuse her with the ambiguous space of the room. Dead center in the foreground, the incongruous Dachshund intrudes. A tight little body with his head raised up, the dog is framed by a square of dappled pink rug, a restatement of the Japanese signature. In this scene, he is neither a comic wiener dog and prankish pup nor a loyal companion and placid presence. The Dachshund, like the artist always sketching, intrudes on Marthe’s privacy, a jarring note in a lyrical scene. Perhaps here the dog, as elsewhere, really is Bonnard standing watch.
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