The Dog who Dreamed Art
Once upon a time there lived an ordinary puppy. His lab mother met a border collie from the next ranch and one thing led to another and he and his siblings were born. Life was tough at his ranch and he spent two weeks under the porch of the tired, grey house. His brave mother had no water but she faithfully nursed them all and everyone survived.
The puppies heard rumors that one of them might have a home. The hero of our story was male and this family needed a female. So his sister was the lucky one. And then she wasn’t. A rattler came slithering into their yard one autumn day and she got bit. Amazingly she survived but she was never quite right after that. Our hero soon found himself the ‘Only Puppy Left.’ So the rancher and his son decided to take him to the family that had wanted his sister. “Just for the day,” they said.
Wrapped in a white towel, the puppy arrived in a very strange place. Peeking out he saw a house with bricks and wood and under their feet there were more bricks. Soon a lady came out. After hearing the sad story, she agreed to watch Puppy for the day so the rancher and his son could get supplies for the ranch. Nestled in her arms, Puppy had never felt so safe. She took him inside. Puppy never dreamed that dogs went Inside to the people place. The floor was wood and slippery. The lady put newspapers down and told him to pee there. But he knew about outside and outside was all he knew. After a short nap, she picked Puppy up and took him outside to see if he could go potty out there. Evidently outside pee was preferable to inside which was fine with Puppy. It just felt right that way. After he had conducted his business, she petted him and made a big fuss over him calling him, “Good Puppy,” over and over again. Praise for doing what he should? Life was getting better and better. Soon he had water and some soft yummy food. He tried a little tail wag and got loved on again.
After several hours of bliss, the lady looked at Puppy and said, “You really are a sweet little dog. You’ve gone potty outside every time. Maybe I should keep you even if you are a male. Sonnie needs to be cheered up and you just might just work. I’m worried about Puck but I still think I’ll take you to the Vets for his opinion.” (You must wait to hear about The Puck. He’s a whole other kind of dog.)
Wrapped snug in his towel he had another car ride. This car smelled like boots. Puppy thought the seats just might be leather. He couldn’t even hear the engine the car was so quiet.
They arrived and waited for The Vet. Soon they were led to a small room and The Vet came in. Puppy wasn’t sure he liked The Vet. He probed and prodded, sighed and hummed. Then he announced, “I’m not sure you should keep him. His coat is very dull and he’s terribly shy and doesn’t seem to have much personality.” Oh dear, Puppy didn’t think this was good news.
But the lady took him home and just couldn’t bear to let him go back to the ranch. So Puppy was fed every day and bathed and loved and played with. He started bouncing around the room and just loved the little stuffed dog that arrived one day just for him!
The Vet acknowledged he’d been very wrong about Puppy. Now that his coat gleamed and his tail wagged, The Vet noticed that he had perfect ‘conformation.’ It seemed this was a very good thing. So Puppy smiled deep inside.
Puppy had a name. He was a real dog now. He was black like his mother but had inherited a big white spot right in the middle of his deep border collie chest. He also had white tipped paws from his Dad but it was the spot on his chest that gave him his name. It seemed the Lady had ‘puppies’ too and one played something called pool. Pool had a special black ball with a white 8 on it. So Puppy became 8-Ball and he was very proud.
8-Ball took new interest in his surroundings. He noticed paintings on the wall. His lady often talked about the woman who painted them. She was Lady’s mother and was an artist. 8-Ball liked that word, Artist. He decided he wanted to be one. So he began to look around at walls and what they held.
In one room the Mother Artist created pictures made with pastels. His favorites were the orange water pump and a field of yellow like the ranch. Soon the whole group that lived in the brick house went to the ocean house. Wow! There were waves. 8-Ball didn’t like those! But there were also moles to dig for, deer to chase, foxes that came at sunrise and quail lots of them just sitting there waiting for 8-Ball. He forgot about art for awhile and concentrated on digging holes and pointing to wild things.
But soon winter came and he was inside and back to staring at walls. Art was everywhere. One picture of a pink and yellow meadow 8-Ball found quite strange. In his experience the colors weren’t right. But still he thought about it. On another wall, rocks painted on paper floated on a background of white. Rocks couldn’t float it seemed to 8-Ball. But still he thought about it. On yet another wall, he saw a small picture of a river in autumn. He learned the artist was famous and this picture had been a ‘splurge’ that he gathered was like having hamburger for dinner everyday. But still he thought about it. It was that picture that let him understand that he loved art with orange.
8-Ball had a horrible thought. He had no hands, no thumb. How would he hold a brush to paint? He believed, he really believed, he had been born to be An Artist. Not just any artist he wanted to be An Artist of Orange. But how? One day his lady left a sponge on the floor. 8-Ball pushed it with his nose to see if he could eat it but it didn’t seem like food. But wait. Another sudden thought, all he needed was orange paint and some paper. He could push the sponge through the paint and onto the paper. 8-Ball could create ART. 8-Ball hid the sponge.
Despairing of the paint and paper, 8-Ball thought and dreamed. He was big now-really tall. His lady wrote poetry and didn’t paint but her brother came to visit the ocean house and he was an artist. Brother spread his paper and paints out on the kitchen table. He had to leave the room for a bit. Now was the chance of a lifetime! 8-Ball pushed a piece of paper and some orange paint to the floor. He found his hidden sponge, positioned the paper, put the sponge into the orange paint and thought. He knew he had to be quick so he decided his picture would be simple and leave an impression of movement. Pushing his sponge out of the paint onto the paper, he began moving the sponge to some inner dog vision. It grew into being and 8-Ball was pleased. Suddenly Brother came back in the room. 8-Ball quivered but Brother saw his painting and laughed. “Not bad 8-Ball,” he said. “And you didn’t make too much of a mess.” His Lady saw the art and took its picture. 8-Ball was an artist. His big collie chest got bigger he was sure.
Months passed and Lady went on a trip with Jack. 8-Ball loved Jack. He cooked lamb and hamburger and bacon and if 8-Ball was lucky he got something called ‘leftovers.’ Back from their trip he heard his Lady and Jack talking about The Metropolitan Museum of Art in some place called New York. Evidently it had art of all kinds hanging on walls, standing on floors and sitting in cases. 8-Ball had to go. Imagine floors and floors of art!
Keeping his floppy ears open, he listened for ways a dog could go to the museum. He could get in if he was a service animal but he wasn’t. What to do? What to do? Then 8-Ball saw it. The Marvelous Medal thing was lying on the floor. It fell out of the suitcase Jack had taken to New York. It was shiny and green with a big M for museum. If 8-Ball had it he was sure he could get in. So carefully he picked it up in his teeth, hid it in his mouth and waited for the back door to open. Soon he got his chance and out he ran towards the bushes to bury his big M medal when wham, he jumped off the deck and swallowed the Marvelous Medal that would let him go to the museum.
It didn’t feel so good going down. There was something sharp on it. Not too many days later, 8-Balls stomach began to hurt. Soon the pain traveled down, down and he just couldn’t eat and the pain was so bad he couldn’t stop shivering. His Lady noticed and started yelling, “Jack, Jack, look at 8-Ball. He doesn’t look good!”
In the car he went for a ride to someplace called the Emergency Vet. Oh dear, worried and shivering in pain, 8-Ball waited for the ride to end. Going inside he didn’t want people there to think he was rude so he wagged his tail and did everything they asked. But he winced when the Emergency Vet pushed on his stomach. They were going to take pictures of his stomach. Whoa, pictures? What if they saw the Marvelous Museum Medal and took it away? But the medal didn’t show just the hole it put in his intestine. They actually thought it was a stick. So after much discussion, he was left at the hospital for emergency surgery since without it he would die.
Many hours later they put him in a big cage with a soft bed and lots of tubes in him and funny tracks all up his stomach that hurt. But the nurses gave him something for pain and all was good until he remembered his medal. Just before he went back to sleep, he heard the surgeon call his Lady. The surgeon was describing his metal and promised to take a picture of it so Lady and Jack could see it. It would arrive by email. His Lady asked the doctor to save it so the doctor put it in a plastic bag in 8-Ball’s special sack with his matching blue leash and collar.
Finally after days and days in the hospital 8-Ball finally was allowed to go home. He wasn’t eating but he did eat part of a hamburger patty that Jack fed him so the doctor thought if he went home maybe he would eat. 8-Ball was too worried about his Marvelous Museum Medal to eat. What if it got lost?
At home, Jack and his Lady unpacked his special sack and there was his medal. People were puzzled, “Why would 8-Ball eat that?” But his Lady figured it out. ”I think he really wants to go to the museum. He’s always staring at paintings. And once he managed to get orange paint onto paper with a sponge. Such a clever dog.” She announced to everyone that he was “The Dog Who Loved Art.” And so he did. And here is the picture he dreamed in his head and painted on paper with the sponge he found on the floor. Paintings need names, he learned. So he named his painting after his favorite time of day, “Orange Sky before Dinner.”
Janice DeRuiter Eskridge November 2013