Your Last Dog

Dogs live for twelve, maybe fifteen years and become part of our family. There’s always a special one that just crushes us when it dies. My English setter Suzy Q. died when I was twelve and I’m seventy-one now and I still smile when I think of her, running through the golden autumn grass, tongue lolling, looking like she was laughing at the crisp, sunny day.

I live in a senior apartment building and several people have dogs, which is good for their health. They ease their loneliness and get them moving throughout the day when the dog has to go potty outside. Lots of folks put their dog in a baby stroller for this task; the stroller doubling as a walker.

But eventually their companion dies. They know they don’t have enough years left to get another one and that’s got to be a sad milestone, don’t you think?

Karen came up to me after an art show with a small photo of her dog, a blonde Shih Tzu. She asked if I would make a portrait for her. It was her last dog. Heck yeah, I’ll make a portrait. “How much do you charge?” she asked. “Twenty-five dollars.” I said. “I can pay more.” “No you can’t because I won’t take it. (This is low-income senior housing, I’d do it for free, but that might be demeaning in some strange way.)

I’ve been experimenting with resin and sculptures and haven’t painted in pastel for over a year. Too busy cussing and fussing at my resin failures. Did I forget how? But I did remember how and even found a pad of velour paper to keep it all soft.

She was very happy with her portrait. It’s a good thing to make someone very happy, I think.

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