“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” – Agnes Sligh Turnbull, American Novelist (1888-1982)
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France, French Novelist (1844-1924)
Anyone who has loved and lost a dog will appreciate Lucy Dawson’s sketches in her book, Dogs Rough & Smooth, originally published in 1937.
Dawson (1870-1954) was a popular British illustrator known for her paintings and sketches of a variety of dog breeds and was commissioned by the Royal Family to paint the Queen Mother’s favorite Corgi, Dookie. The book, her second of dog sketches following Dogs As I See Them, was republished in 2016 with a foreword by Susan Orlean, an author of several books including Rin Tin Tin and a contributor to several publications, including the New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine and the New York Times.
Below are some excerpts from Ms. Orlean’s heart-felt words in the foreword, which acutely capture the space that a dog holds in our lives, their power “to be deeply present,” and the paw-dugged-hole left in our hearts when they pass away.
Ms. Orlean references her own dog, Ivy, and her obsession with taking Ivy’s picture as a way to capture her eternally:
“Most of all, what my pictures don’t capture is the astonishing quality Ivy and all dogs possess: the power to be deeply present. Even when Ivy is asleep in a room at the other end of the house, she is still noticeably in residence.”
“A house without a dog is a static space. A house with a dog somewhere in it is a house on alert, just moments from bursting into activity, especially if the dog hears the refrigerator open. Anyone who has lived through the death of their dog knows too well the suffocating quiet of a house without one. The first time you come home to the empty house, it aches with hollowness and silence, and the phantom concert of dog noises – those now-absent tail thumps, nail clicks, and tag jingles – just about breaks your heart. My millions of dog snapshots don’t portray that strange, marvelous experience of coexisting with one of these creatures.”
“Ivy has wandered over while I’ve been writing this. The afternoon light is now buttered and honeyed….[t]his is why I keep taking her picture, in the vain but eager attempt to keep her with me forever. She [Lucy Dawson] gave me the one thing that we all dream of, that our dogs will be eternal, and in her drawings, these dogs are. They snooze and sit and play and romp in the dreamtime of memory, of art – as alert and lively and full of heart as if they could walk out of this book right now and curl up on the sofa beside me.”