Thursday, May 29, 2008

Calling all Boneheads

Last Saturday we were delighted to join Melissa Sweet in celebrating the recent publication of her new picture book, Tupelo Rides the Rails. East End Beach in Portland was the panoramic location, and also the site of the Narrow Gauge Railway...perfect for combining dog romps and voyages like the one in the book.

It brought out loyal fans and dog-lovers, adoptable dogs, a hobo, and these vixenish Boneheads, Mary Anne Lloyd and Kirsten Cappy.

Daisy and her plush dog, Peggy, along with Nirmala and her plush dog, Brownie, pose with author/illustrator Melissa Sweet.

Melissa's art and story manage to pull together a cast of dog characters, their longing for homes, the heavenly constellations, and a train that comes full circle. Sweet! And with that she plugs the shelters that labor to find homes for the dogs that long for them.

Of course, she has help. Her canine sidekicks, Rufus and Nellie, provide support and inspiration as only dogs can.

Rufus has the smile of a famous dog, last immortalized in Melissa's recent award winner, Carmine.

There were even leashes for those pretend pets of our imagination. Here Marty looks the other way as his dog does some business.

This really reminded me of a favorite book by Peter Sis, Madelenka, about a girl who can't get a dog but walks an imaginary one around her neighborhood, prompting everyone she meets to envision her invisible dog as their childhood dog.

Does anybody remember a magazine called WIGWAG? Paul Davis was the art director; they used lots of glorious illustration and I still have my collection of issues, from October 1989 to December 1990. It was a short-lived but enduring publication with one feature I will never forget: the back page map. The editors had invited people to send in a map of their life. One map was by Ben Grossblatt of the dogs of Westhampton, MA. The key included the names of the dogs in his neighborhood, many of them made up. Like Choke and Thorazine. It remains one of my favorite notions: orienteering according to dogs. Just this evening, my dog and I walked past Bing's house and got the new dogs barking at Lisa's. How many of us know dogs as landmarks in our day? In our life?

My first dog was Ginger, a purebred beagle that lived outside in a doghouse behind the Red Doors Motel in Lincoln, NH where I grew up. Her barking for attention didn't go over well with the customers and my parents loaned her to a rabbit hunter for training.
She got "lost" in the woods, they said.

I've always been keen on smooth-haired dogs, with black and white and a spot of brown. My next dog was Maggie, found at a shelter in San Mateo, CA. She was sweet and mellow and howled when a siren sounded in the neighborhood. Pretty often, in our Outer Mission locale in San Francisco. She moved to Maine with us and got frisky in the snow.

Mary Anne Lloyd sent this painting to us after Maggie died.

In the meantime, we had a baby and absolutely no desire for another dog. But dogs played on my mind and heart just the same.

Even Marty had a familiar dog face in an illustration about a "dogwhisperer."

Of course, the baby became a toddler that, like Madelenka, kept asking for a dog! We said no until along came an island puppy that seemed to be the spitting image of Maggie. Who could resist? (Well, Marty could, but he was outnumbered.)

Daisy did this of Posie.

Posie is black and white and cute all over. She has a shrill bark, though, and is not good in crowds. Part border collie and terrier, her favorite sport is finding snakes in the yard. We've had some awesome walks when the sunset spills like lava over the tidepools.

She has made one really good friend. Sadie. They are like Mutt and Jeff together: Sadie is mostly gray with some white, a tall sheephound who amiably tolerates Posie's bitchy manners.

We're overdue for a long walk with Sadie. Beach trips invariably involve stinky puddles and soggy seaweed. The treks through the woods pass deer scat and crows. The dogs find all manner of news while we orbit our terrain.

Cole Caswell, recent MFA graduate from MECA, took this idea of mapping by dog quite literally. He placed a GPS device on his dog to create "canine drawings" which graphically record the dog's path during a particular time span. This exploration of orbit, terrain, technology, and landscape engages a different perspective.

May all our dogs, boneheads here and beyond, inspire us to notice our orbits, made all the larger and sweeter with their knowing instincts.

If it smells bad, roll in it!


Julie said...

Daisy Love love the Posie drawing!

Jamie said...

Julie, thanks for the look-see! I like your photo of you in the grass.

Ben said...

Someone saw my map? And remembers it years later?!

Charles Kuralt wrote me about that map.