A week before Thanksgiving holiday, I received an unexpected knock at my front door. It was Charles, a neighbor who lived just one courtyard over to my west. As I opened my door, I noticed that he held a dog leash loosely in his hand along with a small disposable waste bag. Kingsley, his small cocker spaniel companion dog, however, was absent from his side.
“I’m going on vacation,” said Charles with a squinted look of anxiety mixed with anticipation in his eyes, “and wondered if you might be interested in sitting Kingsley.”
“Yes, of course,” I replied excitedly, “I’m available Saturday early afternoon before the holiday. Would that work?”
Dog sitting has been a hobby that I’ve enjoyed as I’ve gotten older. As a young girl and later young woman, however, dog sitting was not always my top choice of things to do. I had been bitten as a young girl of 7. I did not know the dog; it was a stranger; and so was I. During a visit, the dog snuck up from behind me and sank its fangs into the back of my left thigh.
Not much attention was given to the bite as it was a neighbor’s dog, not a deep bite, and the bleeding stopped after a few minutes. Once home, my mom washed it out with soap and water, applied a bandage, and kissed my forehead then sent me on my way. Although inspected, cleaned, bandaged, and comforted, the bite continued to be sore for sometime. I’ve never quite got over the animals first response to me and my inability to clearly communicate.
What I noticed immediately about Kingsley, however, was that he was not the type of dog that used his teeth as first response to strangers. I was glad to learn that he liked fur brushing and petting better. Our first walk together went very well, however, I learned that his second defense was stubbornness.
As we walked together, I in lead position, Kingsley followed behind me by three steps. We walked well together until I passed the first small bush to my right. At this point, he stalled. “Come on, Kingsley. Come on, good boy!” I said gently with a short quick snap of the leash. He replied by sitting, front paws dug into the ground beneath him.
Kingsley had gotten it into his mind that he was on his own. Freedom had made him stubborn. The garden had become his kingdom. I tried to reign him in with a few clicks of my tongue. Evidently, tongue clicking was not in his vocabulary. For despite the many times as I clicked, there simply was no response except for the strong pull on his leash to the right.
“Come on, Kingsley. Come on, boy!” I said with a slightly quicker and stronger tug. Kingsley remained distracted; he had forgotten that our original plan was to walk around the gated community of approximately a quarter mile. Although it took several tries to communicate with Kingsley my desire, he eventually showed himself as a smart and gentle animal.
Through our walks together that week, I learned that like Kingsley, there are those things around me that can distract, detour, and even disturb me from my objective. Some distractions are lovely: the smell of a flower, the warmth of the sun, the sounds of the birds; these should be especially appreciated when life seems to be racing. And then again, some distractions should be simply ignored.
Once Kingsley realized that I was communicating my need to move along, I was very thankful for having him at my side; it was like having a good friend and companion. After Charles picked him up, I wanted to do a mixed media project that would present the wonder of a walk with a good companion.
What does companionship look like, what does it feel like? I’ll use one of my monoprints as a background; add some pattern and texture; an object; and, see if I can capture the element of companionship that only a dog like Kingsley can offer. The title of this piece is: A Walk With Kingsley. The theme is companionship in life. The thumbnail at top of page is a rough draft of concept. Here is the journal entry with text: