What our Dog Photos Cannot Show.

Wills – Minature Schnauzer

This is a picture of my beloved little Schnauzer, Wills, with my beloved little nephew. The photo was taken shortly before Wills death. The snapshot in and of itself is nothing special. As a reminder of my life with Wills though, it is an important picture.

I find that impromptu photos of our dogs are great personal reminders for us. These pictures though, often do not act as adequate messengers for translating who our companions were; other people looking at the picture cannot see all the things that made a particular dog amazing. As a result, the picture may appear to be of a dog that is nothing special. I am reminded for example, of a photo I once saw of my Mom, two younger sisters and myself, when my sisters and I were all under six years old. There was a very average looking, a little under medium sized, medium hair, brown and black dog with a white chest in the photo.  I didn’t recognize the dog.

When I asked my mom who the dog was and she told me, I was shocked. She claimed that the dog in the picture was my own highly prized childhood companion, Champ. Now in my memory, Champ is a very large, very beautiful Collie mix; we were fairly devoted to each other throughout my early childhood. Champ is even the center of my earliest memory, the one memory I have of life before my first sister was born.

Champ and I were young “back in the day”; kids rode bikes without helmets or adult supervision; we were allowed to run out and play in the woods around the house, to rig up our own ramshackle “forts” and inherited old pots and pans for play cooking. No plastic or rubber factory made kitchen sets especially designed for children. No plastic pretend food. Our imaginations had whatever we could find outside to work with and the occasional cast-off, real item like an old chipped dish. Imaginations had a lot of work to do on a daily basis and Champ was beside me as we moved from ancient castles, to shipwrecks, mansions, jungles, and barren plains. He saved me from monsters and mean girls, and was a steadfast fellow no matter what kind of crises, imagined or real, threatened me.

This wasn’t an idyllic world. The kids I grew up with fought, sometimes with words, sometimes with fists. Feelings and bodies were hurt, people cried and said mean things. Through it all Champ was by my side and when the world was too much, it was Champ’s thick hair that soaked up my childhood tears of frustration and sorrow. Champ was amazing because he was my friend and I was his. There was no camera or photographer around to capture this relationship. The one faded snapshot in which Champ does appear cannot begin to show who he was to me in real life.

I believe that many of us have known dogs like Champ. Special, intelligent, beautiful dogs who – if others saw only a snapshot of them – would not look like who they really were. Maybe that is why some of us now spend time and money trying to capture a better likeness of our dogs through professional portraits, or even hire painters or other artists to portray our dogs; someone who through artistic license can show a little more of the inner spirit that is apparent to us but not necessarily to a quick camera shot.

I think that is why some of us also like to read stories about dogs. We want to read about the relationship that a snapshot alone cannot show. We want written icons that remind us of what is special and valued in our own relationships with our canine companions. A well written dog story contains reflections of what is lovable about so many of our dogs – the unique relationship that we enjoy with them. The best dog stories seem to reflect that when a person and a dog befriend each other, they each seem to be better versions of themselves because of the relationship.

If anyone has a favorite dog story or picture they would like to share, I would love to hear/see them. In the days to come, I hope to add more photos here. For while a photo may be incomplete, it is still a touchstone, a reminder of a special individual who touched our lives. I would love to hear about the dogs that your pictures may not be able to fully capture.

Eclipse’s Gabby’s Sweet Gilbert – German Shepherd

Ruby the Collie-Labrador visiting

Gilbert – my favorite senior Beagle

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