Over the past few weeks, I have had the infinite pleasure of creating this portrait of a strikingly handsome yellow Labrador retriever. I did not have the opportunity to meet this beautiful boy as he had passed away some time ago, but I was provided with a series of photos and a heart-felt description of him. He was a good dog, a kind and wise companion who travelled with his family to many interesting places. He enjoyed games, and grandchildren, and lying at his master's feet. He was an excellent listener. He is very sadly missed, particularly so by his master who was the family member with whom his bond was the tightest.
The timeline for completion of the portrait was very specific as it was to be a Father's Day gift. In an interesting coincidence, this dog had himself been a Father's Day gift many years earlier as a wee puppy. While I wouldn't normally advocate that pets be given as gifts (too many end up unwanted in the end), in this particular situation it was a match made in heaven. His master, who had never previously had a dog in his life, was smitten with the yellow pup and the pup loved him equally well. Throughout their many years together I understand they were an inseparable team. It was a great honour for me to have the responsibility of creating this portrait which holds much meaning for the dog's master and his family, and which will become a memorable and valued part of that family's history.
Working on this portrait caused me to think about Father's Day, something I haven't done in many years. You might say I haven't had good luck with fathers. I lost the first one in a tragic accident when I was just an infant, then the grandfather who raised me, who I called Dad, passed away before I reached adulthood. Thus for majority of my years I have been fatherless and subsequently Father's Day hasn't held a lot of significance. However, when I was working on the portrait of this sweet yellow dog, something about it twigged a memory. I went to the family photo stash, and found this:
This is Dad (my grandfather), gone now for many, many years. He was what you'd call in days-gone-by a "man's man". He was an outdoorsman, a farmer, a bit of an adventurer, and even a pioneer. It's from him I learned about the outdoors and animals, particularly horses, and with whom I spent countless hours helping mend fences, dig in the garden, harvest hay crops, even shingle a roof - all the many chores that our small farm required. And who is that with him in the photo? Why, it's a yellow dog - doubless a mutt but very reminiscent of a yellow lab! I remember this dog only vaguely. I don't even recall his name. He was a farm dog and, as was the way at that time, he lived as such: he came and went as he pleased and one day he simply didn't come home. I do remember phone calls being made to the local pound but the nameless yellow dog was never seen again. All these years later here he is in this old photo, sporting a big grin and accompanying Dad who was no doubt out checking the fences or the ditches or inspecting the livestock. Thankfully someone had the where-with-all to take a picture of that moment. It's clear there was a bond between this nameless dog and Dad, and as I was working on the portrait of the well-loved Labrador, my fond memories of Dad came flooding back to me.
So in the end, I too have received a Father's Day gift in the form of childhood memories of a man who helped mould me into the person I am today, memories that have been renewed thanks to a small, yellow puppy who joined another family on Father's Day so many years ago.