The Dog as Muse by Susan Statham

Born July 24, 2019, Artie, (AKA Arthur Conan Doyle) became my constant companion in early October. I’d met his dog mother, Bella, a year earlier during one of the ever-increasing vet visits for my fifteen-year-old French Bulldog, Janie (AKA Miss Jane Marple). “Ah you have a Frenchie too,” I said, acknowledging something of which I’m sure Bella’s human was fully aware. He told me she’d had a litter the previous year and was doing well. I asked if he planned to breed her again. He wasn’t sure but offered to call me. I gave him my number.

Artie by S. Statham, graphite on paper

Acquiring my first French bulldog puppy, Hercie (AKA Hercule Poirot – you’re sensing a pattern here) coincided with an idea for a mystery novel. Mysteries being my go-to reading material, I followed the dictum to write what you want to read. And in following the old adage to write what you know, I created an amateur detective who was also an artist and gave her a dog.

Hercie by S. Statham, oil on canvas

After moving to rural Ontario and adding Janie to the family, I gave my sleuth a lucrative portrait commission, took her to the countryside and left her in an old mansion with a strange group of characters.

Janie by S. Statham, oil on canvas

Why does the dog make such a wonderful muse? John Steinbeck made a road trip in search of America with a poodle name Charley––a great sounding-board for his thoughts. Steinbeck said that he always tried out his material with his dog first.

For Dodie Smith it was Dalmatians, and at one time she had nine. When a visitor commented that her dogs would make a ‘lovely fur coat’ she responded with A Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Lord Byron was inspired to write poetry for his faithful Newfoundland dog, Boatswain. His Epitaph to a Dog ends with the words: ‘To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise; I never knew but one—and here he lies.’

Emily Brontë took her companion and protector, a bullmastiff cross named Keeper, for long walks on the moors. He was also her model for one of her few extant watercolour paintings.

About her pug, Pongo, Donna Tartt wrote, ‘My dog has a number of acquaintances of his own species, as do I but it is abundantly clear to both of us that there is little company in all the world which we enjoy as much as each other’s.’

“Martha My Dear” is a song about Paul McCartney’s Old English sheep dog. Neil Young wrote “Old King” for his hound dog and for her poodle, Ralph, Nora Jones wrote “Man of the Hour.”

What is it about a dog that empowers so many of us? And what about that question of dog as muse?

Surely the solitary occupation of writer benefits from that unconditional devotion, especially from one so keen to accompany us on long walks. More than good for your health, walking is conducive to generating great ideas. And being a writer means being a reader so cuddling up with a companion who wants nothing more than to be close, may put you and keep you in that comfy chair, book or e-book in hand.

Now, with Artie by my side, I’ve given my artist/investigator good news. She has another commission. And, though this one raises the stakes, it’s all happening at the zoo. And the bad news? There’s no mystery without calamities, complications and the gruesome end for a mammal of the human variety.

Artie awaiting the next chapter

18 Comments Add yours

  1. kimaubrey says:

    Thanks, Susan, for this fascinating post and gorgeous art work!

    1. Susan Statham says:

      You’re more than welcome! It was a joy to write about two things so close to my heart – my dogs and my art.

  2. I second what Kim said — and I’m happy I got to meet Janie several times during those 2017 meetings, because I find pretty much all animals irresistible (OK, slugs and mosquitoes, not so much).

    1. Susan Statham says:

      Thanks Marie-Lynn. And I concur, though I’d add snakes to the list of not so irresistible animals. (I don’t wish them harm, I just don’t want to get close.)

  3. dmwauthor says:

    Interesting to hear about your muse and learn about other writers who also find their muse in their pet dogs.

  4. felicity936 says:

    Great post! It will strike a cord with all dog-lovers, even those who are not writers or painters.

    1. Susan Statham says:

      Thanks Felicity!

  5. Beth Willoughby says:

    Interesting topic and delightful to read. The paintings add to the enjoyment.
    Well done.

    1. Susan Statham says:

      Thanks Beth:)

  6. Chris Mang says:

    Enjoyable read! Artie’s sister approves 🙂

  7. Doreen Wilford says:

    That was a great story. My grand-daughter has a dog- same breed and colour as yours. Thanks Susan.

    1. Susan Statham says:

      Thank you Doreen. These Frenchies are a popular now and with good reason:) but few people recognized the breed when I got Hercie in 1997.

  8. Bettina says:

    I really enjoyed this piece, Susan! Very tongue in cheek and beautiful art work. A fine ‘collaboration’ between woman and her best friend ;).

  9. Barry Hunter says:

    Murphy, our poovandse and I enjoyed your story and your wonderful art.
    Barry Hunter

  10. ronaldmackay says:

    A lovely, warm reflection on the symbiotic relationship between art and companions… Thanks, Susan.

  11. Pat Hester says:

    Very insightful and charming. Thank you.

  12. Judy Hopkins says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your canine companion/sleuths. And what lovely paintings!

  13. A fabulous post, Susan. I feel honoured to have met at least one of your canine companions, and how interesting to read about canine muses to you and other writers.

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