In my life I have had to learn to cope with the loss of many pets and each time my art helps me cope with the death. My animals have always been very important to me. Over the years I have had many cats (I currently have 11 cats plus some new wild kittens born to the outside troupe this very morning). I remember a husband and wife ‘non cat’ couple coming to dinner and being amazed in seeing the cats interact and how each one had their own character. Funny that they thought they would all be the same.
I have painted portraits of most of the cats I have had the pleasure of living with (with some current works in progress). This is a recent photo painting of our cat Giacomo whom we lost last year.
I never liked dogs but one Christmas Eve a friend called to say her chihuahua had gone into labour, the vet wouldn’t come out and could I go round and help as there was a breech birth. Well, after several pups came out I found myself laying on the flagstone floor in the kitchen with my arm and hand at an impossible angle to catch a puppy that was being dropped from a height as the mum gave birth. I caught the puppy, looked at it, so tiny in my hand and it yawned. And it was love at first sight.
Holly Berry (as she was born on Christmas Day) became my best friend. We did everything together. She would lay in her bed as I painted, rested her head on the laptop as I worked, travelled from UK to Italy and back several times a year. Just looking at her made my heart smile. It was like we were joined at the hip.
My love for her was so great I thought she would be with me forever but when she got sick at the age of 11 with a bad heart I had to start getting used to having to live without her. And my writing and art work helped me with that. I painted this picture of her ‘The Guardian’ which is actually about her guardian angel looking after her and helping her through the transition. She died very peacefully in my arms, which seemed fitting as she started her physical life in my hand. I wrote a poem that helped me cope as she got sicker and I knew the end was near. She lay next to me on the bed, wheezing, as I wrote this poem in tears.
IF I LOST YOU LITTLE DOG
If I lost you little dog,
for a time the world would lose its colour.
No joy in a sunset, or a bird in flight,
the softness of kittens or the smell of jasmine.
The arrival of the postman would become a non-event.
The peace would become noisy and the tranquility suffocating.
Food would become tasteless and a walk without purpose.
Certain words would taste like poison, such as ‘tomorrow’, ‘Bruno’, ‘biscuit’ and ‘bedtime’.
And the night a prison of loneliness listening for the stirring, licking and snoring that would never come again.
For the warm lump asleep between my shoulder blades.
But only for a time.
Gradually the colours would return.
For our love is not just physical.
Not only do I carry you in my arms but also in my heart.
And that continues beyond death.
You would always be with me, even as I wept.
(c) Dorothy Berry-Lound
Holly is still with me seven years after she died. I feel her with me often as I work, sitting down the side of my seat. at the spot where we used to sit and watch the sunset, and where she is buried, she sits next to me on the wall. Only now she is joined more recently by our beautiful boy Barnie who died only a few weeks ago, taken from us far too early by spondylitis that led to meningitis – he was only five and we had so many more adventures left to share. He was a completely different character, like a complete beginner where you always felt that Holly had been here before. Barnie had eyes that followed you around the room and a constantly wagging tail. He looked after the little kittens, Stevie Mouse and Emmy that we brought in so sick and in need of protection. He used to lay against my leg, sharing my footstool, with his head against my laptop as I worked. After the immediate shock of his sudden death wore off, my art helped me cope with my grief through my writing and completing this portrait of him ‘Dog Spirit’.
As I walk on my land I feel the constant presence of the animals who still live here in spirit, their souls visit and walk with me and uplift my thoughts with the memory of them and inspire my writing and art. There are now two little puppies, Ringo and Spud, who have come into our lives and will grow and flourish here, carrying on the tradition of Holly and Barnie of keeping the cats under control (or maybe the other way around!).
More information on my art is available at http://dorothyberryloundart.com.