Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I won't bother trying to describe how hard it is to lose a dog like Darla. Let it suffice to say that she was one of those dogs that people loved, even people who think of themselves as not-the-dog-loving-type. The fact that she was a pit bull, that most maligned of breeds and could still enchant even the most dog phobic among our friends, speaks volumes about her charm and sweetness of character.
From the moment we spotted her twelve years ago on a cold and rainy night in Brooklyn, clicking down the middle of Court Street, she had us. Or perhaps I should say she had me. Randall and I were with four friends and had just left a movie theater where we saw Sheakespeare in Love. As we all climbed into our beat up station wagon we spotted her coming down the middle of the street, skeletal, soaked, without a collar and clearly lost; her enlarged teats told us she was also a mother separated from her pups. For some reason, I'll never know why, I immediately jumped out of the car and followed her, Randall calling after me. I trotted slowly down the street alongside her until gently cornering her in a doorway. In retrospect, cornering a starving pit bull was probably not the cleverest thing I could have done, but somehow I got her to trust me. She was shy and tentative but made no objection as I picked her up and carried her back to our wagon.
The plan, or so I convinced Randall, was to bring her home for JUST ONE NIGHT, until we could place her with a family who could actually take in a dog. We already had three cats, so it was OBVIOUS that it wouldn't be us. My friends were all sitting in the car when I closed the back hatch, and I must admit that I did picture for an instant the kind of scene you might see in a movie like Cujo- the car rocking back and forth with screams and windows splashed with blood. As it turned out,for all those years we had her in our family, she never once demonstrated anything approaching ferocity and was an eager friend to any child, man or cat that she met. She was armed to the teeth, so to speak, but just didn't know it.
Darla was a walking cartoon and my four legged muse. I have used her in many of my drawings and if I hadn't seen her with my own eyes, I would say that she was a cartoon cliche to be avoided. She had a black patch over one eye and looked for all the world like Petey from the Little Rascals serials of my childhood. Naturally, calling her Petey would have presented obvious difficulties so we went with the name of another character in the series, Alfalfa's object of desire, Darla.
I used Darla in as many pictures as I could, whenever a canine was needed (often even when one was not). I've included some photos here along with a few of the drawings she still inhabits.
She was the sweetest, gentlest, funniest dog I ever knew and an important member of our family. Randall, Paulina, Fia and I are are all heartbroken, but we know how lucky we were to have her in our lives.
She was, quite simply, the best.