Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Darla



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.

83 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to read about your pup. I couldn't imagine losing my hazel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sorry Peter. She lives on forever in the illustrations you created, and that's a testament to her character, and the love you had for her.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am very sorry you've lost your sweet friend. That was a beautiful tribute. She was certainly a very special part of your family.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So sorry about Darla. It's been obvious to me seeing your work with her in it throughout the years, that she was very special to you.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm really sorry to hear this, Peter. :(

    ReplyDelete
  6. Really sorry to hear this Peter, losing a dog is like losing a family member. :(

    ReplyDelete
  7. My sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family for your loss, Peter. She sounds like a dog you only find once in a lifetime. May she now have all the doggie cakes and t-bone steaks she'll ever want.

    ReplyDelete
  8. *hug* Darla is beautiful. My heart goes out to you and your family. So sad to hear this Peter, lovely tribute to her!

    ReplyDelete
  9. My heart goes out to you Peter. I also buried a dog this morning.

    ReplyDelete
  10. so sorry for your lose. Its terrible to lose your best friend. I lost one of my great danes in Dec.. its tough..

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ah crap. Darla was the sweetest. I'm sorry to hear that, buddy. Give the fam a hug for me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Peter, Our dogs have such a special place in our lives and when they move on they take a little piece of our hearts with them. I am so sorry that you and your family have lost Darla. I know she will continue to live through your art work.

    ReplyDelete
  13. У меня 10 лет жили французские бульдоги,мальчик и девочка. Они были велеколепны.настоящая семья.И умерли через день..до сих пр не могу завести собаку..помню их:(

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh no, how incredibly sad. It sounds and looks like you all had a wonderful life together and those memories will last and be celebrated for years. It's always hard to lose someone so close.

    ReplyDelete
  15. One of the reviews for Duchess mentions your illustrations of Darla and how "the dog has to be real,a beloved family pet."

    It's a testament to how much she meant to you and your artwork.

    Sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thank you for sharing Darla with all of us in your artwork. The love comes through clearly.

    ReplyDelete
  17. So sorry to hear this. I believe Darla had the most wonderful twelve years with you guys. Hug-hugs to you and your family ~ shengfang

    ReplyDelete
  18. How sad, I feel sorry for your Darla :( My thoughts are with you. Thanks for sharing the photos, and she will remain in your hearts and artwork for ever :} What a cool dog!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Our hearts are with you Peter, you truly had something special in her.

    ReplyDelete
  20. what a wonderful tribute to an amazing canine. amazing to see how much she inspired over the years. I will never forget her most distinguishing features - the inside of her ears - all pink with black pokadots. we all miss her. fortunately she has left a legacy in the images that she has inspired.

    - thhe Fabs

    ReplyDelete
  21. Aww, I'm sorry for your loss. I've been following your blog through RSS and Google Reader for quite some time now and I haven't commented...

    I hope your family is doing well. Dogs are loyal and they exude so much character that I can see that it would be difficult to not have them as a source of inspiration... I'm really happy for you that you were able to experience life with such a pet. That's a blessing.

    Thanks for blogging about stuff, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I know that, I had a dog when I was young, and she left ten years before Darla, to the very day. She has accompanied my childhood and it meant a lot. I am very sorry for you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm so sorry for your loss. It's always hard losing a good friend, it sounds like she had a wonderful life with you that she wouldn't have had otherwise. *Hug*

    ReplyDelete
  24. no matter how bad a mood im in, my pitbull always manages to make me smile. i will never own a different breed. Sorry for your loss, hopefully we will see some illustrations of a new rescue apbt in the future!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Sorry about the loss of your dog, Darla. I'd noticed a similar looking dog in your drawings, but I have to tell you... before I really paid attention to all of your work, I saw your SOI Poster illustration and of all the characters in it, the dog steals the show. I'm not surprised to find that you were drawing your own dog. It shows.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Peter,

    I am so sorry to hear about your dog Darla. I love dogs, especially Pit Bulls. I help rehabilitate them and find them homes from a few shelters. Whenever I hear about a Pit who is a great ambassador for the breed it makes me so happy- I can tell Darla was just that. You gave her such an incredible life when someone else could have easily dropped her off at the pound. I am so sorry again, but so glad that she lives on through your wonderful artwork.

    My Condolences,
    Morgan Spicer

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm so sorry for your loss. I am a major dog lover, so I understand. We've lost 2 dogs before, and it's always hard. Darla was clearly a great girl and a great muse for you! Her story with you is so wonderful. You gave her a great life, Peter.

    I read a story somewhere about a dog passing away and a little boy said he knew why dogs have shorter lives than we do. He said, "People are born so they can learn how to have a good life, like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right? Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."

    ReplyDelete
  28. hello peter, i am so sorry for your dog; a collective thought accompany this loss. she was not Completely to disappear, a peace of his mind soak this pictures...she attract my eye, our eyes...

    ReplyDelete
  29. So sorry to hear Peter, My sincere condolences..

    Warmest regards,
    RM

    ReplyDelete
  30. Peter,

    I´m sorry for you loss of Darla.
    She is beautiful ! IS !
    I have seven dogs ( I had eleven).
    Everyone of them I´ve found on the streets.
    Everyone of them, A wonderful being.

    Thanks for share your love.

    GOD Bless You and Your Family.

    GOD Bless Darla on the Heaven of Dogs.
    The True Paradise !

    Paulo
    Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

    ReplyDelete
  31. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss to your family. The love for Darla has always shown through in your work, it's one of the first things I noticed years ago when I was introduced to your work. I remember not long after your last hardbound blue sketchbook you spoke at Art Center and afterward went outside the auditorium and did sketches for us students, one of the administrators was rushing you off to grab food and I asked you if you could do a quick sketch of the dog you had a page full of spectacular drawings not knowing at the time that it was Darla and how your face lit up and you told me the character was based on your dog. You gave a quick hunted glance over your shoulder at the administrator before sneaking in a quick drawing of Darla in my copy of the book. I'm glad at least that she was able to touch you and your families lives in such a positive and wonderful way.

    ReplyDelete
  32. It's a tough thing...we just lost our beautiful Lab so I know how incredibly hard it is, everyplace you look in your home there is a memory of them.

    Hang in there and if it's any consolation remember that you gave her a very good life as well as immortalizing her in your artwork!

    All the best

    ReplyDelete
  33. Aw, I am so sorry for you loss. Its always so difficult especially when you realize they are no longer there to run you over. Just try to remember all those good times, it will definitely lift those spirits.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Peter, my husband and I just lost our studio cat-muse of 13 years, so we are right there with you. Their lives are so short, but their impact is so big.
    Furry bodhisatvas.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I can relate. I think anyone who has ever lost their heart to a beloved animal can. How wonderful that in you, she found tenderness, love and roof for her head. She enriched your life as much as you enriched hers. Thank you for sharing her with us.

    ReplyDelete
  36. She looks beautiful Peter, and I'm sure she was a fantastic friend, these pictures speak for themselves. I'm sorry for you and your family, I perfectly know how it feels unfortunately. But think that both you and Darla have been so lucky to meet each other :)
    Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog. A big big hug to you, take care.
    Ale

    ReplyDelete
  37. She was lovely! I came to your blog to say that I've just bought A SKETCHY PAST: THE ART OF PETER DE SÈVE from Amazon and can't wait it to arrive, but now I just want to share my sympathy and wish you and your family the best. I was already a huge fan of your art. When my wife saw your book on Amazon she said that you must be an animal lover and that it was depicted in your work.
    Again, best regards.

    ReplyDelete
  38. May Darla enjoy unlimited doggie bones in doggie heaven....

    ReplyDelete
  39. All the Best Peter. I have two of my own and it's incredible what kind of impact they have on not only your life but all those lives these special canines touch. We mourn with you and celebrate the life of a best friend.

    love and prayers.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Once I said no and and the people who choose the dog and and the dog that the owner chooses! Me was that! My dog is also on my drawings! And the only thing I can tell you is that I feel sorry for your lose! It's heartbreaking!

    ReplyDelete
  41. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  42. So sorry to hear about your Dog Peter.

    ReplyDelete
  43. It's impossible to put into words what animals do for our heart and soul. And when it's meant to be, the bond is strong.
    I'm sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  44. So sorry, Peter, for your loss. What a lovely tribute to Darla. I can understand how you feel, having just lost my CeeCee, a gentle sweet-natured soul who taught me not to be too pround to adore a real dork of a dog. I too found a way to express my feelings about her here http://www.don-guitar.com/puppy.html . Hope you enjoy.

    You'll be surprised how much you miss her. Don't be, she was a part of your every waking moment. Give it time...good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Your eloquent recounting of Darla's joining of your family was wonderful and bittersweet. I can appreciate your feelings of love and loss, having experienced similar losses in my life. Time won't completely heal this, I'm sad to say, but it will dull the sharp edges.
    If it helps, we all loved your dog, with her frequent appearances in your work. She will live on in our hearts.

    ReplyDelete
  46. A touching tribute to a beautiful pup. I've had to say "see you soon" to a few of my beloved pups over the years and it never, ever gets easier. Mr. Sweetman puts it beautifully. Never completely healed, but the edges have become duller. And I have to add, the memories all the much sweeter, especially during those "blah days", when you find yourself, for whatever reason, thinking about a cherished pet, a lovely little moment in his/her life...and then the day isn't so blah after all, even if it is just for a brief moment.
    Warmest regards to you and yours, Peter. Be well, sir...

    ReplyDelete
  47. All my sincere condolences to you and your family. R.I.P Darla

    ReplyDelete
  48. So, so sorry to hear of your loss. You gave her such a wonderful life and I know you feel she returned the favor. The story of how you met is just amazing and heart filling. I also include my dog in many of my illustrations and just love her so much. It's so hard to loose a friend like that.
    http://www.stewystuff.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  49. It is always hard to loose a pet, a friend and inspiration. How fortunate she provided so much, and how fantastic that you found a muse in her.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Oh heck, that photo of Darla, her on the chair beside you with the funniest dog face, I will be chuckling now. Laughs/ crying... it can get that way.

    Our condolences.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Sorry for your loss Peter.
    To lose a pet, a friend and a muse at the same time. That's hard.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Unable to give you a heart. so have a reply to push up your post. ........................................

    ReplyDelete
  53. adorable pictures, and she'll forever live in a special place in your exquisite art :)

    ReplyDelete
  54. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Nada tan triste como la pérdida de un amigo.
    Lo siento artista.

    ReplyDelete
  56. i'm a big fan of yours, and in fact met you once in your home studio. it was a pleasure to meet you, and a delight to have also met darla. i'm so sorry for your loss, but so thankful for what she allowed you to give those of us who so admire your work. she will be missed by many.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Aww, cute dog. It's awesome when family members can provide so much inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  58. i'm so sorry to hear that. darla seems like a truly amazing pup. about two years ago i lost my dog of 14 years, and i know how hard it is. they truly become a member of the family. hopefully all the happy memories with darla will help you to keep smiling! take care.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Hi Peter,

    by your illustrations, you gave Darla a kind of Immortality.

    Courage dear friend

    Julien(from Solliesville )

    ReplyDelete
  60. OMG, so sorry to hear about Darla.. :(
    But yeah the bond between owner and dog is absolutely amazing. :D I know this because I'm studying to be a vet and I have 3 dogs that I would die for... :D

    condolences to you and your family. :(

    ReplyDelete
  61. Hey Peter - I meet you at CTN last year and we spoke about your wonderful dog Darla. I am so incredibly saddened to hear that Darla is gone. I lost my dog of 14 years recently and it is very hard.
    Take Care.
    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  62. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Completely understand - she sure was adorable. I still dream about my dog...who's been gone for more than 20 years now.

    ReplyDelete
  64. what an sweet angel. i'm truly sorry for your lost. i lost my boy, a pit mix, in December. my heart broke, but i'm grateful for the 11 years we had together...the best years of my life.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Darla is a beautiful and adorable dog, and I wish she could have stayed with your family forever! I know how hard it is to lose a furry friend. At least she will always be there in your drawings.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Peter, I am so sorry for your loss. Your story of how she came into your life is wonderful and I love the picture of Darla and the Cat. When your heart has healed enough, open it up to another pittie. There are more than enough to go around and they need you.

    ReplyDelete
  67. My sincerest condolences. What a lovely tribute to your special girl. Pit bulls are indeed simply the best.

    ReplyDelete
  68. I, too, was stolen then transformed by a discarded Pittie with a heart bigger than the world. His name was Wilbur. People thought he was quite unusual looking, I thought he was sexy. We lost him to cancer 3 years ago at a too early age and I miss him to this day. What I learned from his short time with me was that love does not die, it just changes shape a bit. He is always in my heart and occasionally during the quiet times, his presence is so strong that I know that he is here, I can feel him I just can't see him. You can call me crazy, I am okay with that!

    I am sure that Wilbur is happily welcoming Darla, showing her the ropes including how to let you know in her way that she is still there, cause that's they kind of guy he is.

    We are the lucky ones for we know the love of a Pit! My heart is with you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  69. I'm SOOOOOOOOSOrry for your loss. I've been there several times and breaks my heart to think of it years later. They truly bless our lives with their love, loyalty and unflinching bravery. Even when mine were suffering, they never complain, they fight through it all and give themselves to you wholeheartedly along the way.
    Gob bless and thanks for sharing her beauty with the rest of us.

    ReplyDelete
  70. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Hey Peter,
    I met you when you visited Portfolio Center awhile back... I remember you talking about Darla. I wish that pets could live as long a life as we do... it just doesn't seem fair. Darla will live on in your heart and illustrations (what a special tribute)... what a glorious dog! My thoughts are with you-

    ReplyDelete
  72. Hi Peter,

    I arrived to your blog some days ago, expecting to see your inspiring creations... and I found this tribute to your dog. I couldn't write anything then, and I still can't. Just thanks for sharing with us your love for Darla and her unique way of being.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Thank you for your lovely tribute to Darla.

    I grew up in NYC and often found wandering cats under the 23rd street overpass. I didn't become a pit bull (or dog) owner until many years later, living in Maryland.

    While I truly feel a kinship to all animals, this particular breed of dog captivated me from my first meeting back in 2000.

    Like Darla, my Gracie is elderly now. I panic at every cough, every stumble, every little out-of-the-ordinary problem. I really am the epitome of the worried mom.

    Looking at Darla's photo, with her graying face, and asymmetrical ears, I feel such a sense of happiness. Not many pit bulls make it into a good home, and not many pit bulls live to have their muzzles speckled with gray.

    Thank you for your lovely tribute to your friend.

    Alexis
    PBRC

    ReplyDelete
  74. Because of your lovely drawings of her, I believe we all lost a very special and loved canine companion.

    R.I.P. Darla, you will be missed.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Peter my heart goes out to you and your family. I'm in tears jut trying to think of something to say. I lost my 12 year old Pit in December and know exactly what your going through. It's a wound that never heals. Things will get better but it takes some time. Keep up the great work and take comfort in the fact that Brooklyn has no shortage of great dogs when the time is ripe.

    ReplyDelete
  76. :_ I am sorry, I lost my dog too and i know how you feel it...i hope that everything goes better a few months later.

    ReplyDelete
  77. I am so sorry to hear about Darla. I was just reading "The Duchess Of Whimsy" to my daughter last night and we were so enchanted by the little black and dog in every picture. How lucky Darla was to have found you. I have always admired your art but after reading this I admire you heart also.

    ReplyDelete
  78. This blog entry about Darla really tugs at my heartstrings and I was blown by how much love your family has for Darla. RIP Darla...

    ReplyDelete
  79. I'm sorry for your loss. Darla was really unique and you and your family were very luck to have her. It's really sad to say goodbye to our furry friends.

    ReplyDelete