Abe V. Rotor
“Make these dogs happy,” I told a group of schoolchildren who were taking art lessons from me. I gave each of them a copy of a trace drawing of a pair of dogs. The dogs looked sad, docile and there is something pathetic about them.
With pastel coloring instrument they accepted the assignment. In their young minds I saw their pets at home. As I studied the expressions on their faces, matched with their actions I noticed they were not only coloring their pets, they we virtually “caring for their pets.”
And what do you think they did with these animals? How kind are these children to them? How good are they as masters or friends – as pets? These are the things I gathered from their drawings.
Unchain – A young participant made a drawing of a chain being sawed off in order to free the dogs. Truly there is nothing more important than freedom, even for an animal. This is also true with animals. Aren’t zoos today moved to bigger spaces where the habitats of the animals are simulated? In the African Safari tourists are taken out, caged in their vehicles, while the animals roam free.
Build a doghouse – Keep them from heat and cold. Give them a sense of security and comfort. Give the doghouse some art and a bit of aesthetic sense. The house is a status symbol but its functional features are foremost.
Provide a shade – A tree beside the doghouse is a magnificent scene:
a bird’s nest atop, bridling and parent singing at feeding time, ripe fruits hang, a kite is stuck up on a branch, a boy climbs to retrieve it, leaves fall and form a litter on which the dogs lay. These and many more, which the children drew, revive the childhood to every viewer of their art works.
Give a bone – If there is anything a dog is associated with, it is a big bone. Aesop saw it fitting for a fable, a lesson about greed. For the dog however, it is a form of security, as well as a plaything. Be sure you give your pet food, fresh water and proper nutrition. Do not overfeed them.
Play with your dog, give a plaything – I found out that many of my pupils drew themselves beside or playing with their pets. Others drew cats and mice playing with their dogs. Playing is universal among animals, tame or in the wild. Others raced with them on the meadow.
Groom – Regularly bathe and comb them. Several drawings showed the dogs in attire, one in a circus outfit, another in casual wear, one eating on Chinaware. This is not rare because we often think of animal as human beings. Read “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. Or see the movie, “Babe.” Aesop’s fables are about animals that think like human beings – or it could be the other way around, as Aesop wanted to drive a point, quite often a painful lesson. Aesop was silenced because he was unwittingly hurting people with his fable.
Teach tricks and discipline – A ball, a stick, an electronic gadget to open or close the doghouse, are among the things the young participants included in their drawings. There’s a saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But children always see their pets young. This means they are growing up together, and sharing new tricks.
Vaccinate your dog – A participant drew a veterinarian administering an anti-rabies shot on his young pet. Precaution is always important, because catching rabies is dangerous.
Who are these children mirrored by their drawings? And who will they be through the keyhole of their imagination? How we regard our pets is what we are and become.
“A starving dog at his master’s gate predicts the ruin of the state,” thus William Blake in “Auguries of Innocence” tells us. I, for one, would gladly meet with confidence and ease the master of a contented and happy dog.
The art workshop for children in which I used the dog as an exercise to demonstrate love for animals may be a simple way of changing attitudes and developing values. Children are known to be very effective in carrying out the multiplier effect of a lesson and we hope that they will carry this as they grow.
“Make these dogs happy,” could mean a thousand dogs in the future, and a thousand enlightened children who follow the footsteps of those who unchained the dog, built a doghouse, gave a bone, etc - and, altogether will make our world a kinder one. ~
Living with Nature, AVR 2011