Hey there! Welcome to my blog. I'm a free dog living in Portugal and I write about my life as an artist and street dog. This blog is a way for me to have more of a connection with other dogs (and people), to share ideas, experiences and some of my art. I love to hear what others have to say so feel free to comment on any of the posts or to contact me via e-mail. If it's your first time here, you might want to check out my first post and read on from there. You can also have a look at my profile in the column to the right.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Coffee with a Canine

This is just a quick post to bring you up to date on a bit of news. My dog-loving Canadian friend was interviewed on a really neat blog called Coffee with a Canine. The interview was about our relationship. Well, mostly it's about me.
outside Varandas Bar, journal sketch, ink and watercolour

I contributed this sketch from my journal. There are also a couple of photos with the interview. You can check it out here. Coffee with a Canine. While you’re there, have a look at some of the other posts. You’ll be introduced to a variety of people and their canine friends.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

and the award goes to...

I’ve been given an award!

Petra of http://www.indivisualism.com has given me a blog award. I’ve never gotten an award. I’m suitably humbled and tickled. Or tickled and humbled. Or tumbled and ….. Okay, I’ll stop. But I must say “Thank you Petra!” and encourage you to visit her blog for some fantastic eye candy and inspiration. 

Now, I had to ask what the protocol is after winning a blog award. Petra says one version is that you have to share seven things about yourself and then pass the award on to seven bloggers. Another one says you have to pass it on to 15 blog(gers) with less than 200 followers.  I think the important thing is to be happy about it and pass it on to whoever you think deserves it :)" Or I can do what Petra did and throw out the “rules” and do whatever the hoopity-hoop I want to do. So. Hmmmm.

Okay, I’ll play by the rules for a change.  I’m choosing to award 15 bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers. It was really tough to narrow it down to 15! I’ve come across so many enlightening, creative, silly, fun, and inspirational blogs these past few months.  But here’s my short list. Check them out. There’s something there for everybody!

http://arwenspack.blogspot.com/  This blogger knows how to embrace life as dogs do.

http://callingcrowstosea.blogspot.com/ Nancy is an up and coming blogger with a sensitive perspective on life. Only five followers so far, so show her some love!

http://danscanvas.blogspot.com/ He’s never afraid to try something, always willing to examine his methods, and he’s got a sense of humour to boot.

http://diondior.blogspot.com/ She’s bursting with creativity in the face of adversity.

http://www.dogfostermom.com/ She’s a guardian angel!

http://thehappypainter22.blogspot.com/  She’s a painter. She’s happy. Need I say more?

http://jean-townsend.blogspot.com/ Check out her great series of mug shots.

http://joneri.blogspot.com/ Jonas looks at the world with eyes wide open.

http://katerinademianiuk.blogspot.com/ This animation student has a sweet and goofy style.

http://lorraineshirkus.blogspot.com/ Her oil paintings have a lovely dreamy quality.

http://michelemeisterart.blogspot.com/ Michele has a great series on the go. It involves wolves. It’s mysterious. ‘Nuf said.

http://penspaperstudio.blogspot.com/ A fun sense of humour really comes through in her quirky illustrations.

http://pincelesrabiosos.blogspot.com/ He has great variety in his drawing style.

http://real-life-journals.blogspot.com/ Her books on journaling are some of my favourites. She doles out inspiration to create with both practicality and poetry.

http://tomsarmo.blogspot.com/ He calls his studio Cranky Bird Studio, but you’ll feel anything BUT cranky after visiting here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Start the presses! I’m publishing a book!

Start the presses! I’m publishing a book!
This is the cover, a self-portrait.

That’s right. I’m going to be a published author! I’ve always LOVED books – all sorts of books. Books that tell a gripping story, books that introduce me to a different point of view, books with luscious illustrations, silly books, serious books, true books, false books.  And now one of those books will be my illustrated journal!

Of course I couldn’t do this on my own. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers and for this book I had the help of a stranger who has become a friend. I’ve mentioned her on this blog once before. She’s the dog-loving Canadian and it was actually her idea for me to publish my illustrated journals. Let me tell you, when she first suggested it my tail almost wagged right off my butt!

If you want to see more about my friend, she has her own website you can visit. www.kristawells.ca

Obviously this isn’t something I could have done on my own, even if I had thought of it. I am a pretty resourceful dog but there are just some things I can’t work around, the principal one being money: In order to publish a book there are expenses and I don’t think they take bones in lieu of people money. So not only has my dog-loving friend come up with the brilliant idea of publishing my work, she has also very kindly offered to deal with the money and logistics of it all.
I've never understood why people value this ...

... more than this.

If it was dogistics rather than logistics I could have taken care of it. But there were contacts to be made, people to confer with. Other people-y business-y stuff. Now, I’m pretty good at communication, but it is a two way street and there are some people who just don’t know how to communicate with a dog. This could have been a problem, but my friend was the interpreter when necessary. I just kept doing what I do and she took care of the rest.

“So,” you ask, “what’s going to be in this published illustrated journal?” Well dear blog readers, you will recognize a few of the illustrations but most of it will be all new to you. You’ll read more about my everyday wanderings, including a couple of very cool road trips, a close encounter with a famous movie star, observations on the absurdities of people, doggie soul searching, recipes for delicious snacks, sightings of rare birds… all illustrated in my mish-mash style of watercolour and ink, relief prints, collage, scribble, photographs, gouache, acrylic … Hmmm, is there a medium I won’t try?

Part of the published journal covers an intense period in my life, a period of searching for my roots. I’ve always known who my mother is, but until recently I didn’t really give much thought to who my father is. It’s not a question we dogs spend a lot of time chewing over. Readers will be able to follow my quest to find my father and consequently, the meaning of life. Intrigued? Stay posted and I’ll give a very loud bark when it’s available. Aurrrrrrrooooooooooooooooo!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

the art of fish

relief print in journal (detail),  ink 

The feast that Rita and I were treated to a few days ago got me thinking about fish. Fish and art, that is.  You see, the person who cooked the fish was an artist with food. And the subject was fish. I was thinking about this and started to notice that fish inspire many artists. I see examples all around me. And I have been inspired by fish as well, and continue to be so.

I thought I’d give you a little taste of the variety of fishy art to be found here. Some of it is mine and some is just what I’ve stumbled across in my local wanderings. Unfortunately I don’t know who to credit for every piece, but if anyone out there reading this can give me information I’d be happy to add it.

mosaic on wall of bath at ruins of Milreu (click image to enlarge)
This is just a taste of the many incredible mosaics found at the ruins of Milreu near Estoi here in the Algarve. These were made by Italian artists about 2000 years ago. Each little stone that makes up the mosaic is only about the size of a piece of dog kibble. They must have worked like dogs to make this!

broken tile mosaic on wall
This is a much more recent fish mosaic found right here in Burgau.

sign outside restaurante in Carvoeiro
This one isn’t a mosaic, but it is made of many bits. In this case the fish are cut and shaped pieces of metal.

journal page, ink, watercolour and crayon
Fish are fun to doodle. There is such a variety in the colour, shape, and texture. I think you could draw a fish a day for the rest of your life and never repeat yourself.

painted platter (work in progress)
I was visiting my friend Lotte in Pereira. His person rescued him from a garbage bin when he was just a pup. Lotte and his person live in a house that also has a tile workshop where people go for lessons. This is a platter being painted by one of the students.  The subject? Fish of course.

interesting fish graphics on sugar packets
For some reason fish appear on these sugar packets. I’m not sure what fish have to do with sugar, but they did catch my eye. I think sometimes that's the sole purpose of an interesting image - simply to catch your eye. Well, I guess it worked.
My friend (er, aquaintance really - he's a bit too grumpy for me) Bossy Pants at Ancora
Well all this talk of fish has made me hungry. I’m off to the back door of Restaurante Ancora where the owner Rex is always eager to feed a ruggedly handsome dog like me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A fish in the pan is worth two in the sea.

Sometimes the smell of fish makes me lose my head, but not quite like this!
Rita and I were at the fish market in Lagos this morning and we were seduced by the lovely smells. I hopped up on a stack of chairs that were near the counters to get a good view of all the tasty ocean treats. One particularly caught my eye so I did a sketch of it in my journal. The sign said it’s called azevias. The name in English is flounder.  But I think the sign is wrong. It didn’t smell like flounder to me. And besides, all the azevias I’ve known have their eyes only on one side of the body, except the very young ones whose eyes haven’t migrated yet. Boy, that’s a whole other subject though. Imagine being born with your eyes in a certain place and then one of them gradually moves and the whole shape of your body transforms. It’s weird! But I digress.
journal sketch, watercolour
While I was drawing, Rita ran into a person friend from Burgau. He could see how much Rita wanted some fish so he invited both of us back to his place for a feast.  He let Rita choose what she wanted so she pointed to the cavala (mackerel). He had the seller pick two of the best, had them wrapped up, gave the man some coins and off we went. Before we left Lagos we stopped by the bookstore to let Rita’s person know she was going for a visit to Burgau.
Our friend didn't waste a bit. The guts were the appetizers.
Our friend set up a couple of stools for us to perch on and supervise the preparations. He carefully grilled the fish over a fire and it was delicious! This man can cook! Rita and I had the appetizers and one fish, he and his friend shared the other fish. I think Rita and I were the perfect guests. We happily allowed the man and his friend to pat us much as they wanted. We courteously licked their hands clean after they had finished eating, and we cleaned all their dishes too. With any luck we’ll be asked to visit again soon. In the meantime we have other fish to fry.

Friday, September 23, 2011

something to chew on

journal sketch, ink

I want to talk a bit about shoes and my shoe fetish. Actually, it’s not so much a shoe fetish as it is a chew fetish. Now, apparently, many of you reading this [particularly people, as opposed to my readers who are dogs (hi William!)] also have shoe fetishes. Some people are more specific and might call it a heel fetish, or a brogue fetish but call them what you will – shoes, sneakers, plimsolls, pumps, runners, trainers, hikers – whatever you like, they’re all chews to me.
And that brings me back to my point.  Nothing beats a good shoe chew. And each shoe has its own merits. For instance a well worn athletic shoe has a certain je ne sais quoi, and I don’t know what it is. Certainly there’s the nearly overwhelming dark sweaty odour coupled with a pervasive lingering dampness that just doesn’t present itself in a fancy dress shoe. And the texture begs to be torn at with a certain degree of vigour.

But then a dress shoe has different qualities that demand equal attention. The leather is of a texture and resilience that begs a more leisurely chew. One needs to gnaw slowly and steadily in order for the saliva to really have a chance to permeate the leather, releasing the subtleties of the flavour.
A sturdy work boot is an enticing combination of an athletic shoe and a dress shoe: It has the mysterious sweaty flavours perfectly combined with the subtleties of leather, although usually a somewhat heartier leather than that found in a dress shoe.

Really, what it comes down to is personal taste. And for me that changes with my mood. Some days I have a craving for that lively Nike, whereas on another day I just want to mellow out with an Italian loafer. My motto is “never eschew a good shoe chew”.
journal page, relief print, ink

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Love is better than anger

I have a few Canadian friends through Facebook and it’s from them that I recently learned about an extraordinary man. His name was Jack Layton. He died on Monday.

journal page with ink, watercolour, inktense pencil, torn paper

He was something called a politician. I’m not familiar with this word. I asked my friend if it came from the word polite and she assured me that it’s unlikely, given the way most politicians behave.

But Jack was a different sort of politician. In fact, it seems that Jack differed from other politicians in more ways than this. He was kind. He was sensitive. Mischievous, affectionate, loyal.  Energetic, empathetic. Selfless. Determined. Hmmm, I thought: These words can be used to describe most dogs. From what I can tell by reading about him, he had the goodness of a dog with the vision of a humanitarian. He was a perfect hybrid of human and canine.

I realize that some people reading this might think this is a demeaning comparison, but keep in mind what I am. I am a dog and I know dogs. I trust dogs. I understand dogs. Dogs are pure and kind and good in a way that few people are. And any dogs who aren’t have a reason, and that reason is usually the fault of a human.  We aren’t perfect. There are elements of our nature that I’m not proud of. But as the generations pass we are working at becoming better.

I see Jack as having possessed all the good characteristics of a dog combined with all the good qualities of humans, including a formidable human intelligence. He used these strengths to work at making Canada and the world a better place for all. He respected people, animals, the earth. He worked for a better future.  Even as he was dying he looked to the future and wrote a letter to Canadians which concludes with a few powerful lines. If we all believe these words and live by them, indeed the world will be a better place.
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” - Jack Layton

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

wind in my fur

Driving back from Lisbon a couple of weeks ago it was quite hot in the car. Crème and I were in the back seat and Crème’s person put the windows down for us. I stuck my head out the window on my side and Crème stuck her head out hers. It felt good to have so much air blowing through my fur and making my ears flap. And with so much air come so many scents and of course we read the messages in the scents. We get so much information so quickly it’s almost too fast to process it. It’s dizzying. I think the closest equivalent experience for humans might be speed reading. They read extremely quickly and absorb a lot of information.
journal sketch, ink and watercolour

Crème’s person asked her why she liked to stick her head out the window but didn’t like it when someone blew in her face. What a silly question! Who (person or dog) likes to have someone’s hot stale breath blasted right up his nose? Not me, that’s for sure! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

more sneaking around in Lisbon

more Lisbon graffiti

Well, Crème and I have been having a great time in Lisbon. There’s a whole street that’s almost nothing but restaurantes and they all have outdoor seating so it’s easy for us to pick up tasty morsels here and there. Sometimes we’ll do a little melodrama to get some extra nibbles from gullible tourists. Crème has a bit of a bum back leg and she really knows how and when to play it up to her advantage. I do a good impersonation of dog-tired and since I’m pretty skinny they think I must really be starving. Little do they know that I just have good genes.  I’m a lean, mean snuzzle machine!

One woman from Holland actually invited me to sit at the table with her which was fine until the restaurante man shooed me away - but not before I got a good mouthful of perceves.

steaming hot perceves

I think these are called goose barnacles in English. They’re a very tasty shellfish, but a little awkward for me to handle with my paws. I have to trap the sharp end between my paws and nibble and chew the meaty end to get all the good bits. It’s a bit of work but it’s worth it!

As I mentioned yesterday, Crème and I continued our stealth activity by joining the Urban Sketchers at Praça do Comerçio. I did a sketch on the way there first though.
a street leading to Praca do Comercio, ink and watercolour

Once there it was easy to stay in”dog”nito while the people sketched. I might as well have been invisible! It was much like yesterday with two men (different ones than yesterday) doing a lot of talking and pointing, and about 20 people absorbing everything they had to say. The men spent some time walking around looking at the sketchbooks and making comments. It was such a fun atmosphere with everyone sharing in the whole sketching experience. I was so tempted to do something to attract the attention of one of the men. I wonder what insights they might have had for me and my sketching.

There were lots of people milling about in Praca do Comercio. Ink and watercolour.

I happily sketched away while Crème did a little scouting for a place to get a good café com leite. I must say that’s been the only disappointment with Lisbon. The coffee is not nearly as good as it is in Burgau. Hmmm. Must be the water.

So it’s back to Burgau for us tomorrow. I’ll have to catch up with Rita in Lagos and tell her about our adventures.

Friday, July 22, 2011

making marks in Lisbon

I’m back in Lisbon again. I came up with a person from Burgau who travels here for work quite often. She lives another person and a lovely dog named Crème whom they took back to the village from Lisbon a few months ago.  
Creme and her peeps

She still takes Crème to see a vet in Lisbon though, and that’s how I got to tag along. Crème has to check in with the vet but while her person does some work things I’m keeping Crème company.

Lots of cool marks are being made all around this city.
It seems that any blank surface is a good place to make a mark here in Lisbon. Walls, columns, windows, doors, telephone boxes, bus stops, all are targets for creativity of all sorts. Some of it has a message, some seems purely for fun. Either way, there's lots to see.
These laughing top-hatted characters seem to be everywhere!

Yesterday Crème and I were wandering around the busy streets and praças when I saw a group of people all carrying sketch pads. Of course I followed them. They made their way to a praça where there is a beautiful building with two big curved entrances. The group seemed to be lead by two men. There were about 20 people listening very attentively to what they were saying. Occasionally one would point toward a building and twenty necks would swivel around to focus 20 pairs of eyes on the object of interest. People were busily scratching away in their sketchbooks. I was eager to see what they were recording, so I managed to slip in among the group unnoticed and peek over the shoulders of a few sketchers who were sitting on some steps. They were so absorbed in their work that they paid no attention to me.

They were drawing the buildings all around them. Some people had sketches of the two men as well. And many people had pages of notes but I couldn’t really read the handwriting from where I was.

Watching all the industrious drawing going on gave me the urge to draw as well. Here’s a quick sketch of the beautiful building I mentioned above. It’s called Estação do Rossio and it’s a train station that was built in 1887.
Estacao do Rossio, pen and watercolour

There's another really impressive building across from it. It has huge columns along the front. It’s the National Theatre. I might try to do a sketch of it later today. But right now Crème and I are off to Praça do Comerçio because I overheard some of the sketchers yesterday talking about going there this afternoon. It turns out that it's an organized event going on with all these sketchers and workshop leaders from all over the world. That’s what I had stumbled onto yesterday. You can read more about it at at the event site or www.urbansketchers.org.

It’s funny, I’ve been on their site looking at the sketches but somehow I’d missed the talk about this big event. I wonder if they would have allowed a dog to attend. Oh well, I’m here now so I’ll just eavesdrop a bit and enjoy the company of other sketchers, even though I’m probably canis non grata.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lisbon or bust


sketch of busts on buildings in Lisbon
Derwent Coloursoft pencils

I’ve been trying out some Derwent  Coloursoft Pencils. The sketches above are of buildings in Lisbon. I had the chance to sneak a ride up with my friend Charlie's people a while ago. So, I did the sketches first very lightly then I went over them with a different colour for each bust. I used Mid Brown and Brown Earth for the regal lady, Indigo for the bearded man and Yellow Green for the ferocious lion. I was looking at them today and decided to add some watercolour wash on them to see if I could perk them up. The brown behaved as I expected but when I got to putting blue wash on the man, the Indigo pencil lines started to bleed.

same sketch as above but with added watercolour washes

Hmmm. I thought these were wax pencils and assumed they would resist the watercolour.  Looks like I need to do some experimenting.

Derwent Coloursoft pencils on pale yellowish paper

The first two columns are just the pencils. The third and fourth column have clean water wash over the swatches. So there you have it. Some of the colours definitely bleed, others bleed just a bit and a few don't really at all. What does this mean? I don't know. I'm just a dog. I do something and it pleases me, I wag my tail. Is my tail wagging now? Sure, why not? Messing around with art supplies sure beats barking for a living!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

nose to the ground

I’ve noticed over at Artist’s Journal Workshop Facebook group that I'm not the only one who likes to draw bugs. People seem to as well. Here’s a page from my journal.

You might not be able to read the text because I try to keep the size of images here fairly small so that the page loads faster. Here’s what I wrote on the page:

“I can’t get over how much more I appreciate things now that I take the time to draw or document them. I look at things more often and more closely. I mean really look. Slowly. It has to be slowly, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to draw. I’m still working on my eye-paw coordination. When my paws get tired I use my mouth to hold the pen, but I find that even harder because I can’t focus on the paper very well when it’s so close to my eyes.

I love the way the sunlight hits this yellow wall. I feel warm and sleepy just looking at it.

I’d never really looked at bugs so closely before. What strange creatures they are. What are they thinking as they scurry along in the dirt, climbing over enormous (at least enormous to them) twigs and leaves? Do they fear massive wind storms when I put my nose close to them to smell their iridescent colours?”

Here's what I see when I put my nose close to the ground.
Are you bug-eyed?
Do these bug you?

How close do you get to the things you draw?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Two dogs. One bone.

I've been up to my dewclaws in paint lately but I took a bit of  a break to hang out with Rita at her person's  bookstore yesterday. When I got there she was in front of the computer howling with laughter. She was watching a video on YouTube so she replayed it for me. It was pretty funny and it reminded me of a sequence of drawings I'd done in my journal a while back so I thought I'd share them with you.

But sometimes even one dog, one bone can be confrontational. Here's the video. Have a look.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why do I keep an illustrated journal?

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at Cathy Johnson’s blog (Artists’ Journal Workshop) about how we use our journals and what form do those journals take. For me, this whole adventure into art started simply as a way to pass time with my friends. We would be on the beach just hanging out and one of us would start to run around, taunting the others into chasing him.  We would go crazy running in circles and dashing off left and right, jumping, diving, digging.
Buddy digging his afternoon at the beach
Eventually we would lie down and take a moment to catch our breath. The patterns in the sand that our playing had made would be fascinating. We could read the patterns as if they were images, sometimes quite recognizable, but created all by chance. Soon I began consciously to make images in the sand. And I started to notice that I wasn't the only one doing this. People seemed to have the same impulse.
I'm not the only one making marks in the sand.
Then I found that I could make more controlled marks if I used a stick in the sand. I could drag it and actually draw with it. I also used stuff I found on the beach to add to the composition – stones, bits of plastic, shells.  All of this was so much fun that I wanted to be able to make marks or drawings wherever I was, not just when I was at the beach. I started to work on scraps of paper or cardboard I’d find in the rubbish bins.
Some of my first drawings on paper
I used sticks that I would dip in muddy water or in my café com leite. I loved that these images were more permanent than the ones I did on the beach.
a drawing of my friends under a palm tree

I enjoyed looking at them later, or showing them to my friends.  My first actual journals were made from scraps of paper I found – mostly old paper shopping bags.

journal made of scrap paper with a coffee bag cover

After a while I got my paws on some ink pens and eventually real paint and decent paper, although from time to time I still use sticks and whatever is at paw.
some more recent journals

Eventually my drawings became more refined as my coordination with my pen (or stick or brush) improved. What I record in my illustrated journals are things that give me pleasure– the object and/or the feeling of the moment, the way I feel as the sun slants through the buildings and warms me as I sit with my friends, or the smell of the colour of the fresh orange blossoms.
Caldas de Monchique

I touched on this topic a bit in a previous post (Yes, I’m an artist but I’m a dog first!). I said that when I do a sketch of someone, I feel like I am that someone in a way. I get under his or her fur. I walk a mile on her paws. There’s also an element of ownership when I paint or draw someone. Although I’m totally against the idea of owning someone, I do have a desire to have the ones I love be with me all the time.

my best friend Rita

If I have a drawing or painting of him or her, then in a way he or she is always with me. Does anyone else feel this way or am I one pup short of a litter?

When I sketch something I really take time to look at it, to notice nuances that I often overlook normally. The very activity of drawing something makes me appreciate it more, both for the simplicity of it and the complexity of it. But it’s also a bit strange because while I’m drawing I’m unaware of anything around me, like all my senses are focused on just what I’m drawing. But when I look back over my drawings later - months, even years later-  my senses are flooded with memories. I can feel the sun warming my back, I can hear the cats yowling around the corner, I can smell the sausage frying at Brizze Bar. It’s like I’ve put that moment of creating the drawing in a jar (or between the covers of my journal) to be opened and enjoyed later, over and over again.

Of course I can’t draw everything. There's just not enough time so I do take photos too and they have their place in my journals. They’re great if I see something I want to draw but don’t have the time to do it or the image itself is fleeting, or if I want to make a record of something that someone else has made, or to simply document something quickly. And I find when I look back over my journals my eyes appreciate the variety in the types of images I’m looking at.

In response to Cathy’s question, others have said that they use their journals for writing notes about everyday events. I do this too, sort of as a reminder of both the good and the bad, like “I had a really nice walk on the cliffs with the lady from Scotland who treated me to a cup of café com leite at Varandas afterwards.” Or “I ate some Frango Piri Piri from the rubbish behind Restaurante Castelejo last night and I got really sick. Note to self: DON’T eat food that smells brown, grey and green all at the same time.”

I apologize for such a rambling post. It’s kind of hard to describe why I keep an illustrated journal or how it makes me feel. When it comes right down to it I get more out of every experience now, even if I’m not recording it in my journal because I now experience everything around me more intently. It’s like I have super dog powers to see, hear, smell and taste more than the average dog.  Just call me Superuca!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dogs smell colour. People don't. How crazy is that?

I bring this up because of a comment from Dan Kent (click here to go to his blog) about how it's difficult to describe colour to a blind person or sound to a deaf person. At first I didn’t quite know what he meant by describing colour to a blind person because a blind dog has no problem with colour. Being blind doesn’t affect your nose, right? But apparently people see colour in as many variations as we dogs smell colour. Then I remembered a discussion I had a while back with an artist person I know. I had jotted down my thoughts at the time  and I’ve just gone back to my journal and re-read that bit.

She had said something about seeing the variation in a particular colour as she mixed some paint. I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I could smell the nuances, but see them? I tried plugging my nose and there was barely any variation in the colour at all. When she tried plugging her nose she could still perceive all the variation. It’s like magic.  So this seemed to confirm it. People don’t smell colours. I mean at all. None. Nada. Zip. This seemed impossible so I did some research and whoa! It’s true. I find the whole situation very confusing.
Hey people, can’t you smell the the variety of greens of this building?
This website [click the purple text - or the text that smells purple (sorry, just a bit of human-teasing humour) if you want to see the article] supposedly shows the difference between how people and dogs perceive colour.  It shows two bands of colour. One is how dogs perceive colour and one is how people perceive it. To me, the two bands obviously smelled different from each other but when I plugged my nose they were the same. [Note to those people who have read my post about communication through scent. (Fire hydrants are to dogs what notice boards are to people) I mentioned that until the computer whizzes figure out how to send scent over the internet, we dogs will have to use language. Obviously the scent of colour can be transmitted. It’s the scent of messages that can’t be transmitted over the internet. Believe me, if you’re a dog it’s perfectly logical.]

According to various websites, humans are able to detect between 100 and 10,000 different scents. (Come on people. How can one website say 100 and another say 10,000?)  We dogs on the other hand blow those numbers out of the water. I got this from wikianswers: “Generally dogs have an olfactory sense approximately 100,000 to 1,000,000 times more acute than a human’s. A Bloodhound (the dog with the highest sense of smell) has a 10,000,000 to 100,000,000 higher ability than a human.” So you do the math. (Aside- Why aren’t there more Bloodhounds who are artists? Too lazy? I know a Bloodhound. I’ll have to ask him.)
This red smells spicy and sweet at the same time.
But then I got to thinking about personal perception - among dogs that is. (I still can’t wrap my brain around how people perceive colour.) A particular colour of teal blue would smell a certain way to me, but maybe it smells different to another dog. We both call it teal blue but how we react to it or perceive it is different.  And I suppose I should say that for us dogs the nuances of a scent are often associated with a taste as well – as in “a delicious red-orange” or a “yucky grey-green”, or more specifically a “buttery yellow” or a “café com leite brown”. But trying to describe the scent of a colour without an associated taste is really hard. I mean what can I say? Teal blue just smells like … well, like teal blue. Sheesh. I think it’s easier to describe how the scent of a colour makes us feel.
The colour of this sky sort of burns my nose. It makes me feel uneasy.
Maybe that’s why some dogs (and people?) prefer certain colours over others. I’m not very fond of a certain shade of moldy green but a friend of mine loves it. Maybe what he perceives is different than what I perceive. Maybe what he perceives when he sniffs that moldy green is actually what I perceive when I sniff a certain orangey-yellow. Does that make any sense? His perception of what we both call moldy green matches my perception of what we both call orangey-yellow.  And that’s why he likes the moldy green. Our perceptions of that same colour are different. When he smells the moldy green it wakes up his salivary glands and he wants to roll around on the colour, rub it all over his fur. When I smell the moldy green I get a lumpy feeling in the back of my throat and I find it hard to swallow and my stomach feels quivery. But when I smell the orangey-yellow my salivary glands jump to attention and I want to roll around on it and rub it all over my fur. Maybe every dog’s favourite colour is really the same – or at least once it gets to our brain it’s the same.

Okay, stop the presses! I just found something really interesting. Apparently some people DO smell colour. Check out this article about a condition called synaesthesia. Click the purple text, but please come back and finish reading my post (or just carry on reading this and you’ll get a synopsis.) Some people (it’s quite rare) can smell colours or hear colours or see numbers as colours or … there’s a whole list of variations. Wow. Maybe some people are part dog? It all has to do with neural connections in the brain getting pruned away in most people but for some they don’t get pruned as much, if at all.

And speaking of the brain, mine now hurts. I think I need to go chase a cat to dust the cobwebs out from between my ears. But if anyone reading this has a comment or can enlighten me, please feel free.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fire hydrants are to dogs what notice boards are to people.

It has come to my attention that some people wonder why I write in English when I’m a Portuguese dog. Of course, this question comes from a person. A dog wouldn’t have to ask.

You see, we dogs communicate using and interpreting body language, smell, and intonation. Since the electronic media have taken over the world, curious dogs like me have adapted in order to communicate with dogs beyond our actual physical location. Yes, we have used other means before, and continue to do so.
fire hydrant sketch, colour pencil

Fire hydrants are a perfect example. They are to dogs what public notice boards are to people. If we want to leave a message for someone and it’s not too personal (because any dog who comes along can smell it) then the fire hydrant is the place to do it. If I was to arrive in Lagos for a pre-arranged get together with Rita and she wasn’t at the bookstore where she said she'd be, then the first place I would check would be the nearest fire hydrant to see if she’d left me a message. One sniff of the fire hydrant would tell me that Rita was waiting for me at the News Café. Of course we leave messages in other places besides fire hydrants, but those are usually found just by chance.

But back to the question of communicating in English. Why English and not Portuguese? Well, two reasons really. The first is that English is the people language that I’m most familiar with. This comes from being a free dog living on the streets. Most of the people who pay any attention to me are English - either English people who have moved here or people on holiday. Even those non-Portuguese people who come from a country where English isn’t the primary language still speak English here. It’s the language in common with the most people – expatriates, holiday makers, and people working at bars, restaurants, shops, museums …  It’s all around me, so that’s the easiest for me to use.

The other reason for using English is that I’m trying to reach out into the wider world and connect with other dogs (and people too) who don’t necessarily speak Portuguese. If there is a language that is common among us then it’s likely to be English. For anyone who doesn’t speak English, I’ve provided a translator tool near the top of the blog so the whole blog can be translated into the language of choice at the touch of a button. Magic!

Of course I realize that I could make this a video blog and use body language and intonation to communicate with dogs all over the world, but until the technical whizzes figure out how to transmit smell over the internet, video communication would lack the subtlety necessary to communicate coherently.
the fine art of communication

And besides, it’s kinda fun having people take part in this as well. I don’t think they could ever learn to communicate fully in our language. For one thing, they really seem reluctant to partake in a good butt sniffing. Oh well, their loss.
This speaks volumes!

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