Last evening, without exaggeration I went without a wink of sleep; in my 50 years I have never had an entire evening of insomnia. I couldn’t bear tossing, listening to the pugs and the husband snore (out of harmony) ; so instead I finished a biography of my hero Max Beckman and worked on a charcoal self-portrait (not at all flattering, Beckman haunts the soul ). Initially I attributed my insomnia to the stubborn flu I have been fighting, my throbbing ankle from a recent jog, and my mortality ( as I mentioned Beckman haunts); but when dawn broke I realized that two years ago this day my very beloved pug Daisy died.
Her death though mercifully swift was unexpected, sudden, bloody and violent; one morning she awoke, that evening she was hemorrhaging violently , ultimately dying of a heart attack.
Her heart wasn’t the only one broken.
It may seem maudlin but my attachment to this dear beast remains strong, tears well up readily when I think of her, which is often. I believe , and this may be mystical voodoo rubbish speaking, but I believe on some level that I was unconsciously keeping vigil for her. The hours I was a awake were the same hours as her struggle with death; death won and I believe my body remembered .
After her death I set about dealing with my/our grief. Daisy was truth be told “my” dog, we both loved her deeply but I work from home and pugs love nothing more than snuggling at your feet while you paint. Daisy was the supreme studio sentinel. One way I dealt with the loss was to build a reliquary, I built two. The first was glazed ceramic, I cannot find it, frankly the glaze was a disappointment and I was never happy with it. So next I fashioned a proper mini mausoleum for the dear girl. I was far happier with that, and it is now her final home, sitting atop the studio library.
This is what it looks like:
painted wood, paint, oven dried clay, mixed media including mortuary ashes
figures no larger than 6″tall
As can be seen, Daisy’s ashes are housed on the “ground ” floor. Sadly the Christmas before, our odd little cat Moses had also died, as had David’s father; small urns of their ashes also reside within.
“Chinois” Daisy as studio sentinel.
This is how I remember Daisy best, always watching me. Frankly she wasn’t the prettiest pug-as if there is such a thing!- my current pugs Rose and Viola are quite beautiful; but Daisy with a ridiculously long tongue and outsized personality charmed almost everyone she encountered. She was quite a force.
I so loved this image of her I painted a portriat from it a few months before she died. I feel very fortunate I was able to do that, to be able to examine her funny little feet and crooked face for distinctive characteristics; I would have missed that opportunity after she died. To see the painting and more very funny pictures of Daisy follow this memorial link I made shortly after her death.
The following are details of Daisy’s reliquary.
side panel decoration, one of two, both inspired by the Danse Macabre.
This is a detail of the upper floor. I was in denial about Daisy’s health. She was a frequent visitor of many veterinarians since we had adopted her as leggy pup. She was epileptic , which wasn’t a very big deal, but she seemed to be chronically afflicted with other ailments. This upper floor is crammed with just a small sampling of her medications. The 19th c. figurines seemed a proper mourner. The Hell Mouth a suitable architectural style.
detail of Daisy’s medicine cabinet.
I crafted funny little dark figurines, for no particular reason aside to keep Daisy company. They seem archetypal although from my imagination, they are as follows:
Grumpy pauper king with skull.
Gilded Slug of Wisdom.
To be fair, I must include a photo of Daisy’s eternal room-mate, the quite handsome if not quite grumpy Moses. He was very beautiful , very tormented, unwell most of his life, but a peculiar delight, We still hear his odd little squeak .
Moses disturbed from his nap by annoying admirers.
I appreciate the indulgence, I hope this post wasn’t too maudlin. I will work this evening, then retire early to a new day.
Until then, take care and be well,
10 thoughts on “A Reliquary for Daisy (and a few others)”
Thank you for sharing that, I find artwork inspired by the relationship with ones pets quite intriging.
Thank you, that is very sweet of you. Funny how much they really affect you and Daisy certainly affected me.
I still have silly Daisy’s picture that you gave us in a Veggie Tales picture frame. One of my dearest memories of Sherod is at your house, playing with utter joy with your sweet, sweet girl. I am thoroughly convinced that your body knew to keep vigil for her. It happens to me still with my mom and the date of her death. I am sorry for the grief but not sorry that it is so because you loved her so well and she loved you so well too. Maria continues to say that Daisy and Polly, Muñeca and Barú (my parents’ dogs) and Chaos, another loved canine friend, all play with God and he throws stars for them to fetch. I bet Daisy just hangs at God`s feet that wonderful tongue of hers lolling about. Much, much love.
Let’s hope Daisy has better luck fetching stars than she did balls. Love to you
Not maudlin at all, touching but also fascinating,brave and wildly creative as ever. And I find your courage and honesty about the fact that the animals’ lives contained suffering admirable; I often find myself feeling bitter and guilty that, for reasons of breeding mostly, Molly hasn’t had a life as free of pain and fear as I’d have wished, and thinking it might have been better not to have had her. And yet she’s had a lot of joy too, and most importantly experienced a lot of love, so who am I to say she shouldn’t have lived?
Right, that is the dilemma, particularly with pure bred dogs, which I favor. Daisy was by no means a good example of her breed, aside from incredible temperament. But well bred dogs can be a joy; our solution so far has been to adopt dogs from breed specific rescue agencies. Our two current pugs were flown into LA from S. Korea as a rescue effort, S.korea is pretty woeful concerning animal rights in many respects. It may not be a perfect solution, I know there are wonderful “mutts” at the pound, but certain breeds really delight me. I’m glad Molly is around, I’m SURE she is, and she shares her joy.
What a wonderful memorial to your dear friend…..I love all the details. I’m sure the little figurines will keep her company in eternity. 🙂
I bet they are!
I adore this post, and feel privileged to be allowed to share something so personal that you crafted out of love and loss. The reliquary is a perfect reminder of Daisy as you go about your work, and it’s appropriate that it presides over your studio. Dogs, I have found, like to have their roles defined, and from the photograph of her, Daisy was clearly a girl who took her post as chatelaine of her master’s workplace very seriously.
Moses too looks quite a character. Oh how we miss these faithful little companions when they take their leave of us.
I’m really happy, I was hoping you would catch it; knowing your love of mini theaters I wanted you to see it.
Funny you say dogs like having their roles defined, I’ve never felt like I had a chance to define anything, so bossy,headstong and determined. Rose my little tripod pug is now head mistress, the other two far more interested in the sun than my doings.I imagine your sweet Jack keeps you happy company.
Congrats on all the business, must be very exciting.