He was only 5'3" but dogs could not resist his stare

I have a conflicted relationship with Picasso. One can credibly argue that he is the most influential artist in the modern world. Although his renown comes from his departure from realism as he explored the fundamental elements of imagery, he was also a technically skilled realist when he chose. Whether experimenting with color, composition, structure or focus of objects, his work always captured the essence of the thing he was depicting, and he managed to infuse his passion/point of view in everything he did. He's one of a few artists whose work actually wells me up when I look at it. Truly profound stuff.

But while I find it easy to love and respect his work, it's not so cut and dried when it comes to the person. Pablo Picasso was, in fact, an asshole. Not to put too fine a point on it, he was a mean-spirited jerk with serious short man complex. He was a philanderer, a ego-maniacal tyrant, and a distant (and arguably abusive) father. He used his charisma to manipulate and crush those around him.

But then you read things like this. Who'd have guessed that one of the few real loves of Picasso's life was a dachshund named Lump?

I am a lover of the dachshund. So much so that I feel a kinship with other dachshund lovers. Dachshunds are weird-looking dogs with incongruous baritone barks. They are friendly dogs, they are generally happy, energetic, and smart. They're great companions and good watchdogs, with a tenacity that is unbelievable.

I've had two dogs in my life. Pretzel was our first real family dog. We'd had another one...probably a beagle or something, before I was born...but my brother was afraid of him and they gave him to another family. Eventually Bob outgrew his fear and really wanted a dog and, though I was terrified of the barn dogs at my Aunt Martha's farm, I learned to love Pretzel. He was awesome.

He was a full-sized chocolate. He'd been the runt of the litter, and he retained a slightly fine-boned look his whole life. He was devoted to all of us. If you were sick, he'd stay in bed with you to keep you company. He loved popcorn. He sat up on his haunches to beg. He howled along when you sang happy birthday. He ate the Easter bunny cake in its entirety while we slept, smartly leaving the licorice whiskers behind so he didn't get the runs. He cut his tail under the stove, and would then flick blood everywhere when he wagged it (which he did often.) My grandmother came up with the ingenious idea to put a balloon on the tail to keep the blood from flying, which cut off the circulation and caused gangrene...eventually half of his tail was amputated and he was back to normal.

I was out past curfew with my friend Mike one night, and when I came home Pretzel had had a stroke and eventually died in the night. This was very sad until Mike misheard me when we were talking on the phone, and became convinced that my FATHER had suffered a stroke and died in the night. You can imagine how surprised people were when they'd give me tearful hugs of comfort and I'll brush them off with a casual remark. "It's not a big deal. It was his time, really. And we can always get another one."

After we were both in college, Bob and I decided that our parents needed something else on which to focus all that parental energy, so we gave them Max as a present. Max was a black and tan mini. He might be the dumbest dog I've ever known. But he was also sweet and happy, and he followed my dad everywhere he went. He was hyperactive and shook his tail ferociously. He'd greet new visitors by rolling onto his back for a tummy scratch, and then he'd wee on their hand, or even in their face if they got too close. (Really. Just ask CP, who never seemed to learn this lesson.) My mom got a nice little rubber ball with a bell for him to chase. Max would have run off a cliff to catch that damn ball. We had to physically remove it from his line of sight or he would bark continuously until we resumed throwing it for him. We once made him dive for it in a wading pool that was twice as deep as he was tall. He got it. My mother eventually started putting the ball in a cheese whiz jar with the lid on, and Max would lick/bite/scratch it until he opened it and the ball was his. I think his record was about 3 minutes.

Max had back problems and other health concerns and they had to put him to sleep when I was living in Seattle. Neither of my parents are ready for another dog yet. I understand. It's hard to fall in love again after experiencing a big loss.

I'm preparing for a dog of my own. I've mentioned before that his name will be Chet, and he'll be a full sized black and tan. Figure I'll combine the two dogs of my childhood. Hoping he's smart like Pretzel, and quirky/funny like Max. Want him to be affectionate without being clingy. Hoping for a face with character. With a deep, booming bark that will protect me from evildoers, even though he'd only roll over and let them rub his tummy if they got too close. (Good lord, that reads like a personal ad. I need help.)

So I'm rethinking Picasso now. Sure, he wasn't perfect. But perhaps he was just protecting himself...afraid to let people in because the world was too full of hurt. Perhaps he didn't have the energy to live a courageous life because he was putting it all into being a courageous artist. I mean, he was a dachshund-lover. How bad can he be?


I was going to comment on the "piddle" thing, but you beat me to it. Max was cute. Will you please remind us of how you used to pronounce the name of your first dog?
Melinda June said…
I said "Pren-thill".

Way to ridicule the speech impediment of my childhood, something that scarred me terribly for life, you sadistic creep.
lulu said…
My first thought was "well, now she's done it, called the man an asshole and rendered one of my favorite songs a lie."

My second thought was "Wat a sweet sweet post."

I can totally see you with a doxie.
Old Lady said…
I sometimes think that we shouldn't look too deep into the lives of our favourite artists. Their art is usuallly a result of angst, anger, pain, drug abuse, psychological abberations, etc. You can't sing the blues until your heart has been broken. It seems the most evil people in the world have their 'Rosebud', maybe that is what keeps them from going over the edge. The unconditional love an animal gives is unmatched.
Dale said…
Beautifully said Old Lady. And you too MJ, really nice post.
Melinda June said…
You're right, Old Lady. Yet I always find myself intrigued by the stories of my favourite artists. I want them to be people I'd have to dinner, and somehow when I find they're not it always disappoints me.

Thanks for the compliments, lu and dale.
Joe said…
How many people can brilliantly weave together the seemingly disparate threads of John Cale songs and dog ownership?

What I like best about Dachshunds is that they were bred as badger-killers.

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