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My Favorite Things – A Sussex Spaniel Sketch

Art class was something I always enjoyed as a child. Like many kids, the possibility presented by a blank piece of paper and a pencil was too much for me to resist. I’d spend hours drawing all sorts of pictures – mostly buildings and animals – and plenty of dogs.

When children create art, their work can often seem crude and carelessly drawn. However, from the artist’s point of view, the subject is presented exactly as it is seen and understood. This is true of all art, of course, but when a 6—year-old represents Fido, it can certainly leave parents scratching their heads.

My young niece, Hailey, enjoys drawing. She likes to express herself in a variety of ways, and is just as eager to perform in local theater as she is to make her sister a celebratory “Happy Birthday” banner. She’s definitely the creative sort. For her, art and life are the same thing.

Hailey’s a dog person too, and enjoys coming by the house to spend time with our Spaniels. She always seems to have a good time with the dogs, even though her personal preference is toward canines with short legs and rough coats.

On one of her visits, Hailey brought along a present she wanted to give me. In her hand she held a single sheet of paper that she presented to me facedown. Her eyes brimmed in anticipation as I turned over the paper to reveal the most charming sketch of the two of us with Oscar, my delightful and devoted Sussex Spaniel.

Hailey managed to perfectly capture Oscar, the Sussex Spaniel, in crayon.

As I gazed at the little artist’s colorful characterization of the three of us, I was struck by Hailey’s generosity. Did she know how much joy her gift would bring?

For me, the colorful sketch is the perfect kind of present: handmade, one-of-a-kind and given with a generous spirit. The funny little characters that Hailey created always make me smile. They’re a welcome reminder of some of life’s simple pleasures – a loving family and a good dog.

Every aspect of her work tells our story: Two dog people out for a walk on a beautiful day with one of the happiest dogs we know. Hailey wears a bright yellow dress and a favorite pair of green leggings. I sport a long-sleeve T-shirt with an image of a dog on the front and – inexplicably – a pair of bright yellow pants I’d normally only wear to a ‘70s-themed costume party.

In Hailey’s sketch, the grass is bright green and the sky is a brilliant blue. Even the colorful flowers seem animated and in on the fun.

I especially love how Hailey illustrates Oscar. He appears front and center in the drawing, so the focus can be on him. He’s drawn perfectly to scale, and appears to be in “mid-sit,” his favorite position. Although his topline is anything but level, his tail carriage is perfection and his head is held right where it ought to be. Even his color is a pretty good representation of his breed’s golden liver complexion.

Although neither one of us has blue eyes, Hailey decided they would be perfect for our portrait, and even Oscar looks out through a pair of baby blues.

I guess they’re intended to match our blue shoes!

One of my favorite aspects of Hailey’s sketch is how she and I are somewhat suspended above the ground. It’s as if our walk with Oscar makes us so happy we’re floating on air. And that’s exactly how it is.

Or should I say was?

Last year, Oscar’s long life ended. At 13, our happy and humorous Sussex was having difficulty eating. A trip to the vet confirmed our worst fears. We made the decision to say goodbye, letting him leave this world following one final walk.

Memories are all that remains of Oscar today, and Hailey’s sketch is by far my favorite memorial. Through her broad strokes and attention to detail, my young niece managed to capture not only the essence of the Sussex Spaniel, but also the connection we shared with one of the best dogs we’ll ever know.

For me, Hailey has accomplished what every great artist sets out to achieve. Her generous gift expresses love – plain and simple.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.
  • Shane July 24, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    Hailey is wonderful!
    And she is very lucky to be surrounded by people who appreciate that.
    Loved the story as much as I love my sussex kids.

  • Sonya Henderson,Raynics Bassets July 24, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    I so enjoyed your article about Oscar. My first dog was a poor speciman of the black cocker type but I thought she was the most beautiful dog in the world and she spent her life with my brother and I til she was 10 years old and enriched our lives as she was always loving and forgiving of our many human failings. I have always thought of her kindness and loving forgiveness for our mistakes and sometimes less than loving attitude towards the care that our dogs required on what I sometimes felt when it “interfeared’ with the “stuff” I wanted to do. I am so glad I grew up and became a real “grown up” person and have never regretted the life I had with the two dogs that I learned from to become an “real grown-up person,as I was always their friend and pal til the end. Sleep well,”Lady & Prince.”

    • Dan Sayers
      Dan Sayers July 24, 2012 at 5:07 PM

      Hi Sonya,

      What would we do without our dogs to teach us how to be better humans?

      Thank you for sharing your story. Dan

  • Joann Anders July 25, 2012 at 4:10 AM

    You are so right about perfect one of a kind gifts……when my niece was eight years old she gave me a drawing of my two Brittanys and our two horses along with a photo of her brother and her as a Christmas gift. I framed it and it hangs in my quilting room. I love it.

  • Chris Walkowicz July 25, 2012 at 7:28 AM

    The loss of a dog is always too soon. What a fitting memorial!

  • Mary L. Stumpff (mstumpff@aol.com) August 15, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Mr. Sayers, would you please contact me at the above email address, concerning your recent article on the Bedlington Terrier? I am compiling a new edition of our breed manual and would like to possibly include your article in said book.

    Mary Lou

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