I am very excited to share this article with you that was featured on the cover and published in the Winter 2020 edition of Latham News. There is a wonderful introduction by Carol Novello, author of Mutual Rescue: How Adopting a Homeless Animal Can Save You, Too, followed by my article:
From Street Dog to Canine Artist: The Dog Who Changed My Life
by: Deirdre Rand
Read the Full Article Here
Click below to download a PDF of Bella's Article in the Latham Letter
I found this phrase "Taking a line for a walk" in a book I'm reading called The Biology of Art by Desmond Morris, a zoologist with an interest in the ability of some animals to make art.
The phrase seems like the perfect description for what Bella is doing in this video, which is giving me a spontaneous demonstration of how she makes a straight line with a braid that's 6 feet long.
January of this year was one of seemingly endless creativity on Bella's part. We got into a mutual encouragement cycle such that each time I photographed a new arrangement Bella would make me another. The cycle didn't stop until I became exhausted and called it quits -- Bella herself was still going strong. What a girl!
Enzo is very food motivated and loves chewing bones which is probably why he chose to use the stuffed bone toys with the rainbow rope toy in these two constructions. He placed the rope toy and the white bone end to end, creating a broken line which makes me think that he recognized these toys as roughly similar in length and shape. He ignores the fact that the two objects differ in color and texture, perhaps because the ability of dogs to see colors is limited.
Enzo singles out the black bone as different and uses it for variation. First he places it perpendicular to the rainbow rope toy. From a human standpoint, the second construction is more advanced because, by placing the black bone parallel to the broken line, it became possible to center the black bone. This makes the design more balanced and symmetrical.
Young children develop an intuitive knowledge of geometry through play, taking joy in exploring new shapes, patterns, and designs. In my view, that's what Enzo was doing in this pair of constructions.
My friend Sally is visiting for a couple of days. She's brought toys for the dogs and they're very excited. Enzo jumps in her lap and she holds him close, rubbing his back.
They play with the toys for several days before Bella breaks out and incorporates the rainbow rope toy into a construction with lines on either side that appear to recede when I'm looking at Bella through the lens.
Sally is an artist in her own right. When I show her a pic of Bella's construction she responds, "Yikes --- this is a different sort of artwork. Kinda like minimalism with very simple bright colors with elegant lines. I love how she uses the snake. A gentle zigzag and then a bold curve. And such perfect alignment."
To me, this construction suggests a sense of perspective, an idea Bella could have gotten from a training session with Paul on a set of railroad tracks in the country, where the parallel lines of the tracks appear to recede when you look at the horizon.
I found the photo below which suggests that Enzo, too, has a sense of perspective, it's just different. Bella's use of her toys to create a perspective effect is abstract. Enzo is drawing attention to items he values by placing his black kong in the white food bowl at the center back of his crate.
Bella is famous for wrapping herself in the braid toys and Enzo has seen her do it many times. That's Bella in the first picture with a draped around her shoulders, as if she were a movie sta.
Fast forward to New Years Day. I've given the dogs a new braid that's long and thick -- long for more ways to arrange it, thick for playing tug. Bella begins by rolling around on the braid ecstatically, burying her face in it, then turning belly up so she can toss the braid around with her paws.
I'm in the kitchen checking the oven when my husband calls out, "Come see what Enzo's done! I join my husband in the family room and there's Enzo with this huge braid wrapped around his slender body. He looks adorable and I grab the camera. Enzo knows he's done something really great with the new braid because I take 5 pictures of him wearing it!
"Little Bella was fantastic to meet again. She is really a sweet dog and it is truly electrifying to see her sculptures. The connection between the two of you is so obvious."
"Just read your article From Street Dog to Canine Artist and viewed Bella's website. Both are outstanding! Plus, Bella and Enzo are beautiful dogs, IMHO.
Wow! What a fantastic story. Bella is amazing!
What a fascinating article about Bella and her construction endeavors. Dogs never cease to amaze me."
I was very impressed with Bella's abilities. Surely you have a strong will to look at the world through Bella's eyes and it would be very nice to be able to fully understand what she is trying to communicate to you.
We try to give scientific explanations to what we observe and certainly some skills like those of Bella should be studied and deepened.
Thanks for the article. I read it with pleasure. The site is also very nice.
It's so impressive that Enzo also learned how to make constructions. Clearly, Bella was his muse!"
"So thrilled that Bella is in the news and your AAT course is going well!"
"I met Bella for the first time recently. I always heard cattle dogs have a trait of being aloof. From my first introduction Bella warmed up to me right away and seemed very attentive and responsive to me each time thereafter. In addition to being very intelligent and an artist with her unique creations she is truly a sweetheart and a pleasure to be around." ~D.B.
"Wow! Dogs know so much more than people realize, as Bella's beautiful constructions show."
"Nice to meet you and Bella in person today. This website is fantastic. Not only does it show Bella's talents, but it also shows your great love for Bella and Enzo. We are lucky to live with such amazing and beautiful friends!"
"Love your Bella website! This is great! I will pass the website to my husband who works at the Humane and they love these types of things. Bella is amazing!"
"Great to see and read!
Enjoyable to be with Bella and Enzo, thanks for that good time I had the chance to experience once when I visited.
Wow!!! What a site :) I REALLY loved watching all the videos and looking at the pictures. Bella is truly talented and I am looking forward to following her artistic journey. "
"Wow, this site is fantastic. I watched the videos. How great that she built this.
Your site really shows off the dogs and one gets a real feel for how amazing it is!"
- Joy L.
"I looked at Bella’s new site. How lovely, and how creative she is! It is amazing that she is teaching Enzo how to make constructions with cloth toys and Enzo is learning from her. It is very interesting to know that dogs can be creative and care about aesthetics. I want to see the development of these two lovely ones." - K.S.
"You are two talented, fun, entertaining ACDs! We love watching your videos on this very well laid out web site. Keep arranging!"
Love, Anne, Anzac and Diggy
"Until Deirdre told me about your art, I never knew dogs were capable of spontaneous artistic creations. Silly human I am, it's true. Thank you so much for brightening our days with your creativity, spontaneity and surprises :)"
Sadie the new Corgi in the hood says hello. You have a great website. Maybe someday when Sadie grows up more she will have one too... or at least be able to walk on her leash far enough co come by and say hi!
Great job with the website, it's so clean and has a good calm vibe to it!