sqʷəbáy’ (Black Dog)
sqʷəbáy’ (Black Dog)
“Lost and found. An interesting idea, and it brings different ideas to mind. When my father was a fisherman we brought a stray along the riverbank home because I wanted a dog and we didn’t have much money but I never, even now looking back, felt that I was poor. I remember the dogs of our reservation as companions that were like giants that protected me as a child. An early memory comes from looking up at my grandfather’s dog sitting next to me at the sunset.
Many years later working with the Chehalis elders I was taught about Grandson of Dog. It intrigued me because we know that dogs as we know them today stem from the wolves. There is a fascinating idea about that very idea that a group would branch out to leave behind another and become something else. I think of Dog as a figure that ran with the coyotes fighting many battles in many lives to arrive at a crossroads. Losing so much in search of a place to belong.
At the time of this print I’m moved very much to know that so many dogs have been adopted from shelters. It also reminds me of overlooked people in our daily lives that look out for us and help things move along that go invisible, mostly.
I feel blessed to be an artist because I get to see so much of a spectrum in the world. I say this because I believe no matter where you are or where you think you are in a class system or self worth, a dog for the most part will be your friend with trust and care.
Many things brought this idea together. My great-grandmother was an oil painter and painted a portrait of her boxer. It was one thing that came down through my family to me that reminds me how much time it took for her to paint and how much that boxer meant to her, enough to for her to paint and be a better painter. Painting is a hard thing to take up and it’s not for everyone and within it there is a lesson of patience and appreciation.
I reflect on the people who were perceived as black dogs, outliers, walking the riverbank lost but found by someone eventually. Adopted into a family who found their way. It makes me think of this story of Black Dog walking a long way losing a limb in battle. Even so brave enough to walk into the fire to sit with humankind. I’m sure the first venture was hard but over time ensuring that being an ally was more promising than being an enemy. I think of a bigger picture as well. Thinking of characters in a long line of stories that teach us different things at different times. Humankind is seeing that sacrifice Dog made to make the journey with the cold wind on the back turning away from the moon. To walk into the light of a fire made and seek care love and kindness in return.
I’ve had a dog most of my life in one form or another whether they were mine personally or a window into friends or families I know. They are an extension of family reminding us to get up and walk in the sun or the rain. All the same, the dogs I looked up at as a child look up at me and give me a reminder of the sacrifice they made to arrive at a place of kindness.”
-Qwalsius – Shaun Peterson