After doodlewashing my first fish it got me thinking about my very first childhood pet, which in this case was a black and white border collie named Misty. I grabbed some references, as I don’t actually have a photo of her, and tried a doodlewash.
I ditched the pen and did just a quick contour line pencil drawing before jumping right in with watercolor for this one. Misty was fluffy and soft, so pen didn’t seem appropriate. I used a limited palette of only Neutral Tint, Dioxazine Purple, Burnt Sienna, and Quinacridone Gold (with a few wisps of white gouache at the end because Philippe said she needed whiskers)
When I was very little, Misty was like a third mother to me (the second being my sister), and was always guarding me everywhere I went. My sister is 12 years older than I am, and always will be. A fact I like to remind her of any time we’re together. When I was a baby and a young child, she was still living in the same house, and the three of us would often go on walks together. At my age at the time, I didn’t walk so much as roll along next to them.
Once when my sister was pushing me around in my stroller we stopped at a store and the sales clerk said, “Your son is so cute!” to which my sister quickly replied, “Oh, he’s not my son, he’s my little brother.” I looked up at her from my stroller with a gleam in my eye, began to mock cry and said, “What? Why would you say that, Mommy?” The clerk looked at her sternly and my sister turned red, not knowing what to say, spun around and simply rolled me away.
Outside we were rejoined by Misty and continued our stroll. Misty always walked very close beside me, sizing up all of the people passing to ensure they were not going to harm her baby. I loved that dog so much, and have such strong memories of her, even though our time together was relatively short.
I remember in our house, there was a flimsy screen door behind the main door leading to the garage. We’d leave the garage door open a bit and whenever Misty wanted to come in from outside she’d pull the door open with her nose. Not being able to negotiate the doorknob, the screen would just swing shut again with a bang, but we’d be alerted to her presence and let her inside. It was potentially irritating for adults, but for a child it was just the wonderful sound of a friend coming home.
This is the point in the story where you could find out that Misty was older and that we didn’t get to grow up together. You could also find out about a certain milk truck driver who wasn’t paying attention while driving down the street. But that’s a story with an ending, and that’s not quite how things would go.
Soon after Misty was gone, we were sitting around the table and having dinner. Everyone was unusually quiet as they were still trying to grow accustomed to the new normal. That’s when we all heard it. The screen door inside the garage swung out and made the familiar bang. We froze, not knowing what to think. My mom went over to the door and there was of course, nothing there.
But over the next couple years, we would occasionally hear the door and I would tell my mother that it was Misty, or more accurately, the ghost of Misty. My mother didn’t believe in ghosts, she was an adult after all. “It’s just the wind, Charlie,” she’d say and I’d inform her that the garage door wasn’t open and ask, “Wind from where?”
I just wanted to believe that Misty stuck around a bit. That she just wasn’t ready to stop looking after me. And at a time when I should have felt loss and grief, I felt a strange sense of comfort. Sure, it was from a ghost dog, who was now more ironically named, Misty, but as a kid, this just seemed pretty cool. She was still with me, and all I had to do was listen for the sound of my friend coming home.