Today we have a prompt of “cute,” and so it’s hardly surprising that I ended up with a little puppy dog. Staring into the eyes of a dog always makes me go weak in the knees and I’m ready to cuddle it, feed it, pet it or all three at once. Awhile back, I read somewhere that the facial expression we often call “puppy dog eyes” is a carefully concocted expression that dogs only use to please and delight humans. When simply with other dogs, they rarely if ever use those same facial muscles. But once in the presence of a human they’ve learned that the best way to get the most attention is to raise that brow just a little so their eyes appear like something out of a Pixar movie. Dogs developed this long before Pixar as they been living alongside humans for over 15,000, some say 30,000 years, carefully discovering ways in which to perfectly manipulate us. Our delighted responses have basically trained them to amp up the cute factor over the years as a way to communicate with us. And knowing this little doggie secret, that I’m sure dogs everywhere wished people had never discovered, only makes me love them all the more. It’s one of the most ancient animal friendships humankind has ever enjoyed.
My own little furball, Phineas, is a basenji, which ranks about third among the world’s most ancient dog breeds. So it should be hardly surprising at all that he’s pretty much in charge of things around here. You’ll find depictions of these dogs in cave painting and Egyptian hieroglyphics, a fact he somehow seems keenly aware of and is honestly a bit smug about. But despite his often aloof and cat-like behavior, he does crave quite a bit of attention. He’ll often simply sit in the kitchen while I’m quickly painting and typing this post, just staring up at me. Oh yes, the brows will slightly raise, the eyes will widen, and if that’s not enough, he’ll go for a full-on anime finale, where I swear I see little white dots appearing in his eyes. It’s a distraction of the cutest sort and I usually have to pause a bit to acknowledge him, always forgetting that I’m just succumbing once again to his master plan. And yet, when faced with that much cuteness at once, I simply don’t care. It’s a joy to share your life with a little dog, even if he’s a dog who doesn’t really like to share.
Though thousands of years may have passed, this is the extent of the communication that’s developed between humans and dogs. One would think by this point that we might actually speak the same language, but in a way, we do. It’s a shared language that’s truly one of the most powerful and ancient ones of all. The kind before words. Just tiny visual cues to guide us in sharing emotion, thoughts, and needs. It’s no wonder we have a primal instinct to take care of these little furry companions. No matter what happened during my day, even when things all turned out badly, I can spend a bit of time with Phineas and realize that it’s all quite okay after all. He doesn’t say much, as a basenji doesn’t even bark, but somehow, he lets me know that tomorrow will be another chance to set things right. I’m suddenly much calmer and most every worry slides to the perimeter of my mind where it can sit and wait until I have a moment to consider it properly. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy a little cuddle with my ancient companion and those impossibly soulful and knowing puppy dog eyes.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Nickel Azo Yellow, Terra Cotta, and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!