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My Dog Doesn't Just Inspire Me, She's Inspired History

Documentation proves that Willow has been an integral part of countless classic moments.

By Lissa BayPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
"I am not a bad dog." (photo by my partner, Jon)

My dog Willow has served as a constant companion and inspiration for my partner Jon and me since we adopted her from the SPCA in 2018. We both work day jobs while writing on the side, so it’s important for us to have such a kindhearted, gentle companion by our sides, both friend and muse.

But sometimes we couldn't help but wonder about her life before us. When we adopted each other, Willow was already an old lady. What had she gotten into before she ended up in the shelter?

Well, our internet sleuthing revealed something shocking: Jon and I aren’t the only ones Willow has influenced.

Imagine how flabbergasted we were when we discovered, by zooming into Seurat’s 1884 pointillist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, a familiar outline in the center. If that isn’t Willow getting her sniff on, what is it?

That got us started on a quest to learn more. Clearly, Willow spent time with the 17th century masters. We scoured the great works of that time, sniffing out clues the same way Willow sniffed that other dog’s markings on that fateful Sunday Afternoon.

Lo and behold, a stunning artifact appeared. Indeed, Willow hadn’t only influenced the French. She must have met up with Edvard Munch in Berlin a few decades later, because he memorialized her struggles with anxiety and existential crisis in his famous work, The Bork:

Jon and I remembered that version of our dog. Willow’s tortured expression reminded us of her extreme anxiety when we first met her in an adoption shelter’s cage. It was sad to see her that way again, to be honest.

We kept digging. Clearly, our pet was a very important dog. How many more great artists of olde had been graced by her presence?

Soon, we stumbled across this striking image. Our puppo really got around before we took her in. Two centuries earlier, Dutch baroque painter Veermeer captured Willow’s transcendent beauty in his famous portrait, Goodgirl with a Pearl Earring.

Why, she’s so gorgeous, she could be played in a film by the likes of Scarlett Johansson! Plus, this meant that Willow’s influence spanned the centuries. Jon and I widened our search.

Bingo. Another one. Turns out that, well into the 1900’s, Willow continued inspiring the greatest artists. Here, in 1988, she’s rendered by Jean-Michel Basquiat in his famous work, Riding With Doge.

This acrylic and crayon neo-expressionist painting was completed just months before Basquiat’s tragic death from a heroin overdose, shortly after the death of his close friend Andy Warhol. The style shows a lonely, isolated figure being carried by his companion, Willow. I know she misses her friend very much, as do we all.

Basquiat wasn’t the only graffiti great who hung out with Willow. Some years later, she must have run into the mysterious artist Banksy in an alleyway near Sotheby’s in London, because he spray painted an image of her there.

I happen to know, from experience with this dog, that Willow only ever holds up the “You Lie” sign when someone has told her “I don’t have any treats for you.” I imagine that’s exactly how Willow and Banksy’s interaction went down. She begged, he said no, she held up her sign, BOOM. Inspiration for an iconic image.

The art kept coming. We found out that Willow also appeared in works by the likes of Rene Magritte, Michelangelo, Keith Haring, Edward Hopper, and she’d even been one of the original Dogs Playing Poker!

It got even deeper. Our precious friend also appeared in photographs of great historical importance. It had completely slipped my mind that, in 1969, Willow became the first dog to poop on the moon.

The story goes that Buzz Aldrin forgot to pack a plastic bag to pick it up. Neil Armstrong accidentally stepped in it right in the middle of the great line he’d been planning to say as he took his first lunar steps, causing him to mess up by leaving the word “a” out before the word “man.”

“One small step for man,” he said, then paused for a long time to try to wipe the poop off his moon boots. “One giant leap for mankind.”

And that wasn’t all. Willow also assisted in Mohandas K Gandhi’s 1932 hunger strike in a jail near Bombay. Like the Mahatma, Willow also strongly believed that, if the British gave less voting power to people in the “lower castes” of India, it would further enshrine generational inequality, and my dog was willing to do her part to prevent that.

Here, you can see how Willow eats Gandhi’s food for him. She doesn’t even care that it’s bad prison food, she’ll do anything to help. Hey, not eating is difficult. She did him a favor.

She’s in films, as well. For instance, remember this classic image from the 1984 film Ghostbusters II? Here she is as Wigo the Carpathian, the 16th century spirit of a tyrant and magician, dead set on possessing a baby's body so he can be reborn. What a wild ride that was.

And here she is in the 1942 classic film Casablanca, drinking her troubles away. “Play it, Sam,” she tells the Moroccan nightclub’s pianist, played by Dooley Wilson.

“Play what?” Sam asks.

“Fetch,” she says. “The ball’s over there, chuck it this way, will ya?”

After finding so much evidence of Willow’s active presence throughout history, I must admit, Jon and I were feeling pretty confused. How had our dog done this? How did our dear, sweet Willow accomplish so much, hobnobbing with so many great people throughout time?

Then we found the piece of evidence that explained EVERYTHING.

When we located this movie poster from 1989’s Will and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, we rented the film and watched it immediately. Now it all made sense.

Our Willow had a time machine. She’d spent time with Socrates, Joan of Arc, Napoleon, and more—just in that one film alone! It’s no wonder she got a taste for it.

Now she’s getting up there in years and this good dog mostly spends her time at home with Jon and me. We’re both working on writing the great American novel, and we certainly welcome her inspiration. But if she’s tired of being in the center of so many great moments, that’s okay too.

She’s had a full life, so if all she wants to do is snooze, we’ve got room on the bed for her.

You can see even more of Willow's adventures throughout time by visiting her Instagram page: @willowthemuse.


About the Creator

Lissa Bay

Lissa is a writer and nanny who lives in Oakland, California. She enjoys books, books, playing Disney songs on ukulele for kiddos, books, and hanging out with her deeply world-weary dog, Willow. And, oh yeah, also—get this: books.

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