William Wegman, His Dogs, and His Soul

by Crista Cloutier on December 20, 2011

Photo by Crista Cloutier

Hanging out with William Wegman and his dogs in NYC. I am there to interview him for my forthcoming Working Artist video.

Up until a few years ago, I worked in the art business and Wegman w as one of my artists.

In my office I had the last photograph he ever took of his first dog, his muse, Man Ray, taken right before Man’s death. It was a haunting image of the dog looking at his own reflection in a puddle. Wegman could not bear to look at it so we never published it.

He’s had many dogs since Man Ray and he obviously adores each of them, talking about them like they are his kids. As the dogs bicker amongst themselves, he describes each one’s idiosyncrasies; Bobbin’s chronic diarrhea, Flo’s bossiness, Candy was a horrible puppy but has turned into a docile old lady, and Penny is suffering from lymphoma, undergoing chemo and so she gets special treatment.

I tell him a theory I have heard that each of us has one pet, if we are lucky, who is a part of our very soul. Wegman disagrees and he begins to speak of each of the dogs he has had with tremendous affection before his voice lowers and he says softly, “And then there was Man.”

I think I found his soul.

David Alm December 21, 2011 at 7:51 am

My father grew up with a Pug, and later had a Lhasa Apso, whom he adored. But in between those dogs was an English Bulldog named Winston. Even now, almost 30 years since Winston died, my dad has a specific look on his face when he talks about him. I don’t know that I’d say he was part of my dad’s soul, but there was definitely a unique connection there.

Crista Cloutier December 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Walking in the park late one night a few months after my dalmatian Dotty died, I passed our favorite bench and began to tear up. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a dalmatian bounded toward me as her owner screamed “Dotty!” I took it as a nudge from the other side. Who knows where our souls end and begin? But when a dog crawls into your heart, they live forever.

Kimberly Grace December 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm

The pain is excruciating when we lose them and the hurt is compounded by every comment of “it was just a dog…” but then I realize that not everyone is blessed with a relationship so strong in their lives so they have no basis of comparison. But for me to even concern myself with why some people can be so insensitive only distracts me from being in the moment and experiencing the relationships I have now. I know there are other soul mates yet to come and I will find them if I listen…

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