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The Artist's Muse


Apart from the sheer pleasure of their company, pets also inspire artists directly as subjects for their works. Still-life paintings through the ages are enlivened by such devices as, for example, a cat slinking toward a platter of food. And cats, dogs, ferrets, birds, and other pets often stand in as symbols of domesticity, fertility, prosperity — even treachery. Musical compositions draw from animal actions, as in Domenico Scarlatti's delicate "Cat Fugue" or Igor Stravinsky's catlike clarinets in "Berceuses du Chat." Animals are frequently employed as metaphors in literary works: Colette's cats, James Thurber's dogs Poe's raven, Jack London's dogs, Keats's nightingale — the list is endless.

Walt Whitman wrote in "Song of Myself" that animals "do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins." Artists do, and many relish the guiding presence of their pets as they search to identify and resolve ideas through their art. Pets have the ability to comb out the tangles of self-consciousness, lighten the spirit, and connect us to inspiration and creativity.

You needn't be a practicing artist to understand this. Anytime you allow yourself to experience the world through a pet's perspective — by walking, working, playing, even just observing or resting alongside one — you are transported away from internal clutter and conflict. Then any of us can reach the same conclusion that so many artists have understood over the millennia. The simple truth is that pets add poetry to all our lives.

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