This is a rather famous dog, with a rather famous owner, whose portrait was commissioned for a rather special reason.
At the edge of the photos you can see the owner – it’s Chris Packham – the broadcaster and naturalist (a word that always makes me pause, and double-check what I have written or said to make sure I’m not robbing anyone of their clothes). He made a documentary last year which a friend told me I had to watch: Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me. She was right, it was wonderful. So, so good. [Not on the BBC website any more, I’m afraid, though you can read about it here, and maybe there’ll be a repeat one day]. It was beautifully made, just fascinating. And it was particularly gripping for me, as I was watching it with my finger hovering on the pause button, trying to get a good picture of the real star of the show, Scratchy the poodle, as my friend had asked me to make her a portrait of him.
A while back, she had written to Chris Packham to ask if he might have time to come and talk to her (and my) son’s class some time about his work, and about Aspergers (her son also has Asperger’s) – he was due to visit a local bookshop. He wrote back to say he was sorry he couldn’t fit it in, but instead sent along a film he made specially for Jojo to show to the class, talking a bit about Asperger’s. When you think of all the requests he must get, it was a pretty cool thing to do. [Annoyingly, my Joel had a violin lesson, or something, that afternoon, and missed Jojo showing the class his special film. Though if he had been there, I suspect all I would have heard about it, was the usual monosyllable:- “Good.”]
So I ended up watching the BBC film a few times, on the look out for a killer shot for the portrait. There were plenty, of course – but (and despite all the amazing pictures I subsequently found online when I remembered online image searching) there was one scene in particular I fell for. It’s a shot of Chris stroking Scratchy. I only managed to grab a pretty rubbish screenshot, but even so, you can see the look of love in the Scratcher’s eyes as he looks up at his owner.
I love it. And Sir Scratchy began, and – by the looks of things – was almost instantly finished. I’m that good (or that bad at remembering to take photos – to be fair, with these black dogs, there isn’t much worth seeing till fairly far in, anyway):
And here he is ensconced in a striped Liberty print:
And after a little while, a thank you card arrived, and it made a lovely story even better. I won’t show the letter itself – it was sent to Jojo not me, and isn’t mine to show – but surely I’m allowed to share one or two highlights:
“Wow!!! It’s Brilliant. And I love it. I’m going to get it in a special frame and put it up with my pictures of my lovely Scratcher and his brother Itchy. I’m so pleased with it. Please thank you friend’s mum for me [that’s me – I’m glowing]. And I’m so pleased that the video has helped your classmates to better understand the way we are. And I’m even more pleased that things are better(?) different for you in class….”
What a great chap. No wonder Scratcher looks up to him like that.