Poodles. Who would have thunk that I would develop a great love of standard poodles, that they would romp their way into not just my heart and daily life but also my artwork and scholarly practice? It’s true. I’ve been the happy human companion to two “above standard” standards, Auggie (1998-2009) and now Baloo (2009 – ). I’d always been fond of dogs and as I grew through adulthood wanted more and more to have one, but it wasn’t until I was well and truly on in life that the right moment arrived. I’d either been working too hard, traveling too much, commuting to do graduate work: something not dog friendly, in other words. But in 1998, that changed. My life settled and I got my dog. Or perhaps it was really that my priorities changed to get a dog. Either way, some intuitive inner part of me knew that I needed and was ready for the extraordinary change that a dog can bring to a person’s life.
Over the years, my dogs have been with me through all kinds of personal adventures; multiple professional incarnations in the arts, writing and teaching; life and jobs in two cities (Toronto and Montreal); travels to British Columbia and Nova Scotia; visits to Quebec’s Eastern Townships and the Gaspé, Ottawa/Gatineau, Muskoka and the French River, Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe and more; four studios; and walks in parks and streets throughout multiple areas. Auggie and Baloo have successively helped me deepen my sense of belonging by their own profound engagements with place and people — an embodied poodle form of what I’ve learned are practices of ‘animal geography’.
And so my own scholarly and creative work has taken an animal turn, with Auggie figuring in Finding Home, my interdisciplinary dissertation artworks and texts, and Baloo being a feature of more recent work of research-creation based in mapping, photography, drawing, comics, collage, textiles, and text. These projects also allow me opportunities to engage with cultural geography — questions of public and private space and access thereto; urban planning, histories, and aesthetics; and concepts of mobility. I also take up issues of ethical engagement with a [non-human] Other and notions of representation. The trove of possibilities is rich and plentiful and I am delighted and thankful.
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