Walker is a laid-back, happy dog. As his owner, Janet Mills, tells students in Jeff Gottfried’s art class at Glen Rose Intermediate School about the black Labrador Retriever with a talent for art, he’s stretched out on the floor, his tail thumping.
“Walker tends to be a very happy, joyous dog,” Mills said. “He just loves life and it comes out in his whole body and comes out in his tail.”
Mills, who also brings Walker and her yellow Lab, Rhythm, to read to children at the school and at the public library, discovered quite by accident that he could, with a little “collaboration,” paint with his tail.
“His tail just goes all the time,” Mills said. “I decided we ought to put it to use.”
She led the students and Walker down the hall to a spot where sheets of white paper were taped to a wall and about the size of a large canvas. Then Mills spread out a painter’s drop cloth.
Some of the students held plastic cups filled with paint.
“Walker needs a little space,” Mills told the kids crowded around him. “When he paints with his tail, he tends to sling the paint around.”
Once the kids gathered in a circle, Mills dipped Walker’s tail in Kelly green paint. Then she backed him up against the white paper, petted and praised him and he started wagging — and brushing on arcs of color.
“Awesome!” one student exclaimed.
Walker stood patiently still as Mills dipped his tail into a cup of water to clean off the paint. Next he painted with purple, then blue, orange, black and red.
“He loves red! It’s his favorite!” one of the kids yelled.
One of the other teachers brought Walker a red beret and perched it on his head. Ooh, la, la — call him Henri Mutt-ise.
By now Walker had created a large abstract work, to say the least. Streaks and spatters of different colors spread across the paper. Some colors ran down in artistic dribbles. Maybe Walker was channeling modern art icon Jackson Pollock and his “action painting.” Only Walker’s action was wagging. The tail didn’t stop.
“What color haven’t we used?” Mills asked the students.
Art can be a messy process. Walker’s black coat was covered in dribbles and splatters of paint.
“He’s going to need a good bath,” a girl advised Mills.
The kids wanted to keep giving Walker more paint, but Gottfried stepped in.
“There is such a thing as too much work,” he told the students. “A great artist knows when to stop.”
Each child will get one of the sheets of Walker’s painting after it dries. Mills planned to bring him back so Walker could “sign” each page with his paw print.
Then they’ll each own an original by a doggone good artist that never has to search for his source of inspiration — or his paintbrush.