Don’t Try This At Home
by Steve Downing
My one experience with furniture-making involved a doggie-bed for our dog, Basil. I was using materials and techniques developed back in the Age of Aquarius, when Dodger and I lived in a tipi, and the sweat lodge was the closest thing to a shower in our camp. The sweat lodge infrastructure was made of thin stripped cedar branches lashed together into a dome, and for Basil’s doggie-bed I simply down-sized and inverted the arrangement. I wanted to finish the thing before we left town for a long weekend, and I did, just. I folded up an old flannel sleepingbag liner for a doggie mattress and introduced the sweet cedar-scented work of art to Basil as we were on our way out the door. Basil seemed touched, I remember thinking, as we pulled out of the driveway.
We had a cryptic text message on Saturday from my sister, who does pet patrol for us when we’re gone: “Not sure about Basil’s bed.”
Somehow, that did not translate into “Basil has eaten your beautiful, brand new, handmade, work-of-art doggie-bed.” But when we got home late Sunday, no doubt about it: Basil had eaten the doggie-bed. Not the flannel mattress. The frame, the wood, the artistry. Consumed it. Completely. With all of the implications therein.
Being the world’s oldest living optimist, I chose to find a helpful lesson in this. To wit: a dog can turn art into fertilizer, with less intentionality than he applies to a walk in the woods. The corollary, of course, suggests itself: humans will turn art into fertilizer without even eating it.