Life With Dogs-Part 6: Creatures Between the Dog Years

In 1992, Pumpkin died from old age at my mom’s house in Vermont.

I entered the longest dog-less period of my life.


When my boys were little I didn’t want

one       more       single      solitary      thing

to care for. Not even a house plant.


Cut flowers were too much trouble.


It was lucky that Pumpkin, as my alter ego, was far more energetic and willing to entertain.

In her world we were visited by frogs,





chickens, and





Life with Dogs-Part 5: Two Children, no Dog

It was amazing how easy it was for Pumpkin to love babies when she didn’t have to live with one.babyRoweb

A few months after the visit to Mesa Verde, Rowan was born. Pumpkin was happily living at Camp Stoneledge with my mom and never knew she needed to be jealous all over again. ash&roinfant

Suddenly my canine alter ego enjoyed having two little boys around as much as I did.


But more peace at home didn’t mean all was right with the world. The adventure continues…


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Life with Dogs (Short Side Trip to the southwest)

I am traveling in Colorado and Utah this week, hiking in some of the great western National Parks.


Today I climbed down to the Cliff Palace, a cluster of dwellings of at least 150 rooms built below the rim of the mesa in a rock alcove. These structures were built of hand-shaped sandstone blocks, cemented together with mud. They were built between 1200 and 1270 AD in Mesa Verde, CO. The last time I was here was 24 years ago, in the spring of 1990. I was 5 months pregnant with my 2nd child.
As usual,  Pumpkin acted as my alter ego, grinding corn with a stone on a Metate with her baby strapped to a cradleboard nearby.
The scenery and architecture of the south west bowled me over and when I got home I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I revised the setting for the book I was working on: A Garden Alphabet by Isabel Wilner. The gardener, who looks an awful lot like Pumpkin lives in an adobe house with a kitchen hung with strings of drying chilis called ristras.
And after a hard day in their desert garden, the gardener and her friend the frog relax in the shade.

Life with Dogs, and One Child- Part 4: dé·tente

Eventually  we all settled into detente.

Finding a photo from these years with both Pumpkin and Brennan in it is a challenge. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t images.


I painted several that illustrated the tensions between toddler and dog.


And just as Pumpkin finally began to adjust to one child around the house, I became pregnant with another.


This new person was strong and liked to do his tumbling act whenever I needed a steady hand.


By the summer of 1990, we were in the  last weeks and Pumpkin and I were feeling heavy and tired.


Meanwhile, over in Bookland, I was illustrating Isabel Wilner’s A Garden Alphabet. Pumpkin is the gardener and her best buddy is a frog.


That rude frog laughed right along with Brennan when I broke the rope hammock in my 9th month.


Knowing what was coming, I made the hard decision to leave Pumpkin at “Camp Stoneledge,” aka my mom’s house, in Vermont. She was 13 now, and touchier around Brennan than ever.


But with Border Collies Ben (left) and Flora (right) as housemates she thrived and lived another 2 years.

Life with Dogs- Part 3: Introducing the Dog to the Baby

brennanbabyThough Pumpkin is holding THE BABY, I actually gave birth to him.


Pumpkin was not happy.

She had never liked children and , while still loyal to me, she had nothing to say to the little stranger in our midst.


The eyes say it all.

Nevertheless, I pretended that she liked Brennan and that they got along fine, or at least okay.


Pumpkin was allowed to express my conflicted feelings about motherhood–with humor and no sniveling.



But it was obvious that they were never going to be friends.


Meanwhile, over in Bookland, they have started appearing together too. in Block City, by Robert Louis Stevenson, still pregnant Ashley climbs the stairs.  Brennan, now born, holds my cape. Pumpkin looks on.


Maybe they’ll be friends here…


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Life With Dogs-Part 2: Adopting a Dog as my Alter Ego

I was Crazy about Pumpkin.


She was my first Border Collie and I was thrilled with her intelligence and empathy. She became my constant companion. I was still an art student when I got her and she went to all my classes with me.


She used to cuddle by tucking her head up under my chin.



I loved to draw her.


Soon I was anthropomorphizing her-I couldn’t help myself.


It was uncanny how she loved to do all the same things I did.


Pumpkin traveled the world for close to a year. She shared a picnic at Hanging Rock with a koala in Australia.


She rode a camel on the Great Wall of China.


And caught a flounder in Istanbul, Turkey.


Later she even got pregnant,


Meanwhile, over in Bookland, Pumpkin began appearing in my children’s books from the very beginning.

Here we are making snow angels in A Year of Birds. I am still a carefree child, making Sabin do all the work as my father.


In my next post I will reveal how Pumpkin changed my life.

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My Life with Dogs-Part 1:Deep Background

I have always loved dogs.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one.


When my sister was born, our family got our first German Shepherd. His name was Lumpy.



A few years later we found a puppy on the street in Sarasota, Florida while visiting my grandmother. This picture ran in the newspaper to try to find the owner. No one claimed her so we kept her and named her Hushpuppy.


She was a good sport.


There is nothing like a bed full of dogs.


My grandmother eventually adopted Hushpuppy back and Lumpy died. We got another German Shepherd named Thumper.

And then, in 1977, I got MY first dog. She was the last pup in a litter born on a dairy farm in East Middlebury, VT. Her mother Patsy was an expert cow herder.

I named her Pumpkin.


The 1st summer I had her I drove all the way to California with my boyfriend. Thumper and Pumpkin came along. We all got to swim in the Pacific.

The story of what happened to Pumpkin is too long for one post. Stay tuned for Part 2.

If you enjoyed this post, please like Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, visit my webpage here, my Etsy shop, or follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar.