HELEN K. GARBER STUDIO

Spanielisms

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I became a great fan of Dorothy Parker's after I thought I conjured her up on the ouji board in my friend Abby's bedroom in 1969.  And since I grew up as a wise-cracking New Yorker, must have been influenced by her writings from a very young age.  I discovered Robert Benchley in his film shorts on television.  And eventually learned a good deal about them and their fellow round table wits.

The only puppy we purchased from a kennel was in 1995 to replace our recently lost first Springer Spaniel, Phoebe.  Now that I was a professional photographer, I wanted only beautiful dogs to photograph.  Easier to sell the photos, I thought, as well as a better muse for me.  And we found a great beauty.  Another black and white female.  6 months old.  Adorable.

We called her little girl for many weeks as we couldn't think of a better name than Phoebe, but didn't want to re-use the name.  We had been in Paris a few weeks before and saw Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle at the American Theatre during a down time, when our feet hurt too much from walking, but we were too energized to stay in the flat we rented near the theatre. 

Stuart mentioned Mrs. Parker, knowing that I thought it would be fun to name her after one of my favorite female artists.  Gracie or Lucy would have made better sense...but I always wanted a pair and thought Mrs Parker & Benchley would sound better than George and Gracie or Lucy and Ricky..and besides those pairs already existed in our Ocean Park neighborhood.  We sure felt silly calling Mrs Parker after this small puppy, but Mrs. Parker with her similar personality quickly grew into her name.  She was highly neurotic, agoraphobic as a matter of fact, and didn't mind a sip or two of whatever cocktail we might be drinking.

I started the search for Benchley about a year later.  Before we had the internet, 1996, so I looked through the local paper classifieds for a rescue...a brand new term for adopting dogs.  I was very clear that I wanted a male who was a springer spaniel and no more than 5 years old.  And then I saw the ad.  Benson...5 year-old springer spaniel.  I knew enough about dogs to understand that the name was close enough for him not to realize it had been changed and we went to see him.  His owner had died, they had his papers and he was a magnificent 72 lb spaniel, or huge for the breed.  When I saw on his papers that he was 5 years, 11 months and 27 days, I didn't even blink as although he was actually 6 years old, he was the right dog for us.

Mrs Parker adored him right away and we took them everywhere we traveled through California.  And I photographed them, a lot.  One contact sheet really stood out, a very great looking narrative set in Death Valley.  I started to think about what the story would be.

The story is that Mrs Parker and Benchley were the reincarnated souls of their human namesakes.  So I drank some tequila, looked at the images and decided to caption them in the author's personality.  Mrs Parker was a great deal like Dorothy and my Benchley seemed as easy going as the fictional Benchley was portrayed on film.  Both my Mrs. Parker & Benchley have since passed in (Benchley in 2003 and Mrs P in 2009).  We rescued our present pair..Dudley from English Springer Rescue in 2004 and our cocker mix Oliver from a local rescue (set up in front of Gold's Gym) in 2010.  They also get photographed a lot and of course featured on my facebook page.

Spanielisms never sold as a book as 10 years ago as publishers thought no one would remember Dorothy Parker & Robert Benchley.  At least that is what my literary agent told me, so another project that has never been published and sitting in files for over 10 years.

The good news is that we have auctioned off many single cartoons from the project to support Springer Rescue, PAWS, Best Friends and other important charities...They are available as singles in other words, in case you are attracted to just one...please send me an email.
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