(July 6) Before I came to California six months ago, I frequently enjoyed drawing OR-7, the wandering Oregon wolf. I panicked at the notion of not having a dog to lean on in times of cartoon trouble.
Then I heard about Sutter, Gov. Jerry Brown's dog.
An omnipresent media mutt, Sutter became my new OR-7, a faithful canine buddy I could draw whenever I needed. He was cute, powerful and had a previously existing relationship with the Sacramento area that made my transition easier. Plus, I didn't have a real dog of my own.
Back in the 1950s, the movie "Old Yeller" came out, a Disney dog yarn that had the audiences crying at the end. It inspired me cinematically.
I decided that I, too, wanted to make a dog movie.
While this may not be the Greatest Dog Movie (Old Sutter?) of all time, this is my first dog movie. When I was hired by The Bee, I expressed an interest in making some short movies, and my bosses were more than happy to oblige. They told me my dad's Kodak Super 8 camera wasn't going to be of value, so I bought an HD Sony minicam and did what any sane person would do in my position.
A few months ago, several people in Brown's office suggested that I would eventually have the opportunity to meet Sutter, the governor's corgi who has turned into a sort of short-legged, faintly malodorous muse to me. So when I got the call to deploy, I wanted to be ready to record the moment for posterity.
I know future California historians are giddy.
We met Sutter at McKinley Park. Like anyone I cartoon, Sutter was different in person (in dog?) than I thought. For example, I had portrayed Sutter's ears a certain way, and it struck me immediately that they were pointier and higher than I had previously portrayed. So I changed my depiction of him to reflect that.
Sutter, unlike many dogs I have chatted with, isn't easy to get to know. Maybe it's an open records thing or something, but I found it almost impossible to get him to engage. Mostly he wanted to sniff or eat anything that seemed remotely nasty, and I was keenly interested that he didn't die during my shift:
"CARTOONIST ACCIDENTALLY DROWNS SUTTER BROWN; CALIFORNIA PLUNGED INTO MOURNING; ARTIST HELD"
Once I realized that Sutter wasn't suicidal on a leash, I still felt like I was walking a gyroscope who needed a bath. And I also felt like I was kind of a dog stalker instead of a dog walker. In addition, I'm more of a cat person.
As Sutter caromed over the rankest, dirtiest parts of McKinley Park, I was able to more closely observe him. He had a Giants tag on, for example. No surprise there (but, note to self: owner was mayor of Oakland, which has a baseball team, too).
Many of my readers have bonded with both Sutter, the actual dog, and Sutter, the little dog in the blue suit. I was reliably informed that there was some loose talk about putting Sutter, in a suit, in the governor's next official portrait.
I am available to paint this at a very reasonable price. I have kids in college.
Over the course of the summer, I will be making some more short videos about whatever strikes me amusing or interesting that I can't comment on in my political cartoon or in my blog. Plus, there's one thing that my Sutter film has over "Old Yeller."
Nothing bad happens to Sutter at the end of the movie.
And no one cries.