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Going to the dogs - Michael Davis

We've all seen them. On the wall in the barber shop, our friends' rumpus rooms.

They're somewhat traditional, somewhat tacky, but very guy-friendly. They play poker, golf and pool, if I remember correctly. They're not supposed to, but they do.

"Dogs playing ..." paintings can be a bachelor's answer to interior decorating.

When I was a kid, I can't tell you how many hours I stared at a painting of dogs playing golf that hung on the wall of my childhood barbershop in Douglasville. It was in a strip mall on what was then the main drag. My dad had gone to the same barber since he had moved to the area, which was, by the time I came along, about 10 years or so, and by extension, Donald was my barber as well.

Sitting up high on a padded board that straddled the armrests of the barber's chair, a board used just to get kids' tiny heads of hair to a height level with the barber's scissors, I looked out at the rear-end of a collie that appeared to be lining up a putt using the handle of a golf club. All the while, sweet-smelling pipe smoke wafted through the room and country music drifted from the radio.

You could get a Coke out of the fridge if you put some change in the coffee can on top that had a slit cut into the plastic lid, which was a little high for a boy of 8 to reach sometimes. When I was bored, which was often, I would thumb through fishing and hunting magazines, or read the "Humor in uniform" feature in Reader's Digests that were laying around.

I couldn't find that same painting on a recent Web-fishing adventure, but I did turn up some information on the creator of the series.

The painter was apparently a banker, inventor, writer and shopkeeper who painted 16 "dogs playing ..." works for a St. Paul, Minn. advertising firm in 1903. If viewed as a series, there's some action, too. One of the more famous of the series is a bespectacled St. Bernard bluffing the rest of the pack. The next is the same dog reaching for his take, according to an auctioneer interviewed by CNN for a story about two "Dogs Playing Poker" paintings selling at auction in February for almost $600,000. A handsome sum indeed.

I got mine for $4 from an office supply store in the form of a mouse pad.

Michael Davis covers government for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at mdavis@henryherald.com .