The Story of Apu

My mother was young & trying to keep my asthmatic sibling alive, when we were little,
but I brought every stray dog home. She, without fail, had them all carted off. She was doing her best.

I left home at the age of 17 to go to art school in NYC. I left Long Island, got out of the subway, at Astor Place, in Manhattan, stepped over a sleeping derelict and so my life began, for real, at Cooper Union Art School. Cooper is a scholarship school. I was so proud to be admitted, and am still proud to be a CUAS alumni.


The day after I left home, I walked to the 92nd St. ASPCA in a blizzard (the subways weren't running). That day I got my first dog that I could keep. She was a wee prick-eared cinnamon colored short-coated mix, with one ear a little floppy, about 3 to 4 months old, and shortly she had distemper. I named her Apu.

She got better.
She went with me all over the world.
We had little money, no car, but nice stuff, like Brie & caviar, some luxuries & none of the necessities.
I won a scholarship to paint in Florence for two years.

(Apu & Stanley, in Settignano, in the hills outside of Firenze)

But, I skipped ahead. Before Italy, Apu went to Cooper Union & the San Francisco Art Institute.
She posed with all my nude models, striking the same poses.

Apu was 1/4 Basenji.

I found this out, in 1961, when Bob Mankey (Cambria Basenjis) chased me up Nob Hill in San Francisco, asking if she was a Basenji. He gave me his pamphlet on “the Basenji, the dog who didn’t bark and cried real tears.”

Later, back in New York, I lived on Pearl Street, in the financial district & passer-bys kept calling Apu, "Orange."
I finally ran into Elsworth Kelly (famous NY sculptor/painter) walking “Orange.”
He told me that Orange was 1/2 Basenji, born of a Basenji bitch in Paris,
(belonging to Delphine Seyrig, who starred in Last Year in Marienbad),
and he told me that Orange was indeed Apu's dam

Apu & I had over 13 years together.

I buried Apu in the mrytle covered garden at Gansevoort Market & Little West 12th Street.
A young girl, named Kyrie, poured a bottle of wine on her grave.
Apu had liked to have a drink. The time was 1972 & the times, "They Were a Changing."

(Bomabwa Blushing Bride as "Got Milk")

4 months later I went up to Harrison, NY, on Conrail,
carrying a portfolio of drawings of Apu to show off.
That day I got my first Basenji, Bomabwa Blushing Bride.
Her breeder, Bobbi Abelson, sent Blush home with me on the train in a Girl Scout Cookie Box, after giving me a short concise briefing on the breed’s health and temperament issues. She told me to test Blush for HA when she was 6 months old. I remember that she typed a five generation pedigree out without notes.

Almost 2 years later I bred Blush to Kathy Helping’s lovely Headliner, and chose to name my basenjis after Apu.
At that moment Apu's Basenjis was born too.

Anyway, back to the Story of Apu ~

Apu was named after the first truly great art films I ever saw. It was the first film of the great Apu Trilogy ~ Pather Panchali, Aparajito, & the World of Apu, directed by Satyajit Ray, the Bengali master. Apu was the young boy in Pather Panchali & the main character in the trilogy. There is a dog drawn on the wall in Apu's village and later the dog is there too. Merchant Ivory has restored the trilogy of films. I recommend them as amongst the best films of all time all time.

There is a dog drawn on the wall in Apu's village

& later the dog is there too

(This is a still from the 1956 film, "Pather Panchali")

My niece began college (5 years at Tufts and the Boston Museum School). She emailed me this:

“We just watched Panther Panchali in my film class. Wow. Wow wow, that's a good movie. We should watch the rest of the Apu movies together sometime.No one else in the class thought that the little curly-tailed dog was the best part of the film...

It is also my film teacher's favorite movie. I can't believe I'd never seen it before, when Apu's have been so important in my life!”

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