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Remembering “Black Dog,” Richmond’s “King of the Strays”

6/09: Last known photo of Black Dog (courtesy of JC Wicker)

6/09: Last known photo of Black Dog (courtesy of JC Wicker)

The following was written by my friend, artist JC Wicker.


I want to share an amazing and touching story with you all- the story of Richmond’s elusive and ethereal “Black Dog.” Most of you living in Richmond have heard of him and his incredible adventures- and if you were lucky enough, you may have even caught a quick glimpse of him in Richmond’s Fan District or Windsor Farms area.
Tragically, Black Dog died sometime Thursday morning; he had apparently been struck by a car at the corner of Cary Street Road and Maxwell Avenue. It was reported by CBS 6 journalist Mark Holmberg, who first chronicled the tales of Black Dog as a writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Richmond is blessed to have such an incredible and compassionate writer that sought out Black Dog and shared his stories with us all.
I first met Mark about 6 years ago after reading one of his articles. I wanted to know if I could use one of his photos as a reference picture for a portrait that I would be donating to the annual Save Our Shelters auction- he said sure, so off to my easel I went. As an animal lover, though, I was determined to see him for myself.
After about a week of searching, I found him sunning himself on Maxwell Avenue. The amazing thing I found about him was how gracefully he moved, despite the dreadlock-like red matting in his regal mane. He moved much like the majestic lion Asman from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and there was a huge knowingness,wisdom and spiritual aura about him. I got close that first meeting, but not close enough to pet him. I did get some pix and an idea of how I needed to approach the piece.
Since that year, he became a muse for me- I donated a portrait each year since to SOS because as an artist I saw such a beautiful soul in his eyes. I saw him the last time several weeks ago, photographing him for an upcoming portrait. In the last year, he did allow me to pet him VERY briefly. I am so blessed that this last time was one of those rare occassions- and it was for longer than usual.
Some believe he lived more than 2 decades, and I would absolutely believe that as well. He never saw a vet- and it wasn’t for a lack of persistent efforts. He had a bank account set up by SOS in 2003 for vet care and a “makeover,” but no one was ever able to catch him! Animal Control had given up years back. But he was free, lived his life as he wished, and taught us all that our own uniqueness is special and important.
He had an affectionate yet protective love for the neighborhood children and would appear at the sound of the ice cream truck. He had rescued a woman from an evening attacker as she arrived home one evening some time ago. Not only do I think of him as a legend, but I also truly believe that he absolutely embodies a Guardian Angel that walked amongst us.
He was buried late Thursday in a beautiful, secluded pastoral location in Buckingham County, Virginia.
Following are the 2 links to the CBS segments that aired- Mark did such a beautiful and tasteful job(as he always does). Be sure to watch both the 1st report and the tribute:
So farewell for now, majestic “King of Strays”,friend, and inspiration- whom I know is now the “King of the Angel Strays.” You will make the skies every bit as beautiful as you made the Earth.
We love you and already miss you dearly…