Tat­too you

Pet-in­spired tat­toos are a com­mon way for own­ers to al­ways have their loved ones with them.

The Coast - Pets Halifax - - Contents - BY RE­BECCA DING­WELL

It took Ariel Mactav­ish two hours to get a de­cent print of her dog’s paw— an image that would later be part of her tat­too.

Her Shet­land sheep­dog, Zorro (named for the Z-shaped mark­ing on his neck) was get­ting im­pa­tient af­ter hav­ing his pads pressed into a stamp pad over and over.

“He was not im­pressed, and I prob­a­bly had like 30” prints, she says.

Mactav­ish was fi­nally able to get an ideal stamp for her per­ma­nent ink, which she got tat­tooed the fol­low­ing day. That about three years ago, just a cou­ple years be­fore Zorro passed away.

“Peo­ple think I’m crazy when I say this, but I swear that he had a sense of hu­mour,” says Mactav­ish.

Un­less we’re talk­ing about some- one who has a macaw or a Gala­pa­gos tor­toise, pet-own­ers tend to out­live their an­i­mals. That said, pets of­ten leave a per­ma­nent mark on the peo­ple in their lives.

For some folks like Mactav­ish, that’s lit­eral. Hav­ing moved from Dart­mouth to Wolfville for uni­ver­sity, she wanted a way to keep Zorro with her.

“At the time, I was re­ally just get­ting it be­cause he and I were re­ally close,” says Mactav­ish. “I didn’t like be­ing far away from him, es­pe­cially where he was get­ting older.”

In to­tal, Zorro was in Mactav­ish’s life for about 12 years. But even pets with shorter life­spans can have a last­ing im­pact on their own­ers.

Emily Moore, for in­stance, had a rat named Ge­orge for two years. Af­ter he

died, she de­cided to get a por­trait of him as a tat­too.

“I guess it’s funny for a pet that only lives two to three years...but they have that con­nec­tion with you,” says Moore.

Although he didn’t live a long life, Ge­orge led an in­ter­est­ing one. Moore re­calls his run-in with two feral rats one evening. The fur­nace room door was left open, and the door to Ge­orge’s cage hadn’t been closed prop­erly. So, the other rats were able to make their way to the cage and at­tack Ge­orge.

“There was blood on the wall,” says Moore. “It was the most hor­rific night.”

Moore was un­sure if Ge­orge would sur­vive, but he pushed through. Maybe it’s ap­pro­pri­ate, then, that he took his name from boxer Ge­orge Fore­man. To avoid an­other in­ci­dent, Ge­orge’s cage was kept up­stairs—with locks on its doors—from then on.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get a rat again,” says Moore. “You know when you have that spe­cial pet? That was Ge­orge.”

Mactav­ish feels a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. She plans to have an­other dog in the fu­ture. That doesn’t negate how much she loved (and still loves) Zorro.

“He’s not just a dog,” she says. “I’m not just cel­e­brat­ing this one time we spent $800 on an an­i­mal. It is ob­vi­ously a lot deeper than that.”

Scott Forbes, a tat­too artist and owner of Oceanic Art in Dart­mouth, says pet-in­spired tat­toos are pretty com­mon.

“More of­ten than not, I guess, it’s a me­mo­rial one,” says Forbes, adding that paw prints or por­traits are pop­u­lar choices.

His favourite pet tat­toos fall on the quirkier side, such as an­i­mals dressed in “hu­man clothes.”

“A dog dressed up as a gen­eral or some­thing like that,” says Forbes. “That’s kind of cool take on it.”

Forbes says it makes sense that peo­ple want to com­mem­o­rate their an­i­mals in ink—folks tend to get tat­toos of things that mean a lot to them. “To most peo­ple, their pet is an im­por­tant part of their life, so I think that’s why you see a lot of it.”

The sig­nif­i­cant role a pet can play in some­one’s life clearly ap­plies to Mactav­ish and Moore. Both of them say they have to deal with the oc­ca­sional “weird look” when it comes to their tat­toos, and Mactav­ish has got­ten a few neg­a­tive com­ments.

Of­ten, though, the peo­ple who dis­ap­prove don’t un­der­stand the story be­hind the ink.

“When peo­ple make com­ments like that, I’m just like, ‘Have you never loved some­thing that much?’” says Mactav­ish.


Ariel Mactav­ish pre­serves the mem­ory of her Shet­land sheep­dog, Zorro, via tat­too.


Emily Moore’s ink helps her re­mem­ber her rat Ge­orge.

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