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Portraits of a beloved pooch

From an early age, it was clear that Frances would never fulfill her destiny of becoming a guard dog for the Cadence Cycle bike shop.

From an early age, it was clear that Frances would never fulfill her destiny of becoming a guard dog for the Cadence Cycle bike shop.

“As a puppy she’d be lying under the kitchen table and she’d keep sleeping when someone came into the house,” said the dog’s owner, Nicole Bauberger, whose partner Dean Eyre runs the shop.

“Dean said, ‘I don’t think we have a guard dog on our hands.’ I’d like to say her future was clearly more in sales than in security, because she was so friendly.”

What Frances did become, however, was a loyal and inspirational companion to Bauberger.

The black dog had such a profound impact on the artist that Bauberger is presenting an exhibit on the canine in January.

A show called Frances will feature several oil portraits, including a three-part triptych and three clay sculptures, all inspired by the dog.

Frances died in early May after unsuccessfully chasing an errant squirrel across the Alaska Highway.

Bauberger had adopted her from the Mae Bachur animal shelter four years ago, after her father passed away.

Their symbiotic relationship grew quickly.

“She inspired me to start painting my friends and their dogs,” Bauberger said.

“Then I started painting my own dog. I felt like this dog-woman relationship was a pretty important part of the cultural fabric in the Yukon.”

Bauberger said she remembers Canadian musician Fred Eaglesmith talking about the unique relationship during one of his performances in the territory.

“He said that whenever you see a woman walking by herself she’ll be with a dog,” Bauberger said.

“It seems like quite a few women in the Yukon have dogs who play important roles in their lives.”

Frances, who looked like a cross between a collie and a husky, had a “joie de vivre” that was expressed in running, Bauberger said.

The pair would often go running in the Hillcrest subdivision and also take long walks together.

The week before Frances passed away, they walked more than 30 kilometres from Miles Canyon all the way to the Marsh Lake bridge in a single day.

“A good day for a dog,” Bauberger said.

Frances was mischievous, too.

Bauberger recalled a story about her friend Mary who once tried to capture the escaped dog.

“She chased Frances all the way past Ogilvie, Frances staying just ahead of her, laughing. She didn’t catch her but Frances came back eventually.”

The idea of making a show about a dog can come across as narcissistic, Bauberger said, but she thinks a lot of people will be able to relate to it.

“I hope that people who knew Frances will remember her, and whatever she was able to add to their lives,” she said.

“Even the people who didn’t know her, I hope it makes them think about their own relationship with dogs. Grief is the other side of love, we’re mortal and we love mortals.

“There is going to be grief but if there are ways of sharing it, maybe that’s a part of what it’s for.”

The show will be on display from Jan. 8-31 at the community gallery of the Yukon Arts Centre.

Contact Myles Dolphin at