Jack’s Walk

Brown dog with frosting. ©voyager, al rights reserved

Yesterday, over at Stderr, Marcus posted a piece outlining a project he’s tackling to resin(ate) Jack’s foot. I thought today I’d fill in the story of collecting the paw print.

About a month ago, Jack and I received a package from Marcus containing a dog foot-sized plastic frame, 2 bags of brightly coloured clay, 2 bags of plaster, a small, flat plastic device and a sheet of well-organized instructions. I talked to Jack about the project, and we decided to give it a go the next day. I’ve never worked with clay, so I read the instructions carefully a few times, then after breakfast, I plunged in. Marcus said to add water to one of the clay packages, which I did mixing well. Still, it wouldn’t absorb the full 1/2 c of water, and it was behaving like a non-Newtonian fluid, which is always fun but probably not what I was looking for. I was pretty sure the clay was too wet, but I put it into the frame anyway and tamped it down flat with the little plastic tool and called Jack.
Now, picture, if you will, Jack sitting on the living room carpet (he needs to be on carpet for stability), being a good boy and trying to do what Mummy says.
I pick up his good front foot first, but he can’t bear weight well enough on his other leg, and he wobbles a bit, so I let go of his leg before he falls over.
“Sorry, Mummy,” he says, “Maybe we should try the other foot.”
I tell him it’s not his fault and gently lift his sore front leg with one hand and moving the frame under it with my other hand, but this doesn’t work well either.
“Ouch, Mummy!” he says, pulling back again and again.
Finally, he looks me square in the eye and tells me, “I’m laying down now, Mummy. Go away!”
So I do, covering the clay in plastic wrap and putting it on my workbench.

The next day, I’d hatched a new plan to make a good impression. I’d wait until Jack was resting on my bed with one foot hanging over, and I’d press his foot into the clay with no need for him to stand up. Jack agreed that this seemed workable, and so after lunch, I helped Jack to bed, and we got the framed clay and pressed his foot into it. We made a good, deep press, and results looked great, except that our perfect paw pad impression disappeared less than a minute later. Vanished. Completely gone. Damn it, the clay was too wet.
“Nevermind, Mummy. Footprints are meant to be fleeting. This is a silly idea.”
I return the clay to my worktable, covering it only with paper to allow it to dry out a bit, but when I check it at bedtime, it’s dried hard, and I am unable to restore it with water. Now I understand why Marcus sent 2 packages of clay.

The next few days are spent negotiating with Jack, who finally agrees to try again if I provide him with a chicken foot. This is a treat introduced to Jack by Marcus, and so in the middle of a pandemic, I venture out to 3 various pet stores looking for chicken feet. I am pleasantly surprised to find them at a reasonable price, so I begin planning our third attempt at making a good impression. I’ve noticed that Jack can still pee like a boy on telephone poles, so he is able to raise a back foot without toppling over or pain. I discuss this with Jack, who sighs heavily and says, “sure, Mummy. Do you have my chicken foot?”

So, I begin again with fresh clay. This batch is a vibrant pink, and it looks pretty good to me just out of the package, so I decide not to add water this time and just press it into the frame as is. Jack and I position ourselves on the living room carpet with a chicken foot resting on the coffee table, looking poised for attack, and we begin. I raise Jack’s foot as if I were getting ready to towel dry it for him, then quickly place the frame underneath and set Jack’s foot down into it. He puts his weight on it for a few seconds, then I pick his foot straight up and pull the frame away. Jack sits down, looks at me pointedly, and asks if he can have his treat now.
“Good boy, Bubba. Go ahead,” I tell him, and he picks up the gnarled claw and walks away with it, crunching bones as he goes. The sound sets my teeth on edge, but I’m quickly smiling as I look at the clay. The impression is deep, detailed and not going away. It is, however, full of hair. Jack has bear paws for feet in the winter, and a bunch of hair has decided to stick to the clay. Oh, Oh. I tentatively try to remove some of it, but I’m making minor marks on the clay, so I stop and do the sensible thing and email Marcus asking if this can be fixed.
I am relieved to hear back that the hair won’t affect the outcome and that I should mix and pour the plaster and, once it’s dry, ship it to him as is, which is precisely what I did.

Bubba’s foot is now in Marcus’ hand, and he has wizardly plans for it, which he wrote about yesterday. (footy) I look forward to seeing what he makes of it. Jack is happy that the fuss is finished, but he still thinks that footprints are meant to be fleeting.


  1. says

    Footprints are supposed to be fleeting but memories of a time are supposed to be wrapped up and kept carefully.

    I’m so glad you guys nailed the print so well! From here it’s procedural stuff that doesn’t risk damage to the master sculpt.

  2. Tethys says

    Jack is such a good boy. I have a Sherlock grandpupper currently snuggled against my leg. He is also a good boy even though his hair on everything is driving me up the wall. It’s everywhere!

    I saw the finished mold with hair over on the footy post, and the long, patient process that Marcus had to go through to get all the hair out and reveal the fine details.

    In future it would simplify the process if y’all use separator on the mold before you pour the plaster. It’s basically dilute dish soap. You brush a thin coat over the dry mold and the two sides will then separate cleanly.

  3. says

    Oh sweet boy Jack.

    Jack is happy that the fuss is finished, but he still thinks that footprints are meant to be fleeting.

    Except for those you leave in our hearts.

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