Liam – May 7, 2018
My wife Kim and I recently lost our dog. Lost, as in he died. Pets, as you probably understand, can be as important to the family dynamic and hold as big a place in your heart as your actual human children. Maybe more, depending on the age of the human kids. Kim and I don’t have children yet, so Eddie was our world, our hearts. His passing and the consuming grief got me thinking about tattoos.
I’ve long kept a running list of tattoos I would get, but never pulled the trigger. A tattoo is a permanent thing, and I didn’t want to get something on my body that could later be a regret. Kim is an artist, and we occasionally swing by The Danish Home to participate/assist in the crafts and drawing activities offered. During a recent visit, I met a resident everybody calls Farfar. You’ve read about him before in The Hope Chest.
I noticed Farfar had a faded tattoo on the outside of his right forearm. I asked about it, and he immediately tried to hide it, ignoring my question. A little later, when I knew he couldn’t ignore me, I asked him again about it. He answered reluctantly. (Maybe I annoyed him. If so, I’m sorry, Farfar.) His tattoo is of a cap badge of the Royal Danish Guard, in which he served during WWII.
“Cool!” I said. “There’s no better conversation piece than that.” He told me that he and a few of his Guard buddies got tattoos, some with the names of their gals back home, inked on their forearms. Farfar could not confirm how many of those buddies married the women who held the names forever marked in their skin, but he did confirm that he’s glad he didn’t brand himself with a woman’s name. “My beloved, Sigrid, wouldn’t have appreciated that!” he said.
Tattoos get a bad rap. To many, they signify poor taste, low class, gang affiliation, or — gasp! — rock ‘n’ roll music. In my opinion, those many are short-sighted. Tattoo is artistry. And wouldn’t you know it? Denmark can claim the world’s oldest operating tattoo parlor as its own — Denmark’s Nyhavn 17.
Building on that, and utilizing that Danish ingenuity that just won’t quit, a group of young entrepreneurs created Tattoodo, a digital forum for tattoo artisans, lovers and gawkers to connect. Tattoodo doesn’t appear to be championing its Danish tattoo pedigree, but it does bring the global tattoo community together.
Tattooing is as Danish as kringles. Being a Dane with ink brings you closer to royalty. King Fredrick IX famously received his ink at the Nyhavn 17 location in 1951. Art is so very Danish. Tattooed or not, in June, residents of The Danish Home will visit the Georg Jensen: “Scandinavian Design for Living” exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. This reminds me that it was, in fact, a Swede who wrote the wildly popular “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series of novels: Stieg Larsson.
Hearing Farfar’s ink-oopsie inspired me to get my own tattoo. Like, I was in the chair the very next week. Nothing could happen to make me regret getting Eddie’s likeness tattooed on my inner right forearm, a likeness drawn by my artist wife — even another dog, which I’m sure I’ll love in its own way and without comparison. You see, Eddie will always be wonderful. He’ll always be my dog; he’ll always be a part of my and Kim’s young family. And the moment the artist put ink to flesh, my grief became lighter.
I now have a tattoo of my dog, which is also a small piece of art created by my wife. Even if Kim and I part ways and I come to dislike everything about her, I’ll always treasure Eddie. That’s forever love. (Not that I have any interest in divorcing my wonderful wife…)
Through the centuries, tattoos have been used to promote individualism, showcase one’s interests, display loyalty, honor loved ones, and so much more. Our Danish brethren at Tattoodo continue the tradition of promoting expression in today’s hyper-connected world of digital community.
I haven’t posted a photo of my Eddie tattoo. Yet. I’m nervous. Most of the ink on Tattoodo is expansive, colorful, intricate. My Eddie is simple. A few lines in black. But art is art, and tattoo is tattoo, and I suppose if I were to post a photo of my tattoo, the global tattoo community will find Ink Eddie as lovable as I found Fur Eddie.
And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?