An Inconvenient Tooth

Know me, and you know that I adore animals. I have two cats and one dog, all of which are rescues, though my in-laws’ golden retriever, Bonnie, is sort of my second dog. I suppose I also have a third dog, Murphy, a Labrador retriever who belongs to our next-door neighbors, Jeannie and Frank. I walk Murphy every weekend when I exercise my own Labrador/German-shepherd mix, Beast. Both dogs are young, close in age (Beast is 4, Murphy is 3), and highly energetic. When you have two large, young, male Labradors like these, you expect some drama (and some big veterinary bills) once in a while.

I take the dogs to a section of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia every weekend. We walk and play fetch with sticks that I toss into the Wissahickon Creek. While my Beast typically can’t be bothered with such games—he prefers to sniff every rock and tree stump in the park—Murphy would fetch sticks all day if my arm didn’t get tired. As unlikely as it sounds, I sometimes have trouble finding sticks to throw. On one such day, I threw rocks, which are abundant on the creek banks. I wasn’t launching stones at the dogs, mind you, but in different directions so Murphy would race to the spots where they splashed into the water.

Unfortunately, energetic Murphy was faster than I thought, and turned to scout out a throw just as I tossed it, inadvertently catching the large pebble in his mouth. Ouch! Later that day, Murphy’s top left fang—shaken loose by the momentum of the hit—had to be pulled.

But before anyone reports me to The Humane Society of the United States, please note that neither Murphy nor his owners (thankfully) hold a grudge against me. Murphy still howls for me every Saturday morning, letting me know he’s ready for his romp in the woods, and his owners are still happy for me to walk him. To express my regret, I had Christine Dhein, assistant director at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco, make the tooth into a necklace. Dhein was my instructor during fabrication courses years ago, so I knew that she had the talent to create the piece, her most unusual to date.

“When Jennifer first told me about her idea to create a pendant from a dog tooth, it definitely took me by surprise,” says Dhein.

But Dhein went ahead with the commission and sketched four different designs—all with the sterling silver accents and black rubber cord that I requested. To make an ideal piece, she considered function, aesthetics, and storytelling. “I wanted to show off the tooth as much as possible because it is the story,” she explains. “The design was intended as a showcase for the tooth, and something to spark conversation between pet owners.”

I selected the least complicated style. The result: The owners love the necklace, which garners lots of comments at the elementary school where Jeannie teaches. As for Murphy, well, he cares nothing about the necklace and only that I continue to walk him.