What Color are Your Dogs?

I was text chatting with a friend this morning who showed me a photo of his dog, a big Labrador/Weimaraner mix. She’s a gorgeous pale golden color with stunning green eyes, a truly beautiful creature. For the briefest moment, as I was commenting on Playa’s light jade eyes, I almost told my friend that my girls are purple. Really and truly, I had to reign myself in and remember that my dogs are only purple to me.

This is how synesthesia works in the real world. On paper, blended senses are an abstraction, and the idea of perceiving lexemes as colors seems both highly personal and somewhat trivial. A word like “dog” that is purple for me might be orange for another person, and green for a third. Synesthesia is a scientifically documented sensorial difference, and it’s a simple fact that some folks see words in color, but those colors don’t necessarily have a deeper meaning. They’re just a thing, a neurocognitive anomaly.

What happens for me with those brightly colored words though, is this: they stain everything in my brain with the color of that word. In my mind, apples are aquamarine blue, not red or green. Lemons are creamy orange, not yellow, and oranges are white. Strawberries are primary blue, watermelons are burgundy, and grapefruit are the color of fresh cut grass. Every single thing in the real world or my imaginarium has a synaesthetic color that overlays is true hue.

This synesthetic perception fosters moments of strange dissonance; I relate to the world through my synesthesia first, then “translate” my perceptions into non-synnie thoughts and concepts. But sometimes concepts get lost in translation, or I get so excited that I forget to subvert my synesthesia and instead blurt out something bizarre like “My dogs are purple!”

My dogs truly are purple to me, really really purple. They are super saturated because the word “dog” is purple tinged with ultraviolet. And, my girls are Jack Russell Terriers, which I often shorten to Jacks when I talk about them. “Jack” is also purple, but more like the color of Concord grape jam. Anytime multiple words associated with a thing are the same color, that object becomes vibrantly hued. So dogs + Jacks = my girls are very very purple.

There are a few more colors that layer over my purple dogs. Iris has shades of blue and a reddish hue that map onto the graphemes in her name. The same is true with my Lucy, for whom a crown of orange light best suits her personality and the origins of Lucy in concepts of light and daybreak.

Above is a photograph of Iris and Lucy taken in my backyard when they were just a year old. I printed the photo to art paper, then hand colored it with pencils. I scanned the photo, then manipulated it in Photoshop to reveal my multihued pups as perceived through the lens of my synesthesias. My purple girls and I would like to know this: what color are your dogs? Please leave a comment about the color of your dogs, or any other synesthetic perception of your canine friends and I’ll post your response.