a side-by-side image of a grey pitbull and a tattoo of a dog

I Got A Minimalist Tattoo Of My Dog To Thank Him For... Everything

With some help from BarkBox, you can get your own for free, too.

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Courtesy Sam Rullo

Every parent thinks their child — human or otherwise — is beautiful. However, my dog-son is complimented by strangers often enough for his handsomeness to be an objective fact. My 2.5-year-old pit bull mix, Ransom, has the floppiest, sweetest ears and endearing forehead wrinkles that suggest a relatable dose of skepticism. I’d even say that my guy in a jean jacket causes the same level of swooning as Chris Evans’ dog Dodger in a polo so, naturally, when BarkBox gave me the chance to get a tattoo of Ransom in honor of National Dog Day on Friday, Aug. 26, I jumped at the opportunity.

Thanks to a contest BarkBox is running until Friday, Sept. 2, you can also memorialize your perfect pup’s face for free. Inspired by a recent employee’s tattoo, Barkbox is treating 100 winners to a tattoo of their dog. To enter, you just need to upload a photo of your dog and share why you want to honor them with a tattoo. The 100 winners will get a Visa gift card to put towards their tattoo at the shop of their choice (and some goodies for the canine honoree, of course). When it came to my tattoo of Ransom, my only question was this: How could a design fully capture his stunning face while fitting in with my other simple, small tattoos?

It’s not just his looks that make Ransom worthy of a tattoo. I adopted him in November 2020 at the height of lockdown, one month into living by myself for the first time and a few months after a breakup, while working from home. At the risk of sounding like a “who rescued who” bumper sticker, Ransom came into my life at a time when I didn’t realize just how much I would need him.

The past two years would’ve been very different and much darker without him sitting at my feet while I worked, getting me outside for walks, cuddling constantly, and making me cringe and laugh at his mischievous antics (he’s named after Chris Evans’ scheming character in Knives Out for a reason). And, hey, having random people stop you on the street to tell you how good-looking your dog is every day doesn’t hurt either. I mean, can you blame them? Nor can you blame me for feeling stuck between honoring his undeniable beauty while keeping the style of my dog tattoo in line with my mostly minimalist tattoo aesthetic. My first idea was to get a tattoo of the outline of Ransom’s ears, similar to the way the person who inspired the Barkbox contest did.

Ultimately, I decided that I wanted a bit more. I needed a design that would immediately visually convey Ransom and feel uniquely him. After all, this is the dog who forced me out of bed on my self-titled “dark days,” when I woke up with a feeling of hopelessness and couldn’t take the depression blinders off. During that time, everything from a delivery arriving late to a perfectly innocuous text from a friend seemed like proof from the universe that I would never be happy again.

Before Ransom — especially when I, like everyone, was stuck inside indefinitely — it was all too easy for the hours of a day like that to bleed together while I watched Netflix under the covers and avoided talking to anyone who may be able to tell that I was struggling, but you can’t explain that to a high-energy 8-month-old dog. Puppies just want to have fun (and in Ransom’s case, cause some trouble), so that’s what we did.

Ransom got me outside, breathing fresh air, moving my body, and interacting with people. Those walks and trips to the park helped me stave off the loneliness that felt boundless as I tried to adjust to living alone for the first time and recover from a gutting breakup in the midst of lockdown. If, when we got back home, the blinders started to come back on, Ransom’s insistence on constant cuddling helped me remember that I wasn’t alone, and that dark days were just that: days. Not indefinite. Not forever.

Courtesy Sam Rullo

It would take more than just the shape of his ears to connect me to that deep sense of hope and comfort, so I started to mine the internet for simple, minimalist tattoo ideas. Eventually, I came up with a reference to bring the tattoo artist: an outline of Ransom’s full face, including the forehead wrinkles that appear when he tilts his head and really listens.

As it turns out, I didn’t need to do any of that research. When I got to West 4 Tattoo, an NYC shop that specializes in thin lines, I met Chang, the incredible artist who’d be tattooing me. Chang selected the photo below to use as inspiration and as I watched, traced a nearly perfect design onto a tablet. All that was missing were Ransom’s wrinkles. After asking Chang to add those in and showing him roughly where I wanted it on my body, I (admittedly, with a little hesitation) let him decide on the final placement and size.

I’m so glad I did.

Courtesy Sam Rullo

Chang was absolutely right about the final design, including how small it should be to best fit my inner elbow. He used a single needle to make the lines incredibly delicate, which also made this tattoo the least painful out of my seven so far. The whole thing took just shy of 20 minutes. As he tattooed me, going over the design twice to make sure the ink really popped, I hardly felt more than a light scratching.

Courtesy Sam Rullo

The final result is a tattoo with unbelievably clean, thin lines that perfectly captures handsome Ransom — strong jawline, wrinkles, and all. I absolutely love the tattoo and hope Ransom does, too (though considering his lack of interest when I shoved my arm in his face as soon as I got home, the jury’s still out). Now, if I’m ever feeling lonely or sensing that a day is turning dark, I can look at my arm and see the snuggliest, smartest, silliest, best-looking maniac of a dog I could hope for, and remember that he can always bring me back to the light.

To enter BarkBox’s BARK Dog Tattoo Contest, visit the contest page on the Barkbox website, upload a photo of your dog, and share why you simply must have them on your body for always. The contest will run until Friday, Sept. 2, and the winners will be announced on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Winners will also receive bonus goodies for their dogs and the first 1,000 entrees will receive $5 at the BarkShop.

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