In even the most staid of family portraits from centuries ago, you'll often find a small dog making an uninvited guest appearance.
The portrait is conventional,
its subject, family of a patriarch
who hired a painter, like a clerk,
to celebrate in lurid oils,
his great fecundity and spoils.
They stand, posed, two-dimensional,
a mother-wife in bombazine,
daughters, each in crinoline,
son, as though for pantomime
and there, a little way apart,
lest there be doubt,
the patriarch, benevolent and stout,
his face expressing calm nobility
(so that the painter might receive his fee).
Before them, squatting on a painted rug,
a corpulent and scowling pug.