Pet Rescue Art: If I am breathing I will be rescuing.
I just recently finished this little diddy…I decided a long time ago that since we all exit this life the same way eventually (empty handed and six feet under) that rather than accumulate “things or experiences” that I wanted to be completely used up when I die…I choose to use up whatever energy and resources I have being involved with pet rescue…whether its using my art, caring for my own house full of rescues, training rescue dogs or fostering homeless dogs…it is truly the highest privilege in life to find the vocation God destined me for…I live a blessed life.
This painting is an acrylic on canvas…11×14…glossy archival finish. This and many other of my paintings are available at my ETSY shop. I donate a portion of all of my sales to pet rescue groups.
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I firmly believe that what we do in this life will follow us in to the next life. We all leave a trace while we are here…some call it a legacy…be it small or grand though it will follow us. My trace, like most people’s I suppose, is a mix of good and bad. I had my wild years…the years where what I left behind was more like a stain than a trace. But my animals continue to rub my rough edges off. I will leave no grand legacy…just a trace of life with animals. I hope that trace is learning to work with difficult dogs (who for some reason are the one’s that steal my heart) and sharing the realities of how poorly animals still fare in our increasingly complex and unfeeling world through my art.
I started painting just a few years ago. My muse was my Rottie Hercules. He was also the reason I had to learn to train dogs. Like his human mama…he was head strong, difficult, didn’t always play well with others and enthusiastic about everything he did (good and bad). After he died I had a broken heart for a long time. It seemed like no time had passed at all before I was losing my clear mental picture of him…I felt like I was losing his face. So I started doodling/drawing him and then one day picked up some cheap pastel paints and painted him. On the left is this very first painting.
I was hooked after this..painting became my outlet. Every time I felt moved in regards to my own animals or the fate of other animals…I turned to painting to work it out. I am what they call in the art world an “outsider”. I have no formal training…actually I do not even have any informal training. All I have is a desire and passion to speak for animals through art. It was therapeutic for me…I never thought that what I was doing would resonate with others.
Two year ago I finally had enough paintings finished to open an ETSY shop. I started my little art shop with the hope that it would be a way for me to give voice to homeless animals and raise money for homeless animals while still being able to be present at home for my own house full of rescued pets (I have eight of them).
In the last two years I have shipped art to 29 states (CRAZY) and the momentum continues to build. The first three months of this year allowed us to raise our largest amount of funds so far …just over $1,200.00…I hope this momentum continues and I can’t say enough how much I appreciate everyone who frequents my shop, sends me referrals and connects me with rescue groups running large auctions.
I raise money in two ways…the largest portion is from my original paintings that go straight to charity auctions to raise money. My highest single auction sale to date has been $700.00 for one painting. If anyone had told me that I would make a painting that fetched that kind of money I would have laughed at them. I also donate a percentage of any sales of my art and handmade leashes from my ETSY shop to rescue charities.
Parting with my art is an odd thing. I am of course happy when I sell a piece or ship one off to auction. But there is also a strange remorse. I am parting with a piece of myself that I will never see again. It really is quite strange.
Fortunately, I am blessed with a house full of rescued cats and dogs that are my constant muse for my art. They give me so many ideas for more paintings that it feels like I have ping pong balls bouncing around in my head…I have to write them down or I will clutter them out. My website has been a great place to share my ideas and I appreciate everyone who reads and comments here.
Every life is precious…and that means the sweet animals too! God Bless and thanks for your support over the last two years!
Pet Rescue Art: Do we see our pets again after death?
What I am working on in my studio usually speaks to what is going on in my head and heart…lately is it grief and sadness. Grief is such a strange journey…its unique…no two losses are the same but no single experience of the loss of a loved one is about the loss of just that one loved one. When we open up for grieving it usually re-opens many old wounds that never completely healed. I find that my sensitivity to everything around me is heightened when I am experiencing grief. My ability to truly feel the experiences of another person or animal is so acute that it is physical. It is both an awful and awesome place to be emotionally and spiritually.
I am of the opinion that we never “get over” the loss of someone we care about. Rather, we just learn to live with the pain. The piece of our heart that breaks when they are gone remains broken and becomes part of who we are forever. It is part of becoming truly human.
I also believe we see our pets on the other side of life. Not because I “need” to believe that nor believe it is something polite and appropriate to say when anyone is in pain over the loss of a beloved pet. I believe it because it is logical to believe it. It is congruent with a Christian world view to believe it. And there is tangible evidence that we see our pets again. To say that a living creature is lost forever when it dies would constitute a belief in a world view called ” annhilationism”. Annihilationists believe that anything that is alive is gone forever once physically dead. The problem with that belief is that collective human intelligence (and by that I mean almost every single society that has ever walked this planet) has rejected annihilationism. Almost every society has believed in the spiritual birth of something new after death. While those belief systems vary, of course, what they hold in common is that there is something beyond life in the flesh for creatures. To hold the view that any creature, human or animal, is annihilated after death would put you in conflict with most of humanity…so which view does it make logical sense to hold? A Christian world view holds that all of creation is redeemed and part of God’s plan…while I will write more on this at another time…to exclude our beloved pets from God’s redeemed creation would be in direct conflict with a Christian world view. While it’s not as common to talk about it in a contemporary culture that does not want to deal hands on with death and dying…stories of what happens during the dying process and accounts of Near Death Experiences tell us a lot about what awaits us on the other side. And these experiences include interactions with animals; particularly pets already gone.
I like to think of the pets gone before me as waiting for me…which is selfish…really I hope they are running and playing with others and doing what they were meant to do naturally. But I know I will see them again. I hold this belief so strongly that while I love life on this side…I look forward to it on the other side just as much.
I have been painting Sparky, my beloved black lab who recently died. The painting is taking awhile because sometimes I am too emotional to work on it. It is a painting of how I picture him looking down on me now. (ok…tearing up as I write this…). I will share it when its done. I believe its completion will bring me as close to closure as one can get when a loved one dies.
Thanks for reading my posts and viewing my art. Much of my art is for sale at my ETSY shop. Sparky’s passing has opened a new chapter in my pet journey…one that is very focused on a new member of our family, Buster. Buster is a reactive dog that came here in a pretty wild state…I have decided to start chronicling the ways I have worked with Buster’s reactivity in hopes it can help other dog parents dealing with reactive dogs.
If you are in to all things pet and pet rescue check us out on Facebook or Pinterest!
Pet Rescue Art…important messages from the pets we love…
Hands down… the sassiest dog I have ever met is our Lhasa mix; Lacey Mae. They say that the dogs that challenge us the most are the dogs we love the most…I can say from experience that this is true. Lacey was a challenge literally from the moment I met her…and we love every bit of her. Now that my shop is up and running steady I (in theory) have time to expand this year and Lacey Mae is going to step up to the plate and become my newest Pawffiti Artist. Through her I plan to do some Pawffiti Art that is considerably more snarky than I have done in the past.
Lacey’s persona evolved over a series sketches that occurred on Saturday nights. My husband’s favorite thing to do on Saturday nights is watch UFC matches. He likes me to watch with him. So just like he does, when I drag him to the opera, I sit and enjoy UFC with him. I usually bring either a sketch pad or some yarn and a crochet hook. It was on a few of these Saturday fight nights that Lacey’s character evolved.
Lacey came to live with us shortly after Bret and I got married in 2008. For some odd reason…we decided we wanted to open our home to a small breed dog…because two labs and rottweiler weren’t enough for us I guess. We met Lacey through a friend who thought that perhaps we could give this “troubled little dog” a chance.
We drove about an hour to meet her. We loaded up our three big dogs to do a meet and greet with Lacey. She did great with our dogs…particularly since she is just a fraction of their size. However, she pretty much just ran in circles around my husband and I and growled at us. When I tried to greet her…at what I thought was a safe distance…she charged, jumped up and bit my nose….HARD. Oddly enough…we took her home anyway. Not because we bonded with her, obviously, but because she clicked so well with our big dogs and frankly…she was out of options.
Lacey had been surrendered by her owners for “chronic biting”. She seemed to have no use for humans other than to charge, growl and chomp on them.
When we first brought her home…she spent a good portion of the day following me around the house charging me, growling and biting and my legs and hands. If the door was open…she was gone…it was like Chariots of Fire running down the street to get away. My poor husband chased her one morning in nothing but his PJ bottoms (no shoes)…into the woods…over fences..through our neighbors backyards…he caught her eventually…he wasn’t very happy with her that day.
Lacey is smart…and despite her growly ways…all she wanted was some attention. She very quickly figured out that she would get plenty of attention when she was calm and gentle…when she wasn’t calm and gentle…she was ignored. It didn’t take her long at all to win us over and show us her charming and affectionate side.
Lacey will always be a sassy dog with boundaries that need to be respected. She has personal space issues (so does mommy)…and she will snap at someone if they push her too far. But we know her limits and she knows our rules…she has become an irreplaceable member of our family.
I am not a dog trainer that believes that every dog with problematic behavior can (or should) be saved. There are unfortunately some dogs who are just simply a danger to humans and other dogs and it is in everyone’s best interest for them to either live life out in a sanctuary (there are very few that can do this) or be humanely euthanized…it sucks (believe me it sucks) but it is sometimes the most humane outcome. Lacey however, despite being labeled a “chronic biter”, was not one of those dogs.
She has become the princess of the household…sleeping in the middle each night…riding the Harley with mom and dad…and she has become the dog we take everywhere. She runs errands with mom…she goes on vacation with both of us. She doesn’t mind dressing up (really…she doesn’t) and has a large wardrobe so she can gussy up for every occasion. She also doesn’t take any crap and has a growly opinion about just about everything…hence she is going to be my newest artist. She has always had a lot to say. I am so excited to see what happens as Lacey unfolds on canvas…I hope you will follow her progress!
Pet Rescue Art: Dog Fighting Sucks…what is wrong with Kentucky?
I live just 20 minutes north of Lexington, KY. Lexington is the horse capital of the world. In my county and several of the counties surrounding us…horses are a focal point of community life. The barns built for horses here are nicer than most folks houses. There is a retirement home for race horses a few minutes from my house…some of these horses have earned upwards of $90 million dollars in their life time. The horse is sacred here.
For the most part everyone I meet here is also a dog lover. Just about everyone has a dog or two. Hunting dogs are everywhere here…for the most part the hunting dogs live productive lives as working dogs here…the bond between the hunter and his dog something to respect. The local humane societies are well supported…and there are numerous smaller fringe rescue groups as well. But there is also a dark underworld for animals here that few folks want to talk about.
Kentucky has the worst laws in the nation for protecting animals…dead last…they are in fact a disgrace. Because of the pathetic laws the abuse and neglect of animals (especially dogs) goes on publicly and is never punished. Sure, folks can (and will) call and report the abuse they see…but there is often little the authorities can do…dogs are left to suffer out in the open for everyone to see. There are no laws here to fit the crimes of cruelty to animals here…it is a sad, sad state of affairs.
Kentucky is also the ONLY state in the nation that does not consider raising dogs for the purpose of fighting a felony…literally the only state in the nation! Why is it so important to classify raising dogs for fighting as a felony you might ask? Because this is the only way to stop dog fighting. It is very rare that the authorities will catch dog fights “in theater”…their world is too secretive. The only way to stop dog fighting, that every other state in the union has already figured out, is to bust the creeps for raising fighting dogs in the first place. In Kentucky…raising fighting dogs goes on right out in the open. Kentucky is in fact a safe haven for dog fighting.
We also must not be naive about the world of dog fighting…its not just about cruelty to animals…its about drugs and violence against humans too. These are dark hearted people with no regard for life…not a dog’s life…not my life…not your your life.
The Louisville Humane Society recently stated that 80% of the dogs they in take are pit bulls or pit mixes…80%….and most of them come in with wounds and scars reminiscent of dog fighting. We also have another problem here in Kentucky…dog fighters need bait…animals that they can use to teach their fighting dogs to kill…we therefore have an epidemic of stolen family dogs. It’s sickening…but if your dog goes missing here…we want to hope for the best but we are in fact forced to at least entertain the idea that the very worst of fates has befallen our dogs.
There is a group here; Kentucky Coalition to End Dog Fighting, that has been tirelessly working to get laws passed to make raising fighting dogs a felony. But alas…there are legislators standing in the way…many of them. They “kill the bills” to protect the dogs by adding abortion amendments, ag gag amendments and other amendments that have nothing to do with dog fighting. Its disgusting but these politicians are elected (over and over) and have been getting away with this for years. There is still a chance that a bill will pass this month where anti-dog fighting language will itself be an amendment…we can hope and pray that it passes. If it doesn’t I hope for public outrage against these legislators standing in the way…but I doubt it.
I have no desire to opine about corrupt politicians and their role in the suffering of animals here in Kentucky..most thinking people know that the role of “career politician” has simply become a euphemism for corruption…removing all “career politicians” with term limits is the only answer to cleansing our corrupt government.
I do think it is worth reflecting on the state of a society that passively stands by in the face of cruelty. Basic kindness to animals should be easy…and it should be a key measure by which we judge our communities. Abominations such as dog fighting (any kind of animal fighting) are a blight…a dark spiritual sickness that every single civilized person should be unwilling to tolerate in any form. Here though…there is an entire segment of society accepts things like dog fighting and cock fighting as part of their “culture”. Whenever there is actually a raid of a dog fighting ring or cock fighting ring here there is a hardcore group of people that are outraged by the intrusion of government on this pillar of their history and culture…literally they identify things like cock fighting as “part of their culture and heritage”.
This is a picture my husband took in eastern, Kentucky (click on it and enlarge it). If you don’t know what you are looking it…the barrels are for fighting roosters. Roosters are tied to these barrels (which are their homes) until they are taken to the ring to fight. This picture was taken “in town”…it wasn’t hidden from civil society…these fighting roosters were being raised right out in the open for all to see…everyone driving by knows what the fate of these roosters will be…and nothing can be done for them.
Where I personally struggle the most with issues like cruelty to animals is NOT in pondering “how could they?”…”how could anyone be so cruel?”…I don’t wonder that at all…I know exactly how individual people can be so cruel…they are spiritually sick…in many cases spiritually bankrupt.
What I do struggle with is how can everyone else stand by and do nothing…how can we have a such a high level of “dis-interest” in ending cruel practices going on in our own communities…Most of us would never consider engaging in the world of dog fighting or cock fighting ..but at least in Kentucky…the voting population repeated elects legislators who refuse to put a legal end to it. This is a dark blemish on our society…we (Kentuckians) must end it…we (Kentuckians) cannot stand by in disgust and judgment rather we must be the voices for these animals. We have to do something about it…the animals can not put an end to dog fighting…but we can.
It appears there is one last chance for Kentuckians to speak up and encourage our legislators to finally do the right thing and stop dog fighting. There is a bill that has passed the Senate…was amended in the house and now must pass the Senate with the amendments again. It is SB143 and it has the anti-dog fighting provision as an amendment. Will you make the phone call? Call your state senator (800-372-7181)…call the Senate leadership…ask them to support SB143 and to take a stand against dog fighting. If you don’t know who your Senator is…click on the link here Kentucky Coalition to End Dog Fighting…and they have details and links to find your Senators and details about the bill. Like their page on Facebook if you want to follow this more closely…the phone calls matter THIS WEEK!!!!! I will be making the phone calls this week…will you?
I have spent the last few months learning the process of getting giclee prints made of some of my paintings…maybe I am just getting older…but navigating new things (especially technology) gets ever more complicated and frustrating. One of things I have learned the hard way with my budding art store is that it is a constant time battle to try to manage on an online store and have enough time to create. Running an online shop has required me to learn Search Engine Optimization, advertising and networking on social media and photography (which I still really stink at still). I have learned online payment systems…photo editing…the list goes on. My little art store has now shipped products to 29 different states in the U.S.! I am hoping to hit all 50 in the next year or so and at some point I would like to ship internationally.
I believe I have finally put together a cost effective yet very high quality team to get my art prints made. I am really excited that I can use my prints to generate even more funds for rescuing animals. So far in just the first quarter of 2015 The Rescue Mama Shop has generated $820 in donations of cash and merchandise to rescue groups. I am hoping to grow this number significantly throughout the year. I am hoping that my “Live to Rescue” Pawffiti will be a big part of that. When I first posted the original painting on Facebook last month it was well received and I had a lot of requests for prints (and tshirts and bumper stickers, etc).
Getting prints made requires professional photographs of the originals…I have found a wonderful photographer in Lexington (Mary Rezny) who does an amazing job creating my electronic art files for me and has been generous with her time answering my endless questions about the process. It also required finding a high quality printer that can provide archival quality prints that don’t break the bank…after test running a few shops I have been thrilled with the product I am getting from www.iprintfromhome.com.
I sell all of my originals and prints at my ETSY shop. 25% of the sales price of my originals go to rescue donations (the buyer can choose which rescue group gets the donation if the desire). For all of my print sales I donate 10% of the sale. I accumulate the total all quarter for my print sales and then write one check at the end of each quarter to a rescue group that I choose (which is usually a group in Kentucky as the needs for animals is so great here but there are other groups that I send to as well).
I have also been making cards with each of my new prints. They make great cards for new pet adoptions or simply as “thinking of you” cards for pet rescue friends, dog walkers, veterinarians. I am selling them for $3.99 at my shop.
This “Live to Rescue” painting was inspired by my Sparky…who as you know passed away last week. I can’t put in to words how deeply I miss him. Sparky spent his days either laying next to my easel or laying next to my desk…the house seems decidedly empty without him. I am so grateful that I have painted so many pictures of him…I bet he gets a kick out of knowing that his sweet face is hanging in so many homes around the country.
Years ago…the reason I started painting in the first place was the loss of my Rottie, Hercules. It was only a few months after he had passed that I realized I was losing my mental image of him…so I started doodling pictures of him and eventually I painted him…it was then that I realized…hey maybe I can do something productive with my painting. Here I am several years later with my own little shop. I am having fun…keeping the spirit of my dogs alive, giving voice to homeless and abused animals and raising some extra money for other dogs.
If you are interested in following my work more closely please follow my blog where I post weekly about my art, crafts and life with a house full of rescued pets and like my Facebook Page where I post daily.
Allow me to introduce you to Vera. Vera is a pittie girl who was rescued by a group called Muttley Crue Rescue in Ohio. A few weeks ago I was contacted by Muttley Cure looking for a painting for their Mardi Paws event in Cleveland, OH next month. I found Vera’s story on their website and fell in love with her…I just had to paint her. Prior to her rescue by Muttley Crue some horrid person poured hot oil on her body and left her to die. But look at her now…isn’t she lovely! I think everything about her just says “joy”. I am always amazed at how fast dogs and cats can recover both physically and emotionally after they have suffered at the hands of creepy humans.
The statement on Vera’s painting was a theme that Muttley Cure used on their website. I will be shipping off Vera’s painting for auction as soon as I have it photographed. I hope the painting raises a bunch of dough as Vera also has a heart condition and will need an expensive surgery. I will be making prints of Vera’s painting which I will put up for sale at my ETSY shop. I will donate a portion of the sale of each print to Muttley Crue. It will be a few weeks before the prints are available.
My paintings are my way of doing a little something more for dogs and cats who are still waiting for their forever home while still allowing me to be present at home for my house full of rescued pets…each painting I do is completed in a studio full of cats and dogs. Check out my Art Gallery to see more Pet Rescue paintings I have done.
Odds are I will never meet Vera but it was an honor to paint her!
Do you know a lot of heroic people? I believe I know a lot of them…I think they are all around us. Everyone has their struggles…some people wear them on their sleeve…some people bury them deep inside….but we all fight battles and those battles makes living life on life’s terms heroic in its own right. Still, we have the more obvious heroes…like our soldiers. A hero comes in many forms…and sometimes its the sweet soul who wanders to the shelter and rescues a dog…and sometimes it’s the dog.
Sparky, my black lab, has been creeping in to my art more and more…he creeps in to my dreams more too. He is very old now and sometimes I think his presence in my dreams is his way of beginning to say good-bye to me. I love to draw and paint him. He is a fascinating dog. When I first adopted him he was near a feral dog. I could not touch him or even get very close to him…he was never aggressive but he had no use for me…would not even take food from my hand. He had no concept of how to live in a home with humans and destroyed miraculous amounts of things in my home and would jump up and down (several feet up) when I put a leash on him. What kind of crazy woman adopts a dog like that might be a fair question…honestly…one that didn’t know any better.
While I was clueless then I know now that dogs come in to our lives when they are suppose to. Sparky, who for years wanted nothing to do with me…turned in to a loyal companion. He never leaves my side and has become a hero to other dogs. Whenever I hear someone say a dog is not adoptable…I cringe. Sparky was in that category. The weekend I adopted him (he had been adopted out several times and returned to the Humane Society) was his last chance…he was on doggy death row for the following week. Don’t get me wrong…the early years with Sparky were not easy….sometimes I could do nothing but cry at the things he destroyed …at the frustration of trying to manage little things like getting him in to the car. But oddly enough…in the midst of a very dark time in my life he started to change and calm down…he became the dog I needed at that time. Eventually, Sparky was the dog that went through dog training school with me…all of which were efforts to help my other dog (Hercules) who was terribly reactive. Sparky rocked dog training school…my mentor couldn’t believe his ability to focus on me (neither could I really…I think now of all the years I was underestimating what he could do). Now Sparky is the dog that I use to work with other dogs…those that are fearful and those that are reactive in the presence of other dogs. (Reactive is the politically correct way to say dog aggressive). There is something about Sparky’s presence that calms and guides other dogs to better behavior. I won’t pretend for one moment that I understand it nor do I feel the need to.
Sparky has a way of communicating with other dogs…his body language, his eyes..in ways that say all sorts of things I suppose…its so hard not to anthropomorphize our dogs…I would imagine he says things like…”knock it off you obnoxious idiot” to dogs like Buster and “follow my lead I’ve got your back” to dogs like Turnip.
But make no mistake…he is a near 100 pounds of a take no prisoners bad ass if he needs to defend his family. Very few times in all the years that Sparky has lived with me have I seen him go in to a guard dog state…but each time it has happened I have been both startled by and also proud of his fierceness…I believe he would die defending our pack. The first time my husband saw Sparky defend the pack he was shocked.
Since we moved to Kentucky Sparky has worked his magic with our two foster dogs; Turnip and Buster. Turnip is a fearful dog and Buster is a reactive dog. Sparky is a dog that gives other dogs a second chance…it is really a magical thing. Turnip was afraid of his own shadow…taking him for a walk in the neighborhood was nearly impossible…a blowing leaf, a passing car, a garbage can…all were potential threats in Turnip’s eyes. We started walking him with Sparky and it changed Turnip’s world. After his Sparky therapy…Turnip walks the hood like he owns it! Buster was an obnoxious idiot that wanted to hump and bully every dog he encountered. Sparky very quickly taught him some manners. Turnip and Buster will be Sparky’s last miracles…we declare him officially retired and will focus on caring for him in his old age.
We all owe Sparky a lot….the dogs and certainly Bret and I. We enjoy every day we have with him…and relish in the grace with which he is dealing with his old age. He is totally deaf now, his kidneys don’t function well, his hips are weak and he farts all the time…still he hangs with pack, goes on his daily walk (slooooowly) and rarely leaves my side. While he isn’t going to live here on earth with us forever…he will be in my dreams and in my art until we reunite on the other side…and I find great comfort in that. He is like magic to me…or maybe a better word is grace. Sometimes I think that in certain moments with our dogs we get rare but clear glimpses in to the mystery of grace…the only other place I have felt it is in my marriage…dogs and husband…what more could a girl want.
I leave you with all these thoughts and images of my Sparky…my sweety, my magic and when he needs to be … a badass!
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Bret and I have never been so proud to fail at something!
On January 3, 2015 Bret and I became official “foster failures”. We are so proud to introduce Turnip Halverson…he is now part of his forever family. Turnip has been a joy and also a challenge for our home. Anyone who knows me… knows I love a challenge… also that I have a knack for falling in love with dogs who need a little extra help figuring life out.
Turnip was so painfully shy when he came here. It took quite a bit of time and patience to win his trust but eventually we did. He came here as a foster because he was struggling to make connections with humans at his first foster home. The day I met him all he did was pace…. back and forth…over and over…the pacing continued here for several days. Even corralling him in and out of the house to potty was a bit of a challenge as he was terrified to walk through door ways with a human present and he didn’t want us to touch him.
Every time I meet a dog I believe I can help in some way I am repeatedly thwarted by the magic influence dogs can have on each other. After a week or two Turnip adjusted to the most basic elements of life with our pack. He followed the lead of our dogs (my labs especially) and figured out meal routines, potty routines, sleeping routines and finally that it was safe to approach us.
Anytime Turnip made a new leap …like walking up the stairs for the first time (he was terrified of the stairs) or getting in and out of the car without me having to carry him (he was terrified of the car)…Bret and I would brim with excitement and pride. Our most recent big excitement has been Turnip’s walks. Turnip is afraid of everything…a blowing leaf, a passing car, a garbage can. Raising his comfort level to walk in the neighborhood has been no small accomplishment. I attribute most of his success to my labs…who walked flanking Turnip for weeks…up and down the same streets…now a clicker and a few pieces of meat are all that is necessary for Turnip to venture out without the labs and stay relaxed.
Turnip was not neutered when he moved in…he had been too sick to undergo the surgery. For me, having an intact male in the house was something new…I have always had rescues that came neutered or spayed. This raised the challenge a bit as Turnip wanted to mark EVERYTHING and he was having trouble (at times) getting a long with our other dogs. (He was the instigator of several squabbles that ended with me getting bitten.) I used Simple Solution belly bands for the marking situation…I tried a few brands and this seemed the most comfortable for him and by far the most absorbent. They are easy enough to wash (though I wouldn’t recommend putting them in the dryer). After he was neutered I used the umbilical cord technique to potty train him…which only took a few days…we have not had any problems since. His play style with the other dogs improved significantly after his neuter as well and mom no longer gets bitten!
I used several proven techniques for working with shy dogs to train with Turnip. I am not a novel dog trainer…I rely on the wisdom of those who have many years of successful experience working with dogs with behavior challenges….Jen Severud (who was my mentor), Emma Parsons, Debbie Jacobs and Patricia McConnell. I use a clicker for just about everything I work on with Turnip. One thing that is particularly challenging with fearful dogs is getting them to generalize behavior (perform the same behavior in different settings). Using a clicker makes the process of generalization go much faster which significantly reduces the dogs stress in new settings. There are two things you will pretty much always find on me when I am out and about…dog hair all over my clothes (ish) and a clicker hanging from wrist!
I played a game called “touch” with Turnip…we play it still. It makes approaching new things a fun game for Turnip instead of a scary experience. Since Turnip is a very playful dog this has worked wonders. Another thing I made sure I worked hard at when training with Turnip is always making sure I am setting him up to succeed in his training. If I am asking my dog to perform a behavior and the dogs is failing…ITS NOT THE DOG! It is my role as his trainer (and well now his mama) to make sure that he is successful…if he is struggling with his training …I back up and revamp the situation to a scenario in which he can succeed…then work back up the difficulty more slowly.
The night before Turnip’s official adoption Bret and I became resolved to no longer speak of Turnip’s past in our home…this is the last time I will write about it too. Turnip led a hellish life for years…but that is not what makes him special…what makes him special is his fight…he is a tough dog who first survived neglect and abuse, then a horrible illness and then began fighting his way to learn to lead a normal life with a family. We won’t be looking at the old pictures…we won’t be recalling how badly he was treated…because it is all upside from here for him. Turnip’s identity now is one of a playful, energetic and affectionate (and even sometimes naughty) member of our permanent family.
I can’t end this post without calling out my husband. Turnip is terrified of men…it has been no small exercise in patience for Bret and Turnip to adjust to each other. It gets better all the time…due entirely to my husband’s huge heart and persistence. Turnip still won’t go in or out the door for potty if my husband is close by but he does hang out on the couch with him and eats out of Bret’s hands. The fact that my husband fell in love with a dog who still fears him is a testament to his heart. I don’t have the kind of husband who buys me jewels…but rather one that loves broken creatures and believes in second chances…I am so lucky!
This is a picture of me and Turnip at my desk. Whenever I sit down to write at my computer Turnip climbs on my lap and falls asleep…sitting up like this…it is so darn cute. I have figured out how to type with him on my lap…he has become my muse.
The last thing I will say about Turnip…he barks…Turnip was in the rescue process (fostered, hostipalized, etc) for about one year….that whole time no one heard him bark. Turnip has found his bark…he barks all the time now…I love the sound of him barking…he also howls now…every time the sirens pass our house…it is so cute.
I love the sound of dogs, the smell of dogs and the chaos that comes with of a house full of dogs…and I love Turnip.
I leave you with this picture of Buster…our other foster dog. He is also here because he has some behavior challenges…but he is making great progress too. The night of the party, with a few exceptions (like leaping on to the table of food) he behaved wonderfully and had a great time…so much so that he was caught dozing off with his party hat on.
This painting has been a long time in coming…it has been on my mind since Turnip (our foster) entered our home. Seeing dogs living on chains is new for me…and it is so hard…no impossible for me to understand. When I see a dog on a chain…I DON’T think…”how could someone do this?”…because I know how one person can do this…they are spiritually sick. What I DO ask myself is…”how can an entire community stand by and let this happen to so many dogs…”
Kindness to animals is (and should always be) easy for us as a civil society. It is one of many important characteristics by which the spiritual health of our communities can and should be evaluated. I paint because I want to share the things that tug at my heart…the number of dogs living in distress in my own community weighs heavily on my heart…so here is my painting…what do you think?
The painting is for sale…it is up on my ETSY shop…as with all my paintings I donate a percentage of my sales to rescue groups.
Here is the picture of Turnip when he was rescued by SOAR. Here is a picture of Turnip today…
I don’t know about you but I usually have mixed emotions about the holiday season. The zealous commercialization of Christmas seems to have stolen its real meaning…the expectations of others seems to add too much stress. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed the holiday season but this year instead of feeling emotionally zapped by it I was fully energized by it. The commercialization is obnoxious….still, there are some fun but silly activities that captured our amusement….like pictures with Santa. This year Bret and I really had the chance to focus on what means the most to us…each other and the current cadre of critters running around our house. Our gift to each other this year…vet bills (they are so high right now with three seniors)…our gift to our critters has been and will always be our time and focus.
One of our holiday adventures this year was pictures with Santa at the Scott County Humane Society. We took Lacey and Kringles…both made a lot of people smile with their cute little outfits and cooperative natures. Kringles picks up chicks everywhere he goes. After pictures we took them for puppy lattes at Starbucks. Lacey knows what it means when we pull up to a Starbucks drive through and bounces around with excitement…if she wasn’t in a car seat I am sure she would leap right into the Starbucks window.
Christmas Eve was bittersweet this year….sweet because the weather was fabulous most of the day and I spent most of the day walking dogs at the park. For a Minnesotan…a 60 degree Christmas Eve is a wonderful treat! With six dogs in the house right now I spend a good portion of each day excercising them…the biggest gift we can give our dogs is keeping them mentally, physically and socially stimulated…while that is not easy with six I do enjoy every minute of it. I am lucky to have several parks within a few minutes of my house. Sparky and Kringles are good walking companions…Sparky still loves his walks but moves very slow now. Kringles has an enlarged heart and can no longer go on walks…he enjoys tooling along in his wagon…he is so content to ride along and enjoy the view. The bitter part of Christmas Eve…the night before Christmas Eve I made a late night run to Walmart…to pick up some treats for a friend who just broke her leg. It was getting cold and it was pouring rain…this picture was all I could think about….this picture was taken by a local rescue group in the county I live in (it is one of several pictures of dogs living chained that day). In the cold and pouring rain this dog had nothing but a plastic tote to keep it warm and dry….assuming its chain wasn’t tangled that night keeping it from the tote. There was also a puppy at the site who was sharing the tote with this dog. This is such a common picture of dogs in Kentucky. When I look at this I do not wonder “how could anyone do this to a dog”…I know how…they are spiritually sick. What I wonder is “how can an entire community look the other way?” The problem in Kentucky is not simply the spiritually sick individuals who chain up and neglect their dogs…its the lack of will by the community to stand up say “NOT IN MY BACKYARD…WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS”. Kindness to animals is simple and easy…and is one of many important benchmarks by which a community’s conscience and spiritual health can be evaluated.
Also on my mind was this dog…Lola. Lola was rescued in the nick of time…she was tied to a chain and left to starve. Her brother was found dead at the scene…he slowly starved to death. This incident was also in Kentucky…just north of here. Lola’s abuser has been arrested…which is great…but the maximum sentence for what he has done is 90 days. This is a travesty of justice…yet there is no outrage. Lola is healing (she had wounds all over her skin) and has gained considerable weight since she was found…but it appears her suffering is in vain…as despite the coverage of this incident in the press here…there are no laws to adequately deter this type of crime in the future.
The state of the dogs in Kentucky is such a frustrating situation…in most communities in Kentucky the laws are such that there is absolutely nothing you can do to help these dogs…if there are laws they are rarely enforced. As I thought about that poor dog living in the tote that night I did the only thing I was able to do for it…pray. Pray for comfort and rescue for this dog and pray for grace to enter the heart of this dogs human….pray for this community to have a change of heart. You can analyze societal problems like this any way you want I suppose…but I see this as a spiritual epidemic…perhaps it is time to start a prayer chain focused on the dogs of Kentucky because frankly I am not sure anything else will work.
Every time I see dogs in distress I want to run home and snuggle my own pets…lucky for me our two foster dogs are the world’s best snugglers. If I am sitting down anywhere in our home….they are vying for my lap. I really couldn’t be more blessed…I have learned so much from both of these dogs. Our Christmas carried on…depsite my pre-occupation with all the dogs living in distress.
We stuffed the tree with presents Christmas morning….the dogs watched with great anticipation. Buster and Lacey attacked the present pile with great enthusiasm. Kringles just wanted to snuggle. Turnip just wanted his stuffed lambs. Sparky just relaxed and watched the festivities in his usual dignified manner. It was a delightful morning. I leave you with a few of our family pictures from Christmas morning….a morning that I felt very blessed to have a husband who doesn’t just tolerate all the critters I bring home…he loves them…and blessed to play a small role in the lives of all these sweet creatures. I believe the entire reason we are born on this planet is to grow spiritually…for each of us there will be different paths and roles that rub the rough edges off of us and aids in our spiritual maturity…for me…my path is pet rescue. What we do in this world follows us into the next…
This Pet Rescue painting is inspired by my cat Taco. If ever you could label a cat a “hippie cat” it would be Taco…she is all about peace and lovin’ everybody up. Taco is named Taco because she was found in a dumpster behind a taco joint. From the moment I brought her home she was a relaxed and happy cat…she loves to meet new people and pets and lives under the assumption that everyone wants to be her friend. When she needs it she has just the right amount of sass in her too.
Pet Rescue Art is my passion, it is how I can work at spreading the word about how important it is to rescue pets instead of purchasing them. Every day 8-10,000 healthy cats and dogs are killed in our country because they have no home, that works out to about six per minute. My husband and I purchased our first dogs many, many years ago…we just didn’t know how many animals were dying in shelters every day. My introduction to pet rescue was my lab Sparky…once Bret and I learned more about how many pets need rescue not only did we choose to rescue a house full of pets but we believe that sharing the rescue message will motivate people to choose to rescue vs. purchase animals like it did for us. Check out my Art Gallery to view other Pet Rescue paintings I have done.
This painting is available at my Shop where I have a variety of fun pet rescue themed paintings and gift items for the pet lover. If you are a rescue advocate consider following my blog…I blog about all things pet and pet rescue!
I leave you with a picture of our sweet Taco who inspired this painting.
Pet Rescue Art: Pawprints and hearts is what it’s all about!
They say that if we reflect on whatever it is that dominates our time tells it will tell us what we love the most. For myself and my husband our first love is our house full of rescued pets. When I sit down to paint it is very rare that it ever occurs to me to paint something that isn’t about pet rescue. I will never get rich painting pet rescue art but it is what comes from my heart and for me it is a way I can help animals that I cannot adopt myself.
In 2013 I made up my own definition of the word rescue and it has been creeping in to my art ever since. This is an acrylic painting that I recently finished. I wanted to make a colorful but simple way to highlight what rescue is all about; an action that brings great things to rescuer and rescuee. This acrylic on canvas is 20X16 and it is highly textured. The texture in the hearts is different than the texture of the paw print. I have been having a lot of fun with modeling paste lately; texture adds such nice richness to paintings and the changes in surface allow for really cool dry brush effects to add richness to colors.
When I paint on canvas I stick with a canvas that has at least a 1.5 inch mounting board. I like the space it affords me to wrap my paintings around the canvas. I might just be a simple girl but another favorite aspect of painting on mounted canvas is that my paintings do not need framing…the cost of framing is absurd these days!
This painting is for sale at my Shop. What do you think of this one?
Here are some other creations that have been born out of my rescue definition…I guess I am a bit stuck on this concept!
These are dog tag necklaces that I sell at my shop and have used for auction items at pet rescue events to raise money for homeless animals. They are always a hit at rescue events.
These ornaments were a ton of fun to make. I made them out of paper mache hearts that I covered with illustrations from Golden Books. I have a free tutorial on how I made these ornaments on my Craft Page. There is one set for sale at my Shop.
This is one of my handmade cards for celebrating pet adoption.
If you are a rescue advocate consider following my blog for rescue news, rescue inspired art and all sorts of pet gift and craft ideas…I love creating new things for the pets and pet lovers and sharing those ideas with others! My Craft Page is full of free tutorials and my ETSY shop is full of reasonably priced gifts for the pet lover.
Pet sympathy: Cat memorial painting…textured acrylic on canvas.
This painting is part of my “Anima” line of products for pet sympathy. “Anima” is the Latin word for soul. Everything in my “Anima” line is about remembering our beloved pets that we have lost. This is a textured painting done in acrylics on mounted canvas. I had a lot of fun making the moon glow in this painting.
Usually I only make cards for this line…this is my first painting…what do you think? Check out my Art Gallery to see some of my other paintings or look through my Hope After Loss page for articles and links for coping with the loss of a beloved pet.
If you love all things pet and pet rescue consider following my blog…I post 1-3 articles per week on my blog and daily on Facebook and Pinterest pages.
Pet Rescue: Pawffiti…acrylic on canvas…pet rescue art!
This is my latest Pawffiti…important messages from the cats we love. This pet rescue art is an acrylic painting on mounted canvas so it can be hung on the wall as is. I paint the picture to continue on to the side of the canvas – see pictures below. The painting is 12×12 inches (on a 1.5″ canvas). I use masterpiece collection canvas, high quality paints and a final varnish (matte) to make my paintings a lasting addition to any home.
This painting is two cats admiring the moon and sitting patiently on a fence waiting for their forever home. It is also depicts their propensity for mischief as they are painting a pawffiti message on the fence they are sitting on.
I do not make prints of any of my paintings, each is an original. While I may paint several versions of a design I like, none are exactly the same and make a unique addition to the pet lover’s home!
The copyright does not appear on the actual painting…only on the photos. Many of my paintings are available at my ETSY shop.
Pawffiti is beginning to take it on…I like to think of it as a way to “paw it forward” . Last month three of my paintings were auctioned off to raise money for a local rescue group here in Georgetown. Last week a man in Arizona bought two of my Pawffiti’s for his wife…turns out she gave up a lucrative job to work full time at a shelter in Arizona (a no kill shelter…woo hoo!). I donated 10% of my Pawffiti sales to her shelter…and the art will hang somewhere where it can promote the message of saving homeless pets…SIX A MINUTE… that is how many healthy cats and dogs are killed each passing minute in the US, simply because no one wants them. The more we talk about it…the more chances we have to save them all.
I hope you enjoy this …I just love this painting 🙂 Check out my Art Gallery to see other paintings I have done…if you love all things pet and pet rescue subscribe to my blog and get to know our pack better! I post 1-3 times per week on my blog (pet articles, art, craft tutorials and more) and daily on my Facebook and Pinterest pages.
Antique Bee Box made in to a pet bed!
I made this:
I had an absolute blast making this pet bed. It would work for either a small dog or a cat (or frankly even for a doll bed). I am flush with pet beds in my house so this one is going up for sale on my ETSY shop. What do you think of this one? Looking for ideas to make your own beds?…check out Bed Gallery and Craft Page! If you love all things pet subscribe to my blog… I post 1-3 articles per week on my blog and daily on my Facebook and Pinterest pages.
Pawffiti…important messages from the pets we love through art…
My husband and I recently made an out of state move (MN to KY)… while I couldn’t be happier that I have said goodbye to MN winters forever… moving is really a miserable process. Last week I had about enough of the unpacking of boxes and cleaning as any person could take. I decided the work could wait and I took to my paints and finished up some really fun pieces that will posted to my ETSY store throughout this week.
What do you think of this one? This is a 20×20 acrylic Pawffiti inspired by my Sparky.