Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Retreat of Winter

I stood on my deck in the marginally warm sunshine this afternoon and, looking south, painted the stream, which is finally free of ice, and whose banks are slowly appearing from beneath Winter's heavy blanket.

Like winter in Narnia retreating before Aslan's advance, the snow is gradually yielding to Spring's sunshine. The west facing bank of the stream is now snow-free, but the east facing side is still covered. The mornings are cold enough that early in the day the sun can't muster the warmth to melt the snow, but the afternoons are warmer now, so the south and west facing areas are clearing.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Reprieve and a Gift: My Dog is Back

A warm breeze whispered across my face and, looking down, I saw it rumpling Rowan's red fur as he glanced up, then smiled his wide doggy grin as he caught my eye and held my gaze. My dog is back and I am happy.

A few weeks ago I didn't know if Rowan would still be with me much longer. For months I'd been feeling like our bond wasn't as strong as it had been and, as is my wont, I figured I was to blame. Was I so distracted and fulfilled by having a grandchild that I no longer valued my relationship with my dog as much? Maybe I was too preoccupied with my search for and then delight in my new cat, Acadia. Or was I just too busy training other people's dogs and getting ready for my February art show?

Whatever the reason, there seemed to be an increasing distance between Rowan and me, and he seemed less and less interested in being with me. Whereas previously, when I would ask if he wanted to go somewhere with me ("with me" being the magic words), Rowan would leap up and run to the door; in recent months when I'd ask, he'd skulk into his crate and lie down with his back to the entrance. He's always been eloquent in his communication with me, and that was a pretty clear message. I would leave the house alone, with his place both in my car and in my heart empty.

Additionally, we'd been seeing some odd behaviors from Rowan from time to time. Startling more and more often for no apparent reason. Some inexplicable housebreaking issues, and this from a dog who always used to ask to go out even when he just needed to pass gas. Disorientation and indecision in the house. Repeatedly getting "stuck" under the picnic table right outside the door. A part of me knew I was seeing early (or perhaps not-so-early) signs of dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, but I really wasn't ready to put it all together.

Then one day I came across a piece I'd written about Rowan a few years ago, and I started to cry as I realized that I hadn't seen that dog in months. I finally recognized it wasn't me; that Rowan really had changed and that he wasn't the same dog who'd been inseparable from me, who used to go everywhere with me and who knew my moods and state of mind and body better than I did myself. I'd made the wrenching decision to retire Rowan from Service Dog work a few months before when it was apparent he was no longer up to going places with me, but I thought it was due to arthritis. Now I realized it was because he was no longer connected with me in the same deep way he'd been for the preceding eleven years.

With a mixture of fear and despondency I called my vet and was relieved when she was hopeful. She suggested I try giving Rowan SAMe, which is used for cognitive issues in dogs and cats, and also a nutritional supplement, on the premise that even though he's eating a high quality diet, he may be absorbing fewer nutrients as he ages. She told me it would take about four weeks for the SAMe to make a difference.

I thought I saw some changes within a week, but knew it could be wishful thinking. But now, five weeks later, Rowan is back! Yes, he still seems a bit disoriented in the house occasionally, but he's not getting stuck under the picnic table anymore, there've been no more housebreaking incidents (not that we've given him the opportunity), he's startling much less often, and best of all, he is back to being my loving, connected companion. Now when I ask if he wants to go with me, Rowan leaps up and runs to the door, dancing with excitement. He follows me around the house again, and he comes to me often asking for affection.

I don't know how long this reprieve will last, nor do I know whether he will decline gradually or depart from me all at once, but for now I am cherishing every day as a gift. And when I look down now, and I see those familiar, intelligent eyes and that happy smile that I know so well, I thank God for more time with this wonderful dog who has blessed me in so many ways.
Rowan in his spot in my car

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Six Sweet Pounds of Purr and Fur

A paper grocery bag scuttles across my studio floor, a couple of inches of fluff moving side to side behind it like a furry rudder. Suddenly a brownish striped and spotted form darts out from beneath the bag, then turns and leaps into it, smacking the back of the bag with a crinkly thump. Acadia has come to live with us.


After extensive (some might say obsessive) searching on petfinder.com and adoptapet.com, and several lengthy interviews with rescues about various cats, I came upon "Lisa" and fell in love with her sweet face and relaxed body language. After another careful interview, I met "Lisa," who decided she was home and let me know that, of the names I was considering, Acadia was the one that would fit her. Acadia is probably a bit over a year old, so I'm designating November 28, 2013 as her birthday-- Thanksgiving Day, because I am so thankful for her. 

I knew I'd missed having a cat since Silver died a year and a half ago, but I didn't realize how much until Acadia moved in eight days ago. There's a saying by Roger Caras, "Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our life whole." I know many cat lovers would say the same about cats. I'm not sure I'd put it quite that way, since I believe it is God who makes my life whole, but I do believe that He uses dogs and cats to help many of us experience His love that makes our lives whole. I know that's how it works for me. I've had a cat-shaped emptiness in my heart and lap for too long, and this past week I have often had tears of gratitude and joy at having that emptiness so warmly filled. I've been filling my journal with sketches of Acadia, and I look forward to many years of sketching this beautiful creature while she purrs on my lap or scampers around our home.




Saturday, January 31, 2015

Painting Friends Art Exhibition

My good friend Deb Townsend and I are exhibiting our paintings together during the month of February at Adriance Library in Poughkeepsie.

Opening Reception
Sunday, February 1, 2015
Mary Wojtecki Rotunda Gallery
Adriance Memorial Library
93 Market Street, Poughkeepsie, NY



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wilbur in Watercolor


Charlotte's Web has always been one of my favorite childhood books, and I've been wanting to play with soft color to build expression on a pig. We also have a family member who loves pigs, so I painted a small pig for her for Christmas and then painted this slightly larger version.

Meet Wilbur:
"Wilbur"
Watercolor
8" x 6"
Available for purchase

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Joy!

I started this painting in Stephie Butler's watercolour portraits workshop here last August, but then got busy with life (a new grandchild) and didn't have a chance to finish it until yesterday. I also often take a while after a workshop to let the ideas and instruction settle in my mind as I practice the techniques on other subjects, before I go back to have another go at the initial subjects. This woman's smile and obvious joy captured my attention as soon as I saw her photo (by Steve Evans), so I was eager to paint her and attempt to share some of that joy in watercolor.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Delicate Arch

We visited Arches National Park a few years ago and hiked out to Delicate Arch in the late afternoon. Once there we sat quietly for a while, just absorbing the immensity of the place. I just painted this from a photo we took when there, all the while remembering the wonder of what that world is like.

Delicate Arch Watercolor Painting
7" x 10"
Available for purchase
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