I've no idea what Oscar was thinking while she was gazing at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday night. She isn't a TV watcher, we once put a YouTube video of birds up on the screen, it's not something we repeated since she nearly knocked over the TV trying to get at them. But following that incident she didn't give the TV much notice, except for Tuesday when to our surprise she was staring at a dog on the screen.
All this interest in the Dog Show got me thinking of how fortunate I was to have my two cats. I happen to love dogs, but I wasn't raised with them. My husband, Bennett, grew up with wonderful big dogs as part of his family. They favored Terriers because of their personality and their lovely habit of not shedding hair all over the house.
When we first met, his parents had a Bouvier named Bigger. If you've never seen one, they look quite a lot like bear cubs, just bigger. In their home of origin, Bouvier des Flanders are herders and cart pullers. So we are talking big handsome dogs that could pull you around your lawn, if you happened to have a cart!
I had two cats when we began dating, Spencer and Zinc. They were fairly young and they were my beloved beasts. As our relationship grew, Bennett came to realize that he would be living with cats. We had discussions, meant to calm his nerves, that when Spencer and Zinc departed this earth, we would then adopt a dog into our family. Since the cats were young, I felt I had time, and aside from that, I had a secret weapon:
Spencer the dog disguised as a cat!
To begin with, he was a handsome fellow that never met a lap he didn't like, and he was prone to seek out the lap of individuals that could be described as dog lovers! He came when you called his name, in fact he'd run to the door when you arrived home. If he was outside, Spencer would run up to greet you. He was a real lover of dogs; when we lived in an apartment in Boston, Spencer would go down the back stairs to the landladies apartment to hang out with her Tibetan Terriers and check out what was for dinner at their place. This "cat" was imminently bribable, eating out of your hand, waiting at your feet for scraps. Sound familiar?
Bennett was putty in Spencer's paws. Pretty soon they were the best of friends, and Bennett was even trying to get to know Zinc, our other cat, who showed no interest in Bennett whatsoever. Years went by before Bennett taught Zinc to beg for food, heavily laced with catnip of course. Time passed and our boys were nearing 20. I was contemplating changing teams, going from a cat person to a dog lover. I was out enjoying weeding my garden with some help from a neighbor's son, Sean, when a stranger entered our lives.
The helpless, homeless and hungry kitten.
I looked up and noticed a kitten across the fence in another yard. He was working very hard to get my attention, and trying to squirm under the fence. I asked Sean if the kitten was his, since it was in his yard. He said that no the cat wasn't his, but that it had been living around the neighborhood for several months eating garbage. Hearing that I ran into Sean's yard and picked the little guy up. Bennett was heading to work and saw us just as I was entering our yard. He looked at the kitten, and we thought of calling his sister Carol, who had just recently lost her cat Sneakers. I fed the cat, he was so hungry that he ate 3 cans of cat food, looking a lot like the snake that swallowed the chicken. I took some photos and sent them off the Carol and Bennett, and pretty soon I get a phone call from my husband. He said, "Well, if the other cats like him, we'll let him stay." We had to let Carol down easy. Monk, as he was named, was Bennett's first chosen cat, though it really was the other way around. Though he is all cat, at 16 pounds, he's nearly the size of a small dog. I'll leave Oscar, the girl's story for another day.
How about you, ever have a dog disguised as a cat? or a cat disguised as a dog?
Dozer is the beloved beast of a dear friend that I've known since childhood. He is a real water baby and, fortunately for me, he has a woman in his life that not only loves him like crazy, but is a great photographer. I couldn't resist painting his portrait, it is the first 12" x 12" portrait I've done.
I've sketched Dozer, then began with the water detail. It took a bit of fiddling around to determine the color and value I wanted for the water. I loved the abstract pattern and stayed to the lighter side, thinking of a combination of sky and water.
I start by blocking in tones, I'm looking for the underlying colors and shades below his white coat. I'm also thinking of the overall value of the painting when it is finished. This phase always freaks me out a bit, the image looks very flat and strange, and my brain just wants to get it completed. Where to begin?
I never really noticed how incredibly weird tongues are until I started painting one. Dozer's tongue is a big part of this photo, and believe me, there were times I wished I'd found a photo with his mouth closed.
Funny how the things that you struggle with can end up being the things you like most about a portrait.
I'm Laura Reed, a long time painter and animal lover, this is my blog about beasts, painting, and whatnot.
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