What follows is an excerpt from my Art House Coop Sketchbook Project from a couple of years back. Basically you buy a sketchbook, fill it with whatever you like and you send it back – the Brooklyn Art Library then sends your book out on tour with thousands of other sketchbooks in a traveling exhibit – a library where art lovers can check out your book and even leave you comments. It’s a wonderful project and when the road show returns to Brooklyn your sketchbook becomes a part of a permanent library. I have loved doing Sketchbooks – I’m on my 4th and my niece is joining me this year.
Check it out here.
I live on about 6 acres in the Ozarks. When I moved here a decade ago I had one dog. With so much room it seemed natural to add another, and another, and another.
Here in the hills and hollows the neighbors have “country dogs” – basically dogs that have no limitations, no fences, no kennels, no boundaries. So even with my humble pack I am often surrounded by dozens of cats and dogs. Some days it seems like it is raining cats and dogs.
I decided to make a photographic record of all the cats and dogs in my life over the course of a couple of months. Some are mine and some are my brother’s family’s pets. I shot everything with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic app. The captions on the photos are things I have heard said about each pet.
“The softest cat in the universe”
One day my sister-in-law Karen got a call from her neighbor, a local veterinarian. Someone had dumped kittens at the clinic overnight. They were only 2-3 days old. Only one was still alive when he arrived at work. He asked if she would be willing to try to bottle feed the lone survivor – translation “Karen, take this cat and be responsible for it for the rest of its life.” Karen obliged and Oscar thrived. Oddly this yellow cat that was never nursed is on a mission to nurse every small animal he meets. Puppies, kittens, the chihuahua – he tries to be a wet-nurse to them all. He has been known to allow Karens birds to feed in the same bowl he is eating from. He has the loudest purr of any cat I have ever seen. Oscar is odd…and soft.
“She’s like your crazy old aunt”
When Karen’s great-aunt passed away she left behind Daphne -14 years old, deaf, blind, and not housebroken. Daphne was a difficult houseguest. Every 12 hours Daphne would bark non-stop until she was fed. Even the time change to Daylight Savings Time had no effect on her – every 12 hours, every day.
Karen began to take Daphne to the Doggy Spa once a week for grooming and massage. Daphne served her master and then enjoyed her golden years by bossing around her new humans. She was like that crazy old aunt – we all have one.
“if you’re my friend, you must be special”
Camera – he hides when he sees one
Snakes – he has been bitted by Copperheads 8 times
Pills – he has to take them after snake bites
My living room rug
Kirby was bred to be a show dog. He is perfectly proportioned and has a gorgeous coat. He is a dream to walk on a leash. There is just one problem. He is terribly shy, so shy that he could not tolerate being touched by judges in the show ring. His breeder was eager to place him in a home because his behavior was spreading to the other dogs. So Kirby came to live with me. He was at my house 29 days before he let me touch him. Kirby chooses his own friends in his own time. He will always be shy. but if you’re on his list you must be special!
“That is one crazy cat”
Lola belonged to my nephew Tommy, she was sent to live with Karen for a few years, but now she lives with Paul, an old friend from the neighborhood – he seems to be the only human she genuinely likes. Lola has issues. She’s that cat that will sit on your lap and purr sweetly until you move a muscle – then she will attack you with claws out.
“Lola has crazy eyes”
I’m not certain that she ever blinks, I have never seen her sleep, she looks cuddly – but it’s wise to keep your distance!
I don’t know if there is such thing as an “alpha cat” – if there is Lola is one. The other cats scatter when she enters a room. She strikes with lightning speed and pinpoint accuracy. That sweet look lulls you into trusting her, then she strikes without warning. It’s a good idea to keep a supply of band aids on hand for Lola encounters. If Lola cannot attack you she will attack her own back leg, it’s her evil nemesis and it’s always stalking her – day and night. It’s her eternal struggle for victory – victory over her own read leg.
That is one crazy cat.
“The sensible one”
Cocoa was my Pop’s Corgi. After Pops passed away Cocoa missed him terribly. Being a herding dog, Cocoa is alway looking for a job to do. She’s the sensible one.
“She’s not a dog, she’s his daughter”
Cambria Louise was a gift from Karen to her husband Max, my brother. Karen and Max have three sons, no daughters. Cammie is not a dog, she’s his daughter. She is a pointer and she is obsessed with birds, this makes for interesting times since Karen raises birds for a living. Cammie has her own couch, her own bed, her own bowl. In a house with 6 dogs, 4 cats, 3 boys, 14 birds, and a turtle, Cammie is the only organism that has anything that is entirely her own.
I went out to the desert with Cammie and Max one day. She was very annoyed that I was permitted to sit in the front seat of the Jeep. The front seat is her seat. If the princess is in the car it’s best to give in and crawl into the back unless you want a fifty pound dog on your lap.
“He believes he is a tiny dog”
Sunshine is a rescued goldendoodle. I named him Sunshine because he reminds me of a blonde hippy I met in Oregon with the same name. Sunshine is tall and thin like a standard poodle, and sweet and loyal like a golden retriever. He hides under my end tables, he barely fits under there. He believes he’s a tiny dog.
Sunshine was abused and neglected as a puppy. He is very cautious around strangers, but I have no doubt that he would defend me from any danger.
“He’s got crazy hair”
Sunshine has crazy hair, in the summer I have him cut close like a schnauzer, in the winter I let his coat grow out. Right now it’s so long that I cannot see his eyes. I know his coat keeps him warm, but I miss his face. By February all of his hair will be over six inches long. Bringing Sunshine into my home and into my life has required another addition to the household…a Dyson.
“Why is the smallest one always the alpha dog?”
One summer my Pop came to visit and admired my Jack Russell Terrier. He had always wanted one but they were very expensive back home. Here they are hunters and ratters – work dogs. I found a breeder for him – they showed us two pups. Pops asked which one would be the best and I picked the smaller squarer one. He seemed drawn to the pudgy one with a short nose. I went to the car to get the back seat ready for the ride home an Pops emerged with both puppies. He spent the rest of his vacation in my house picking up puppy poop.
Squeegee is a small terrier – about 12 pounds. She is also very bossy. Why is the smallest one always the alpha?
She was bitten by a rattlesnake when she was six months old, she’s a tough little thing. She dislikes my other female terrier, even so she sleeps next to her each night. She’s a barker – she trees squirrels, chases away deer and rabbits, and sounds the alarm if she spots a snake – but she catches nothing. Squeegee is the very definition of “all bark and no bite.”
Cameras – she always looks away
Snakes – she barks like crazy
Velcro – not the sticky stuff, my other terrier.
“King of the dingle-berry”
Poor Zeno is an odd Pomeranian. He belongs to my nephew Brian. His tongue always hangs out over his teeth. He urinates on every vertical surface in the house. He has massive dingle-berries – he’s the King of the Dingle-berry! He’s not very huggable.
Poor little Kingle-Berry.
Charlie is kind of homely. She has a short nose and a massive underbite – she looks a little like a tiny boxer. Charlie belongs to Karen. Karen often chooses odd dogs with issues. We sometimes call Charlie “Chucky” like the scary dog from the movies. She looks like him and she is a terror – so it fits.
Charlie often plays possum, she closes her eyes while pretending to sleep. Keep an eye on her and you’ll notice that she is sneaking a peek at you. She’s a tiny spy making sure nothing gets by her. I wonder who she reports to, is she an enemy agent, or just an eavesdropper. I don’t trust her.
“Big personality – tiny package”
Ruthie is a yorkie. You know when you look at a puppy and think, “wouldn’t it be cute if they stayed this small and sweet?” Ruthie did stay that small, and is mostly sweet. She makes the Charlie the chihuahua look like a giant next to her tiny teacup face. She really is all hair, I’m convinced that she is just a hamster with a really long coat. Small as she is, she is fearless. She takes on the cats and the other dogs with no concern for her tiny stature. She is Charlie’s best friend and together they are a tiny, powerful tornado. Ruthie is a big personality in a tiny package.
Anabelle is Karen’s Maine Coon. She has paws that look like catcher’s mitts. She is very sweet and loves to sit on your lap. She is a very patient model and isn’t bothered with my camera, even if I am using a flash. She’s a peach.
Whenever Max sees Anabelle he says “Pretty – pretty!” in a high-pitched tone. It’s so unlike his natural voice – this big manly construction worker cooing at a fuzzy cat. Anabelle really is pretty and she is the sweetest cat in the house – no issues, no odd habits, no psychosis, no drama – just pretty pretty.
I don’t own a cat. I’m not a cat person. Anabelle makes me think I could be though. Of course with three terriers at home it would take a very special cat to survive in my household.
UPDATE – since this was in the Sketchbook Project, Max and Karen have taken in a three-legged cat named Tripod that Anabelle does not get along with. He now uses his normal voice and calls her “Crazy Ass Psycho Bitch”. I still like her.
“Velcro sticks with you”
Velcro is a rescue, I wrote her story here – she’s a mystery. I have had her for about 8 years and I am guessing she’s close to 14 years old. I brought her home from an adoption fair at the mall. She was scheduled to be euthanized at the pound the following Tuesday. I named her Velcro because she sticks with you – always sitting as close as possible to you. She has gone grey, she is my best pal.
Cameras – she loves the attention of being photographed
Wasps – she eats ’em!
Hunting – she is a master hunter – she has killed rabbits, squirrels, possums, pack rats, field mice, snakes, and moles.
Velcro is a champion napper. She could sleep for 20 hours straight. Maybe it’s because she works so hard hunting those pesky rodents and reptiles. Maybe it’s because she’s old. No matter, she deserves a rest.
She’s the best thing I ever brought home from the mall.
iPhoned this one it.