Painting a Dog a Day's In Memoriam Site

"In Memoriam" is a place where members of the Painting a Dog a Day community can join hands and share experiences.

When I lost TurtleDove and Miah, both my studio muses, mere months apart from each other, I was overwhelmed with the support and love Painting a Dog a Day readers showered upon me.  Sharing my loss with the community that had sprung up as a result of my daily pet portrait project was surprisingly healing.

Hence this blog, which in a serendipitous way marks the one year anniversary of Miah's death. "In Memoriam" is my gift to those of you who shared tears and stories of your own losses as I came to terms with my own. 

It is also a gift to those of you who will follow along in the coming days, weeks, or years with bereavement stories of your own.

So let's celebrate the beauty of the furry little lives we are blessed with for too short a time. Let them live on here, while they continue to dance in our hearts.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Derby, 1994-2006

Bounding over the pastures behind my husband's tractor, Derby looked like a very fast and balanced deer. She was a lovely fawn with a dark mask. 

The perception most people have of Greyhounds is that they are high strung and nervous. Truly, they are the polar opposite. It is their nature to be calm, disciplined, very polite and obedient. 

You would never know Derby was around unless you asked her if she wanted to go out and then an amazing transformation would take place. She loved being on the farm running free in our fenced pastures and chasing the squirrels and rabbits, but for the most part she loved doing what she was bred to do... RUN. 

This was one dog that could literally light up her face with a smile. Amazingly, Kimberly caught this happy expression when she painted Derby for Larry's surprise Christmas present. When he opened it, he just stared at it and said, "Hi, Derbs" and then tears came to his eyes. All of us loved Derby, but she and Larry had a very special bond, and they truly adored each other.

We were blessed to have had this beautiful and graceful creature with us for 10 years and nursed her through the last year of her life battling cancer. Her passing has left a huge void in our hearts. Her elegance will long be remembered, and her trust will always be missed.

I think the inscription on her grave stone says it all.... Derby, April 1994 - Sept 2006, You stole my heart, Larry.

S. Allgood

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Phoebe, 1996 - 2007

In April of 1996, I felt my world dissolving and needed the support and love that only a dog can give. I called all over New England looking for a female poodle puppy, but none were to be found. Until I found a breeder with a 6 month old who looked just like a Teddy Bear. I felt this was meant to be because I collected Teddy Bears!

I fell in love at first sight!  What a little handful she was from day one.  In fact, my mother was convinced that someone else had her before me, couldn’t handle her and returned her to the breeder.  She dubbed her “Wild Thing”.  I couldn’t imagine anyone returning her, no matter how difficult my life ever became. 

When I went to work, I put Phoebe in the kitchen with a baby gate, more to keep her safe than to protect my home.  I would come home to find the kitchen looking like a cyclone had gone through it, and Phoebe excitedly barking and crying, begging for me to spring her from her prison.  Every night.  Except for the third day.  When I came home from work and received NO greeting.  Just silence.  I ran around my home, went into my bedroom and stopped short!  There she was, in the middle of my bed, laying down with her head between her paws, just her eyes looking up at me so very guiltily!!!  Somehow, she had managed to jump UP on the bed, but was too frightened to jump back down!  This was, of course, just a precursor to “Life With Phoebe”.  And the beginning of her training of ME.  (No more baby gate….no more prison!)  She got into EVERYthing. 

Phoebe adored my mother – especially after she taught her to beg at the table.  Sigh.  This was the ONLY vice she DIDN’T have up until then.  After my mother passed away in 1999, Phoebe got me through the pain as only a beloved pet can. 

I knew she loved me in her own way.  When we’d go to bed, she’d get under the covers and get as close to my side as she possibly could, and sometimes fall asleep with her head on the palm of my hand.  She exasperated me sometimes, but never failed to make me laugh, and to comfort me if I was in any sort of distress. 

I lost my little girl in June of 2007 after a swiftly debilitating liver disease forced me to make the horrific decision to have her put out of her pain and suffering and have her euthanized.

My “Painting a Dog a Day” portrait of Phoebe is a treasure to me.  Kim somehow captured Phoebe’s true essence.  She was such a pretty little girl, and her spirit lives on in my heart.

A. VanVloten

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


"Not So Spaz," from the Painting a Dog a Day project, August 16th, 2007.

On October 20, 2007, my dear, sweet Spaz passed on. She will forever live on in my love for her and my memories, but there is a permanent hole in my heart from the emptiness I feel without her physical presence. She was and will always be my heart dog, my forever dog. I will never forget the unmitigated joy and unconditional love she gave me. I miss her manic greetings, complete with hugs and kisses (those oh, so gentle kisses!). I miss that loving look in those soulful eyes. I miss the silky soft fur I could stroke for days on end. I miss our "family runs" with her ears a-flopping with the bliss of doing her favorite thing with her favorite people. I could go on and on.

If there is a heaven, it wouldn't be worth going unless she is there with me. I hope we find each other again someday, somewhere, somehow.

D. Caringella

Monday, May 11, 2009

Amos Henry, 2003-2008

He's Not Here

                 “Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” - Carlotta Monterey O'Neill

                                                                                                             Dinah Lee Brinson - August 2008

I look down at the bottom of the stairs for my waiting, napping pooch.  I get busy writing in the upstairs den and must remind myself to check periodically for a sign that Amos needs to go outside.  He waits at the bottom, a permanent stain where his head rests, and he drools.  He looks up at me, knowing I'm there without a sound.  His funny face makes me laugh out loud, so I go down to rub him, flick his ears, murmur sweet little things, and give him what he's earned for the humor.  It works every time.

There's a half empty can of his favorite food on the kitchen counter.  I step on his squeaky toy to get to the coffee pot.  That brings the cats running.  They're looking for him, too.  They've won more attention by default.  This sits uncomfortably with us all.  Yet the gentle, repetitive stroking soothes my ache, as God intended.  But there's no purr, their silence a small tribute to the big red dog.  I must say, they seem to enjoy this thread of attention.  Still, it's a hollow element of this day ahead.

No noises, no interruptions, no ridiculous expressions, no stirring beside me while I write, no partner on my garden walk today.  Just an echo of silence....

I swear I see him out of the corner of my eye standing at the door, waiting to go out...but no....

I see his ears cocked forward, alert, grinning, always grinning...a thousand photos at least and we never captured that look.  Meant for only us, apparently, and that's just fine. 

The cats find a tidbit from a tartar control dog bone abandoned with nonchalance beside his bed, which must go today, too.  Then they hop up on the kitchen counter while my back was turned, a sure way to get negative attention.  Vinnie and Theo try to stir things up.  Everywhere I turn, I'm looking for him.  The cats notice and try to place themselves there for me.

The phone is ringing downstairs, I'm certain I hear it.  I race to grab it by the third ring, but it's not ringing.  It's Loki the Trickster making me hear things, laughing at me and watching me hurry downstairs to answer the excuse for one more look around, just in case Amos comes back while I am writing.  But no...he's not here....

At what point did we get more dog beds than people beds?  I'm sure the local rescue shelter will take them all.  It will be hard to wash the covers, remake the beds, and load them in the back of the car.  That's where Amos rode, and there’s another bed back there.  I insist he would appreciate his own generous gift, knowing I've attached a human emotion to his act of charity.  I make the call.  I cry the entire time.  Sob, sob, Amos Henry, sob, sniffle, blow, Amos, wipe, blow, sob, Amos.  They'll gladly take the beds, leftover food, and flea and tick medicine.  I pack most of his toys.  I keep his pewter dog tag that says, "Babe Magnet."  His special heart meds will go back to the hospital to be used by people who can't afford to keep their pet alive without these pilfered pills.  Another good thing.  None of it good enough to calm the ache.  Not today anyway.  It is an unsootheable soreness, a loneliness to the tenth power. 

I'm back to closing all the doorwalls throughout the house prior to my shower again, too.  Amos used to stand guard between me and the rest of the house when I showered, and I felt safe.  Being at my most vulnerable then, I'd given over trust to my able pooch, reassured that he was on point, a furry, protective wall of honor.   "Take back your power," he would declare, as I stood decidedly taller and more brave.  Such an important lesson for life.  Life without Amos...more than the opposite of empty.  A negative fullness.  A wish.  A whisper.  A bleak promise.  A sliver of hope for tomorrow.  Just not today.  Day One without the big red doggie.

I nearly cancel my hair appointment, but why?  Instead my neediness propels me there, knowing I can hug Ron too long before I let go.  "I like this picture," I point to a twelve year old model in a style magazine.  She's spiked up and platinum.  "And this one's pretty cool, too."  I indicate a straight, short style.  "Hey, what about this one?" I ask, wrinkled brow studying yet another sassy do, auburn this time, and all wrong for me today.  "Dear Dinah," Ron gently remarks as he leads me toward the scalding shampoo and neck massage I desperately need, "you have curly, sterling silver hair and you keep pointing to straight, colored hairdos.  I can't bring your dog just need a trim...." 

I hurry away from home today.  And now I've got to hurry back. 

I want to dart around inside the house and all over the yard to search for evidence that he's disturbed something in my path, an obvious indicator of a visit, a knock on heaven’s door.  Perhaps it's too soon.  My timing is off.  I wouldn't know, but I don't want to miss it.

I wonder what waking thoughts of mine weren't partially his?

I write in the den with his puppy picture on the wall as inspiration.  All of my life I wanted time to sit and write, without interruption, for an entire day, French Mastiff at my feet, loyal, and my kittens napping in the corner chair.  For a period of time, I got my wish. 

We're supposed to get a clay paw print and a box of ashes soon.  William wants to sit them on the dining room floor near his bed since he was never allowed up near the kitchen counter in a home where two cooks live.  I always say, "C'mon in and have dinner with us.  In our home, dog and cat hair is considered fiber!"  Then, if you know it's a condiment, you go with it if you happen upon one...or two.

Watching me from his sentry post nearby while I tried new recipes in the kitchen was Amos' favorite kind of day, sampling scrumptious morsels and making faces for attention.  But I know the truth.  A box of ashes isn’t really Amos watching me.  Still, when we leave the house each day, we will say what we always said.  "Take care of the kitties, Amos, and take care of the house.  We'll hurry straight home to you, sweet boy...."

They said it was a fluke.  His heart just wasn’t big enough for his body.  But they were wrong....

When I share with our veterinarian that when I die and go to heaven, I believe all the people and pets I've ever loved and lost will be there to greet me, a tender look comes over his face and he says, "Why, how could it hurt to believe?"

Amos Henry, our French Mastiff

A gentle giant, a hangin' out partner

February 19, 2003 - August 6, 2008

NOTE FROM THE ARTIST: I am forever grateful to Amos for bringing his person into my life. During the course of working on his larger than lifesize canvas (pictured above), we discovered a scarey amount of things in common, and forged an immediate friendship. It was my distinct pleasure to paint Amos three times - the aforementioned large gallery stretched canvas, and two other Dog-a-Day pieces, one from June 2008 and the other from September 2007. His wonderful, expressive face is still with me. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Miah, 1989-2008

We first glimpsed her as a tiny ball of fluff proudly carried around by a honking huge rottweiler. Bottle raised by a bevey of young kids and mothered by the rottie, Miah had no idea she was a cat. That was just fine with us.

She was the first to greet guests at the door, carried on odd duck-like conversations with the backyard squirrels, and slept on my pillow with her tiny teddy bear (regardless of whether or not I was using said pillow). She served as lap warmer for years of bedtime stories, loved broccoli of all things, and felt it her personal duty to redistribute cat hair in our freshly laundered clothes. In later years she migrated from heat duct to patch of sunlight to electric blanket, blissfully oblivious to household chaos, but amazingly responsive to snuggling invitations.

A little mite of a cat with a persistent and booming voice, Miah was my shadow and constant companion. She bathed the kids heads during diaper changes and rode on my shoulders while I painted. She served as studio muse for what seemed to be an eternity.

An eternity that wasn't quite an eternity.

Catnip is flourishing on her grave, one shared with Turtledove, her longtime partner in crime, yet I still hear her scurrying about the house. Sometimes my longing is so strong I feel her at my feet or awake struggling to reclaim my pillow, the strength of her purr vibrating my sleepy brain.

It seems fitting that my little slip of a black cat, a creature who continues to share my life although in very different ways than before, has inspired "In Memoriam." She'd be curling up on my lap right now, waiting for me to read aloud the stories to come.

TurtleDove, 1989 - 2007

originally published on Painting a Dog a Day, November 25th, 2007. Also reprinted in the book "Painting a Dog a Day - the First Year," published in December 2008.

I spent the bulk of Thanksgiving day trying to remind myself how blessed my family is in so many ways, but it was so very difficult, because it was also Turtle's last day.

Turtledove was a rescued kitty Rick and I adopted shortly after we got married and moved cross-country to California (oh so many years ago). Scarred with cigarette burns and nameless other hurts, she was understandably fearful of strangers, but oddly trusted the two of us unconditionally right from the start. We chose her as a companion for our spoiled black cat, Miah, who was alone for the first time in her short life all day long.

Turtle befriended Miah, and wormed her way into everyone else's hearts too. She became my muse right from the start, and then the studio's namesake years later.

We buried her underneath the maple tree, the one that shelters our home, stretching far beyond the roof's confines into the sky. In the spring I will plant a bed of catnip overtop her grave, and carve something fitting into the smooth round stone that marks where her head lays.

We spent Friday setting up the Christmas tree, telling the kids stories of a younger cat who loved to climb and hide amongst the branches. When the kids were infants, she slept underneath their crib, coming to wake me moments before their cries did. Every full moon, she would hunt monsters, racing up and down the stairs all night long (Domenic remembers hearing her going up and down, up and down, up and down). I could count on her freight train purr to lull me to sleep every night without fail (Anna knows that same purr from when we would read bedtime stories together). Evan found her favorite toy, a spikey little rubber ball, under the couch - we laughed when we remembered the odd growls she would make as she carried that around the house.

I realized when I came downstairs Saturday morning that the garland strung on the lower half of the tree will stay put for the first time ever.

And there will be no more gifts left at the foot of my easel, either.

What a blessing it is to have loved something so simple so strongly.

Hug your kitties and your dogs and your family - they are all gifts, whether we have them for a fleeting moment or for what seems like an eternity.