Friday, August 22, 2008


Lately I have been using the Everyday Matters drawing challenges to practice with watercolors. Colored pencil works will return soon, I promise! The Everyday Matters challenge this week is to draw a cat. I don't have a cat but I used to. Her name was Esther and she was all white with green eyes. I did this sketch from an old photo taken of her sometime between Nov. 1990 and March 1991, while she was playing with a catnip mouse. It is in my small journal.

I got Esther when I was still in college, after I had moved into my first apartment. She endured several moves from one apartment to another, a summer boarding with a friend while I went off to New York, and moving with me to North Carolina for graduate school, back to Cincinnati, and back again to North Carolina. In spite of all that she hated change and was a cat with quite an attitude.

When hubby and I bought our first house it wasn't long before we got a dog. Henry was a brown and white (they are really called 'liver and white') English Springer Spaniel. Esther maintained an attitude of total disdain for Henry. If he so much as looked at her she would hiss and swat his nose. He soon learned not to look at her, even though he developed a strong loyalty towards Esther. He would ease along beside her, all the while not looking directly at her, and manage to settle down right beside her. We often found them together sleeping butt-to-butt on the sofa. When Henry was about two years old we had to have Esther put to sleep due to health problems. I don't think her ever forgot her. Soon after, there was a white cat from the neighborhood that enjoyed sitting on our fence. Henry would cry and whimper whenever he saw that cat.

Henry was the best dog. He had two lives, his life before Kiddo was born, when he was our baby, and his life after her arrival in which he graciously gave over his role as our baby to become Kiddo's protector. He had his eyes poked, ears pulled and was even used as a step stool by a climbing toddler trying to scale the couch, all without one complaint.

When Henry was twelve and beginning to show signs of slowing down we got a new puppy, Sara, a Welsh Corgie. Sara was a spitfire as a puppy. She had had a difficult time at birth, had to be bottle fed, and as a result didn't get her tail docked as they usually do. Well, we weren't going to do that. So she sports a big fluffy tail along with her over-sized ears and ridiculously short legs. She looks like a dog designed by a committee that ran out of funds.
Henry stepped right in and taught Sara the routine of life with us. We believe that having her around gave him a sense of purpose and extended his life by a couple of years. Towards the end, when Henry could barely see and was deaf as a post, it was Sara that looked after him. Henry lived to be 15, quite a long time for a dog that size. The sketch above is Sara napping by the back door, done in my watercolor Moleskine journal.

Now Sara has always been kind of prissy. We believe she thinks of herself as a cat as much as a dog. We call her 'The Princess', deservedly so. When Henry was no longer with us all the spark left Sara. She wouldn't be engaged in play and grumbled, stomping away most times we tried to pet her. We also missed Henry terribly. So we got Sam, another Springer, but black and white this time. Here is one of two pen and ink sketch I did of Sam sleeping the other evening. In addition to watercolor I have been trying to get in practice sketching in ink.
Sara soon perked up after the arrival of Sam, who at first was smaller than she is but soon grew to over twice her size. Sara treated Sam as her own puppy and quickly taught him the ropes. Although she sometimes fusses at him, and he teases her, they are terribly devoted to one another. Sam is big for a Springer, big and goofy and sweet as can be. We took him to obedience school last summer where he was the star pupil. Kiddo took responsibility for much of his care when he was still a puppy and they are now inseparable. Sammie has been very good for our little family.

One of the things that amuses me is the little tidbits of knowledge that seems to get passed from one pet to the next. For example, none of our dogs have ever been feed canned dog food. Esther the cat was at times fed canned cat food. She would come running whenever she heard a can being opened. So Henry dog learned to come running whenever he heard one of us opening a can. Sara scurries into the kitchen at the sound of a can opener, and so now does Sam. So I wonder, what other secrets have been passed down from one pet to the next?


Janice said...

what a touching chronology of your pets!
I especially love the sammie sketch

Sherry said...

I love your pet sketches, but especially the sleeping dog. Love comes through, very clearly.

Jennifer Rose said...

This is a wonderful post about your pets! :D

Our Rottie learned from my dad's Dalmatian that the small yellow box (Tim Hortons container) meant there were donuts to be had and never take your eyes off the box or you won't get anything. And don't trust the trail of dog biscuit leading into the bathroom. I swear they never touched the biscuits when we tried to leave a trail to trick them into the bath. They fell for it once and after that no amount of treats would work :p He also learned to sit pretty by watching the other dogs. We never taught him, he just did it one day. Of course that also meant he learned bad habits too :P :/

Mary Rogers said...

Aren't dogs and cats just wonderful to have around! I really enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for the warm fuzzy feeling!

Barbara Weeks said...

What a touching post. Lovely sketches.

leigh bunkin said...

What a lovely post. I would love to see a picture of the corgi. I really enjoyed reading this and the pictures.

HibbyMom said...

Aw, good ole Henry. I miss him too. You have 2 very good fillers of the hole in your heart!

Stephanie said...

what wonderful memories you have saved with your sketches. thanks for sharing your pets with us.

"JeanneG" said...

I liked what hibbymom said about the new pets filling the hole in your heart. What a nice thought.

I also liked what you said about being designed by a committee that ran out of funds. Very nice descriptive sentence.

I loved reading about your pets. We too have dogs that have passed along the rules of the house. It's nice to have a helper to teach a few things.

You might be glad not to know what else the pets passed along.

Marie-Dom said...

Beautiful sketches of wonderful animals.

kazumiwannabe said...

Love the drawings and the stories!

Quilt Knit said...

I love the stories! I love the drawings. Animals bad habits are human interpretaions. It is bad because The Human does not approve.
Ms Patches is at home with me and My youngest son.
I am work at home now. I get two breaks and a lunch.
Guess how long it took for the routine? I just started July 2nd. There have been many up and down times with Verizon connection. Last week is the first week of no problems for me. So, We had a full week.

Sherrie Roberts

freebird said...

Wonderful story to go with your great sketches. Pets make the world so much better. My cat learned to play fetch the ball from the dogs. It gives her a little exercise being an indoor cat and also something to do on the rare occasion she is left alone for a few days - finding the balls she quit playing with; I always find a bunch in her food bowl when we return.

purplepaint said...

These are really good! I never noticed how much my cats and dog move until I tried to sketch them! :)

Ann said...

Thanks everyone! It is great to hear everyone's stories about their special pets - they do add so much joy to our lives :)

susan said...

Your drawings are wonderful. I loved your saga about your pets and the memories that go along with them. We had to put our one dog of 13 yrs. to sleep this spring...they are so much a part of the family.

Barbara said...

I like all 3 of your animal drawings. That cat is ready to jump up and play!


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