Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Holiday Break.

I know it is Independence Day, but it feels like THANKSGIVING around here!

I have been blogging the tale of The Dude for a while now, and I know, it is a little of a cliffhanger, but I want to leave a bit of the story and really thank you all.

This was done as a funding project. WHAT an amazing thing! A week ago I posted my desire on the site and with the generosity of friends and many strangers, I am ready to make appointments and start the ball rolling!

One of my anonymous donors had me in tears with their generosity. So I sent a long a 12 pack of my cards, not just a thank you. I started thinking if I could do more.

So I am practicing. . .

This piece is actually a silverpoint. Hard to describe, but it is literally drawn with a silver wire on a prepared board. The idea was to call these SPILLED MILK pieces.

It is only 5x7" and would need to be framed under glass but I was considering offering it to any donor who gave $500 or more. (INCLUDING past donations . . . just add them together, the note you already got will be included.) It was hard for me to ask for help and I REALLY can't believe how generous some of you have been.

I have also talked with so many people who suggested different solutions and might have actual volunteers helping, so the amount may go down and I will adjust it by actual costs or by the donations of services or in-kind I receive.

As it occurred to me that it took almost 5 years for the first portrait of the guy, from bad photographs on the author's part or not actually looking LIKE HIM (I am sure some of you think that a black cat is a black cat is a black cat . . . . SHAME ON YOU! Unless you have owned one, you couldn't know! Oh BOY do they have personalities!)

I am going to see if I can work on that personality this weekend while I try to not watch this pot boil.

Don't worry that there is only one... I have a propensity for "Series". No telling what is next!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Indian School Animal Hospital Gang.

A year or so ago (I have lost weight, so it freaks me out!!) I was asked to be in a Journalism project for Kati Shearer, a student at the Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU.

The picture that begins the clip is a memorial for my vet, Dr. Lori Delac. Her Indian School Animal Hospital is where I took him to get looked into.

The hyperesthesia or Heebie-Jeebies was a real eye opener. He had only lost about 4 or 5 pounds at the time and was not all that sick from the thyroid issues. BUT we had to try to figure out the underlying cause. Dr. Delac was wonderful.

The painting of her good old Great Dane was done as my hardest type of a commission:
I call them PRE-memorials. They do bring me to tears. The animal had just been diagnosed with bone cancer. It was a matter of time and Lori was so attached, she asked me to come in a few years earlier to do a portrait. She was able to extend the Dane's life with amputation, so it was not quite the painful experience I talk about in the clip.

The other portrait is the gang at the office! Dr. Delac is not just my vet, she is my patron and they are all my friends.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finally We Got Something Tangible!

This sort of thing went on off and on for about 5 or 6 years. Summer was worst.
The clip is a wonderful 3 AM chat right about the time it occurred to me to bring my camera to the vet!

I have been trying to find the right images to give you the sense of panic when I finally took him in. So I made this before and after. No, the one on the right is not a baby shot. It was two years ago when I started getting better at focusing because I was afraid I would not have him around much longer. 7 years apart:

Whether those other trips to the vet should have shown an underlying disease (like hypo?) is really irrelevant because he was otherwise healthy, had a good life and all I could afford was the usual vet stuff.

This time I had a LITTLE help with a raffle prize I had donated to a charity and a CLIENT of my art in the mix. Finally I could get to the bottom of things. It was not a really pretty bottom, but the minute she saw the video she had a much better idea of the tests. She printed the sheets out (including videos which MY guy is now in the mix on YouTube) of the "heebie-jeebies" and sent off his blood to see what else may be the problem.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Life is so Hard....NOT!

He has a tall baker's rack that he used to camp on the top tier and just wait. Nowadays, it is the middle one and he bats my butt as I walk by.
This painting was a demonstration for the Fountain Hills Art League some years ago. His essence.

My old apartment had a window just the height of the clear table and he would sprawl the whole length of it. This was a photo of the two of us... he was two years old at the time... showing mom how nicely he fit on her new donation to the house.

He owned it... was upset when I would arrange art shows on it:

And was never happy to have his nails clipped. Our groomer always tried to trick him but...

(just for scale, that was an 18" Spiderman statue that William Whitaker turned a few of us on to in the early 90's. See below, The Dude was BIG)

About 2009, he dropped from 18 to 14 pounds. That is when we went to the doc.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Story About His Dad.


His family kicked him out permanently when a younger cuter life form moved in. They had a baby and Oreo felt offended. Apparently took a bat at him . . . . So, he just was an outdoor cat. When they moved, Oreo didn't.

The little black female who I am sure was mom, was one of a couple of baby strays that had lived in my complex from when I first moved in the early 90's. Neither of these wild kids was fixed and it was after I had tried to get his step kids to foster care (The Dude, being all indoor, had me worried about bringing stray disease into his overly sheltered life.) with a long evening of traps and long drives to help... SCOTTSDALE STRAYS and their doctors are a really amazing gang. The whole group ended up too ill to save. His mom just was found dead, perhaps a heart issue, perhaps whatever the kitties had, but it was a real heart-breaker. Not just for me, but the overburdened rescue community. (I have tried to donate my art regularly and often allow them to use my images for fundraising as often as possible! EVERY community needs their stray cats and dogs cared for and it is a HARD job.)


He would get in way too many fights. Not only myself but his gang of foster families were taking him in to get stitched up and such. It was after a big tom with a big collar and fully displayed huevos started picking fights on a regular basis that the evil plan of just catnapping the new cat and having him fixed on the sly occurred to me in my dreams, that I figured to help Oreo at least but taking him out of the loop.

One day I put out his food, after calling the local vet and explaining that a neighborhood character NEEDED neutering and I would pay, I nabbed him and drove him down the road.
My favorite nurse nodded and together we walked bad to the doc and she said "neutering". Somewhat absentmindedly he prepped, anesthetized and Snip! Pop! He was out. The nurse gave him a distemper shot and when I got out the credit card, she just shook her head.
Off we scurried and I had him back at the food bowl in less than an hour, tail and foot in the air, trying to figure out what had just happened to him!

I just loved that guy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

And he would TALK TO HIMSELF

I see that in the very art post that I sold his portrait, I mentioned his odd habit of talking to himself and biting his feet.....

He would mutter a bit. He was not the Siamese that The Kid was, he had a regular cat voice. The original (when I first brought him home, all oozy and tiny, had a set of lungs that sounded like a siren all the way home!) was of serious Thai origin. Big "MEOWOW" in an oddly baritone. But the Dude, had his bird yammer, and a round mournful call when a cat would jump BACK over the wall.

I was used to cats talking... but his night antics were a bit distracting. Everyone used to laugh when I would tell them but he bit his feet, yelling at them all the time. Stood up, decided his tail was acting out of line, and fall on it an on the ground and wage war on himself.

Summers seemed worse but finally one 5 am, when he CHARGED into my bed, landed on my chest and HISSED right into my face, I decided when the vet opened, he was a-goin'!

Of COURSE he was the picture of health. Fat and sassy, the vet said it was "behavioral" . NO DUH!

For years I tried to figure what triggered it. He let up when the weather was cool enough to open a door and look into the night, but come the 100 degrees he would begin with long low rumbles and it would not let up.

He never actually injured himself, but he was hugely irritating to me and would look grumpily at me as if to say "YOU DID IT! NOW YOU STOP IT!" or something like that. He would telepathically yell at me. Like he thought I should speak cat!!!

A couple years later I tried again. I did figure his butt had something to do with it.

I have long hair. Longer than a woman my age really should (but I am an artist and I get special treatment :-)) OCCASIONALLY I could only describe them as streamers.....
The Old Kid made us give up icicles on Christmas because he would sparkle out both ends!

The dude liked to chew my hairbrush when I was gone.... you figure it out!

But that was not all. We thought it might be constipation.

So there was a year of Pumpkin. He really liked it for a while. Apparently (you cat fanciers should know this) a good source of roughage is pie stuff without the spices. It was going in and going out smooth as spit... but he kept yelling.

I finally got a good video of him. Two years ago, this was the ONE thing that helped the vet see he was in trouble. (My mom cried when she saw it.) Nobody believed it was all that bad. By the time I had this, I was not sleeping but one or two whole nights a week if I was lucky. This was taken at 2 AM:

Yeah, they call it Feline Hyperesthesia. Over sensitive and ..... well "Heebie Jeebies" says it all.

He Got Wide and Wonderful

This was one of the few from the best photo session. It was this day that the background image was referenced. He posed as a young man for the very first painting which SOLD to a friend on an internet art site THAT DAY....
Finally I had mastered that look of my impending demise!
This series even got me an article in Pastel Journal about my pet paintings. What didn't get published was a diagram of how the reflections in the room showed in his eyes.

My previous cats had been lucky to top out at 8 pounds. This guy was as big as a dog. I had a brief roommate with two miniature pups. He could not fit their harnesses. He was a great meatloaf of a cat.
A candid from those days:

I would use him as a model but he was never able to sit still. This is another view of his wonderful round jowls.
and the ever so flattering pose we ended up with from the session for the "Holiday Number"

You could fantasize he was a "Sumo" cat, but really, he was just wide.

And grumpy.

I do believe his demanding attitude was part of his charm in those days.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Dude...Not Dude, or Mr. Dude..

Of course his teeth eventually grew in and I will say he was a bit calmer. JUST a bit.

It was not much of a joke, but I used to tell people his job was sitting around and plotting my demise. I have a clear glass topped table that used to be in front of a window. He would sit and stare at me . . . . resting . . . plotting . . . . .

And would be still and nearly statue-like until I pulled out the camera. Very few of my photos are in focus! He also messed with my mind a lot. If he could not come up with some sinister plot, he would MESS with me . . .

But that was perfect!

I am a bit of a hermit these days. I work hard as an artist, talk to myself and am up odd hours. The Dude gives me a reason to sleep through noises at night and hear the sound of my voice when I am tired of listening to the tv.

And this is the kind of cat that loves to sit in his bathrobe all day. When he was a teen ager, he would sit at the screen door and talk to his day (Oreo) out on the porch. He was a real shadow/mini me. I felt sorry that he had no friends. Lots of feline transients would hop over the fence. Including some siblings that his mom had behind our palm tree! We got them to rescue and while waiting to see if they were healthy and adoptable, the little wild kitty that I was sure was his mom, just died . . . . I have always wondered if her little high strung wildness was a heart defect. I am still afraid it may be a little of his issue. That is why I want to be sure he has all the tests before (IF) he gets his procedure!

. . . but I digress. . . .

By the time he was about two, he was as tall as his dad and had a lovely wobbly tummy that swung side to side when he ran. He hit 18 pounds and one of his favorite things was to jump on my tummy as I slept. . . . . .OOOOOPPPHHHH! He still loves to wake me up. Always JUST when I fall asleep.
His life was one of thinking too much and enjoying the time in between.

He IS The Dude.