I like to sit in on the Community meetings at The Living Room where I learn about services that are available to homeless and at risk women and children. One particularly popular program is called Dogwood. It’s an animal rescue project that supports animals and the people who love them. And in the case of the women who come to The Living Room this service is as supportive as the hot meals, counseling, and groups. The pets support these women in crisis in fundamental ways we can all relate too.
So I continually add to my sketches of women with their dogs and hear heart warming stories like. . .
“I couldn’t have made it on the streets without his companionship.”
“My dogs are like family, only better. They love me regardless of what happens.”
“I have learned that I have to take care of things even when I’m down so that I can continue to take care of her. “
“I need them with me so that I can feel safe in the [homeless] encampments.”
“They won’t abandon me like my ____________.”
“When I cry, they lick my face and make me feel better.”
“He sleeps on my chest, right over my heart.”
The Living Room is a place where women can get help and feel connected with a community of people like themselves. And that connection flows generously to folks like myself whose only real difference is that I don’t have the anxiety and depression that comes as a matter of course with having lost the security of a home. And that caring spirit extends seamlessly to the pets, who enjoy an extended family of caretakers that make it possible for women to participate in activities at times without their pets.
See some of the other TLR pet sketches here.
acrylic paint and fabric collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″
About 13 years ago this little yellow cat appeared in the bushes in front of our house and meowed incessantly for days until we finally let him join our other cat as a (reluctant to us) family member. He had that piercing Siamese kind of meow, which makes you want to do anything to shut it up. Food always worked, and later it was petting that worked. And after a few years, he had us trained well enough that he only had to ask once, and we knew what to give him. My boys named him Phil after some poker champion (go figure) and I had no say in the matter.
Fast forward a few years. I’m not sure when it happened that Phil learned a technique for getting any passer-by to pet him. He flops down in front of you while you’re walking, so that you have to do a quick little dance step to avoid stepping on him. His soft exposed belly and audible purr is enough to get the message across, and most people find it impossible not to scratch an ear or rub that belly. That’s my favorite part. He’s my buddy whenever I’m outside gardening, or sitting eating my lunch or doing my Chi Gong under the trees or sketching.
The hallway of our home exhibits some of my paintings of previous pets – Alexander the cat and the bunny whose name I’ve forgotten. I wanted Phil there too. So when I introduced a new mixed media lesson in the Muse group on fabric collage, I decided to try doing Phil’s portrait.
This pose is a typical daytime one. He loves to sun himself in the dirt in the garden and look up at us langorously as we pass. I took a picture and did a line drawing of the pose on the paper. On a trip to the fabric store I picked up swatches of fabrics I thought would be fun to use. The rest is probably obvious. I cut strips of the cloth, piecing them to fit the drawing and then added paint to complete the picture. I imitated the style of one of my favorite mixed media artists Mark English.
golden brown ink, dip pen, watercolor in watercolor sketchbook, 8 X 5″
Another one of Phil’s typical poses. He likes to sit under that table between our chairs outside watching me while I eat, and then falling asleep. Look at that face. Like I said, the sweetest cat in the world.