"Into each life, some rain must fall" - Inkspots (1944)
It has been 2 ½ months since Andy Doodle Winkler passed over the rainbow bridge. When it happened, I was compelled to paint our three doodles. I knew it would be good therapy and a peaceful transition for me to paint our three doodleteers to preserve our memories of them. So, please pardon my seeming obsessiveness with the passing of Andy.
I love the quote from Alia Bhatt, “Whatever you do, do with determination. You have one life to live; do your work with passion and give your best.” It doesn’t matter what you pursue, but your heart truly will be fulfilled beyond any measure when you do anything you do with passion.
When I paint, I sketch out my subject until I have all proportions accounted for, scanning visually over my subject, as I look at my black gesso’d canvas, and prepare to paint each tiny mark starting with my brush with a burnt umber wash, repeatedly measuring, standing back hundreds of times from my canvas to see whether I got a leg too long, back too long, and then mentally undressing the dog down to his skeleton, standing him up in my mind’s eye, measuring lengths, size, etc., until I have mentally sketched my subject, i.e., in this case, Andy, and then, looking at muscles, expressions, if there is any slump anywhere, how far the limbs stretch or not, and the look in their eyes.
What about the coat of the animal I’m painting? It is like creating a robe of fine threads that caress the body of a living, breathing animal. In Andy’s case, I looked at all of his little curls, the silky softness of his coat, how much gray or silver hairs were in his black/gray coat. I always look to see how much hair is curled around the toes, any kinks in the ears, and how deep and wide the eyes are.
Each characteristic is so unique and personal. I always feel like I know more about each subject when I journey through the life of a painting. To that, I give the ultimate thanks.
I do not paint eyes on any animal painting until the very end, when I know every little facet is complete and I think everything is “perfect”, and that my subject would be happy that I had given him/her the best representation I am capable of doing at the time. It is at that time that I feel humbled being in the presence of another incredible animal that I was blessed with having the privilege of knowing. I realize at that very moment in time that there is a soul looking back at me; that takes my breath away and breathes life into my subject, and has me wanting to leap into those deep pools of liquid brown, blue or green that seem to go forever.
A side note about Andy. He was such an incredible friend - always joyful, and an amazing testament to beingness. Andy always took the road less traveled. Before Andy was two years of age, he depended on his guardians to protect and love him, but each one failed him. He was failed as a puppy by his first guardian (#1), a breeder in Ohio who separated him from his Mother too early. It is during the first 6 to10 weeks period that the mother teaches her puppies about proper behavior in the canine kingdom. The mother will correct her puppies when they nip too hard or when it is not appropriate.
It was obvious that he was taken from his mother before 8 weeks of age.
The other strike against him was the ignorance of his guardians about a principal characteristic of Labs – they like to mouth items, including hands, which could be construed as nipping. Andy was “half” lab, the other “half” being poodle, i.e., a labradoodle. Labrador Retrievers, as with all hunting breeds who are taught to retrieve are mouthy. We have had two gorgeous purebred Labradors that we adopted (rescued). Both of them, as with all “labs,” loved to mouth (not nip) objects, including hands. That is one of the attributes that make them good hunting dogs, i.e., bringing a bird back that the hunter has shot, the dog knows not to mangle the bird, but to carry it gently in his/her mouth. All Andy wanted to do was to “bond” with his human(s).
The breeder sold Andy to a guardian (#2) who tied him to a tree for the first year of his life. That is not a good life for an energetic puppy wanting to be with his humans. My guess is he would lunge when food or any attention was paid to him, mouthing the hand that advanced towards him. So, guardian #2 sold him to another family (#3) in Ohio who said they experienced Andy’s nipping. They gave him to some friends (#4) in Saginaw, Michigan, who kept him a very short while and took him to a kill shelter because of his “nipping.” He was to be put to sleep the very next morning because he was not adoptable. A volunteer at the shelter noticed he was a labradoodle. She called the Doodle Rescue Organization, who asked her to pull him out, which she did. They paid his fines. Then, he was fostered (#5) for a week or so. Then, he hit the lottery, so to speak. A family (#6) in Potomac, MD, saw this beautiful labradoodle on the website, and wanted to adopt him. No children under 10. They qualified. They flew their private jet up to Saginaw and brought him back to Maryland. The mother of the household tearfully called up the doodle organization and said (after 4 weeks) he nipped at the workers and the kids, and they needed to give him back.
So, I (#7) got a call from the doodle rescue organization asking if we would take Andy in because they were afraid that if he got adopted out again he would not make it again, not after 6 guardians, 2 fosters, and a kill shelter. This is a fact: The majority of dogs do not bond after they have been adopted 3 times. They are numb to bonding, knowing that they have to be on guard and will fail. Very sad, but a reality. So, we took Andy in, showed him the ropes, so to speak and it took maybe a few days to curb his nipping, but he never did it again after we showed him that we were the alphas and there were rules to adhere to. What he would do is put his mouth on our hand as if to say, “I got this.” -cutest thing on the planet. Best decision we ever made. He was an incredibly intelligent pup, excelling in everything he did, down to winning first place in his obedience class and first in his agility. He would walk off a leash and I would not have to worry that he would take off. Of course, I wouldn’t do that in the neighborhood or where leash laws were in effect. He was so special that I still cannot wipe his puppy kisses off the passenger window in the backseat of our SUV. He always tapped the window with his muzzle when he wanted us to put his window down. His goggles are still waiting for him
in the glove compartment. He made a big positive difference in the energy level for 7 years - his best years.