Today is my birthday and when Dad called to wish me Happy Birthday, I couldn't even tell him how old I am now! "Think about this before you get another dog," I warned my Self.

Katie is not getting any younger either. I have been thinking of painting her since we adopted her 14 years ago. This week, I finally did it! I have always been intrigued by her white on white coloring, and imagined painting her on an antique ivory patterned bedspread which she used to sleep on years ago.

As I finished up painting Kate, Jim returned from the grocery store to say he had stopped at the SPCA and wanted me to go see two pooches he had seen. Reluctantly, I went. When we arrived, one of the dogs he had told me about was out front getting clipped and brushed. Fur and dog mess was everywhere! We went inside quickly. "No way," I thought to my Self.

In the kennel we met the other dog Jim wanted me to see. A shy little dog, 'Honey,' was in a kennel with another dog. She looked like a puppy, small with a cute rounded face. Reading her card, we discovered she was actually two years old ~ full grown! This little pooch was only 24 pounds, a doxidor: a dueschund/labrador mix. She charmed us both. Reluctantly, I agreed as Jim made arrangements to take her home to see if Kate would also approve.

Over the next few days we worked at getting to know each other. On the way home, she squirmed out of my arms and down between the back seats in the van into an afghan which was on the floor. When we got home, she wanted to stay there. At the house I found another afghan and put it down for her. Immediately she made another nest. She is a nester.

Nesting is something I have never been good at. It seems I am always running around doing something. Sit down and be still? Hard for me to imagine me doing that. Got to be DOING something.

The day after she arrived, I took out the vacuum to tidy up. I saw her out of the corner of my eye as I took the vacuum out of the closet. The deck door was open and spying the vacuum, she quickly slipped outside. I went about vacuuming. Jim came in a while later and asked where she was. No where! She had disappeared! We spent the next hour searching the yard, surrounding woods and adjoining neighbors' yards.

Back at the house, 'Sneekers', as we had started calling her for her white paws ~ was curled up in a new nest behind Jim's computer desk. There isn't much space back there between the desk and wall of windows. Just a narrow passageway to get in and a pile of wires!

As each day passed I spent more and more time with her, coaxing her out of her nest, encouraging her to play. Slowing me down, I guess. I didn't feel much like going out to paint, so I set my easel out on the deck and painted a view of my vegetable garden.

The obelisk Jim and I had constructed just last weekend was already filled with cucumber and tomato vines. I sat while I painted, too lazy to stand, I thought to myself. I set up a larger canvas than I normally use en plein air. This one is 203 x 243, not huge but significantly larger than the 9 x 12s I often use.

As I was painting, a neighbor paddled into my painting with his two children. They stopped to catch a bass or two, then paddled away. I quickly brushed them into the picture without thinking whether I really wanted them there or not! The sun moved lower in the sky and finally I felt the need to quit. Most of the garden was now in shadows.

Light and shadows ~ this is what I have been balancing out in my life all week. In the painting of Allie, (Allie's Gift ) everything was darkish, varying shades of dark. In this painting of Kate the inverse is true. I didn't see it until this morning when I wrote down my dream. Dream: I see a low key pattern of darks; darker darks and lighter darks. I am inverting the image. Now it is a pattern of lights ~ high key lights, lighter lights and darker lights. Inversely proportional.

This dream let me see what has been going on all week! Between the paintings and the new dog ~ I have been balancing my life, inverting my perspective on things! In this painting of the garden, I played. I played with the imagery ... letting the canoe of children fishing enter into my world without thinking as to whether it would upset my world or not! I let the game I was playing in my vegetable garden onto my canvas of life.

This little dog turned my life right side up! And just when it looked like she might NOT be successful, she amped up the stakes. Toward the end of the week I went to vacuum again. This time she was lying on the floor in my bedroom. So I told her I was going to close the door while I ran the vacuum. When I came back 15 minutes later she was under the bed shaking like a leaf. I let her stay there awhile. Checking on her throughout the morning, I finally coaxed her out. I put her on the afghan in the den and sat there on the floor with her and held her while she trembled.

"I don't know what happened to you," I said out loud to her. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry it happened, whatever it was." I continued. As I spoke I stroked her head. And as I did I felt my Self let go of whatever it was that had kept me doing, doing, doing until I thought I would drop. We let it go together.

Today, on my birthday, I painted these two quick paintings of Sneekers. She was sitting on my sofa ~ a thing I never permitted a dog to do! I had to paint quickly because she changed positions often. The sofa is brick red so I used alizarin crimson to draw her shape quickly, directly onto the canvas. By the time I had the shapes in, she had moved. I responded by gently blocking in the colors the best I could remember.

Then I went and got another canvas. This time she stayed snoozing a little longer. Afraid she might move again, I continued at the fast pace. I liked the gestural quality of the first one, playful. "So what if my couch isn't really pink?" This way I can have a pink couch without having to live with it! Sleeping there on my spot on the sofa she continued teaching me how to play. The blue thing she is sleeping on is a needlepoint pillow I made 35 years ago. I not only let her sleep on it ~ I enjoyed painting it! I am a hard case, I admit. Transforming a workaholic? FAITH ... plays a woman! I guess an old dog CAN learn new tricks.

Note: 4 plein air paintings illustrate this article and may be obtained for republication.

By: Dorothy Fagan

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Dorothy Fagan, Artist, Speaker, Author; paints en plein air and writes dreams and interpretations of life and art in her Daily Painting Journal.

Fagan earned her B. F. A. in Printmaking and Painting from East Carolina University and a ten-year Painting Mentorship with Robert B. Mayo, Valentine Museum, Richmond, VA. Her work is featured in two PBS specials and over two hundred collections in the U. S., England, Lebanon and Canada. She has written three books.