Reminiscing

I admit that I’ve been feeling overly emotional for the better part of the last few weeks and although Marley’s official adoption was impactful it was also almost anticlimactic since this was the goal we had been working toward and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone to have let it drag out. Also recently the Vicktory Dogs have been in the media feeds a lot.  It was recently the anniversary of their confiscation from the chains that bound them at the house on Moonlight Road and to commemorate that a private mass tree planting ceremony took place on those grounds.  The photos from that day evoke a sense of hurt and healing that I can’t even fathom feeling.

 

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Pictures of Lucas hang in the Dogtown lobby.

Also this week The Champions was released on Netflix and of course I had to watch it. While I expected to feel a sense of sadness and certainly renewed outrage over what these dogs had been through, I surprisingly felt much less of both than I expected.  While I hesitate to use the phrase because of all of the stalker-y connotations, I feel like a Superfan of these dogs.  I haven’t exactly followed their story from the beginning but after having read this article, I can honestly say my mission and the course of my life have been dramatically and irrevocably altered. I follow every known Facebook page of the former V dogs and can probably recount snippets of information that should have long sunk in the depths of memory.  I also have a small collection of pawtographed prints and other items from past auctions that I still haven’t found the proper place to display and toy often with the idea of donating them back.  But I digress.  Viewing The Champions with my own Ray-Ray snuggled at my side felt more like watching home movies of people and dogs that I’ve come to love and admire. “Oh, look Ray, that’s Georgia!  Oh look! Lucas’s picture!  Look there’s Meryl!  Oh that’s Donna Reynolds talking.  Aw, look, it’s Jewels!”  Yes, some of it was heartbreaking to watch but it really was so well done.

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Ray the Vicktory Dog

 

It also came to my attention that today is the first anniversary of the passing of Ray the Vicktory dog. Ah, the little brown dog.  For several years I had had it in my mind to visit the Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah and hopefully meet a Vicktory dog.  It was they who inspired me and without their story I most likely wouldn’t be an adopter, foster, advocate, protector, defender, dog mama, volunteer, rescuer, or any other tag that might fit and because of that I wanted to just meet them, see them, pay tribute to the way in which the direction of my life changed because of them.  When Lucas passed away I snapped out of my want to-wish to-hope to phase and sprang into action planning our trip as 2007 was fast fading and these dogs weren’t getting any younger.

 

Remember those snippets? I knew that Ray and his mama went to get the mail everyday at Angel’s Café, so I made sure Kevin and I were parked outside as early as possible after our volunteer shift and we waited in our rental car for the pair to arrive. Arrive they did and I watched, petrified, as they disappeared into the building and sat fidgeting as they were inside and then sat again terrified as I said, “There they go.”  Kevin immediately told me to get out of the car and I sprang into action by flinging open the door, dropping my camera in the red dust and falling out of the car causing the pair to stop and stare at me in shocked silence departing the car in a calm manner and asking if that was, in fact, Ray.  Jacque was very nice and as we gently stroked Ray’s back and ears we chatted about Ray’s small size and the smallness in general of all of the V dogs.  I was struck by the normality of Ray.  He was a quiet little dog who leaned against me as I stroked his soft hair and absorbed the attention. He wasn’t standing there as One Of The Dogs Who Changed The Lives Of Many Former Fighting Dogs, he was just Ray in the sunshine. We were invited to come back to Parrots and pick Ray up for a car ride which was both thrilling and terrifying in the responsibility of transporting this dog but in the end, we didn’t wreck the car at the 5 miles per hour rate of speed, we didn’t get lost and returned him in one piece.

 

There’s no special point to this post exactly, just a bit of melancholy and a bit of reminiscing and a need to relive that day in my mind.

Yay! Yellow Brick Home!

There were a huge number of things influencing my decision to order or not order my very own Yellow Brick Home Pet Shop Portrait. One thing is that I can be super picky and super critical, especially if I order a custom piece. I mean, I’m still upset about a special order cake from three and a half years ago and chances are I will come unglued if I have to tell that story again. The other reason I hesitated is that I knew that Kim asks questions about the pets she is about to paint. What if I didn’t do justice to the boys? How could I begin to put into words the communication that bounces between me and Ray with just a look? How do I describe Julius’s earnestness and sweetness? What if the portrait looks like two dogs that kind of look like Ray and Julius but without the soul that reflects in their eyes? What if I fail them by the limitations of my vocabulary and expression?

Well, to address the first issue, after being such a stalker an avid reader of the YBH blog I know that if there’s anyone who is freakishly attentive to the details (in the best possible way!) it is Kim, so the only roadblock would be me. Because the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition was selected to be the YBH rescue partner for the quarter I would be pretty ungrateful to not place an order. I’ve been debating on what size to order do I order singles? Do I order a joint portrait? Do I order two singles and a double? Ack! Finally I figured out what to do, so I took a deep breath, clicked, and just like the description of what happens, I soon received an email from Kim asking all kinds of questions. While I gathered up pictures and stewed over what to write about the boys, I realized that probably most YBH Pet Shop customers are just as obsessed with their pets as I am, so she could take my intensity with a grain of salt, right? I also tried not to flood her inbox with pictures-oh just one more, because this one is just so cuuuute!

Nearly Every blog I’ve ever read about the YBH experience talks about how great Kim is to work with and I don’t think I can find the right superlative to describe how great Kim is to work with. I mean, the process is so clearly defined and the communication is so good and crisp. (Have I mentioned how picky I am?) Once we decided on the “pose” she got to work on a mock up to email me so there were really no surprises and no chance for any regrets (oh, I wish we would have done this rather than that) because once I saw the mock up, I was in anticipation heaven! I wanted to shout from the rooftops how cool this was going to be and yet I wanted to keep it as a huge reveal-y surprise too.

So in the first few emails Kim was brainstorming how she might do the painting of the boys. They’re both larger in person than they seem on a screen and she had an idea of using the blog heading or perhaps just their heads, but I know these knuckleheads and I know my own quirky self so here’s what I proposed. My Ray-Ray is such a good poser. If he knows it’s picture time, he usually sits or lies on his mat and gives me his picture face while waiting for his reward.

See that blob in the lower left corner? Juli-bomb.

Julius (who isn’t that treat motivated) acts like if he doesn’t get the posing treat he will absolutely shrivel up and die! He jumps, he grabs and he budges his big head into everyone’s space.

Big, ginormous Juli-head.

He’s a notorious photo-bomber, whether he tries to or not, so that’s what we did. I asked Kim to paint a picture of Ray in his normal pose and have Julius “photo-bomb the portrait.”

Once everything was set, I was given a target date and when it was complete, I received an email with a zip file (my choice as to whether I wanted to peek at it early) and I waited a whole 14 seconds before I unzipped that sucker and SWOONED! OH. MY. GAWD!

Check. It. Out.

Check. It. Out.

As awesome as the scan is, it still just doesn’t do justice to seeing this in real life. When I received my box (stamped YAY!) in the mail, I was happy dancing all over the house. You all should seriously just take a second and look at how freaking awesome this is. When I look at this-I don’t think I’m going to describe it correctly- I feel like Kim knows what it feels like when I wrap my arm around Ray’s neck and pet his chest. She painted what it feels like to hug Ray! Let me say it again: She. Painted. What it feels like. To hug Ray. It makes me cry to think about that. Her take on Julius? Spot on. He isn’t a huge dog and he doesn’t have one of those big American Bully heads but he just has such a big buffalo head that always seems to be in the way. She got his sweet simplicity and the open earnestness that is Julius. I ran all over the house placing it and finally decided on the dining room buffet for now.

 It’s a very central room where I can see it all the time.  And let me just say, most of the guests we’ve had over have initially thought this was a photograph rather than a painting.  Yeah.

As I mentioned, The Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition is the rescue partner of Yellow Brick Home so for the remainder of this quarter, 10% of the proceeds from all orders will go to the Coalition. If you have been absolutely dying to have a portrait done of your fur kid(s) I would highly recommend you place your order with Kim as soon as possible but if you could do it  by September 30th the pit bulls of Fort Wayne would send you big, sloppy, wet, grateful kisses.

What are you waiting for?