We wish you …

Mom and Rocky kiss … a merry Christmas …
Merry Wilbur 1 … We wish you …
Merry Zoe … a merry Christmas!

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy neeeew … Merry Rocky Whatever. Give me the damn treat you promised me.

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The artist, the bulldog

a bulldog asleepIf there’s one thing people learn after a few years of having pets, it’s that you don’t own them, they own you. But if the pet happens to be an English bulldog, there’s something else. They don’t do anything unless they want to, and all they really want to do is … nothing. Most loveable but also the most stubborn and laziest beings on Earth. After people.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to read the story of Piper, the painting bulldog. Astounded by it, actually.

Piper strikes a very classic bulldog pose for her owner, Jessica Stone. This usually can be interpreted as "Smile? You must be joking." Copyright © Jessica Stone

Piper strikes a very classic bulldog pose for her owner. painter Jessica Stone. This usually can be interpreted as “Say cheese? You must be joking. I eat cheese,” but Piper’s different. Copyright © Jessica Stone

Piper is the proud owner of artist Jessica Stone. The one-bright-eyed rescued bullie was with Stone at her Austin, Texas, studio one day and evidently felt the urge to send a mental message to her owner – gimme a paint brush already, I feel an inspiration coming on. Jessica got the message, got a brush, dipped it in paint, held a piece of paper and added Piper.

Stone says Piper took brush in mouth and started a-wiggling and a-waving it on the paper. Good Lord, the girl was painting. And it was, well, as it turned out … there’s really no other way to put it … it was a painting.

The artist at work. Copyright © Jessica Stone

The artist at work. Copyright © Jessica Stone

“Her pieces are just so carefree and whimsical, and they amaze me.” Stone told a reporter in a story about Piper’s artistic ability.

She ain’t fooling. And she’s not the only amazed Piper-painter person down in the heart of Texas. The pooch has a following.

I think this one should be called Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pup. Copyright © 2012 Piper Stone Artwork

This one might be called Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pup. Copyright © 2012 Piper Stone Artwork

One painting hasn’t been enough for Piper. Turns out she is very inspired. More than that, successful too. We’re not talking about a starving artist here. She’s sold more than 120 of them, along with shirts with prints of her work and her used brushes (signed by her teeth, no doubt) for the benefit of the San Antonio Bulldog Rescue, the organization that brought Piper and Jessica together.

This pooch isn't a Piper, she's a Pawcasso. Copyright © 2012 Piper Stone Artwork

This pooch isn’t a Piper, she’s a Pawcasso. Copyright © 2012 Piper Stone Artwork

What a nice story. What a wonderful and very talented white bulldog.

Whoa, hold on. We have a white bulldog. We have a brown one too, but what if the white ones are special? What if they come along only once in great while, like the mythical White Buffalo?

You know, I always had a feeling Wilbur was more than your average English bulldog. But now I realize I wasn’t getting his messages. Wasn’t paying attention to the signs. I’m sure he’s been sending them. I went through some of the 3,965 pictures we’ve taken of him and his brothers and sisters, this time really examining, really looking at each one. The picture, once blurred, slowly began to come into focus.

Notice that an artist must be a quiet, yet keen, observer of life. And I thought he was just sitting in the sun. What a fool am I.

Notice that an artist must be a quiet, yet keen, observer of life. And I thought he was just sitting in the sun. What a fool am I.

But what artistic venue is Wilbur’s forte? He’s never shown an interest in paint, never asked for the camera when we’ve taken pictures of him … what the heck is this artist-in-my-residence trying to tell me?

I went back to flipping through the photographs. Nothing, nothing, more nothing. And then I found it. It was right there in front of me.

a bulldog painter performance artNotice the artistry. Pay heed to the passion, the canine creativity. I didn’t see it at first, but can’t miss it now. How had I been so blind?

Wilbur – choreographer. Wilbur – performance artist. Transformer of the physical sleeping dogs into a fantastical image … of the very Circle of Life!

Wilbur – the next Twyla Tharp.

With my dogs, size matters

I like big dogs. Grew up with them, always have owned at least one. Or two. Or … well sometimes quite a few of them. Thanks to the kind-hearted desires of my animal-devoted wife, and my desire to live a life without conflict, my per-capita dog-to-dollar ratio has averaged about 4 to 1 over the past 20-something years. That means four big dogs per every dollar I have in my wallet.

The dollar category would be somewhat higher, but some of my big dogs ate the dollar. And the wallet.

I have nothing against little dogs. Little dogs are nice. They’re kind of adorable, actually.

Little dogs are cute. With enough elevation and a good tailwind, they can fly. How cute.

It just that little dogs are not practical for someone like me. Especially when I stumble out of bed in the middle of the night and really believe that I have some kind of  sixteenth sense that allows me to see in the dark, even when it’s dark and I can’t see.

It’s much more practical for me to walk into a big dog and bounce off, than step on a little dog and not bounce off. The big dogs learn to know it’s just me and get annoyed, look up and roll over. If they were little dogs, however, they’d be … well, most probably wouldn’t be around long enough to get annoyed.

Don’t get me wrong – big dogs aren’t perfect. They have their drawbacks, not a lot of them but the few that they have are, of course, big.

Take teething. All dogs do it – new big teeth come in, gums get sore, and chewing on things helps them relieve it. Anybody who’s raised a puppy usually loses a shoe, or a furniture leg to a chewing little pup.

That is, unless you have a big dog puppy.

One look into Molly’s big brown eyes and – poof – all was forgiven. Newfies are big … and clever.

Meet Molly. Molly was the first Newfoundland we owned and raised. Newfoundlands actually are wonderful, big black bears that someone decided really were dogs. And the Newfies were just too lovable and gentle to disagree with them.

She came to us because she was being thrown out of the house of her first owner. A friend was installing new carpeting throughout the owner’s house when the woman walked by with Molly, then 6 months old, heading for the door. She was taking her to the Humane Society to be put up for adoption. You see, Molly was the reason for the new carpeting.

Long story short, the friend asked the owner to wait and called his girlfriend who happened to be a co-worker of mine. The girlfriend came to me, knowing I loved big dogs. Fifteen minutes later, I was walking Molly out to my car to take her home. At six months, she nearly filled the back seat of my VW Rabbit.

A decision my wife and I never regretted. Not only because we both loved big dogs, but we’d owned enough of them to know how to live with them. Most importantly, to never, ever underestimate what a big dog can do. You can’t blame them – they do the same things that all dogs do. Just in a big way.

You’ll recall that little teething issue Molly had when she moved in. How could we forget.

One day I came home to find the kitchen floor covered with snow. Around six inches thick, from wall to wall.

Only problem – it wasn’t November, it was July. And it wasn’t snow, it was fluffy white stuffing. The kind of stuffing they put inside the six padded chairs of a kitchen dining set. All six, stripped of their covers and their stuffing. All over the place. And sitting in the middle of it all was one big, black, happy, giant puppy.

I had no words. In moments like this a big dog owner is reminded to not put too much importance on material things, no matter what they are. Or how big they are. You learn that they don’t last, especially with a big dog in the house.

I sat down on one of my new, rather uncomfortable metal-frame chairs.

“OK Molly, so what are we going to tell your mother when she gets home?”

I could tell by her wagging tail Molly was thinking. Really hard. So was I. It worked.

“Right, a tornado, good idea. Big one, blew in through the window, tore up the chairs, threw this all around and went out through that window there. Brilliant. Molly, this could work.”

I could tell by Molly’s wagging tail she really liked the idea. So did I. It didn’t work, but it was worth a shot.

Can’t remember what we came up with to explain how all the window sills were chewed off on another day, though. Hit-and-run beaver infestation, I think.

Molly lived to the ripe old age of 11, far beyond the normal lifespan of most Newfoundlands. Had two knee operations and one hip replaced (big dogs have big health issues), and destroyed or ate a whole lot of things, including some more furniture. I’m pretty sure she loved every minute of it. I know we did.

Despite the material losses, we still have big dogs. Always will. Two bulldogs (short but stout) and one bull mastiff (big and stout) now. Some day, we’ll no doubt have more. And some day, some day … we’ll have those chewed-up moldings around all of our doors replaced.

Just as soon as the big teeth come in.

Of bulls and bulldogs

It’s July 7th and for Pamplona, in Spain’s north region, that means the San Fermin Festival is into it first full day of wild celebration to commemorate St. Fermin, the city’s patron saint. But also more famously, or infamously, this long-running annual fiesta is well-known for … the running of the bulls.

As always, it draws people from not only Spain but everywhere in the world.

A photo taken not too far from the maddened crowd. (Susana Vera / Reuters)

Thousands and thousands of people are happy enough to just drink the wine and revel for nine days. But a few hundred are not completely happy unless they drink the wine, revel and then run away from a bunch of bulls.

A photograph taken far above the maddened bulls and the mad running revelers. (NBC news)

Ironically, July 7th just happens to be one day in another long-running festival that is celebrated daily in my neck of the woods – the Sealy Posturepedic Siesta Fiesta. And while there’s no wine, very little reveling and no patron, matron or New Orleans saints commemorated, it is well-known for … the sleeping of the bulldogs.

You run around these guys and you could trip and hurt yourself.

Not surprisingly, it’s also a festivity that draws its fair share of fanatical followers.

Who needs wine? Could use a couple pillows though.

Just goes to show you that no matter where you look, you can find a spectacle. Party hearty, world.