The Road to Getting a Rescue Dog

A year ago this month I began my months-long search for another dog. We had lost our wonderful little cocker spaniel, Maxwell Highland, to cancer nearly six years before and Steve just hadn’t been ready to welcome another dog-child into our lives. He surprised me during our drive to my parent’s house for Christmas 2011 by saying that he wanted a dog. We decided that we would get a rescue dog.

We weren’t prepared for how difficult it is to get a dog in New England. First, I tried to get this adorable spaniel/border collie mix from a shelter in Boston:spot

We filled out all the paperwork and waited. The name they had for her was Spot, and I’m thinking, “What kind of name is that for a girl?” I had decided to name her Bailey since to me she looked like a circus dog. Steve thought of Zuzu Bailey after one of his favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. But as I would be bringing the dog to work and there’s a lab named Zoey who gets called Zozo I was thinking Zuzu was too close to that. We had a phone interview and some of our friends were called for references. Then after several weeks we were told that we were 4th in line for her, so most likely we wouldn’t get her but that they would keep us on file in case we saw another dog we liked there.

Next, we filled out forms for Earl the Boykin Spaniel. earltheboykinAfter reading up on several spaniel breeds we were most intrigued by Field Spaniels and Boykin Spaniels. We wanted a dog that would be larger than a cocker spaniel but still have the same kind of spaniel cute floppy earred look and happy disposition. But we missed out on him as well.

Then I saw a field spaniel in Florida who had a lung infection.fieldspaniel

He was scheduled to be put down because they didn’t want to infect other dogs in the kennel, so they said I needed to act fast as there was no way to reserve him at the shelter. I was able to secure transport for him the next day, but he had already been adopted by the time I called to arrange it all. I then tried for two more Boykins, one in South Carolina who ended up being afraid of men. The other was in North Carolina, but listed from a shelter in Ohio. That shelter couldn’t believe that New England has a shortage of dogs and was puzzled by the fact that I was willing to drive all the way there to get him. Boy, was this getting difficult!

Next I tried to get Sterling from New Hampshire:sterling

He had been down south and was being treated for Heartworm Disease and had been very ill. Again, after filling out all the paperwork and waiting for a few weeks we were told that he had gotten a great home.

I was applying for only one dog at a time, as I thought that was only fair. I didn’t want to get a dog, and then mess up another dog’s chances of getting a great home by applying to more than one. Many of my friends couldn’t believe it took so long and that I kept missing out on the dogs. They urged me to just go to a pet store or a breeder but after learning about how many dogs get put down at shelters I just couldn’t.

Then my friend Audrey called me about a dog that was in a local shelter. Her groomer told her about a cocker spaniel that she was asked to groom but it was so matted she told them it should get done by a veterinarian. Audrey and I went to see the little fella. He was rust and white, and true to cocker spaniels, he piddled from nerves when we said hello to him. Then he sniffed me, must have smelled the cats and the goats, sniffed Audrey and smelled her dog, and he decided we were okay. I spoke to the woman at the town hall about getting him, only to find out that I was again, 4th in line. They had to keep the dog for several weeks since he was a stray before they could let him go to an adopted home.

finn-petfinderSo finally after four months of searching I saw a dog that had just been listed as he hadn’t been on the site that morning, and he looked exactly like what we wanted! They listed him as a black cocker spaniel/field spaniel cross, about 1 1/2 years old.  I ran to the living room and shouted to my husband, “I found our dog!” And he was like, “Yeah, like you haven’t said that 8 times already.” But I showed Steve the listing, he liked the pics and I filled out yet another hour-long form and sent it off. It turned out that the rescue organization was only about 10 miles from our house. It was the American Lab Rescue, and I had a friend who had a contact there whom I had emailed in December, but as they mostly did Labs, I didn’t expect that we’d get a dog from them. So I sent my contact an email and she promised to help if she could. Our references were called, we were called by one of their people, then Finn’s foster mom spoke with us to see if we were a good match for the dog. Then the dog had to go through what I decided to call the “cat scan”, to see how he reacted to being with cats, since we have three. We were told he hid behind the humans when the cat hissed at him, so he passed. He was still in Alabama, so once we passed the home inspection he was cleared to ship up to Connecticut to us! We paid for him via paypal and saw that the tranport company would send us updates to a website where we could keep track of his 2 day journey. These transports are amazing by the way – check it out.

Then, the day before Finn was to arrive, Audrey calls me to say that the little cocker was back at the shelter. The people who had gotten him let him LOOSE on purpose, near the shelter. The lady from the town hall called them to see if the dog got loose by mistake, only to hear the people say that they didn’t want him since he wasn’t potty trained! I couldn’t believe that anyone would let a dog loose on a 4 lane highway! They could have just brought him back to the shelter and if they didn’t want him. At least he wasn’t hurt. The lady at the town hall remembered talking with me and she thought I’d give the dog a good home, but as Finn was already on his way, I had to say no. I hope that he got a good home.

Finn-firstHugSo here’s the first pic of Finn when we got him off the transport: he ran into Steve’s arms and into his lap for a hug. It was as if he was saying, “I’m yours, take me home.” Finn has been part of our family since Easter weekend, and from the start he acted as if he’d always been here. He takes things in stride, loves everything and everyone. We didn’t even know he could bark until he wanted to play with Zoey at work! I expected a rescue dog to have issues with trust or attachment or some kind of training problem, but we really got lucky. He is amazing and it breaks my heart to see that there are so many dogs in shelters that don’t get rescued and end up with their lives cut short. We were told that Finn had only one more day to go before being put down but the ALR organization came in and saved him.

We are grateful.Finn-headshot-frisbee

Halloween Pics – Dog and Cat

Pics I took of my dog Finn and my cat Grand Nagus Zek. I call them Finn Fatale and Zombie Zek. While I admit to some photoshop work, the eyes (and reflection) were original and were the inspiration for the piece.

I entered the pic below into the petco contest. If we win, I’ll donate any prize to the American Lab Rescue. So please click on the photo to get to Petco’s Facebook and vote! While Finn isn’t a lab (we think he’s mostly springer spaniel) the ALR was the rescue that took him in when he was a stray in Alabama.

Anna’s Little Stained Glass Boxes

These are some of my little stained glass boxes. I make them with different tops – some I call “jewel top”, some “shell top” and others have pressed flowers or cast or stamped charms .  They are 2″ x 3″ and are a great size for a hostess gift or birthday present. Most people tell me they use them as a ring box on their dresser or bathroom vanity.

Stained Glass boxes for Bat Mitzvah Invitations

Here’s a few of the stained glass boxes that I’ve made for Bat Mitzvah invitations. They are fun to make, each one comes out different, which keeps me interested as an artist.

They take me about 4-5 hours to do, and that’s not including going to the fabric store for the fabric to make the padded inserts! I also include seashells, crystals, semi-precious stones, beads – whatever looks good!

Stained Glass Bar Mitzvah Boxes

I usually make boxes for the boys with something other than the invitation on top. I figure most boys are going to grow out of looking at it pretty quickly. Surprisingly a lot of moms tell me that the boys do use their boxes, keeping their watches, nice pens, baseball cards, usb sticks or just plain junk in them. Sometimes I go with a stone agate for the top, other times people are able to tell me what he’s into like sports, music, etc.

What I love about doing these invitation boxes is that each and every one comes out different – I’ve even done three sets of twins in the past, and each of those were customized to the tastes of the individual. That’s what makes it fun as an artist, these are all unique.

Stained Glass Wedding Invitation Boxes

I’ve been asked to show some of the stained glass invitation boxes that I’m known for. When I first moved to Connecticut I worked at a picture framing gallery in West Hartford. They graciously let me sell my stained glass gift boxes (they got commission, of course!). One day a customer came in and wanted a stained glass box with a wedding invitation put into the top. It came out great, and I’ve been making them ever since! The store had a huge Jewish clientele so naturally I expanded into making bar mitzvah and bad mitzvah boxes as well. I’ll show some of these in another post. This pic above shows a wedding invitation that had a peacock on it. I colored it in lightly and then added real peacock feathers. The invitation is sandwiched between an iridized “glue chip” clear glass and a piece of clear glass on top. The sides of the box were iridized black “waterglass” and I used a black patina on the solder.

This one above was a real challenge: the bridesmaid brought me REAL dried flowers, not pressed flat but natural. I had to come up with a way to display them properly AND make sure that if they shed or had a piece that fell off, it wouldn’t remain in there forever. So I hinged the top to make a lid, it pressure fits in and good ol’ gravity will keep it in place.

Restoration is not for beginners

Restoration of valuable artwork is not for beginners, unless you’re under the tutelage of an experienced professional. This piece is by Sir Thomas Lawrence, a well-known British court portrait painter from the late 1700s – early 1800s. It was improperly “cleaned” by someone and then brought to me to fix. It was quite the task, as so much of it was removed that I had to guess and invent the details.

So many people think that restoration is an easy process, but there is much to learn, and I find that I learn something new from each piece, even after 16 years of cleaning paintings! Today one can just go to the store and simply pick up a jar of damar varnish, but not so in the 1800s. Many artists invented their own formulas, or improved upon those of their master’s. By this point, the artists of that time would already seen that varnishes yellow, crack and shrink. In attempts to make a better varnish, artists sometimes resorted to chemicals that would bond over time to the paint, and become virtually permanent. In using strong chemicals to remove such finishes, it is possible to strip off the paint as well. Soft colors such as reds and browns are the first affected. If you wish to try restoration yourself, please try it out on artwork that you are sure isn’t valuable! This piece above was probably worth about $175,000 if it had been in good condition. Try out your chemicals in a small, inconspicuous area first, not in the center of the piece.

To restore this piece, I researched not only other work by Sir Thomas, but the sitter as well. The portrait is of Lady Elizabeth Hope Vere, daughter of George Hay, the 7th Marquis of Tweedle (Edinborough) who was imprisoned by Napoleon. The Marquis and his wife both perished in jail at Verdun. Elizabeth was about 14 at the time. I found a society page that spoke of the lovely facinator/feathers in her hair that then became the height of fashion, and as there was evidence that there was something red in her hair, so I added a splash of that, to her right side (viewer’s left). I haven’t seen other images of this particular portrait online (which of course would have made my work on it so much easier!) so I think it may have always been in private collections.

I also made castings of the missing chunks of frame. These were then glued into place and underpainted. Some areas received black base coat, some red and some yellow. It takes some detective work to see what is needed so that when the gold is applied the proper color shows through. The patination of the leaf is applied in layers and samples are made prior to working on the frame itself. Each frame is unique in its coloring due to the type of gold used (which can range from 18 karat up to 24, white, lemon, rose, etc), the base or bole underneath, what was used as the original antiquing and atmospheric conditions it’s been exposed to over the years.