The Memory Project

My father and I just participated in the Memory Project, which connects artists with youth around the world who have faced poverty, abuse, neglect, violence, loss of parents, or other serious challenges. The Memory Project sends the artist a photo of a child, and the artist then creates a portrait of the child and sends it back to the Memory Project. The portrait is then delivered to the child along with a photo of the artist, with the goal of helping the child feel valued, important, and cared about as an individual.

We were sent photos of two young Ukrainian orphans, Ilya and Ivanna. Artists can make the portrait in any style or medium on paper or canvas, so I did my portrait in watercolor, and my father did his as a caricature (he has done many thousands of caricatures of children around the world). He drew the boy playing soccer, since it is such a popular sport in the Ukraine. I really enjoyed working together with my father on this project., and we’re planning to sign up again, along with my sister and one of my brothers. I’d really would encourage any artists who do portraits to consider doing this very rewarding project.

Working together in my parents’ dining room
My father sketching out his portrait, adapting a head-on view for a caricature
Ilya playing soccer

Musings on Loss and Longing

A couple of weeks ago I had a dream about Rowan in which I felt the strongest longing I’ve ever felt. It wasn’t just missing him; I’m not sure it would be possible to miss Rowan more than I have so much of the time since he passed from this life three months ago. In my dream I had left him with someone because she needed some help or company, but after I got home, I realized I couldn’t bear to be apart from him, and I was determined to go back and bring him home as soon as possible. It was an overwhelming feeling that was different from the abject grief I’ve been feeling, in that it was intense missing combined with an urgent drive to go to Rowan.

The intense longing of that dream has stayed with me. I have lost many dogs and cats and some people dear to me, and have deeply grieved, often for a long time. My grief for Rowan has been even more overwhelming than most of those other losses, but the longing that dream awakened was on a whole new level for me. Then a few days ago I started reading Psalm 42 and got as far as the third verse, when I suddenly recognized that I was reading a description of the longing from my dream.

  As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night…

To be sure, the psalmist was speaking of longing for God, not for a dog, but I realized that the intensity of the psalmist’s longing was the same intensity that I had experienced for the first time in my dream.

It’s been somewhat comforting all along to remind myself that Rowan was a gift from God to teach me more about God. Actually, not so much to teach me as to help me experience more of God’s love than I had previously been able to experience, through the ways God worked through Rowan in my life. But now I’m wondering if perhaps Rowan wasn’t here just so I could know God better only through Rowan’s presence, but perhaps also, through his absence, to open me to a greater longing, as in my dream, and then realize that in some way, that longing is actually my soul’s deep, and previously unacknowledged, longing for God. A longing that will keep me actively seeking God with all my heart throughout this life.

My longing for Rowan remains and makes my heart ache and my tears flow day and night, but I pray that it will always keep me open to longing for God, the ultimate source of all that Rowan was for me.

Photo by Arielle Fischer Wellons

Happy 13th Birthday, Milo!

Thirteen years ago today a little Beagle boy was born in a kennel where Laboratory Beagles were bred. The eldest of eight puppies in his litter, puppy CVBAJJ, went a few weeks later to be a part of a dog food trial, testing the use of DHA as a food supplement for puppies to determine its effect on trainability and bonding. From what I’ve heard, Milo excelled and was at the top of his class, which certainly seems likely to me, given his problem-solving ability and his fabulous bond to me and love for everyone he meets.

Whenever I tell people Milo started life as a laboratory dog, they express great sympathy for him and outrage at the cruelty he must have endured, but Milo tells a different story. To be sure, he was under-exposed to the world when Sarah Wilson, my dog training mentor, first got him from rescue. He didn’t know what the green stuff coming out of the ground was, nor what the incredibly high, blue ceiling was, and he found new places overwhelming. But, he was healthy and clearly had been well-treated, looking to people for affection and security, and through Sarah’s skillful guidance became confident and happy to be out in the world (that story will be the subject of another post soon). And, though I often underestimate him because he is so silly and funny, he is an incredibly intelligent dog and a great problem-solver.

I found this information that I think could have come from the trials Milo was a part of:

…it is becoming increasingly evident that nutrition can also significantly impact the achievement of genetic potential in the puppy in ways not previously appreciated. Such is the case with increased puppy trainability with appropriate dietary concentrations of DHA. The benefits of improved trainability can have long-lasting effects by strengthening the owner-companion animal bond and thus increasing the likelihood of a puppy’s successful integration of the puppy into various environments, work or households. (from

I think it’s really cool that my little Milo has contributed to strengthening the owner-companion bond and increased the likelihood of puppies being successfully integrated into homes!

And now, though Milo is thirteen and his face and whole body are getting whiter all the time, he is wonderfully healthy and active, and in many ways still acts like a puppy, flipping his head and ears around and tossing toys high in the air. Outside he gets the zoomies and flies around the yard, never getting out of breath. He’s still an awesome tracking companion, and now we’re learning to do Nosework together, which we especially enjoy when the weather isn’t conducive to tracking. At home Milo is my constant companion, sleeping near me wherever I am in the house, moving with me if I go to a different room, and snuggling on my lap whenever he can.

Happy Birthday, Milo Bean! You truly are a delight!

Some photos from the past year

Beagle lap warmer
Joy with a favorite toy– chipmunks in a log
Joie de Vivre
Solar powered Beagle loves the summer sun
Soulful eyes
Playtime with Paul

Crows and Peregrine Falcon!

Yesterday evening Stephen and I joined some other birders to watch Crows coming in to their Poughkeepsie roost. What an awesome sight, to see thousands upon thousands of Crows converging from all points of the compass! I had often seen the Crows roosting in immense numbers in the trees as I drove down route 9 through Poughkeepsie, but I’d never seen them gathering and staging in the evening. It was an amazing sight, and someone there said her grandmother had watched them coming in fifty years ago, so this area has been an established roost for decades, at least. 
At one point I looked north across the Mid-Hudson Bridge and saw what looked like a river of Crows flowing from farther up and across the river, bending and flowing, I’m assuming with air currents. In the distance it just looked like a narrow strip of pepper, with the specks gradually becoming larger and clearer as they drew closer, until they were right over us. They congregated in several areas, cawing and flying about and landing on the ground and in trees, staging in small or large groups that would move from time to time, before they finally headed to their night roost. There were an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Crows altogether!
Then we heard a sudden, loud cawing and saw a peregrine Falcon flying over the trees where many Crows were roosting. The Crows rose with a tremendous fluttering and cawing, the Falcon fluttered his pointed wings very fast overhead, then suddenly stooped (dove) fast, knocking a Crow out of the air! He didn’t end up with that Crow, but I suspect he caught one soon after, when we again saw him stoop into the Crows and disappear behind some buildings. We didn’t see him again, so I’m guessing he was happily eating Crow.
Crows converging to Poughkeepsie roost

Red Wolf

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of the most endangered canid species in the world, with only 45 red wolves remaining in the wild. Native to southeastern United States, their population was decimated by habitat loss and intensive predator control in the 1960’s, and in 1980 the red wolf was declared extinct in the wild. Since then, through captive breeding programs directed by the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP), red wolves have been reintroduced into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, including one red wolf male from the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY. (For more information see the Wolf Conservation Center’s page on red wolves)

Red Wolf

Red Wolf
10″ x 9″ watercolor
I will donate 30% of the proceeds from the sale of this painting to the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY to support their work of research, education, and breeding of red wolves and other endangered wolves.

(Thank you very much to the Wolf Conservation Center for the use of their photo and for the opportunity to sketch wolves there.)

Red Wolf Field Sketches