Mirabelle: Great Pyrenees

36″x36″ Oil on Canvas 2018


Humans : Trey, Diane and Maia Miller, Plymouth, Minnesota

 When our daughter announced that she was going to volunteer at the local Animal Humane Society, my wife and I exchanged a knowing glance and arched eyebrows.  We both recognized immediately that this was code for, “I’m coming home with a dog.”

We had lost our beautiful German Shepherd two years prior.  That dog lived a long, comfortable life, giving the children love, protection and security while giving the household a modicum of chewed shoes, dirt on the floors, and a metric ton of dog hair.  She was a big, striking dog and she left a hole in our lives as only a large working dog, who has dedicated her life to one’s family, can.  This was the second German Shepherd companion we had in our family’s short history and we were not ready to attempt to plug that hole yet again.  The kids were grown, we didn’t need the protection, the puppy chewing, the dirt, hair or massive sense of loss that eventually comes with loving a dog.  The only thing we told our daughter was,  “Mom, is ready for a smaller dog; one that she can pick up and put in the laundry tub for a quick wash.”  The daughter took that to heart, so to speak, and came home with a Great Pyrenees mix who had taken her heart in actual fact.

The Humane Society called this overgrown Great Pyr puppy Belle.  They thought she might be a year old because of her size.  Our vet has since determined she was probably more like eight months when she came to us.  She was carted to the no-kill Golden Valley Humane Society from a short-term shelter in Tennessee because her time was up there. The idea that anyone would or even could think of euthanizing this beautiful dog just hurts my soul because she is such a beauty.  She was more than a Belle; she was Mirabel (Mirabel is a female name stemming from the Latin word mirabilis, meaning”wondrous” or “of wondrous beauty”), and we call her Mira for short.

The shelter in Tennessee didn’t have much information on Mira.  They said she was brought in filthy and hungry and scared.  To this day she is scared of thunderstorms, men in uniforms or even just hats, and any water hose makes her jumpy.  We’ll never know what her life on the run down in Tennessee was like, but it is a sad idea that this mountain snow dog should ever be away from a state where she can cavort and gallop in the snow with her long legs and huge paws easily transporting her over the Minnesota landscape.  She’s kind, gentle, loving and strangely intelligent in a way uncommon in any canine and she’s found a home with us. We are surprised, and chagrined, and delighted to find we have so much more of a home with her.



Maggie: Australian Cattle Dog

36″x36″ Oil on Canvas 2018


Human: Carlos Mendoza, Erie, Colorado U.S.A.

Maggie is an 8  year old Australian Cattle Dog. This breed, often called blue heelers or Queensland heelers, is originally from Australia where native dingos were breed to European breeds in an attempt to develop a dog suitable for working and herding cattle under hot dry conditions. Maggie is truly an example of the apple not falling far from the tree. As an 8 week old puppy Maggie instinctively would nip at my pant legs and shoes as I walked from one barn to another or even moved to the kitchen for a snack. She was relentless and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. A call to her breeder who is a friend and and breed and class winner at Westminster resulted in a brief response of “duh” and “don’t be a wussy.” Maggie was clearly already shaping my life. A few weeks later Maggie had given up ankle biting her owner but any visitor to the farm was likely to get the cattle dog style of greeting, an inquisitive charge followed by barking and likely some motivational nipping and biting to put you in your appropriate place. Not surprisingly, the men in brown driving the brown trucks were often found cornered next to a gate where she circled relentlessly pondering where they should be moved to a better spot.


Maggie’s instinctive behavior has never been further trained but she likes things in their place on the farm. If a male llama gets out and wanders to the female field she will promptly herd him back to his pen where she will  stand at the gate waiting for further instructions. Maggie has thankfully also herded my entire group of female llamas back to their pasture, keeping them in a nice tight group,  after a midnight escape. Everything in its place I suspect is her comfort zone and she knows where everything is supposed to be. When the front door opens in the morning she invariably knows where I am going and which vehicle I will use to get there. As a family dog she might be terrible with children as she does not like to be fussed with and aggressively petted. She will tolerate visiting adults as long as she is left alone and will then jump in your lap for a brief interaction. I cannot imagine a better dog for my farm. She is bulletproof, reliable, and learns new commands almost instantly. I am quite sure that if there are cattle in heaven Maggie will be happily reunited with her litter mates busily chasing people and animals around until they are directed to proper spot.


Ruby: Springer Spaniel

36″x36″ Oil on Canvas 2018


Humans: Lara, Todd, Tate and Thea Schissel, Decorah, Iowa

 One of the best decisions we’ve made as a family was to adopt Ruby into our lives three years ago.  Uncle Rick and Aunt Dana had invited us to view their final litter of English Springer Spaniel pups, all of which had been spoken for but worth a visit to enjoy some puppy love. When one set of the future owners found out they were expecting twins we had our chance.  

Instant heart melt upon meeting her, but not an instant decision, as we were in the process of moving house and all the usual reasons for proceeding with caution ensued.  A few days later a card with simply the word “Yes” was presented to the kids, ages 10 & 12, to shrieks of joy and surprise.  A whole new world was waiting for us!

Her pedigree papers note her name as Upper Iowa River Ruby Schissel, and she is our precious river-loving dog.  Her favorite pastimes are her people and encouraging us to explore Decorah’s river, streams and prairies with her.  Ruby is a friendly, energetic force with a special forte of greeting other dogs in their comfort zone, whether it’s to stay back, run full-on hot laps together or anything in between!   Our cat Oliver gets the same consideration from her as well.  She has a passion for finding and chewing limestone rocks and an enduring habit of jumping up on people to say hi.  Hanging out with friends, hunting, boating and swimming are all faves.  

Ruby’s frequent adventures call for a constant wash, rinse & repeat cycle. And then the snuggling with our sweet gal.


Noel : Rottweiler

60″x60″ Oil on Canvas 2018

Human: Carmen Hurley, Decorah, Iowa U.S.A.

 Noel was a star from the moment she was born.  She was a true working girl.  It didn’t matter what activity I threw at her, she would do it, and always with enthusiasm.  She also had a big sense of humor and always found a way to keep me humble in the competition ring.   Her presence in our home was as big as her presence in the ring, she always left an impression, and I miss her more than words can say.  She will always be my beautiful working girl.

Beezus: Jack Russell Chihuahua Mix

48″x48″ Oil on Canvas 2018


Humans: Karen and Tim Whitaker, Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A.

 Beezus (aka Ladybird, Birdy and around 823 other nicknames) came to us in 2009.  My dear friend Chris who, at the time, owned an acreage outside of town woke to find a random dog on his property one morning.  As he already owned three dogs he decided to take the dog to our local shelter but not before showing it to me.  That evening I was describing said dog to my husband and decided to pull up the Iowa City Animal Adoption webpage to show him a picture.  That dog was not on the site yet, but Beezus (then known as Twiggy) was.  Tim took one glance at her photo and immediately said “I want her.”  We already had two 8 year old male Jack Russel terriers, so I rolled my eyes and dismissed him.  The next day my friend Katie and I got off work early and she suggested that we go take a peek at “Twiggy.”  She took a picture of me with her and the next day we brought her home.  I was immediately regretting our decision and panicking that the boys (Cheswick and Frankie) would reject her or vice versa.  But that lovely, charming chihuahua/Jack Russel mix had everyone eating out of her paw immediately.  The most loyal, loving, snuggly soul still – after nine years.  She has meant the world to us.

Scrumpy: Island Dog

48″x48″ Oil on Canvas 2018









Human: Amanda Jane Badger, Caye Caulker, Belize Central America

 Back in 2004 I had just finished building my little wooden house and was starting to think that for the first time in my life I was leading a stable enough life to have the dog I had always wanted.  Newly engaged, thriving business and lovely little home.  Perfect timing.  Scrumpy arrived at a neighbors dinner party in a box with the white fleck on the end of her tail sticking out – it was wagging.  At 6 weeks or so she was a bundle of cuteness.  

She grew up amongst the greatest of the island animal hierarchy and who by chance were all named after booze.  There was the lovely Guinness, Bobbi’s Whiskey, the kittens G and T, and so we decided to call her my favorite drink Scrumpy (hard cider in the UK) – our next dog is Harvey (Wallbanger).

To begin with I worried that she wouldn’t bark and that she would be a rubbish guard dog.  But within 6 months I was fielding calls from all around the island asking to shut her up as they could hear her 3 blocks away!  Really.  One time I was on the water taxi and could hear her as we came in to dock.  She was fine when I was home or if she was inside, so I never really believed all the fuss until that boat day!   She adored swimming and adored coconuts.  She would do about anything for that combination and on this island they are plentiful.  She would come out with us on the boat as often as we went, she sat on the bow and barked at the bow wave.  She could dive.  We had a conch fisherman who came in to the beach in front of the house where I used to throw coconuts for her every afternoon.  She would be delighted when she saw the very stern fisherman’s little dory.  He sits on his boat in the water about 5 feet deep and ‘cleans’ the conch.  The meat stays on the boat and the shells get tossed overboard.  Scrumpy would dive down and retrieve them and pop them back in the boat for him.  In all the years I never once saw him smile, but he also never asked her (us) to stop.

She turned 15 years old this April, blind now and arthritic.  She is the most stoic creature I know.  Hard headed, but immensely generous.  She has taught more dogs in this island how to play second fiddle than I can remember the names of!  And, she absolutely can’t do without me.






Marley: Peek-a-Poo

60″x60″ Oil on Canvas 2018

Human: Lisa Roberson, Decorah, Iowa U.S.A.

 Marley was just a few months old when we found him.. he was the cutest little fur ball.. the runt of the litter. The breeder was very upset that the couple that had wanted him backed out as he had been born with some eye problems they (being the breeder) were going to have Marley euthanized. Marleys eyes were not formed correctly and needed surgery.. surgery was all he needed!!! and they were not willing to spend the money to take care of the problem. It only took not even a split second and I knew I needed this sweet little boy! We took him home that day and have never looked back! Our sweet Marley had his eyes worked on and we still struggle with drainage daily, he almost lost his life due to being allergic to the stitches that were used.. this little but might MarleyMan has over come so many things in his 12 years of being our precious boy and the love of my life… he truly is a big dog story!


Django: West Highland Terrier

52″x52″ Oil on Canvas 2018

Humans: Chris Knight and Lisa McCreedy,  Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Our boy  Django said his goodbyes on November 14th, 2017. He graced this world for an awesome 15 years. He became my “step dog” more than eight years ago, when I partnered up with Chris, and promptly turned me into a dog lady (I was seriously on my way to crazy cat lady status).
Django was a holy terror at times, so true to his terrier nature, an escape artist, a bagger of “grab them when you can” treats, barking it up at squirrels because they just wouldn’t fall from those trees into his lap, rat catcher extraordinaire, until losing sight in one eye retired him. The destroyer of one sofa, in his efforts to get to a ball under said sofa (one of his personal bests), and an out and out West Highland White Terrorist. He loved to roll around in the garden, and stick his head in all kinds of unmentionable places. He more than earned the many nicknames we gave him – J-bird, buttface, rotter, squidge, nutbucket, knucklehead, old man, holy terror, cuddlebug, and many more… meant in the most loving of ways.
He was given the official moniker of The Colonel, his duty being to vet any prospective guests for our downstairs neighbors (his pseudo-grandparents) doggy vaycay business. If they got on with Django, they were a keeper. He knew more people in our neighborhood than we did, with all the kids walking past his corner every morning, on their way to school, shouting “hello Django”. When they kept going he would bark it up again, trying to get them to come back. If I met people in the neighborhood and said where I lived, and that we had the white dog on the corner, they said “Oh Django?”.
He came with us to Montrose beach kite flying, and him and I would leg it up to the dog beach for a doggy social. He liked the owners more than the dogs, his way of showing his love, or if they stood still for too long, was to pee on their feet (claiming ownership). People wondered why I wore wellies to the dog park! Chris and I have felt that warm glow on our feet more than once.
He would wait for you by the door, just knowing when you were due home, sitting patiently, and once we were in, offloaded our coats, bags, stuff off, he would come in for a head scratch and follow us in to the kitchen for Chris and I’s daily debrief, knowing, just knowing that after about 15 minutes I would turn to him and ask “have you been a good boy today, protecting our house?”… the answer was always a very bouncy Yes, followed by a treat. That was our ritual.
Anywhere in the house we could call “Django” and he would poke his head out from his many resting places, weighing up the odds of this being a call that came with rewards. He always came. He was a total cuddle bug, sucking heat from us in the winter, following us from room to room, just so he knew where we were. Always there at our feet in the kitchen, hoping to score celery, carrots, anything on the good list.
He was part-and-parcel of this household, every single day, and so so loved. He made us better people for loving him.
Signing off with what I said to him nearly every time I left the house, “see you later Django, no parties!”

Dushi: Chow Mix

48″x48″ Oil on Canvas 2018

Human: Geert van der Plas,  Bonaire Carribean, Netherlands

 One morning around new year she was just standing there in my garden keeping her distance with her tail between her legs. She didn’t come close but observed me.

After some hours I put some food out for her, some left overs I had in my fridge. She ate some but was still very shy and did not come close.

This went one for a couple of days. Bit by bit she let me come closer.  When some left over fireworks  of the new year were shot in the air she would run like the wind. She was terrified of the noise.

But she showed up again and again and started to eat everything I would put our for her. I fell in love and named her Dushi (sweetheart)

She came in the house and I just let her explore for herself. After a while I gave her a collar with a tag with my phone number so where ever she would run to after a bang or something else what would scare her, anyone could call me.

This was 8 years ago. Her running away happened a couple of times, always around the end of the year when firework time started. She even jumped through a glass window one day still terrified of fireworks. But we became the best of friends, we would go for long walks every day and she slept  beside my bed from the moment she entered the house. And slowly but surely her tail came up and she became more self confident.

I felt so at ease with her, didn’t need any company just hers. Still incredible how she became so important or maybe the most important person in my life on Bonaire. She accepted me as her new home with her loyalty and I returned that loyalty back to her as I have never given to anyone else in my life.

4 years ago I met Vronie and her dog Doedel.   We fell in love with each other and it seemed the dogs too. Doedel and Dushi were so at ease from the first moment Vronie and Doedel came to visit us. After our first kiss Vronie and Doedel  stayed and never left.  We became a little family where how Vronie and I connected the dogs seem to connect the same. They were always together sleeping, playing, chasing, eating even peeing!

My long walks with the both of them were the highlight of my day.  Just being home the four of us was all I needed.

And our vacations in Europe with the both of them were the best, taking long walks in the woods or on the beaches, dunes, through the snow, even going for a drink on a city terrace or having dinner, sleeping in a (dog) hotel all was just so fantastic.

Then just before Christmas in 2016 she was not feeling well. I had to go to Holland for work and within that week I was gone it went down the hill with her really quickly. Vronie was at the Vet almost every day but nothing seem to help her getting better. One morning she didn’t wake up and I got the call from Vronie in the middle of a congress I was attending. The news broke me in to pieces, I was so devastated I left the congress. I sat at my mom’s waiting for the day I would fly  back to Bonaire not able to do anything else.  In the meantime Vronie arranged for Dushi to be held in a morgue so I could see her one more time.

She was still so beautiful, as if she was asleep. But she was gone. And I have never felt such a big loss in my life. I miss her every day and every time I see Doedel or when we go for a walk I feel incomplete. This feeling just doesn’t go away.

It’s been almost 2 years and I still tear up when I see old pictures. And I can still not believe this beautiful stray dog who just wandered into my life left such a hole in my heart. I am also so immensely grateful for all the time I had with her. This is real love, a love I will never forget and can never be replaced, she was my Dushi.

Dodger: Golden Retriever

48″x48″ Oil on Canvas 2018

Human: Wendy Knox, Minneapolis, Minnesota U.S.A.

 Golden retrievers began to enjoy great popularity in Turkey since 2005. However, as new dog owners realized how much exercise they needed, how big they got, how much they ate, and how much they shed, their moment in the sun began to fade. Tourists who were coming to visit the seaside could buy a purebred Golden puppy on the street corner for $25; the puppy would have a home with them at their beach cottage for a week or two, and then, when the tourists left, they would simply leave the dog at the beach. Many Goldens were simply turned out into the street as the owners became less interested in their care, and these dogs joined the enormous numbers of stray dogs on the street and in the forests that circle Istanbul. Dogs on the streets are often cared for by shopkeepers or other neighbors. Dogs in the forest have a rougher time, and Goldens do not do well there, as they are not “fighters,” so their survival becomes more dubious. 

In 2015, Golden Retriever rescue groups in the US became aware of the great number of Goldens in need in Turkey, where there is little adoption and few shelters for the dogs. They also realized that the number of purebred Goldens that were entering rescue here in the US was falling, yet the demand by people who wanted to adopt purebreds continued to rise. Several of these rescue groups, including RAGOM (Retrieve A Golden of the Midwest), the group for which I have fostered for nearly two decades, began to partner with those who were rescuing dogs in Turkey and found ways to bring these dogs to the US where they have been adopted into their new forever homes. 

Dodger was found on the streets of Eskisehir, about 200 miles from Istanbul, in 2016. He was brought over with the second group of Goldens rescued by RAGOM, and I fostered him when he arrived. He was a 3 year old, gorgeous, cream-colored, big boy. He had terrible ear infections—the vet said it was one of the worst ear infections she had seen, and it took nearly 8 months to clear up. He had no leash training, and when he didn’t want to go somewhere, he simply dropped to the ground and I was left to figure how to deal with 8 lbs. of dead weight! He was also wild, and didn’t seem to have any “house manners” when he arrived. He jumped on the chair, then the couch, then another chair, until, just like Goldilocks, he found the one that was just right. When he climbed OVER the coffee table instead of walking around it, I knew he would be a project! Yet he seemed to be a really happy, social dog, who did well with the two resident dogs, with whom he loved to play and wrestle all day long. And he was handsome! Within a few weeks, it was clear to me that I was failing as a foster and he wasn’t going anywhere. 

Dodger went through the first level of obedience, and within a few months, he was a changed dog. He settled into his new home beautifully, continued to get along with the resident (and other foster) dogs, and calmed down significantly. He’s been here almost two years now, and has become, as the neighbor says, a total “mama’s boy.” He has the typical personality traits of a golden—he’s social, affectionate, loves toys, loves pets, and just wants to please. 

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet the Turkish rescue person who works with RAGOM at a meet-and-greet with an incoming group of dogs. I went up and introduced myself, and thanked her for her work with the dogs, and introduced her to Dodger. She looked puzzled when I told her his name, and she said, “But his name is not Dodger—his 

name is Bora.” I asked her what that meant in Turkish. She said it translated to “gale, or strong wind,” and they had named him that because he was so strong. 

And super-sweet. And adorable. And gentle. And an excellent example of what rescue can do for dogs. And for failed fosters.