Red: Australian Shepard

52″ x52″ Oil on Canvas 2018

Human: Sara Lubinski  Brownsville, Minnesota, U.S.A.

I have loved many dogs in my life, but there was something very special about my relationship with Red.  I found him on a rescue site after I lost a young border collie to an illness.  I was cruising rescue sites online in the wee hours of the night, and there he was, a year old neglected youngster in foster care, about 30 miles away.  My inquiry was countered with an invitation to meet him.  When his foster mom opened up the back of her truck, he leaned out and wrapped his paws around my neck, gave me a nibble on my nose, and laid his head on my shoulder.  Eleven years later, he passed away at my side in the middle of the night.  

He was goofy and klutzy and quirky, an Australian Shepard with a soft, thick coat, a stubby tail and a sweet smell.  When he greeted me, his body would twist in to a “u” shape in joy, often accompanied by a lively vocalization, a woofy big hello.   He couldn’t catch a ball or a Frisbee, often cringing away from flying objects tossed towards him. I could only guess he had missed out on important development skills during his neglected puppyhood. He had a sort of elegance too, a certain tilting of his head, a stillness of posture sometimes that was beautiful to see. 

He was high energy, and even with lots of long walks and games, we would find him burning off more energy, leaping at tree branches 6 feet above his head, and with perfect accuracy, bite the same spot until it fell.  He was so eager to please, he would wait in place on command, not moving an inch until I returned from the neighbor’s or the mailbox. When I was gone, he would wait in the carport until I returned.  

Red noticed everything, never missing a scampering squirrel, a soaring red-tail, or a tiny sparrow. He loved those walks on our country road! At home, we would sit together on the deck, his shoulder leaning into mine as we watched the birds, squirrels and chipmunks.  He would help me find the cats, just like any good herding dog who needed to work. What I’ll always remember most, however, was the way he looked at me, his long gazes so filled with love and a sweetness I can’t describe.  I hope he saw the same in my eyes. He was my heart dog.

Lurch: Saint Bernard

60″x60″ Oil on Canvas 2018

Human: Brooke Rusk Weiss  Afton, Iowa, U.S.A.

 My family and I called him Lurch.. His registered papers name was Lurch Hoss Rusk.

I got to pick him out of a liter, he was the only one in his liter, with only one black eye.  I believe in the year of 1970.

Also,  if my family couldn’t get me up in the morning they would send Lurch in. He would run to get in my room and jump on my bed. Of course the bed would fall the the floor. What a alarming way to wake up! 

He was huge. He used to take ME for walks. Very large dog, weight was over 200 pounds. We had to take him to the place where they weighed hogs and cattle. He had his own couch in the basement. It didn’t last very long though. Ha! He only ate 50 pounds of dog food a month, but we did give him a lot of leftovers from dinner.

I loved to sleep in on Saturday morning, but my dad would try to get me up to go on the gas truck with him sometimes. If I wouldn’t wake up he would send in Lurch.  He would run and jump on my bed, the slats would give out the bed would go to the floor.  Boy, that would wake you up fast! 

He kind looked like a lion… lol he had so much hair around his neck and he loved to play in the snow with me and put his paws on my shoulders and dance around. He loved everyone. 

Lurch died in the summer of 1980 when he was 10 years old, a year after I left home, after graduating high school.  A lot of family members and friends, still talk about Lurch. 

Scruffy: Island Mystery Mix

60″x60″ Oil on Canvas  2018



Human: Monique Luppes, Caye Caulker, Belize, Central America

 Everyone who has dogs knows that they have a bunch of different expressions. At first you only see a few, but the longer you know the dog, the more distinguished and special the looks and expressions get. An outsider might not see all the nuances, but the dog’s owner does and its closest friends do. The expression of Scruffy, caught in this painting, shows “you can ask me everything you want, I’m going to do my own thing”. Or in another setting it might say “why did you disturb me, I’ve got more important things to do”. When she’s in a real good and playful mood this look could also mean “watch out, I’m going to turn around and jump on you because I feel like playing”. All together it perfectly shows the perky character of Scruffy, of course one of the sweetest dogs on earth.

About 9 years ago Scruffy came into our life and she definitely changed the way I look at dogs. I’m a true dog lover but Scruffy has something special.  She almost has something human and sometimes it is as if she looks into your soul. The first time I noticed Scruffy was when I was walking my other 2 dogs. It was early morning, no one on the street, but suddenly I felt something pushing in the back of my knee. I turned around and saw a skinny, scruffy dog looking up at me with sad, but also challenging eyes. As if she wanted to say: “I’m here, notice me”. When I continued walking she would go in front of me and then suddenly stop, so I had to go around her and while repeating this pattern, she kept pushing her nose against my knees. My other 2 dogs didn’t pay her much attention and kind of tolerated her. 

When I came home I told my husband about the dog, and he knew immediately what I was talking about. He’d seen the dog several times and experienced the same behavior. We decided to not give the dog too much attention, as it would follow us home and we didn’t need a 3rd dog. But we kept an eye on her, to see if she was doing alright. No one knew where she came from but several other people in our neighborhood knew the dog who they all called Scruffy.  At that time she must have been 7 or 8 months old. She was doing alright on the street; we live on a tropical island without cars and sandy streets and as long as the street dogs are healthy, street life is not so bad. Lots of tourists and local people are feeding the street dogs and give them lots of attention. But after a few weeks a message reached us that Scruffy was having a hard time: she’d come into heat and was harassed badly by other street dogs. I work at the humane society and we happened to have a spay- and neuter day, so we decided to spay her. After her surgery Scruffy needed a place to recover (we don’t have a shelter at our humane society) and my husband agreed to have her recover on our veranda. And you know what happened: Scruffy never left after that. 

Although that is not completely true. At first the street dog in Scruffy was hard to beat. Evening and night time she would stay at our house. We run an outdoor restaurant and she loved to hang out with the guests, put on her saddest face to get some scraps. But after spending the night on our porch she would get restless and bored and left in the morning to do her round. The island we live on is very small, so she could never be far. And after a while we knew her favorite spots: beach, bars and restaurants. I watched her several times putting up a show, acting like she was a very poor & old street dog, in terrible need of food and attention. And she had no problems getting that. Scruffy is not the prettiest dog, but somehow people fall in love with her the moment they see her. On the beach she was the one on the towel, while the tourists were sitting next to her in the sand. We have photos of her staring out at the sea, wearing sun glasses or with a book and a beer next to her. These photos were made by people that had just met her. Most days when I walked my other 2 dogs in the afternoon I would meet her somewhere on route and I knew immediately if she had had a good day or not. A bad day would mean that she would immediately come with us, without any problem. But if she had a good day, she would give me the look on the painting, saying “just keep on going without me, I will be home later”. 

Lately we keep Scruffy inside our property. The island is getting busier and it is better for our peace of mind to have her safe within our fence. Once in a while she sneaks out and still wanders around the island. If she doesn’t come back within a few hours, I put a message on Facebook and ask people if they spotted Scruffy. Lots of island people know her and I usually get a detailed report of where she has been: she had lunch at the Sports Bar, an afternoon drink at the Margarita Bar and was watching the sunset at the Lazy Lizard. And when I go to pick her up, the minute she sees me she looks at me with na face that says “where have you been, I’ve been looking for you?!?” and she acts super happy, jumps up and down and walks cheery back home with me. The little sneak she is. 

I can tell so many more things, but I can never capture it all. But if you look at this painting you get a pretty good idea of what a special dog Scruffy is.

Ipu: Hound, Lab, Island

52″x52″ Oil on Canvas 2018

Human: Jennifer Fisher Jones  Decorah, Iowa, U.S.A.


In 2016 my family spent the month of January exploring the country of Belize. The experiences we had there were the sort that changed each of us and will be carried forever in my front pocket. In addition to the gorgeous waters , lush jungles, and dynamic culture I was completely enamored with the dogs we encountered everywhere we went. Many lived on the streets with people caring for them as they were able or inclined. Others had owners, but even those dogs had way  more freedom than those in the states. Dogs could go where they wanted,  when they wanted. The street dogs are most always on the move, looking for food, companionship, and safe, and preferably comfortable places to rest. Disease, fleas and mange are issues that some face. But oh, the FREEDOM! Whose life is better

We spent two weeks on the island of Caye Caulker.   For a small island just one mile across and five miles wide, there were a lot of dogs. I would sit and relax by the sea and see which dogs would come to me.  We met Ipu this way. She came strolling by and simply sat next to me on the a cement embankment. We sat looking out at the sea in this way together  on multiple occasions. We soon discovered that Ipu was friends with the dogs living on the property we had rented during our time on the island. She would come for frequent visits climbing the steps to our cabana to settle for some serious snuggling after a few clandestine snacks from the youngsters.

It didn’t take long for the four of us to unanimously come to the conclusion that she was the coolest island dog ever….and if only we lived there we could take care of Ipu. 

Over the course of our time on the Caye,  we made fast friends with the property owners, Monique (you will get to read about her dog Scruffy)  and Maurice and their three dogs. When they were looking for someone to look after the property and dogs for two weeks during the following summer I quickly raised my hand.

I wondered if Ipu would remember me after the 6 months apart. Monique had indicated that Ipu was a bit of a tour guide on the Island. It was her “job” to make sure folks knew their way around and she managed to get paid pretty well doing this as she was far from starving.  Was I just another tourist? 

I looked for her the moment I stepped off the plane. Monique and her crew greeted me, but no Ipu. I tried not to seem desperate (we all know many dogs aren’t much into that), but I had some serious longing going on. Once I installed myself in the cabana, Ipu was soon barking at the gate to welcome me. Needless, to say, my heart was full.

A wanderer by nature, I was surprised when Ipu didn’t leave my side for the entire time I was there. The other three dogs were accustomed to leashes, where Ipu being a free agent did not require one. Every move I made Ipu followed. If I went to the juice vendor on my bike, Ipu ran alongs side the bike and waited until I had completed the task, If I went into a shop she would wait outside for however long it took until it groceries were in hand. If I went for a swim,  she watched me from the shore intermittently  seeking out shade then returning again to check on me. During these daily movements, I could feel her saying, “I want a real home. You are my person.”

One day I went on a snorkeling tour and Ipu followed me all the way to the end of the dock where we were loading up on the boat. I said to another person on the tour, “If she is still waiting on the dock for me when we get back I am going to figure out how to adopt her”.

Ipu’s no dummy, she wasn’t at the end of the sweltering dock, but she was waiting in the shade back at the cabana. She managed to get inside the gate and settle in with the other dogs while I was away.

It took some time, but I did manage to adopt her.  Several months of deliberation and planning with Monique and the Caye Caulker Humane Society were followed with focused sales techniques from past careers to convince my family. Ultimately, many were required to come into agreement that bringing this island icon to Decorah was a good idea.  Factoring that Ipu was getting older and estimated to be about 7 at the time of adoption was a deciding factor.   Ipu has been with us now since March of 2017.

Life is a little different here in the midwest and we have learned the hard way that training is ever so beneficial and a leash is the best way to keep her safe in terrain that is unfamiliar.  Ipu has adapted to the climate and we find her to be wagging and happy most of the time.  

Sometimes I watch her during twitchy dreams and wonder if she is experiencing her former island rhythms and ambling with tourists.  I don’t question having brought her to live with us, but imagine she might like an island romp again and ramble up and down Front Street wagging hello to old pals with an occasional bark thrown in to the former competition.  If all goes as planned she’ll have that opportunity in the not too distant future.

I am convinced that Ipu thoroughly enjoys having consistent laps to sit upon, plentiful scratches behind the ears, sleeping on any bed in the house in addition to having a food and water that is filled on a regular basis.   She is loved deeply and unconditionally(we repeatedly forgive her dips into the sequestered cat food) and returns this blessing exponentially.  No question, Ipu is my once in a lifetime dog. My only regret is that she didn’t find me sooner!