Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sometimes older brothers are OK

When you're growing up, older brothers can be a real pain...but then when they get older, sometimes they can help fix your computer! (The computer that The Husband kinda screwed up...) :)  Thank you, bro!  Are these not the two cutest computer geeks ever?

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, artist friends!  Here are a couple of sketches I did while in Mexico. (I'm back in Colorado now and can't wait to get into my studio, but first there's still some visiting-relative time.)

The feet are The Husband's, as he relaxed on a sofa. About a 10-min. sketch.

The other sketch is from the Houston airport, where we "enjoyed" a 3.5-hr. layover...ughhhhhhh.  It was a young woman with her iPhone. It was maybe a 5-min. sketch.

Health, happiness, and creativity for us all this next year!
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Sunday, December 28, 2008


Painted 'em, then ate 'em.

(The photo is a bit glare-y and doesn't show the vibrancy of the orange accents.)

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Saturday, December 27, 2008


Some paintings are (relatively) easy and some are definitely not. This one was firmly the latter. It's ironic to me how the finished painting (seen here) looks like it was done in a carefree, easy, quick manner, rather than via sweat and cursing.

But the problems started even before the paints came out. First we had to email our housesit hosts about whether they had a juicer, because there were two oranges in the kitchen (one not so orange-colored...see my painting a few days back) that felt heavy, a.k.a. juicy, and we wanted some fresh juice. After a spousal argument over whether the oranges looked moldy or not, we were instructed by the email response as to where to find said juicer(s). One was electric and looked frighteningly complicated, and the other was a little white plastic thing that you suppposedly put a little fruit wedge into and then folded it in half with some pressure. I'm guessing it was really for lemons, since your hand would get pretty tired making glasses of juice that way. The Husband tried it, and appeared to break the thing on the very first attempt. Fortunately, however, it was just a cheap thing and a little knob had come out which fit right back in. However, The Husband was giving up on the juicer.

I took a wedge, figuring we'd just have to eat the oranges instead of drinking them. I took a bite of the gloriously orange-colored fruit, and found it too sour to enjoy. However, it was so gorgeous that I took another wedge plus a half-orange to paint. Off I went to our hosts' open-air art studio.

Two-thirds of the way into the painting I started disliking the composition, which involved the single wedge the way you see it posted here plus the half-orange next to and slightly behind it. Four-fifths of the way through the painting, I was hating the composition so much, I decided to remove the half-orange altogether, leaving a lonely single orange wedge which was, however, strongly painted enough to stand alone.

Got rid of the half-orange (and got very messy hands getting rid of it in its painted incarnation), redid the shadow, and then spent a long time trying to recover the freshness of it, having gone too far at one point overworking it.


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Friday, December 26, 2008


I was curious to know whether you could still get an object to look colorful even with a colorful background. I think you can! 

While I was painting this last night, I kept thinking that it had to be the most colorful thing I've ever painted. It felt like painting a parrot. What a sunset is in a mango.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pair of pears

This is last night's painting, which I will also leave for my hosts here.  

I had purchased these pears at the Wednesday-afternoon tianguis (open-air market) here in Ajijic, Mexico, and brought them home to the housesit we're at. I washed them and gave them an iodine disinfectant soak, then found a gorgeous pumpkin-orange dishtowel and laid them on it to dry. As soon as I placed them on the towel, I knew I had my still life.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ripe and not so ripe

These are actually both local oranges, but one was a lot more ripe-looking (i.e., orange) than the other. This is yesterday's painting, which I will be leaving for our housesit hosts.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bluejay feather and small copper pot

Today we're in a different house in Ajijic, Mexico, housesitting for an artist couple. I'm in heaven--art everywhere and a million art books and awesome. I won't even have time to get through all the art magazines in the next five days...oh, how tragic and yet how heavenly!

I just painted a little still life to leave here for my hosts, but need to wait 'till tomorrow to photograph it when it's light outside (I always paint at night; I'm a night owl who only feels mentally awake at night). So in the meantime, here's one from October. I only realized about halfway through the painting that the shadow looks like some kind of Native American spirit figure (or know what I'm getting at). Interesting.

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Monday, December 22, 2008


Today was not an art day, but it was pretty interesting. We took a bus tour to the town of Tequila, here in Mexico near Guadalajara. We visited two tequila factories: the newest, Tres Mujeres, which is concentrating on organic 100%-agave tequila; and José Cuervo, which everyone has heard of, which is the oldest and largest factory. I don't like alcohol much, so the tasting sessions were rather wasted on me (so to speak), but a lot of other people loved that aspect of the tour! I did participate in most of the tastings (miniscule amounts) but really, even the smallest taste just makes me grimace violently and flap and wave my hands about.

We did eat some agave "meat" raw. It looks a lot like tough coconut meat but has almost no flavor at all. We also tasted agave after it had been in the steaming oven for a few days--that's the first thing done to it on the way to turning it into tequila. At that point (having been in a massive, deadly-hot sauna for a few days), it was kind of sweet and oily and a brownish color, and tasted a bit like a potent, fibrous yam.

The guy sniffing the vat in the pic and standing up against the wall is The Husband. Tell me, doesn't he look cute in the hairnet we all had to wear (verrrrrry attractive it made all of us, I tell you)?  I can't decide if he looks more like a rapper or like he's waiting to be attended to at a hair salon.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Life drawing

Yesterday my esteemed hostess, Isabel, also an artist, invited me to their weekly life drawing session here in Ajijic, Mexico with a local model, whose name was Cruz. I haven't tried figure drawing for a long time and never really got much training in it. My results were quite disappointing. The last hour I gave up on the figure and did two graphite head sketches I liked. Each one is perhaps about 3" x 3".
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Isabel's Limes

Did this last night as a gift to my amazing hostess, Isabel Goode-Deblanc, also an artist. These are limes from her own garden here in Ajijic, Mexico. I must say I'm loving the sun and warm weather. I painted this in Isabel's art studio...I discovered it's hard to paint when you don't have your own setup and lights and all that. The light in that room was dimmer than I would've liked, and I was a bit terrified that this would look awful in the light of day...but no. I was very pleased with how it turned out.

Tomorrow it's off to Guadalajara for two nights.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

What Might Have Been

I'm in Mexico right now (yay! I have temporarily escaped the frigid weather and snow of Colorado!) but I haven't painted yet (I plan to do something tonight after I "borrow" some turps and old newspapers and whatnot), so I thought I'd post a drawing I did in the spring. It was our second-year project at art school. The same model came for six sessions in the same pose. This is a pretty big drawing, a full Canson sheet.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Thinking hot

Gotta try to think hot, since I just painted this in the art studio with the heat cranked up to max and the space heater also at max, aimed at my feet and legs. It's 4 below zero out, or at least last time I checked. The snow outside has that weird loud crunchiness it gets only when it's really frigid. 

The photo is a bit glare-y, since I took it immediately after painting it. Tomorrow will be spent packing and showing my brother (who's coming to housesit) how to care for the orchids, animals (minus my beloved cat Halfie), and house. We are going to escape the cold and snow--yay!--and are off to Ajijic, Mexico, for the next couple of weeks. I'm bringing painting stuff and plan to continue to post pics/blog from there. 

I hadn't painted on a gessoed panel for a long time. Tonight I felt like it just to see what it was like again after so long. It's so different than the oil-primed linen I've been using for a while now. The panel is all slippery, but gets deliciously perfect at about 3 layers, then if you try for another layer or so, all of a sudden you've lost that perfect "window" of nice-feeling paint application.  The oil-primed linen I use is not super slick, and it's at its perfection with about the second layer, and can take a lot more layers after that. (Of course, everyone's version of a "layer" will vary too.)

It's very subjective, but my opinion (at least at this juncture) is that the oil-primed linen gives better realistic results, and the panel gives livelier, more modern-looking results. What do you think?

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I think that's what this is, a spent milkweed pod...yes? The Husband came in from a hike the other day carrying this (this was of course before the massive snowfall and frigid temps). "Paint this," he ordered. (He likes to give orders.)

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Science break

For those of you who don't already know, I grow orchids, mainly species (as opposed to hybrids). Some of the species have such fascinating natural histories...

This individual plant just bloomed for me for the first time. It's Angraecum sesquipedale, a species native to Madagascar. When Charles Darwin examined specimens of these plants that had been imported to England, he saw that the nectary spur of the flower is 12 to 14 inches long and he predicted that there had to be a pollinator (probably a moth, since they are known to be attracted to night-fragrant light-colored flowers like this one) with a proboscis just as long. Most people scoffed.

Darwin died without knowing if he was correct. Some fifty years later, just such a moth was discovered to be pollinating this orchid, with its 12- to 14-inch proboscis. 

It was named Xanthopan morganii praedicta.

How cool is that?

Growing garlic

I was very pleased with the way this turned out: very few brush strokes, very fresh, is what I was after. This was only an hour and 15 minutes, and a very limited palette. I love how Sargent painted, with thick, fresh, spontaneous light values and I was trying to emulate that.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


Bobbie was a great model. She had a lovely, calm presence. We were remarking on how still she stayed, and she said she is an artist and also a meditator. But she still let out a big sigh of relief on every break.

This is alla prima done from life yesterday in about 2.5 hours.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


There's something about this one that sort of freaks me out. It was based verrrrry loosely on a photo I took in Italy over 20 years ago, in the town of Gubbio. The way it came out reminds me of a children's book illustration, where something spooky is going to happen soon.

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Thank you

Thank you, my dear artist blogger friends, for your warm wishes regarding Halfie. He may never have met you all, but he knows animal lovers even from afar.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Artist friends, please send prayers of peace. It's so hard to write this, but we will be euthanizing my most beloved cat, Halfie, this week, due to renal failure. He has been my best friend for over 13 years. We artists seem to be quite the animal lovers, no? It could be because we are such sensitive and observant people, and anyone sensitive and observant could not possibly be unmoved by the honesty, beauty, and unconditional love that animals give us. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

Winter squash

Another of those dastardly vegetables (like the eggplant in a previous post) that looks if not easy, then at least not too hard...and then proves to provoke a lot of gnashing of teeth and cursing for an entire evening and a half.

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Abstract in white

When I get frustrated with painting, I usually take a break from realism for a day or two and work on some abstract stuff.

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Phosphorescence--a good spelling bee word.
This was from last night; I just framed it.  As always, can't make the camera and computer combination do a pastel image justice. The color is actually more or less correct here, but the way that the tiny red/orange dots absolutely LEAP out of the blue in person just isn't happening here on screen.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Purple potatoes

I have a cold today and didn't paint, so here's one from this summer. It was so much fun observing (and pushing) the color of these.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Jazzy Anaheim

It's often such a strange experience, painting. You never really know what might happen. For instance, I put this chili under the spotlight and started painting it, fully intending to do a sort of very realist, subdued, naturalistic kind of painting. Little did I know that this Anaheim wanted to be jazzed up. She insisted on flamboyance. I had to capitulate.

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Untitled 32

From last night. I know, I say this every time...and I'll probably never stop saying it, so be warned...but it is SO hard to get these pastels to read the way they do in real life, so vibrant, with such pure hues that the colors take your breath away...

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Friday, December 5, 2008

"Old" cantaloupe

...Old in the sense that last night it was too cold for me to paint in the studio even with the space this is "old" cantaloupe: fruit I painted this summer. Recycled cantaloupe?

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

The snake hunter

This is James, done alla prima from life in one session yesterday. He's Australian and has that same charm, accent, and outgoingness as the late Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. (Don't you love that expression, "late"? Like, late for what? A party? A dentist appointment? Life??) James, however, catches venomous snakes for a living. Oy, those Ozzies! Not sure what he's doing in Colorado at the moment, though, besides being an art model.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008


After an unbelievably beautiful, long fall, today is winter with a vengeance. I'm posting this now in order to procrastinate taking the dogs for their walk... good thing I picked up this leaf off the ground 2 days ago; there'll be nothing left out there now but mush.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Totally random observation

The other day at the grocery store, they were out of my favorite fresh apple The Husband picked out Spiced Apple Cider instead.  It took my brain a while to process the flavor it was detecting when I first tried it... All I can say is, it's like drinking liquefied pumpkin pie--very bizarre. (Hey, K, maybe an idea for you, since on the anti-cancer diet you're not doing pumpkin pie right now?!)

The New Narcissism

I just received my latest issue of Artist's Magazine in the mail today, and I misread the cover blurb as The New Narcissism.  (It's actually The New Classicism--is that even a word?) As such, I feel obliged to put a self-portrait here. This was a drawing done during art school several months ago. (And which I entered into the magazine's self-portrait contest...and got nothin'.)

The pose may look familiar; most people have seen the striking National Geographic photo of the Afghan girl. I looked at the famous photo to see how the head scarf was draped, then draped myself with one, and set up in front of a mirror to draw myself from life, in 2 sessions of 2.5 hours each.  

I remember it took a really long time to figure out how to position myself so that I could be in that position in the mirror and still have my drawing board in front of me (without actually hitting the mirror) and my drawing tools easily enough to hand that I wouldn't disrupt the head scarf too much while reaching down to sharpen charcoal, etc.

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Monday, December 1, 2008


You may notice this is the exact same palette as in a previous post, "Pastel memories / Small Landscape." That's because these were two halves (which were then separately, individually reworked) of one large failed pastel. Cropping is truly key, in my opinion; you can often have a wonderful painting when you realize it's "hiding" inside a larger, failed painting.

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Tree forms (night)

Very dark, very subtle, barely distinguishable...this is what I saw out my window last night. My eyes took a long time to be able to focus and separate out the ever-so-slightly variable hues.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Untitled 31

This one started out quite strictly regimented (similar to the Mondrian Mood in a previous post) but it decided it felt too confined by its boundaries...

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Channeling Agnes Martin again

Ah, how I love subtlety. I feel like when you see a very subtle image, your eyes and brain race around the image looking equally for pattern and for dissonance. I like these subtle paintings to be very serene but with just enough irregularity (in color, value, line spacing, etc.) to keep the eyes and brain awakened.

I paint an alla prima oil portrait from life in a class once a week, small oils at home perhaps four days a week, with the other two days given over to pastels (whenever I can no longer face one more day of washing brushes). I love both media so much, but for such different reasons. I never thought I'd like pastel because I love the juicy-ness of oils so, but it's the purity of color, the immediacy, and the potential for subtlety that I love about pastels. Though I do hate the dry feeling on my fingers, I usually am so into the pastel painting that I don't really notice it till it's time to clean up. Then I run for the sink with that creepy "aaagghhh, I'm all dessicated" feeling. (I've tried gloves and even the little rubber fingertip thingies, but immediately discovered that I can't stand painting with anything on my hands.)

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What a beautiful model she was. This is Martine, drawn from life in 2.5 hours this past year in my art school before it shut down. Of all the drawings I've done, I think this is my all-time favorite.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday berries

...though not cranberries. These are something that grows as a very large shrub near our front gate. It has (I found out) big sharp thorns, too.  

The Husband had taped this little twig to our living room wall so he could test out his new tripod and macro lens camera. But I want to paint it! I exclaimed. No, came the response. It's taped up there right where I want it--don't move it!  

So I set up something else in the studio to paint and turned up the heat in there so I could work pretty soon. While waiting for the heat to start cranking in the studio, I sat on the couch back in the living room to do some internet time-wasting, er, work. While on the couch, I suddenly heard this tiny little thwack from across the room--the little twig had abandoned its post, falling to its death, and was promptly attacked by three cats at once. But!!--I rescued it and immortalized it in this painting.

Because we don't really celebrate any holidays (bah, humbug), did no family visiting thing, and are vegetarians to boot, this has been a few days of painting for me, rather than of consuming turkey. What did we have for our "Thanksgiving dinner"? Pasta with sautéed broccoli and pine nuts. By the way, anyone know any really good recipe for pumpkin pie without egg?

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Untitled 29

Another very subtle, very-hard-to-convey-electronically (yet I persist) pastel diptych.

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Pomegranate 2

So, after the difficult eggplant I painted the other night, I decided, I'll try to paint something much more complicated, since even the easy stuff is hard (weird logic, but hey). Hence the pomegranate here...which, oddly enough, turned out to be not so hard to paint. Go figure.

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News of the weird

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program of art to bring you this news item: 

There are a lot of deer in our yards around here, whole herds of them sometimes. They come down from the foothills and mountains to snack on our expensive rosebushes and just-planted cherry trees.  Anyway, the other day a deer was observed licking one of my cats. Not kidding. Could it be because of this kitty's general sweetness, and/or his name (Jellyroll)?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


We should all learn to kill that little voice in our art brain that goes, "Oh, I know! I'll paint a (insert name of object) looks easy." This eggplant kicked my ass. I (hope that I) will never again underestimate the difficulty of painting an object that has a simple shape and color and looks easy.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Untitled 28 and a mini-rant

It's so hard to photograph pastels and portray them well electronically. Has anyone else noticed that? The bright colors seem to come out too garish, and the subtle colors get lost. I always put the photos I take into Photoshop in order to try to make them look the most like the real thing, but Anyone have any good advice for making them look on the web or in a photo as vibrant, subtle, alive as they look in real life?

Oh, and while we're at it, do other artists out there in this modern age have such torn emotions over the whole computer thing? On the one hand, it gives us more exposure, a record of what we've produced, a really fun way to connect with other artists, etc. But on the other hand (the evil, bad hand), it means we're all spending as much or more time on the computer as on making art! (And I can't even imagine why anyone would want to create computer god. I already have some pretty bad tendonitis, as it is.)

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Tag(ged), I'm It!

I've been "tagged" today (as in, "Tag, you're It!") by Bonnie Luria at St.Croix-nicity. I'm very flattered to have been chosen--thank you, Bonnie! You've made me feel so incredibly welcome in artists' blog-land!--especially since I just began my blog so recently. Bonnie said it's partly the diversity of my work that inspired her to tag me (I just mis-read that as "gag me"), which is really nice to hear, since I keep wondering if it's a bad thing to be doing so many different kinds of art.

These are the "tag" rules (paraphrased): Blogging (hate that verb) artists "tag" other artists, who then have to reveal some interesting and/or amusing facts about themselves, then at the end of their "revelations," they tag other artists they like (and let them know by commenting on their blog), for them to do the same.  Kind of like the chain letter thing in high school, only more about, as Bonnie says, homage, and not about being cursed for life if you break the chain (which I vaguely remember was what the high school stuff was about).

Okay, hmm, here goes:

1. I have to eat chocolate every single day. Literally. Preference is always high-quality dark chocolate, current favorite Chocolove 77% cacao. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

2. I'm the result of a Jewish mother and an Aryan German father. And my brother and I both have interesting names invented by our parents: I'm Jala, with the J pronounced as a Y; and my brother is Raman, with the stress on the second syllable. Oh, and I teach Spanish, and am married to an Indian (as in from India). Just to show you I'm a bit of an international stew.

3. Not to copycat Bonnie, but interestingly, I also have absolutely no sense of direction. (Now it's making me wonder about artists in general...) The only way I can get around driving is that in Boulder, you just have to always remember that the mountains are to your west. Boulder is precisely on the foothills--the Rocky Mountains literally rise up about ten blocks from my house. So, mountains = west. This is my driving mantra.  When someone says "Now go east...," I have to mentally picture where the mountains are and then think, okay, it's the opposite way, got it. As soon as I leave Boulder, I'm a mess and get lost immediately. Even in a mall.

4. I had artistic tendencies (drawing all the time) as a kid, but then did zero art from age 9 to 40. Now at 43, I think I'm trying to make up for lost time.

5. During those "lost art years" between age 9 and 40, I was almost entirely a left-brained person. I'm a writer (author of the novel Seducing the Rabbi, as well as many short stories, poems, and creative nonfiction), and have an M.A. in Linguistics, plus two more years' Ph.D. work in theoretical linguistics, plus I teach Spanish for a living, plus I get by in about six more languages, all of which were learned as second languages (English is my native language and the only thing spoken at home); I am fortunate to have a gift for learning languages really easily...  All left-brain stuff. Doing artistic right-brain things now, I swear, is like a brain massage and makes my brain go "Aaaaahhhhh...that's so niiiiiiiiice..."

6. I'm an extremely nocturnal person. I've tried a million times to change it but I'm just hard-wired that way. Given my choice, I tend to go to bed at around 3am and get up at around 1pm. So sue me.

7. We have seven animals (once we were up to 11--god, how embarrassing). If it were feasible, I would probably have as many as I could. And all different kinds... I feel completely at peace around animals, and it's hard when I travel and don't have that physical contact with them. 

One of our Golden Retrievers (and by the way, all our animals are rescued animals; I'm blind with rage when it comes to people purchasing designer pets and puppy-mill pet-store dogs instead of adopting animals from shelters) is a Certified Animal-Assisted Therapy dog; I used to take him to the local hospital to visit people, mostly people in surgery waiting rooms waiting tensely for news of their loved ones.  Jazz (the dog) absolutely loved this work, but it turned out I didn't like it, mostly because I'd have to hear over and over again from people stuff like, "Oh...your dog is beautiful. He reminds me of this one dog I used to have...blah blah blah...and then he got hit by a car."  I.e., I had to hear what I refer to now as Dead Dog Stories all day, and I decided I just couldn't deal with the weight of all those marvelous doggie ghosts heaped upon me repeatedly.

And now I'm tagging:

Bonnie Luria (ha ha, kidding, you've been tagged enough for now)

Bill from On Painting (ha ha, Bill, now you're double-tagged)

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