There’s something to be said for consistency in life. As a preschooler sixty years ago, my main preoccupations were art and animals. There were only a few possible answers to the “What do you want to do when you grow up?” question. I wanted to be a cowboy (for the horse part) or a dog catcher, as civic animal control was called in those days. I thought the dog catcher got to keep all the dogs they picked up and it would be pretty neat to have a lot of dogs. The only other acceptable grown-up activity was to be an artist.
My young self gets full marks for enthusiasm and knowing what I wanted. As to practicality, not so much. However—-fast forward about six decades, and my days are spent in the company of the current dog in residence and in my art studio, with afternoons at the stables with my horse. All in all, things have worked out pretty well according to my original interests, largely due to my good fortune in meeting and marrying a very supportive man.
I’ve stayed true to form with my early dog-type imprinting as well. The first family dog I recall was a Boston Terrier, followed by a brief stint with a transient English Bulldog. We got our first Boxer when I was fourteen, and I’ve now logged over fifty years of having at least one Boxer in my life at all times. As I like to say, “I’ve never had a dog with a nose, a tail, or a coat”. My other less happy saying is “If you get a Boxer, be prepared to have your heart broken”. That observation springs from the breed propensity for heart problems and high rates of cancer, which reduce the average lifespan to a relatively low eight years. Despite the heartache, for those of us who are Boxer “lifers”, not having a Boxer isn’t really an option. Dedicated Boxer lovers are a breed unto themselves, and being among their numbers is like belonging to an obscure cult to which the initiated are fully devoted, much to the mystification of non-cult members.
Boxers being what they are (high energy, strong physically and mentally, paradoxically “soft” emotionally, sensitive to heat and to cold, needing a fair amount of management, and fun-loving “people” dogs) as the years passed I realized that a day would come when I wouldn’t have the physical or mental strength for another Boxer puppy. A couple of years ago I was nursing my two aging littermate brothers, both with serious and ultimately fatal illnesses, and was in poor shape myself with a badly deteriorated hip that limited my mobility and gave chronic pain. I thought maybe this was the lead-up to the “time without Boxers” that I had anticipated with dread.
I lost both my boys within a few months of each other and the house seemed empty without a canine presence. My husband had retired so he was around more, and we still had the ancient tottery cat, but nevertheless there was a void. I was in line for hip replacement surgery which would resolve my mobility and pain concerns, so it was time to think about getting another dog to share our home. I knew about breed rescue, and having succumbed to the lure of Facebook, I found there a whole new and supportive community of cult members on the Boxer Rescue Canada page. Here was a solution to my problem. I didn’t have it in me to raise another puppy until it hit the “sensible” years, but taking on a mature dog could work.
By definition, most rescue dogs are adults, so I would be ahead of the game there. With a mature dog there is no guesswork about what you are getting in the way of size and temperament. The life history may be unknown, but a responsible rescue group will provide as much information as possible. All reputable rescues assess their intake dogs carefully for health and mental stability.
Their goal is not just to move the dog along, but to make the right match for both the dog and the new owner. The dogs are fostered for as long as necessary before adoption by experienced volunteers who work with any issues that are evident, and who can give an accurate assessment of the type of home they would be best suited for. Basic health care, neutering, and immunization are dealt with, and post-adoption support is usually available as well.
I was lucky to find my match quite quickly, a lovely calm and low energy (for the breed) adult male who had been pulled from a high-kill shelter in southern California by Boxer Rescue Canada. He was on death row with no local interest in him or his plight. When there are financial and foster resources available, and no western Canadian Boxers in need, BRC will bring such dogs into their system as the situation in many other locales is dire. Rony travelled to northern Alberta in the summer of 2012 to be fostered by the head of BRC, and came to us in February of 2013, where to date we have all lived happily ever after.
But wait, there’s more!
The story of what Rony has done for me doesn’t end with my house once more having a Boxer in residence. I have been a working artist in various media all my adult life. Much of my work in past years was horse themed, although nature and other species of animals have always been a constant. However, until Rony came into my life, I never did dog-themed artwork. Knowing of the good work BRC does for “my” breed, I wanted to find a way to assist the rescue. Providing an interim foster home wasn’t in the cards for me. I don’t have the right emotional make-up for taking dogs in and then seeing them leave, no matter how wonderful their future, and I’m realistic enough to understand this.
I decided to put my art to work in support of the rescue, which meant doing dog/Boxer themed images. I began by donating greeting cards for the group to sell at their fund-raisers. Then my dog-themed work started to evolve beyond greeting card images and more into art images. I set up a website with Fine Art America ( http://1-judy-wood.artistwebsites.com/ ) so that customers in any
geographic area could order my work in a variety of sizes and formats. The “Dogs” gallery sales income is passed on to BRC. In less than a year I have been able to contribute a considerable amount of sales earnings to the rescue, thanks to the support of the buying public and their purchases. The majority of these images are Boxer themed, but there are other breeds as well, and I plan to expand my breed repertoire in future work. As I was topping up the “Dogs” gallery on my site recently, I realized that I have gone from having no dog artwork at all to over fifty dog art images on my website, considerably more than any of my other subject matter categories. What started as a quest to keep Boxers in my life has grown encompass a new direction for my art and the satisfaction of being able to contribute to the ongoing work of breed rescue.
As a final note, I would like to point out that for dog lovers whose hearts have been taken by a specific breed, there are dedicated breed rescue groups for virtually all breeds. For those who just want a good friend and companion and are open-minded as to type, local rescues and shelters are a good option. Unfortunately, not all “rescues” are reputable, so doing some research ahead of time is important if you are following this route. For me, breed rescue has worked well. Maybe it will for you too.
Artwork © Judy Wood
Bio Photo © Mark Symons
Judy Wood Photographer Bio
I am a Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada) based working artist who has been involved with a variety of media over the course of my art career. For the past decade, I have worked primarily with photography and digitally altered photo images. New directions include mixed media collage and encaustic, usually with photo elements.
As a Saskatchewan artist, my imagery is strongly rooted in the prairie landscape and its history, with an emphasis on horses, native birds, and other animals. I find resonance and inspiration in the landscape and our historic pioneer heritage. With reference to my business tag-line that “reality is only a starting point”, I also have a series of “alternate reality/fantasy” and art images derived from my photographs. My dog-themed artwork supports breed rescue (Boxer) with sales proceeds going to Boxer Rescue Canada.
I have a Fine Arts major degree from the University of Saskatchewan as my formal training, and have actively pursued continued learning in various media throughout my artistic work-life. My work (glass mosaic, photography) has been published in books and magazines in North America and in Britain, and I actively show and sell in the Saskatoon area.
Blog / Website: Judy Wood art/photography
Follow Judy Wood on: Fine Art America