T-Shirt Tuesday: 4 More Monsters!

Guys! I just added more monster drawings to the online stores!

First, I have a couple of designs in competition over at Threadless, and if you’d go and give me some votes, that’d be great.

Pomme De Terror

Pomme De Terror

Apples V. Oranges

applevorange_m1s_submission_v1 Not yet posted. Will update with link when it’s approved for voting.

How Food Babies Are Made

food_baby_delivery_submission

Check out what’s now available from me:

Fireball

20160822-Fireball-Chase_1 Redbubble | Threadless | Design By Humans | Society6

Hawktopus

20160829-Hawktopus-Raine_2 Redbubble | Threadless | Design By Humans | Society6

Rex

Monster Monday's Rex by Nate Redbubble | Threadless | Design By Humans | Society6

Big Green Eyeball Monster

Big Eyeball by Alina Redbubble | Threadless | Design By Humans | Society6

T-Shirt Tuesday: Monster Mondays Mania!

So I’ve finally gone through and ‘set-up’ a bunch of online stores. This is so that depending on where you are, you can pick the product you want from the price you like – shipping costs, product types will vary from retailer to retailer, so figure out which product selection you’d like and go from there. You can get a t-shirt. Or you can get lots of other stuff if you’d prefer – mugs, art prints, hoodies, phone cases and more. I really hope to see some of these monster t-shirts out in the world!

For a breakdown:

  • Design by Humans has a decent array of products, including clothing, art prints and phone cases.
  • Redbubble has a huge array of products. Great quality. Shipping might be an issue depending on where you live.
  • Society6 is just the art prints for now.
  • Threadless is mostly just t-shirts.
  • Zazzle is a wide array of crap, but it’s shipping might be the cheapest.

Edit: I’m dropping Zazzle from my rotation. The store/product management tools are asinine and time consuming. The other POD services group everything by design, so you can add or remove products based on the design. Zazzle instead insists that every product is unique, which makes management a nightmare. They have a mass uploading tool which looks like it was meant to address that issue, but it’s almost worse to do it that way.

I’ve started off by adding in all of the recent Monster Monday drawings:

20160605-SkyRobotMonster-Levi_small Design by Humans | Redbubble | Threadless | Society6

Wrecker Feature Image Design by Humans | Redbubble | Threadless | Society6

Rawr by Nate Design by Humans | Redbubble | Threadless | Society6

Pencil Monster by Theo, Age 3 Design by Humans | Redbubble | Threadless | Society6

Mitten The Kitten Design by Humans | Redbubble | Threadless | Society 6

If you purchase merchandise, tweet me photos of you with it!

Will Beg For Coffee Mug

Will Beg For Coffee. Really.

Will Beg For Coffee. Really.

My mug collection continues to grow. This one came via a Christmas Party Gift Exchange. If you’ve never played this game, it’s pretty straight forward: Everyone buys a gift (good, bad, whatever) with a price limit on it. This exchange limit was $20, I believe. Then everyone puts the gifts in a pile, and then draws numbers. In the order of the numbers, each person selects a gift – or, once multiple gifts have been opened, then that person can steal an opened gift. A gift can only be stolen twice. My wife stole this one for me – I ended up with some cookie maker iron skillet. I love this, not only because it’s a mug, but it speaks to two of my favourite things: Dogs and coffee. I would definitely beg for coffee.

It came with a mug warmer – this little device that acts as a mini hot plate to keep your mug of coffee warm. I thought it might be useful, because usually on my second cup I tend to let my coffee sit for long periods of time. However, I realized after my first use of it that I forget to turn things off if it’s not readily apparent. I had left it on long after I finished my coffee and brushed my arm past it, nearly giving myself a burn. I decided to toss the potential fire hazard and kept the mug.

This mug has already seen some good use, as evidenced by the chip in the lip. Hazards of not having a dishwasher.

Goodbye Goliath

Tonight we said our goodbyes to our sweet bear of a dog, Goliath.

A little less than two years ago, we brought home a senior dog from the Toronto Humane Society – a dog with arthritic issues, and reports of reactivity. He had been a stray found by Hillside Kennels Animal Control. Then he was adopted out from the Toronto Humane Society and later returned there. That’s how we found him.

We were wary of each other at first. My wife and I, not totally sure if we could manage those issues, but wanting desperately to make up for his fragmented past. Him, not fully understanding what was happening. But that first night when I crawled into bed, he hopped in too. Without any prompting, he nestled up against me and fell into a relieved kind of sleep. From then on, we were bonded.

In our short time with him, the walls he’d built up melted away, and we got to know him for the dog he wanted to be. He was a faithful companion, following me wherever I went, sleeping behind my chair when I worked late, beside me in bed, or just lying on the floor wherever I sat. He was a big sweetheart, cuddling with us on the couch, letting Heather smother him in kisses. He was a caregiver, nudging me when I worked long hours to remind me to go to bed, coming to give us all of his love when we were down. He gave us so much – love, affection and warmth. I can’t convey how unconditional that love was. He gave us everything that he had.

He wasn’t just a dog – he was my dog. He was a me dog. It felt like someone had taken a little piece of me, and rolled it up into a dog, and we were always meant to be together. We just fit – he was everything I ever wanted in a dog, or in a friend. And I hope I was that to him too. I hope he knew this was his home, from day one. I hope he knew every time I left, I was coming back. That every time we got in the car, it was to go somewhere awesome. I hope he knew that everything we did was to keep him safe, to help him be healthy, and happy. I hope he understood that I loved him totally.

His health in decline, his issues degenerative and incurable, we made the decision not to chase diagnostic answers that we could never get. We managed his pain as best we could. We opted to make the short time with us as enjoyable as possible. And last week we had to make the most heart-breaking decision that he was getting beyond our ability to keep him comfortable. We gave him the final days we thought he’d want – full of affection and attention. We took him to his favourite place and let him just be outside, unleashed. We let him swim, and sleep, and cuddle. We fed him treats, steak, sausage and cheese. And a little bit of Eggs Benedict.

And tonight, we sat on the lawn as the sun drifted out of the sky, and let him eat cheeseburgers and soft-serve ice cream. And then we sent him off to sleep, off to the Rainbow Bridge.

Rest in peace, my bear.

New Art Signature

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For the longest time, I’ve been using a terrible scribble version of my actual signature as my ‘art signature’. It’s not the same as the signature I use for my cheques and visa receipts, but there’s a similarity there. The problem with that is, while I would recognize my particular scribble if it ever came up in a document signing, it’s not something that might resonate with other people.

This might sound a bit big headed – but if my work is ever worth anything, or if my name starts to mean something in the illustration world, I’d like people to know it’s my hand. I’d also like to remember when I did it – I’ve never been super good at dating pieces of artwork.

So, I decided to come up with a ‘symbol’ – a new art signature. Something that’s reminiscent of my actual signature, but takes on qualities of an icon that I can reference as ‘mine’. A rebranding of sorts.

This comes from a couple different sources of inspiration. The first and geekiest, of course is Tolkien’s Dwarven alphabet. I didn’t take directly from the alphabet, but I like the blocky, contained look of the Dwarven writings. It does bear a similarity with Hebrew, as well.

If I could find the particular artists that use the same technique, I’d cite them as well. It’s something I’ve seen a couple of artists do in comics and fantasy art – the block around a letter or a name. I’ve always really liked that. If anyone knows of which artists do it, or have a jpg, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

And, from here on out, everything will be dated, right below.

Workin’ Like a Dog

Hard working dog

No one ever said on their deathbed, ‘Gee, I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer’.

I left Advertising to walk dogs.

It’s been about six months since I’ve made the switch. And it was probably the best decision of my life.

I want to preface this by saying that there are a lot of good, passionate and intelligent people that work in Advertising + Marketing, and there’s still value in the industry. I understand why it exists and how it’s come to be what it’s become.

It just got to a point where I couldn’t stand with both feet on those reclaimed hardwood floors under those not quite fluorescent bulbs in that fantastic open concept office and still feel proud of what I do anymore.

There was a series of revelations over my nearly 10 years in Advertising and media related jobs that I had to come to to realize that while I loved creating (designs, ideas, concepts, artwork), I did not like being a creative. Like most things in advertising, what it says and what it is are two totally different things.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that the industry isn’t what it used to be. And if there’s even an iota of truth in Mad Men’s depiction of the actual work (not the show in general), that’s true. Some things are better than they were. Other things are on a trajectory that I couldn’t justify being a part of anymore.

I could be really wordy, and go on a long tirade about the ins and outs of my experience in the industry, but no one really wants to read that. I dont’ even want to write it – I still do design on the side, and I’d rather not have people think I’m some embittered hermit that they’re going to have to fight with, because I’m not.

So, instead, I’m going to take a cue from Mr. Busdriver and make a short, comparative list:

Advertising vs. Dog Walking

  • Client Feedback

    The feedback loop in an advertising relationship is often a broken one, and is agonizingly slow. You can put weeks of work into a project, and if you’re unlucky, you’re not in the presentation meeting. Which means that you have to wait for accounts to return with feedback. Which might take longer if the presenting client is only a junior, that then has to re-present to the actual decision making client. It might take days to know if you’ve made the client happy. And if you haven’t, it’s often hard not to take some of the feedback personally.

    Conversely, every time I open a door to pick up a dog, they’re happy to see me. And it’s not hard to tell. What with the tail wagging or the jumping up on me to lick my face. It’s kind of a low-hanging fruit, to be honest, but I’m not above grabbing that. I’ll take the ego boosts where I can get ’em.

  • Trusted Expertise

    One of the big things I’ve noticed with my dog walking clients is the implicit trust that I know what I’m doing. It’s not to say that I don’t – I’ve learned a lot over the last few years from Heather and our dog industry colleagues, and felt fully prepared to take on the walking when I started. The dog owners we work for come to treat us as experts on their pets – seeking advice, conferring with us when something might be wrong, or wanting our opinions on things like food, training methods and other dog related topics. It’s refreshing to be in a position where people expect you to know what you’re doing, and trust you to do it.

    Less and less, I experienced that trust with clients. I’ve found with the proliferation of photoshop, inDesign and other editing programs, more and more people try and formulate an opinions without a fragment of understanding about visual rules, communication imperatives or, in some cases, even an iota of design sense. The phrase “I’m not a visual person, I need to see it.” Is a personal pet peeve of mine. If you need to see it, then you ARE a visual person. Someone who doesn’t need to see it is a conceptual person.

  • Work/Life Balance

    Because I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my work, I’m not the fastest designer out there. I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, but I know I’m slower than some. In an industry that has no brake pedal, that means long hours. I’ve been sold the story in many an interview about how they value ‘work/life balance’. You never hear about that balance when you’re at the office until 1 am three days straight. It got to a point where I basically was only home on the weekends, stopping by to catch a few z’s and a shower during the week. On top of that, if I wasn’t coming up with spec projects in my own time, I wasn’t committed enough to the company’s success.

    I work about four hours a day now – six if I’m covering for Heather so she can run an errand in the morning. I go pick up the dogs, I walk the dogs, I pick up their poop, I take them home, and I’m done. I don’t think about dog walking after I come home. I don’t have to think about it before I pick them up. Sometimes, I don’t even have to think about it while I’m doing it – my mind is free to wander as long as I’m keeping my eye on where they all are, and making sure they’re not rolling in a dead raccoon. And let’s be honest, as fun as advertising people are, dogs are way more fun. You keep your beer cart. I’ve got six pups that are just happy to be outside.

  • Bread and Butter

    Now, I make less money dogwalking – but it’s a solid base. I have time in the day to explore other creative outlets and do the work I want to do now, not the work I have to do. Every agency has a ‘bread and butter’ client – the one that basically affords them the ability to have a big staff and a nice office, and hopefully that leaves enough room for the award work. The crazy spec projects. But that ‘bread and butter’ client is often the client that has dull, tedious tasks – lots of brochures, or banner ads, or predictable cycles of work that require more volume than quality.

    My ‘bread and butter’ client is now playing with dogs. So when I’m approached about design, I can look at a project and decide whether or not I want to take it on.

  • The Shit

    A big part of my day now is picking up dog poo. For a lot of people, that’s the most horrible part of owning a dog – the idea of only having a thin piece of plastic between you, and hot, steaming feces. It’s not really that bad, so long as your poo-bag doesn’t split open. And even then, poo washes off. You can go home, shower, and it’s gone. I’m so used to it now, that I make an effort to pick up the cold, old poo that other, less considerate people have left behind in the parks. I call it ‘Karma poop’.

    I prefer that to having to come in, day in and day out, and come up with another creative way to make a banner ad that no one is going to click on. That’s the kind of stuff that never goes away. Just when you think you’ve got it off your plate, another round of revisions come in on it. In all three sizes. Plus an expanding interactive one.

There’s a lot of other reasons I left the Ad world. There’s similar sentiments to Linds Redding and David de Haas. I wanted to stop being treated like a tool instead of resource. I wanted to believe in the work I was doing. I wanted to feel good about the work I did at the end of each day. I wanted to be happy and rediscover my love of design. I wanted to draw more. I wanted to stop making revisions to things that didn’t need to be revised. I wanted to stop being away from the ones I like and love more than I was with them. I wanted to stop trying to convince people to do things that they didn’t need to, let alone should.

I didn’t want to look back over my life and think: “WHY?”

Also, now I can fart in my ‘office.’

The analogy I like to use is: Creative Juice.

Creativity is like fuel. There are different types of creativity the same way there are different types of fuel. Some people can be any type of fuel, and their juice will drive almost any vehicle it needs to. They’re like unrefined gas, just ready to be put into a process and pumped into something to make it go. Others, like myself, are a more specific type of fuel. They might be suited to a particular type of vehicle, and though their gas might work in others, it’s not going to work like it should.

I’m not the high-octane, double filtered, high test petroleum that the fast-paced advertising world needs. And putting me into that engine was causing damage. I could make that car go, but it wasn’t going to go well for very long.

I still love design. I still love finding creative ways to communicate, to convince, to persuade.

But I don’t think I will ever sit down in an office again.

It’s a Dogs World Mug

416109194258182772_13975539 This mug came into the collection as a present to Heather. Heather doesn’t tend to drink hot drinks (Tea or Hot Chocolate, rarely), so by default it ends up in my collection.

But it’s one of the few mugs that has a story to it, and it’s a story worth telling. Because it’s about Heather, and the kind of woman she is. And that’s a story I want to tell. The first part of this story is tragic and sad, and will be mildly inaccurate as I only have the information third hand. I’m prone to embellishment in my stories, and I’ll fill in what I don’t remember or know with what I think it might have been. That’s not to say it’s not true, just that it’s the version of things as I recall them.

Heather has become a neighborhood icon of sorts. Since starting her dog walking business (of which I am now happily an employee), Heather’s natural charisma and friendliness draws people to her, and with a varying pack of dogs in tow, she has made friends and clients throughout the neighborhood. She’s always quick with a good morning, and almost always good for a bit of small talk about the dogs, and people just naturally gravitate towards that. Especially the ones with dogs of their own.

An adorable boxer pup named Marlee appeared in the building next door to us. Heather was quick to befriend the owners, a single mother and her son, as she does. This beautiful pup, Marlee, joined our pack as an occasional client and fast friend. From puppy visits to beginning on some group walks, we got to watch Marlee grow and play, and enjoyed every opportunity we had to take her with us to the park to play with our regular clients.

Recently when playing at a nearby park that Marlee uncharacteristically bolted from her mom. The park borders on some rather busy streets, and Marlee bolted out in front of a car, and was struck solidly. When her owner caught up to the dog, she was on her feet, but bleeding and unsteady. She managed to get her to the VEC, but Marlee was too badly injured to recover. Marlee was just over a year old. Still a pup.

It’s hard to put into the words the tragedy of losing a dog too early. Having just lost our own dog this past week, the feelings are acute – but to lose one so young, and so violently is always fraught with guilt, heartbreak and sorrow. It’s becoming more and more true that our dogs (and cats) are more than just pets – they are furry friends. They are family. They leave a hole in your heart when they pass.

Heather and I are no strangers to the costs of medical care for an animal. Places like the VEC have a not insignificant ’emergency fee’ that, along with the uninsured costs of veterinary time, medication and supplies can mean any visit reaches the thousands very quickly.

Instead of a token of grief (Which is always appreciated. There is something about the sentiments of sympathy expressed in words or gifts has an uplifting effect.) Heather set out to do something special. She began collecting up money to help offset the costs of the VEC visit and final arrangements. She spoke to neighbors and our local vet, and others around the neighborhood. Practically anyone with a dog that might have met Marlee.

All told, Heather raised nearly a thousand dollars in a short few days for Marlee’s family. Some people gave a little, and others, like an anonymous donor from the clientele of the Yonge Street Animal Hospital, gave a lot. They all signed short messages of sympathy in a card. We don’t know what the final bill was for Marlee, but we understand the money raised put a significant dent in the costs.

Heather didn’t have to cajole anyone. She didn’t have to pressure anyone. She just went out and told them what happened, and what she was doing, and people gave. That’s the kind of woman she is. She doesn’t ask for a lot, and when she does, it’s not even for herself. She saw suffering, and sought a way to ease it as best she could.

In this day and age, it’s difficult to believe – this is the first neighborhood I’ve lived in since moving to Toronto over ten years ago that I’ve felt like it’s more than just a collection of buildings to house people. People here still seem to care about the people around them, and not in a gossipy way. In a genuine, friendly, community way. The numerous dogs in the neighborhood probably helps this – you see the same faces in the ravine near our house, out on the streets around and about. It’s nearly impossible to go and get a coffee or yoga pants without running into someone with a dog we know.

Maybe it’s the dogs. Maybe it’s Heather.

The family was overwhelmed with the generosity of the little dog owner community in the neighborhood, and as a thank-you, gave Heather a small gift of baked goods and the mug. This mug.

So this mug is a reminder of how selfless and giving Heather is, and of how she helps bring people together. It’s a reminder of a lost friend, and the comfort we find in those around us, and how a little bit, just a little bit from everyone can help a lot.

No Reason Comics Mug

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If anything, this was more fan art than merchandise. Jeff Moss‘s dad, Dave requested a couple of high resolution jpgs from me at one point. He was pretty vague on the details, but it’s not like I asked a lot of questions. When Dave asks, Dave gets.

At the time, it was when No Reason Comics was on the upswing. My drawings were still rough, the writing was starting to coalesce, and we were starting to hit a solid step. I don’t think anyone was prouder of our little webcomicing than Dave. I know my own Dad read only a few, before abandoning trying to follow it with a ‘I just don’t get it.’

Dave had a few of these mugs made up, and I thought it was pretty great. I really like this mug, even though it’s pretty small. It reminds me to keep trying to make time for the stuff I want to do.

I had some pretty high ambitions about creating more merchandise and making some money off of No Reason. And one of the most disappointing times in my life so far has been having to give up doing the comic. I have hopes of returning to comicing in the near future, but as long as it can’t be my primary source of income, and I’m as slow as I am at drawing… well, it’s still on ‘hiatus’ in my mind.

One day.

Oscar the Poodle

Oscar

Oscar
June 2, 2005 – March 18, 2013

Oscar, also known as ‘Poodles’, ‘Poodlepants’, ‘Poodle Man’, and a host of other nicknames that all invariable involved the word ‘poodle’, was a dog of unparticularly particular tastes. There may not have been rhyme nor reason for the peculiar set of rules by which he applied his affection, but they were strictly enforced by equal measures of exuberance and grumpiness.

Oscar first came to Heather as a puppy, when she worked at a boarding school. He might have been the runt of the litter, physically, but he had an undeniable personality. He was a happy little scamp, who had a tail wag for everyone. Oscar loves people, and being in a boarding school with lots of cooing girls gave him a ton of confidence. What Poodle wanted to do, Poodle did.

Oscar travelled with Heather across the country, from Toronto to the East Coast (where he gained a sister, Gemma, our other scruffy little mutt), and back across the country to Fort Mac, all in the back of an Echo, stuffed with Heather’s belongings. Oscar braved the journeys with his own brand of stoicism, settling himself comfortably in – as long as he was near his people, he could be comfortable.

When I first met Oscar a little over four years ago, I was not a dog lover. Oscar helped change that. It might have been the constant wiping of his food and water greased chin on my leg, or the hours we played his version of fetch in the nearby field, but somewhere along the line, this spindly, curly-fuzz face turned me right around on my attitudes towards dogs.

He’s hard not to love. Oscar greets every person over the age of five with an enthusiasm and affection that does not go unnoticed. He has his own move – not curiously dubbed ‘poodling’ – by which he ingratiates himself with every person he meets. And I do mean every person. It starts with a rarified tail wag – usually little more than a few twitches. He might bounce with a certain fanciness only a poodle can muster, right up to his intended target, and with a quick sniff for a treat, he’ll begin to press himself against his new found friend. He leans into it, as he rubs himself along the side, back, or front of available legs, with enough gusto to force the recipient of his affection to have to steady themselves. Unsuspecting parties are often knocked a step over, but are quick to remark with a smile at it. I have yet to witness someone whose day was not immediately improved upon by a solid poodling. I think it’s about the closest a dog can come to a hearty bear-hug, the kind that’s tight enough to shut the world out, but not so tight you can’t breathe. It’s the kind of hug that makes you feel loved.

Toddlers and babies he has little time for. There’s an age restriction for good reason. Behaviorists and other scholars of the canine will attribute it to some kind of distaste for the animations of the youths, their directionless ambulations, but let me tell you this: It’s a deference of qualified age restrictions: You must be of a certain age to both fully appreciate and fully withstand the force of a poodling. He loves children, just not those that might fall over when he shows them how much.

But just because he greets every stranger without prejudice, and with equal parts enthusiasm and affection, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t hold a lucky few in high regard. The greeting for those in his inner circle, especially those he has not seen in more than an hour (you should see it if it’s been more than a year!) is a sight best seen. Like Tiggers, Poodles are made of rubber and springs, and Oscar is no exception. For those he holds dear, nothing short of repetitive leaping in the air with unbridled joy will do. Many of us could take a cue from Oscar on how to show our friends and family how much they mean to us – there’s no mistake when the Poodlepants has adopted you as one of his special friends.

His exuberance was not just reserved for his human friends, however. Oscar never stopped playing like a puppy. It’s been marked often, with surprise that even at seven, his play is so young at heart. He bounced with anticipation when a ball was presented, and given the chance to have a few moments alone with a choice ball (Wilson or Dunlop were his preferred brands), he would create a little homage for each ball by tearing up all the grass around it and flinging the grass all about, before ripping the felt flesh from the rubber inside. It’s all very ceremonial.

One of his favorite past times was utilizing his ability to imitate a human burp in mixed company. Out for a walk, at family gatherings, Oscar would find the opportune time with the most people around to belch loudly, and in a manner where Heather or I were the most likely culprits of the social faux pas. It never stopped being funny for him.

Though Oscar’s youthful demeanor was present in his play and his affections for his human counterparts, he was a mature and patriarchal figure among his peers. He was selective about those he would consider allowing to ‘fetch’ with him, often keeping the ball for himself when too many others threatened to interfere with both the integrity and sanctity of his preferred sport. Though many were faster than him, he competed with a genuine lust for tennis balls that often dissuaded his faster companions from actually picking up the ball, leaving it for him to retrieve.

It was that kind of respect that Oscar received from many a dog. He may have been small for his breed, and perhaps a bit on the skinny side because of his ongoing struggles with Addison’s disease, but he exuded a toughness, an authority that most dogs respected immediately, with minimal communication. A car full of rowdy pups became quiet and orderly in his presence. Dogs visiting our home made sure to leave him his spaces for rest, where ever he chose that to be. Oscar preferred the company of people, but made his presence felt with dogs. He was not a tyrant though – good clean fun was fine with him, so long as it didn’t disturb him.

Time and again, Oscar proved to be a tougher dog than he appeared to be, and more loyal and protective than he let on in the day to day. In September of 2009, he was spooked by daylight fireworks on a Labour day weekend. Oscar bolted out of our sight and disappeared. Though we will never know what truly happened that night, we do know that he was most likely struck by a vehicle. He found shelter for the night, and despite having a fractured pelvis in two places, managed to limp his way home the next morning, only to collapse into our arms. True to form, he still challenges any vehicle that comes too close to him. He fears nothing on the road. That tough.

Oscar fears only those he deems his equals: The sky gods and their thunder and lightning.

When Gemma was bit by a German Shepherd, Oscar was first on scene, getting himself between his little sister and two much larger dogs – and stood his ground. Though he only rarely showed affections for her, he proved to be of deep character that day. He was there for his family, and would always protect them from dogs, cars, doorbells and unannounced visitors.

Oscar was also the inspiration of a local musical revolution of sorts, spearheaded by Heather. Hits like ‘A Poodle and You Know it’ by LMFAO and ‘Poodle Ninja’ by Classified. Classics like ‘Poodle Me Softly’ by Roberta Flack or the holiday classic ‘Poodle Pants’ (sung to the tune of Jingle Bells), almost every song known has a Poodle version now. Though largely unknown outside of our house, within these walls he was a veritable music factory. He has also changed the lexicon of language here, as ‘Poodle’ became a substitute noun, verb or adjective capable of a versatility that few other words can manage in the english language.

Oscar loved the little things: Balls (tennis preferred), sticks, peeing where other dogs peed, having his name said, getting a chin scratch, or scoring a rotisserie chicken on an unprotected countertop. He was a dog of simple tastes.

Two years ago, Oscar was diagnosed with Addison‘s disease, a rare-ish disease that affects his adrenal gland. The basiscs of Addison’s is that when Oscar was stressed out, his body attacked itself. This meant it was hard to keep weight on him, managing his diet and the disease with medications. But that wasn’t going to slow down Oscar. Once the worst of the symptoms had passed, and the medication had kicked in, Oscar was back to bouncing and fetching with the best of them.

A few months ago, our attentive vets detected a heart murmur. This quickly digressed into Congestive Heart Failure, which is an irreversible condition. Medication for this only slows the progress of this. However, the medications for Addisons and his heart didn’t seem to line up for very long. Three weeks after his diagnosis, Oscar stopped eating, and drinking, and started vomiting.

When we knew that we could no longer give him the quality of life where he could rest comfortably and easily, made the hard choice. We couldn’t watch him suffer, and we couldn’t bear to go through more stressful vet visits, more medications. Trying to manage his decline just seemed to cause him more discomfort.

We said our goodbyes in our home, and tried to make his passing as peaceful as possible. His passing was eased by the gentle touch of our Vet, Dr. Micheal Belovich, and his assistant / our wonderful neighbor, Ali Soloman.

He went quietly to sleep, surrounded by his family.

Our time with him was less than we wanted, and more than we expected, but it was all time we will cherish. We did what we could to make his life comfortable and full, and let him know all the time that he was loved.

Rest easy, Poodle buddy. We miss you.

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Stonethrow Pottery Mug

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There’s something about pottery mugs that sets them apart from the other mugs in my collection. It’s not to say that they’re better, or that I love them more, but there’s something about the hand-crafted artistry of these mugs that makes them special. Each one, in it’s own way is unique, with it’s own litte imperfections, and yet so masterfully done that they fit within a set.

That to me, is craftsmanship. And in the industrialized age, something I feel like we’re losing a bit – that ability to create something so well that it is nearly indistinguishable from the previous one, or the next. To be able to shape that with one’s hands, to pick a shape and recreate it, or to mold materials so expertly, is something that I always admire. It’s something easily done with machines, but there is an authenticity, and sometimes a durability that is lost with the ability to mass produce.

I haven’t been to the Stonethrow Pottery Studio yet. But I can tell there’s a certain level of professionalism and attention to aesthetic details that really impresses me. The name is stamped into the bottom. The mixture of textures between the rough bottom and the smooth top is something I haven’t seen before. And it may sound hokey, but there’s something about this mug that feels like it says things; the way art should. It talks about the earth, about something solid and growing.

This was a gift from my (as of the writing of this post) future mother-in-law, Judy.

Thanks Judy!