Stephanie and Todd are very involved in local animal non-profits, their passion for animals extends far beyond painting beautiful portraits of beloved pets. Stephanie is co-founder of Unchain Winston, an organization that builds free fences for qualified families with dogs chained 24/7. For her, one of the most rewarding parts of volunteering with UNchain Winston is “meeting” animal lovers from near and far and working with all the fence sponsors. Please take a minute to read Angila and Hank’s story, UNchain Winston’s July fence sponsor. You may shed a little tear, but it’s a testament of true love.
Now 14.5, Jimmydog’s Chief Canine Officer Freddie couldn’t be more excited about this new phase of her life. She’s got some big news and big plans!
Dear fans, I’ve got a big announcement to make. As of this week, I’m semi-retired.
You wouldn’t know it to look at me—because I haven’t gone gray in the muzzle and I’ve worked hard to maintain my puppy figure—but I recently turned 14.5 and that makes me a senior canine citizen. Truth be told, I’ve had my AARF card for a few years. I get discounts on bones and am able to walk in a special lane with other senior pups on sidewalks and trails. (Are you familiar with AARF? The American Association of Retired Fur-people is a great group.)
But don’t worry, I’m not going to “live on a farm.” I feel great and that’s a big reason I’m cutting back on my many duties. I want to be able to enjoy myself to the fullest, and after many years of full-time work as chief canine officer at Jimmydog Pet Portraits, I’ve earned it.
Of course, I can’t fully retire. Stephanie and Todd Belcher, the best people ever, have asked me to stay on at Jimmydog and I agree that no one else is equipped to do all my important work here. But we’ve decided that I can reduce my hours, as Stephanie and Todd take on some of my responsibilities. For instance, I’m teaching them how to alert everyone in the house and office to the arrival of the brown truck. Even after all these years of me warning them to the contrary, they still think the brown truck guy brings useful things to the house and should be welcomed. I’ve got to break them of that dangerous delusion.
It’s important to stay mentally challenged so I’ll still write the occasional blog and, of course, I’ll continue to offer suggestions regarding the custom portraits that Todd paints. People say dogs are colorblind but I’ve always helped him settle on the perfect color palette for a new painting and I review all finished work as a quality control check.
Over the years while watching TV with Stephanie and Todd, I’ve seen lots of commercials for places that promise people an “active retirement lifestyle” and I like the sound of that. I don’t golf, so I’ll be spending as much time as possible on long walks, car outings and boat rides.
I’m also thinking about checking out the senior dog games. I’ve always been quite the athlete, able to run up and down the stairs and around the yard in record-setting times. And I’m an excellent tracker and hunter, though Stephanie and Todd have never let me keep my “prizes.” I think I’d do well in several events, including “Early Morning Mole Hunt” and “100-Back Yard Dash.”
I know not every dog gets to enjoy this period of life. I’m lucky to have good genes from my canine parents and the best of care all my life from Stephanie and Todd. At 14.5, I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to live a healthy senior dog life. Here’s what I’ve learned is important:
* Daily exercise. I attribute my longevity—and my attractive figure—to daily walks. Now that I’m older, I make some modifications, like walking earlier in the morning or later in the evening, but I still walk every day—rain, shine, snow or ice. Vary your routine to keep things interesting: I like to visit different parks in my area.
* Regular vet visits. My people take me every few months for something called “senior wellness visits.” The visits are quick but still full of indignities: They weigh me, check my temperature (I can’t even bring myself to tell you how they do that!) and then draw blood with a big needle (I maintain a brave face but ouch!). To make it more palatable, I focus on the car ride there and back (always great fun!) and the walk Todd takes me on afterward for being such a good girl. (Remember: A positive mental attitude is important at any age.) Lately, Todd’s also been taking me to a place for cold laser therapy on my hips. I like that place better—no poking and prodding and it only takes a few minutes. Other dogs I know get massages or something called acupuncture.
* Good nutrition, plus medication as needed. Our dietary needs change as we age and Stephanie does an excellent job of adjusting my diet to keep me feeling my best, whether that means adding a little slippery elm (whatever that is!) and yogurt to my dinner to keep my digestive track healthy or giving me anti-inflammatories for a touch of arthritis.
* Adaptations. People seem to love hardwood floors but dogs, especially senior dogs, aren’t big fans. Stephanie and Todd have put down more rugs to keep me from sliding around in an undignified (and dangerous) manner, which I appreciate. You might need your people to get you a softer bed or buy a ramp for the car. My pal Clooney, also an older boy, asked his person to add a water bowl upstairs so he could avoid making so many trips down to the kitchen. His person also lowered her bed so he could get on and off more easily. Dog friends: Tell your people what you need. They’ll be happy to accommodate you.
* Hobbies. As I mentioned above, I’m an avid hunter and a lifelong boater. Other dogs enjoy swimming or playing fetch. Having a hobby keeps you mentally and physically fit. Find something you love to do and it will keep you young at every age!
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have a walk to take.
Yours in dogness,
Thank you Chad Tucker for this lovely note and adorable photo of Carson Perry holding her Otis close to her heart once again. The appreciation you have for this portrait means more to us than we could ever express in words. We know Jimmy and Joey are taking good care of Otis at the bridge and you are correct, they are never far from you or have you out of their sight.
“Todd, I’m at a lost of words. Thank you for the beautiful portrait of Otis. You are so talented! The detail is amazing. We received it yesterday and the many blessings it has already brought my family are beautiful. When I brought it home Carson Parry immediately said ‘my Otis.’ It brought smiles to her and happy tears to us. In her 3 year old comprehension she thinks dog heaven is right around the corner and Otis isn’t that far away. Your gift reminded us that Otis really isn’t that far and that people with big hearts still care. We have the perfect place for the portrait and are so looking forward to having it framed. We’d love to meet you one day soon to say thank you in person.
We’ve been long time fans of Chad Tucker of our local MyFox8 news. He’s a great reporter and last year we found out what a huge animal lover he is and that there was one very special dog in his life named Otis.We read on Facebook about Otis and the impact he had on his life, and we were heartbroken as he recounted last June that final, beautiful weekend with him.
What a life Chad and his family gave Otis and what powerful gifts he gave them in return. The stories and photos Chad shared of Otis, inspired Todd to paint this portrait and send it as a surprise to Chad and his family. On this the first anniversary of Otis’s journey to the bridge, we celebrate his life and the love he shared with his family.
Last year, we got the best surprise—an out-of-the-blue letter from our sweet boys Jimmy and Joey, both adorable white terrier mixes we lost several years ago (Jimmy in 2003; Joey in 2015). They’d reconnected on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge and wanted to tell us all about the adventures they’re having together. They promised to write often, but we know how kids can be and weren’t too surprised to not receive another note. Then, finally, look what arrived! We hope you’ll take a few minutes to read what they have to say and those of you who are also missing precious pets that it gives you the comfort it gives us.
Dear Stephanie & Todd,
We better start with apologies. In our last letter, we promised to write often, but we stay very busy! We hear that children at summer camp and college kids have the same trouble: They love and miss their packs back home, but aren’t diligent about taking a few minutes to reach out. In our defense, it’s even harder for us because we don’t have computers to Skype or smartphones to text. We hear some of the parrots and cockatiels tweet but for some reason they won’t teach us.
What’s been keeping us so busy? Well, for starters we’ve welcomed several cat and dog friends, including Phyllis, Ray, Merlin, Kendra, OC, Faye, Skittles, and Tenchi. We know how much their people hated saying goodbye but you can let them know we’re taking good care of them and they’re all doing great.
Actually, there’s a really cool process for helping newcomers get settled every day when they arrive as a big group. First, they’re met by the Welcoming Committee—mostly labs and goldens, who are perfect for a job that requires greeting everyone with a lot of enthusiasm (and usually a lot of slobber, too!). But there also are cats, usually a few chatty Burmese and Siamese, to offer a meow of “hello.” The labs and goldens then pass out giant gift baskets filled with favorite treats, toys and bedding. (I notice that the cats on the committee sometimes slack off after the initial greetings and crawl into those baskets for a nap. Typical cats!)
Then a group of shepherds and collies arrives to sort everyone out. Newcomers with pack members who already live on this side of the Rainbow Bridge are matched with them. That’s how Joey and I got connected. Our friend Zoey the border collie happened to be working the day Joey arrived and she brought him right to me the moment she learned he was a Belcher. What a day that was! We had so much fun talking about all the wonderful times we had with you—the walks, car rides and vacations, but also the quiet times snoozing in the house, knowing we were safe and loved by the best people in the world.
If a newcomer doesn’t have any pack members already here, the Pack Placement Committee—usually poodles and a few Abyssinian cats—spends a little time getting to know them, figuring out their daily habits and hobbies, and learning about their previous pack before placing them with the right group here.
On the night Joey arrived—after I showed him all the cool places here, treated him to a big dinner and settled him into our little house—I turned on the TV. Everyone around here tunes in for the Puppy Bowl, Westminster dog show and Animal Kingdom reruns, and I knew Joey liked watching Braves games with Todd, but I had something extra special for him. I turned to channel 740 and there you were on the screen! It’s 24-hour access to everything you and Freddie are doing.
I have to tell you: It really helped Joey when he got here. At first, he kept the TV on all the time, listening to you tell stories about him, remembering all his antics and quirks. Of course, it’s still our favorite channel. The Belchers are must-see TV, and we tune in every morning to watch Todd and Freddie take their walk, in the afternoon to see how Todd’s latest custom portrait is coming along and then again at dinner time to hear about your day. It’s probably not surprising but our favorite episodes are the ones where you reminisce, talking and laughing about all the good times we shared.
We’ve told some of our friends about channel 740. Of course, they have their own special channels to watch, but many of our pals have been subjects of memorial pet portraits and they love to watch Todd work and see how he creates those beautiful, cherished pieces of art.
I’m not sure if I should even say this, but some pals who’ve had their likenesses painted by Todd get a little, let’s say, big-headed about the whole thing, telling everyone how their people loved them so much they had their portrait painted, framed and then hung on the wall where everyone who comes into the home can see it. If you watch their special channels with them, they are forever saying stuff like, “See my portrait in the den. I really think Todd captured my spirit. And my coat looks so glossy! How does he create those highlights?” I don’t like to remind them how many portraits of me and Joey (and Freddie) there are in our house. It’s never nice to brag about being a muse.
Speaking of TV, it’s a rainy day here and Joey thinks we should binge-watch Scooby-Do and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Gotta go!
Tail wags and doggy kisses!