Heavy Petting: Painting My Late Dog’s Portrait with Wine and Palette

Though it has become an oft-told tale—usually relayed by cruel stepmothers trying to impart life-lessons to their very chubby children—the week I had my now-legendary stroke, my dog of so many years, Hoogie Fowler, shuffled off his fur-covered mortal coil as well, leaving behind a bloated corpse that was soon soaked with my very hemorrhagic tears.

And even though I miss that dog almost every day of my remaining life, as I get older, the memories of him are slowly fading away, I fear. Anybody got a copy of “The Rainbow Bridge” handy?

Having not painted really anything since Mrs. Cook’s kindergarten class back in ’84, I thought that maybe the best tribute to this canine cut-up would be to craft a (somewhat) masterful impression of him on a pre-sketched canvas provided to me by the true artists of the people, Wine and Palette, at their monthly DIY Pet Portraits session at Anthem Brewing, 908 SW 4th.

Using this article as an excuse for both a cathartic experience and a wholesome date night, my girlfriend and I were greeted by Wine and Palette empresario Marie Ensign and local animal artist Anthony Pego; we were given our canvases and a few brief instructions on how make the color grey—mix black and white with a bit of blue, in case you wanted to know.

Beers ordered—I had the Rad Hombre, ese—my girlfriend and I took our seats and began an adventure in the world of intermediate painting, the large brush finding it’s way to my still-lifed hand as I instinctively painted a background of reds, yellows and oranges; these warm colors possibly represented my dog’s love of burgers and hot dogs coated in ketchup and mustard and Sriracha mayo.

With every confident brushstroke, I remembered the good times I had with Hoogie, and the good times I never got to have with him. He was a diabolical black lab that had a very flamboyantly biting sense of humor, always towards me. There were many times when, at the Midtown Mutts dog park, he would run to other humans—usually women—and, as they were publicly loving on him, he’d look back at me with the most conniving sneer possible.

Don’t tell me that dogs don’t have personalities—and undeniably jerky ones at that.

Blocking the brightly lit world out around me, I started an outline of blacks and greys that made up Hoogie’s gently chiseled face, leaving room for his jagged teeth and glaring eyes, both made prominent with a touch of red dashes. The picture that was being used to model him was from a quick snap I took while we lived in Fort Collins, Colorado; he’s younger in it and much more alive, looking up at an off-picture snack treat, jaw agape in wide-eyed selfishness.

With every wave of my color-drenched wand, I was a man possessed by both Bob Ross and Benji; I manically sploshed a red streak here and calmly splashed a blue streak there, taking a grande gulp of my beer only to step back and see what other intrinsic interpretations that I could add to my nearly-painted pooch.

Looking around at the other amateur artists—especially my girlfriend’s knowing rendition of her Phantom of the Opera-faced chihuahua Lafayette—some were cool and collected, some wild-eyed and whimsical, some were totally finished and others had barely even started—but everyone was enjoying themselves, having a notably transcendent moment in their (and possibly their unknowing pup’s) lives.

As I signed my initials and the date to the canvas, I took a final swig of my cerveza. This was the last word on my best friend Hoogie, about eighteen or so months late; I know that he’s up there in Heaven, probably urinating on everything holy to really even care though—he really was a dick.

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Special thanks to Wine and Palette. Check out their DIY Pet Painting sessions here. // Photos courtesy of K.Y. /// Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.