Pets Are Dying From Eating Tainted Pet Food From Krogers

Update, Dec. 18, from Gina Spadafori at Pet Connection: I just talked to Chambers Williams of The Tennessean. If your dog or cat ate the recalled food and got sick or died, he wants to talk to you, especially if you’re in Tennessee:. 615-259-8076.


I’m interrupting Mongolia Monday because this is an emergency. This was posted on the Pet Connection blog on Dec. 18. Kroger’s did what is called a Friday night “dump and run” recall. Companies do this knowing that the news media is winding down for the weekend. Obviously, their priority is NOT to get the word out to people whose pets might be affected.

Reports of dead dogs, cats and ferrets have been posted in the comment thread. Here’s the start of the post:

This weekend it’s the grocery store mega-chain, Kroger, recalling dog and cat food sold in Kroger, Dillons, Gerbes, Baker’s, Food 4 Less, Jay C, Hilander, Owen’s, Pay Less, and Scott’s stores. From their release:

The Kroger Co. said today it is recalling select packages of pet food sold in some of its retail stores because the products may contain aflatoxin, which poses a health risk to pets.

Kroger stores in the following states are included in this recall:  Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

The recall also includes Dillons and Gerbes stores in Kansas and Missouri; Baker’s stores in Nebraska; Food 4 Less stores in Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana (Chicago area); and Jay C, Hilander, Owen’s, Pay Less and Scott’s stores in Illinois and Indiana.

Stores the company operates under the following names are not included in this recall: Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, Smith’s, QFC, City Market, Foods Co., and Food 4 Less stores in California and Nevada.

Here are other sites you can go to for information:

Veterinary News Service site. (VNS)

American Veterinary Medical Association

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

From Wikipedia, this information about what aflatoxin is:

Aflatoxins are naturally occurring mycotoxins that are produced by many species of Aspergillus, a fungus, most notably Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Aflatoxins are toxic and among the most carcinogenic substances known.”

And the result of exposure is:

“High-level aflatoxin exposure produces an acute hepatic necrosis, resulting later in cirrhosis, and/or carcinoma of the liver. Acute hepatic failure is made manifest by hemorrhage, edema, alteration in digestion, and absorption and/or metabolism of nutrients and mental changes and/or coma.

“No animal species is immune to the acute toxic effects of aflatoxins including humans”

Essentially, some ingredient in the food, possibly corn, is contaminated with high levels of this toxic fungus, which causes severe to fatal liver damamge.

Please pass the word to anyone you know in the the affected states who has pets.

One last word– some people think that somehow the attention given to pets is wrong and should go to people instead. But this country only has one food supply, so faulty practices that kill dogs and cats can potentially affect people too.

This Will Probably Get Me In Trouble, But The Problem Isn’t Just At SeaWorld…..

OPINION ALERTI don’t think that you will be left in any doubt as to my opinions in the following piece. Civil, thought-out comments are welcome. All others will go in the virtual round file. And the protestations of those whose income relies in any way on the use of captive wild animals for profit will be taken with Upton Sinclair’s quote in mind: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on his not understanding it.I’m not out to necessarily change anyone’s mind or behavior, but if I make you uncomfortable about some assumptions you’ve had, well, I’ve done my job.

So, SeaWorld is in the news again with another “attack” by a killer whale/orca, resulting in a human death. SeaWorld is one of the public faces of Animals As Entertainment. Do not be deceived by their blather about science. They wouldn’t spend a dime on it if they didn’t need to to reassure the public that they are doing “good things” that benefit the animals. The trainers are simply enablers.

Heather Houlahan, over at her blog Raised By Wolves, has a dynamite post on the issues involved in “training” wild animals like orcas, how the so-called positive methods used have bled over into the training of domestic dogs and what really goes on in getting a five ton marine mammal to do what you want, say, to let you collect its urine.

At the intersection of humans, animals and profit, the interests of our species almost always triumph. But there’s some level of at least sub-conscious discomfort because the people involved seem to consistently insist that they love animals. But their income and the care of their families is dependent on the orca/wolf/lion etc. performing as needed. There is an inherent conflict here that the parties involved need to, no, must, ignore.

A partly hidden world of using animals to perform for profit are the game ranches that provide genetically wild animals for photographers, movies, tv and, increasingly, animal artists. When visiting them you hear the same thing as from places like SeaWorld: “Oh, they’re wild. They could hurt you. Can’t be trained by anything but positive methods.” Which means, I guess, that they aren’t actually beaten. But they live in a sensory-deprived environment, unable to express their normal behaviors and instincts and are totally dependent on humans for food…..just like the marine mammals at SeaWorld.

I’ve seen an adult snow leopard kept in a cage maybe equal to its full length (barely including the tail), only taken out for “training” and to perform. A baby bear who was allowed to shock itself on an electric wire to “teach” it to stay with in the enclosed area. A badger who could not be handled, so her claws had grown to around twice the normal length. She was kept in a cage and only brought out for photo opps at a pre-dug hole, never getting to dig herself. But, hey, she lived to over twenty, so she must have had a good life, right?

These places breed animals too. Want a cherry-red fox, a particularly desirable color variant? If you’re in that world, you know who to call. Need a white wolf/black jaguar/bobcat/lynx/grizzly cub/cougar/snow leopard/Siberian tiger/Barbary lion? They’re all out there, for a price, just waiting to become stars who make their owners (with luck, lots of) money.

And what happens to the ones who don’t want to socialize to humans or simply refuse to perform and pay their way? I have no personal knowledge, but the economics of running such a business and the fact that zoos and sanctuaries, as far as I know, won’t take these “surplus” animals is suggestive.

The animals at both the ranches that I’ve gone to are kept in enclosures that are, from what I’ve seen, the same size or smaller than the worst, crappy old-time zoo cages that you can imagine. But since the ranches are “regulated” by the Agriculture Department, they come under the heading of livestock, just like cows and pigs, so official zoo standards of care don’t apply. Sweet, uh?

If the accredited zoo standard of care for game ranch wild animals was required, these places would be out of business tomorrow. And lax state regulation and oversight is probably one reason why the ranches are located in the states they are. But I actually did hear the owner of one place complaining about the owner of another because his violations were so constant and egregious that it had brought the Feds down on him and now all the others were facing increased scrutiny. Life is SO unfair.

The motive is the same as with places like SeaWorld- using captive, genetically wild animals for profit by making them perform certain behaviors for humans as and when required. The ranches, so far, fly under the public and animal welfare radar. But pretty much every calendar and a lot of magazine articles that you see and read, with photos of snow leopards, wolves, cougars and the like, are almost certainly captive animals from these ranches. I’ve even recognized some. Oh, there’s Jimmy the cougar and Princess the snow leopard (made-up names).

I must admit to some frustration with artists who profess to care about wild animals enough to spend their professional lives painting them, but have let their desire to be physically close to them and get reference images blind them to what is going on from an animal welfare standpoint. (See above quote by Upton Sinclair) And of course the people who own the ranches are nice folks. I don’t doubt it. I’ve met some of them. I’m sure they believe it when they say that their animals are treated well. But there’s that pesky inherent conflict again.

(I’m ambivalent about zoos, too. But, as another artist put it, she sees the animals in them as the individual sacrifices necessary to save entire species. And real conservation and science goes on at most of them. So, to me, they can justify their existence, more or less. However, I’ve talked to more than one keeper who seemed very certain that they knew what a given animal in their care needed to be “happy”. But is any kind of human introduced “enrichment” or fiddling with the enclosure really enough? And how can the humans really know? See above quote by Upton Sinclair. I’ve seen a depressing amount of stereotyped behavior like pacing and paw-licking at all the “good” zoos.)

The question, to my mind, isn’t how genetically wild animals are treated in captivity when used for human entertainment and profit, but whether should they be kept at all.

(A final note: I have no use for PETA or any other animal rights organization of their ilk. PETA kills 97% of the animals that are unfortunate enough to fall into their clutches. Their agenda is to end the keeping of all animals by humans. They are batshit crazy extremists. See this post on Pet Connection for more information. My concern is animal welfare. And if you are unclear on the difference, use teh googles.)

Additional Comments On Game Ranches and How I See the Issue

My name came up on Julie Chapman’s blog about the article by Thomas Mangelsen in Wildlife Art Journal. In addressing the post and comments there, I ended up adding to my thinking about the issue. The post is here. Here’s my comment.

I guess since my name has come up, I ought to show up and comment here, although I suspect that my comments on the Wildlife Art Journal article make my feelings about the subject pretty clear. I have thought a lot about game ranches since my two experiences at them and have come to feel that they are not a place that I choose to go, for the reasons that I and Mangelsen enumerate.


I don’t believe that for him, and I agree, the issue is being a purist, but of being honest about how and where one collects images of genetically wild animals. If the photo is not labeled “captive”, then people are free to assume, as most do, that the image was taken in the wild, as Larry, and I at one time, believed. Truth in advertising, I guess. That’s not at all the game ranch’s fault or responsibility.

Painters don’t have the same issue of attribution that a photographer has, since a good artist generally uses multiple reference, or brings a unique point of view, for a painting and doesn’t simply copy a single photograph, theirs or anyone else’s.

I think as we live our lives we all end up in the position of having friends, sometimes quite good friends, who do things or have beliefs that we don’t agree with. The choice is either to accept that or end the friendship. Mangelsen chose to stay friends with Bob Kuhn.

By “old school”, I think that he may have been referring more to a way of thinking about animals that has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. We have gone from Descartes’ view that they are “machines”, driven by instinct, feeling no pain and having no souls to a recognition that we share the world with many sentient species. Year by year, the definition of what separates homo sapiens from animals has to be modified. Oh, they use tools. Oh, they recognize themselves in a mirror. Oh, they have culture. Oh, they have a sense of fairness. Oh, they lie and cheat. And the list goes on.

I have found that in order to reconcile, and be personally ethically consistent with, what I have learned over the years about animals and from my involvement in animal welfare (definitely not PETA-type animal rights, a whole different deal) and dog and cat rescue, I can’t justify going to game ranches.

I can, with reluctance, accept zoos that are heavily involved with education, conservation and the preservation of endangered species. I’ve pretty much reached the point where I choose not to support activities in which animals are used for human entertainment where there is a significant risk of abuse, either physical, emotional or psychological. I await the day when animals are no longer needed in any kind of research because computer models are superior.

My thinking is constantly evolving in this area as I add to my knowledge. My husband and I decided last year to no longer eat meat that we cannot source and that we do not know to have come from animals who have been treated humanely. This includes eggs. We refuse to support industrial animal agriculture, with its battery cages, feedlots and cruel confinement.

I wish to emphasize that these are all personal choices. I have no wish to dictate what other artists, photographers or people, in general, choose to do.

I think you can see that my decision about game ranches is just one part of a larger question that I’ve been thinking about for years- What is the appropriate relationship between humans and the fellow creatures we share this planet with?

PS, Larry- Barry Bonds- Being a Giants fan, I watched the whole thing play out. My opinion, and it is just my opinion, is that he probably used something in the 1980s at a time when many players did, so maybe the playing field was effectively re-leveled during The Steroid Era. Maybe he should be prosecuted (he’s charged with perjury, not substance use per se), but then there’s quite a few other ball players who used stuff and lied about it. How come they’re not on trial? His biggest problem has maybe been his attitude, which alienated the sports media, who often seem to feel an amazing sense of entitlement in what they feel they are owed by pro athletes. I’m not pro or anti Barry, by the way. It is what it is. Giants fans have moved on.

Should Artists Go To Game Ranches To Shoot Reference?

Every artist and photographer will have to decide for themselves.  For me, after having been to two of game ranches and having been involved in animal welfare and rescue for the past four years, the answer is “no”.

I do want to make the point, as did Mangelsen, that I am specifically addressing game ranches; not zoos, reserves, sanctuaries or other places with wild animals which have vets and other staff trained in animal care and where the animals are not there for the purpose of “modeling” or “acting” for photographers or artists or to be used in movies, tv or advertising.

Here’s the link to a blog post in the new online publication, Wildlife Art Journal, in which Todd Wilkinson introduces an article by legendary wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen. Mangelsen pulls no punches and I applaud him for exposing to the light of day something that’s been hidden for too long: the price the animals pay so photographers and artists can get “that perfect shot”. For example:

baby-bearThis bear cub was allowed to repeatedly shock itself on the electric wire in order to “teach” it to stay within the enclosure. The cub cried in pain every time and is seen here licking the spot that touched the wire. The keeper also “cuffed”, as in hit, the cub to “discipline it the way a mother bear would”.  To my knowledge, the keeper had no formal training, certification or degree in animal behavior. This was in front of a number of artists, including me, and clearly the keeper had no problem with us seeing how the cub was being introduced to working with humans.

Is any painting or photograph worth being complicit in a fellow creature being treated this way?

UPDATE 6-17-09: I have just learned that the person who is referred to above no longer works for that game ranch. He was fired because of how he treated the animals. Very good news indeed.

Here’s the comment that I left for Mangelsen’s article, which is here:

Finally. It’s not just me who’s wondered….

Posted By Susan Fox on Jun 14, 2009

I’ve been to workshops at two of these places and came away very ambivalent since I am also involved in animal welfare (NOT PETA-style animal rights) and dog and cat rescue. Yes, I got some “great” photos, but the other 10-20 artists who were there got almost exactly the same image.

I’ve noticed a proliferation of cougar paintings over the past few years, which coincide with a whole bunch of artists going to shoots put on by one particular ranch. How big a market is there for cougar paintings? Especially when so many show the same animal on the same red rocks? Do cougars even live in that habitat? I dunno.

Part of what makes me and my art interesting to people (Read: potential buyers) are the stories behind the paintings. So, what do you think a buyer finds more compelling:

“I was at the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone and had set up my easel to paint, but ended up watching one wolf attempt to distract the bull bison who had taken up a defensive posture while a second tried to dart in and cut out a calf. After a half hour they gave it up and, all of a sudden six more wolves popped up out of the grass and they all trotted off “(true story)

“I photographed these two wolves splashing in the water and playing. One was the mother of the other, who was a young adult. No, I have no idea if one would see that interaction in the wild. I have no idea if wolves “play” in the water. I have no idea if they run around chasing each other like two crazy border collies.”
“The cute baby raccoon was brought out and inserted into a hole in a tree stump that was placed on a table.”
I did paint that one and have it available as a giclee. I described him and what he was doing accurately, but otherwise feel that I committed at least a sin of omission. And, when people ask me, as they often do, if or where I saw him in the wild, I tell the truth. I like the image, it was fun to paint, but it and another of a captive animal have become somewhat problematical for me.

I’ve made it a point to do the travel, study and fieldwork required to see wildlife where it lives and learn about a species’ behavior and how it interacts with its habitat. Taking pictures of captive animals I’ve never seen in the wild turns out to be useless to me in that regard. There is so very much more to painting animals than their surface appearance, however appealing.

One thing I always tell people is that I don’t paint what I haven’t seen. And, of course, I have seen the captive animals. But I’ve decided finally that that’s not good enough. Taken out of the context of their habitat ultimately ruins their value to me for reference, except as a supplement to what I would shoot of the real, wild versions. It’s a step better than buying someone else’s photographs to do finished paintings from (as opposed to reference for a detail of some kind), but not good enough for me anymore.

As far as my visits to two game ranches:

I remember seeing, briefly, the cages, one that had an adult snow leopard in it. It was a quarter of the size of a kennel that would be considered an acceptable minimum for a large dog. There was barely enough headroom for the animal to stand up and turn around. It was in a covered area with no natural light.

I remember the baby black bear who was allowed to repeatedly come in contact with the electric hot wire around the enclosure area in order to “teach” him to stay within the boundary. He was also “cuffed” multiple times to supposedly duplicate the discipline of a mother bear. What would you think of someone who did that with a puppy or kitten? How in the world would a human with no background or education in animal behavior, as far as I could tell, have the faintest idea what a momma bear would cuff her cub for?

I remember the owner of one game ranch complaining to us about the owner of another one because the guy had gotten caught and cited by the Feds so many times that it had drawn increased scrutiny onto everyone else.

I remember speaking with a fairly well-known wildlife artist at a show, gingerly asking her about the game ranches. She immediately and strongly assured me that the animals were never mistreated to make them “perform”. I changed the subject.

I’ve wondered more than once when a litter is born, what happens to the babies or youngsters who aren’t willing to be socialized to people. If there are five wolf pups and only one can be handled, what happens to the other four? I think I can guess, but currently have no direct knowledge. However, these people are running businesses that need to make a profit, not sanctuaries.

I believe that there is an inherent conflict in the use of animals for profit at these game ranches. The owner’s revenue stream, profit, mortgage and care of their families is dependent on their ability to “deliver the goods”. And I think, with what I’ve seen in the pet rescue world, history has conclusively shown that if there is a choice between what serves human profit vs. what serves the animal’s interest, the animal almost always comes out on the short end.

Is there a disconnect between wildlife and animal artists who paint what they do out of love for animals, but who then patronize places that are questionable at best? Does the excitement of seeing the animals closeup and getting great photos bury any nagging little doubts or questions about what is going on at these ranches? Is it more convenient to take the explanations of the owners at face value about how they run their business?

I’m not saying that the owners are bad people or that there is deliberate abuse or cruelty going on. But, ask yourself honestly, are the conditions you’ve seen, if you’ve been to the ranches as opposed to the locations, appropriate or right or fair for any animal, much less wild ones.

I am ambivalent no longer. I will no longer patronize game ranches and I urge my fellow wildlife artists to look into their hearts and consider whether or not they should, either.

Cute Alert-Kitten Update

The kittens I’m fostering have gained ground faster than we expected. Merlin has doubled his weight in two weeks, from one pound to two. The shelter staffer who asked me to do the foster came over today and weighed all three. Their coats are now soft and fluffy and their energy level is normal (which is to say, they are total maniacs for hours, then completely crashed out).

I wanted to see how fast I could bring them along and it looks like a combination of three things turned the trick: a big helping of wet food every day in addition to free-feeding kibble; room in a covered pen to run crazy, climb and otherwise get lots of exercise and being handled, snuggled and petted at least twice a day.

Here they are as of today:



and Merlin

If you live in Humboldt County and are interested in any of these guys, go to my contact page on my website and email me. They are now about 8 weeks old and ready to go to great forever homes!

Art and Kittens, How Can I Lose?


I have spent most of my professional life for the last ten years trying to gain some competence in the craft of oil painting. Although some artists proudly describe themselves as “self-taught”, I’m not one of them except in the sense that, in the end, we all have to figure out for ourselves what marks to make on the canvas (or other support) and how and with what to make them in order to express our vision. I’ve found that good instruction is a great timesaver, so I’ve tried to learn from those who have gone before me, either as a student in art school or workshops or by gathering a small collection of “how to do it” or “how I do it” books to learn from past and present masters. It’s those books that I plan to “draw” on in order to share some of what I have found useful, valuable and thought-provoking over the years.

So, we will begin with a quote from Robert Henri’s (pronounced Hen-rye) The Art Spirit:

“Technique must be solid, positive, but elastic, must not fall into formula, must adapt itself to the idea. And for each new idea there must be new invention special to the expression of that idea and no other. And the idea must be valuable, worth the effort of expression, must come from the artist’s understanding of life and be a thing he greatly desires to say.”

(Note: many of these quotes date from a time when women were barely tolerated in the fine arts, so the male pronoun dominates; however, that does not invalidate the content)


These three came into the shelter on June 4 and weren’t in very good shape, either health-wise or willingness to be handled by people. In fact, they started out labeled “feral and fearful”. Shelter staff was able to get them to the point where they could be picked up and petted. I brought them home a week ago on the 17th and will have them until they weigh 2 pounds plus a few ounces, which is the minimum for neutering. They were at around 1 pound, 3 oz,, their coats were dry and I could feel their rib cages since they had no fat. I could feel the vertebrae on the littlest one, who was visibly weaker than his two sisters.

It is one week later and they are much improved, thanks to room to play and high-octane wet food everyday. Coats are soft and tummies filling out. They come running, demanding to be petted now and like tummy rubs. They also have names (fosters get to name their charges); Raven, Kestrel and Merlin. So, here they are at age seven weeks or so:

Raven, whose name suggested the bird theme:

Kestrel, who has vocal opinions about almost everything:

And Merlin, quieter so far, but he was the weakest of the three when he arrived

Latest news: some good, some unbelievable


Update on the juried show front-

Two of the three paintings I entered in “Spirit of the Horse” to be held at the Palos Verdes Art Center, have been accepted. One is “Takhi Stallion and Mare”, part of which forms the masthead for this blog.

The other is “That’s the Spot!, see below. It was painted from reference that I shot at Khomiin Tal in western Mongolia during my September 2006 trip there.

Update on the festival/show front-

Due to gas prices and the slowing economy, at least in California, I have pulled out of the Los Altos show in July.

I will be participating in the 10th annual North Coast Open Studios June 7-8. Please stop on by, I’d love to see you. I’ll have original paintings, prints and cards available, plus the garden is starting to look pretty good.

The following weekend, I’ll be at the Marin Art Festival. I think it’s going to be a whole lot of fun and it’s almost two hours closer to me than the Los Altos event.

My gut feeling said pull out of the first, but don’t pull out of the second.

And, now something totally unique in my 30 year career in commercial and fine art:

I recently realized how important it is to listen to that inner voice. I was invited last year to participated in the art show at the Grand National Rodeo and Horse Show. I had some reservations from an animal welfare standpoint, but decided that I would send five paintings and attend the opening weekend to judge for myself whether or not this is an appropriate venue for me.

That decision will have to wait, since, to make it short, the show was such an unbelievably incompetent mess at so many levels that I ended up crating up my work and pulling out. Yup, loaded it back in the van and brought it home.

Most of the other over 100 artists, including some from England, Australia, Italy, Belgium and Canada, weren’t so lucky. I am participating in a private forum that was set up to sort this out. As of this morning, over six weeks after the close of the show, many of the artists have not gotten their work back. At this point, work is finally starting to move out, but only because of relentless effort on the part of the management of the Cow Palace. A fair amount of what has been returned is dirty, damaged or not in the containers it was sent in. And a lot of those were expensive Air Float boxes, which are to regular cardboard boxes what real cheese is to Velveeta.

In some cases, art was removed from the Cow Palace against the express, specific wishes of the artist.

The “directors” of this show have, IMHO, lied to, misled and otherwise conned all of us. As of today, none of the three has given the slightest sign of a clue that they have done anything wrong. It’s everyone else’s fault. The stories and excuses change almost hourly.

IMHO, do not, under any circumstances, get involved with anything that they are in charge of.

If you are an artist who sent work to the 2008 Grand National Art Show or joined the Grand National Artist’s Society, you need to email Tami at immediately.

Do not join The Grand National Artist’s Society. Do not participate in the art show at the Santa Barbara Fiesta until you have confirmed that none of the people who created this mess are involved. I visited the Fiesta website and it looks like a great event that you should consider if you live down that way!

I am not going to publish names here. Please contact me through my website if you need more specific information. As we are all learning, what goes on the web, stays on the web. Forever.

If I hear of anything else, I’ll post it here.

Final happier note:

Our doggy guest has moved on and very probably has a forever home already waiting for him with someone who had to recently put his 14 year old longer haired shepherd to sleep.

Pet overpopulation is a myth. The homes are out there, but sometimes it takes patience and some effort.

Doggy guest photo

I finally got a good photo of our canine guest, who shall remain anonymous for now. Handsome guy, isn’t he? He has finally come out of his shell enough to get his head up and be interested in what is going on around him. He knows “sit” and is remembering how to walk nicely on lead. I can forward queries about adoption to the long term foster. As you can see from his tail, he needs some serious TLC for the skin issues. Miraculously, he seems to move ok. No obvious dysplastic wobbling.

Back home and in the studio

Got back from my trip last Thursday evening with no more than what is the usual nonsense when one flies these days. Plane was late getting to Denver, so we were late leaving Denver, which meant I missed my 4:12 connection in San Francisco. On the bright side, the airline automatically rebooked me on the next flight home at 6:30, which was good since the last flight out didn’t leave until, ouch, 11:30pm.


We have a canine guest right now, a 3.5 year old male German Shepherd rescued from a seriously rotten situation. I’m doing the emergency foster while a ride is lined up to get him to his long-term foster. He’s spent the last four months with people who didn’t “like” him, so he was kept inside and forced to do his business in a room. He’s got what looks like flea allergy dermatitis. Very thin fur on his back end and tail. Also very scared at first, but totally unaggressive.

We have him on a long cable tie-down on the patio so he can have peace and quiet, but start to get used to a normal environment not filled with screaming and craziness. He’s unneutered, but very submissive. Ignores the cats. Associates collars and having his neck reached for with something negative, but isn’t head shy. Niki is modeling calm, balanced behavior and setting boundaries for their interactions, so he’s my partner in helping get the poor guy back on an even keel. He’ll be a fantastic family companion once he’s had time in a stable environment and gets his confidence back.

I guess the moral is, if you really don’t want an animal, don’t just ignore it and stop caring for it, do what it takes to get them to a place where they have a chance to get a new home where they will get the love they deserve. Sheeh, is that so hard?


I had a great time sketching and photographing at the Denver Zoo, along with getting to see the Robert Bateman show at The Wildlife Experience. There were so many of his iconic images- the snow leopard sitting on a cliff as snow swirls around, the orca amongst the kelp, the storks at dusk with the shimmering band of gold water, plus some of his early abstracts. He is the living master in wildlife art when it comes to design/composition and the sheer beauty of his painting. Very, very inspirational. If you are in the Denver area and you want to see the best in animal art, see his show.

There was also a small room with paintings of African subjects and I was tickled to quickly realize that I had at least met, if not studied, with all of the artists: John Seerey-Lester, John Banovich, Simon Combes and Daniel Smith. I think I feel a lion painting coming on!

In the meantime, here are some of my sketches from the Denver Zoo. Most of them took less than three minutes, if that, so no time to doodle around. First I try to capture the gesture of their pose or movement, then add things like eyes and fur texture. Last is value, Sometimes I end up adding the modeling and “color” while I’m having lunch. The lions were very fit for zoo cats, but I’ll still “tighten” them up by referring to lions I photographed in Kenya.

The horses are my beloved takhi, of which three were out when I was there. I had seen domestic yaks, but these were the first wild yaks. They manage ok in The Mile High City, but in their native (shrinking) habitat, they thrive at 15,000 feet plus.