life list the dogs

Life List: Commision a Piece of Art – Check!

When Paul Ferney last offered slots in The Commission Project, I bought one and picked this photo to be turned into a 5×7″ oil painting in Ferney’s pretty, impressionist style.

Only one living figure was was allowed in the painting for the discounted price, so I chose Tino. Of all three dogs, he was the most rejected and downtrodden when we found him.

You remember the story. It was 2007 and we were on a tour bus in Puerto Rico that stopped at a beach. I wandered away from everyone and heard a crying noise over by some trucks. When I saw what was making all the racket, my stomach flipped over, and even though I didn’t realize it at the time, nothing was ever the same again.

Years later, I still think about what I saw; often it promts me to scoop Tino up into my chest and nuzzle my nose on the top of his fuzzy head. If I think about it too long, I start dripping tears down his ears and snout.

Someone had broken his back, and his hind legs were completely paralyzed and laid out behind him, useless. He was dirty, skinny, starving and dehydrated. We gave him a water bottle out of cupped hands, which was all we had, and asked around about him. A few locals shrugged.

“He’s been there for five days.” they said. “No one really cares.”

I became a whole other, stronger person that day as I jumped through hoops and endured a disheartening level of scorn from family to get him rescued, fixed up, and sent to live with us.

Today, he is the worst-behaved and least-loved* of our three dogs. He’s wary around strangers, barks crazily at strange dogs, and bites anyone who dares attempt to pet him (Rob and I can, but no one else.)

But he can’t help it. He tries to be a good dog, I can see it in his body language. He’ll cuddle with a few of our more trusted (and mostly female) friends, and as long as they keep hands off, he’ll fall asleep with his chin on their knees. That was something we never thought we’d see when we first got him. He learned a few tricks, too, and despite how frustrating he can be sometimes, I’m enormously proud of him and how far he’s come.

I know it sounds a little ridiculous, and Tino doesn’t understand, but I thought he deserved this anyway. A throw-away dog turned into a cherished oil painting is a good happy ending.

*By others, of course. I’m not allowed to have favorites!


  1. Sara Corona

    31 January 2012 at 6:59 am

    We met at the APW party this weekend, I added your blog to my blogfeed, and can use your post today to compliment a book I’m reading with students about a poorly behaved dog! The education gods are smiling on me again, thanks to you!

  2. Kizz

    31 January 2012 at 10:52 am

    He’s a beauty and his origin story makes me tear up every time. I would have a very hard time not petting him and therefore would probably get my hand chewed off. Totally worth it.

    I don’t know what happened to the philatelic post but I love stamps, too! It’s hereditary, I got it from my mom.

  3. Cindy

    31 January 2012 at 11:54 am

    Oh Tino…. So deserving. Both of you. It’s so surprising how we think we are rescuing the dog, but it turns out the other way around.

  4. Nicole

    31 January 2012 at 12:02 pm

    You got me to Amber! I’m now sitting at work with tears in my eyes desperately needing a Tino snuggle. Glad you recognized the lovely in him and saved his complicated soul.

  5. Patrice

    1 February 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I standby that Tino isn’t the least loved, but the most respected. I’d be jumpy if my back had been broken too..Not to mention that it probably wasn’t the first time he’d been hurt.

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