When you’ve been at Dogster as long as I have (almost five years as of this writing), you get a lot of things in your inbox. I get two dozen pitches from marketers pushing pet-focused products a day, and not all of them are worth a mention on the site or are even a remotely entertaining read. Everyone’s selling something, but no one outright asks you if you’re open to bribery, so I did a literal laugh-out-loud a few weeks back when I opened a note that started: “Hi, Janine, my name is Ken and I hope you are open to bribes.”
In my head, Jon Stewart’s voice drawled “Go on…”
“I am a 65-year-old old guy who has been an artist for at least 55 years. I do all kinds of art … contemporary, abstract, I sculpt in clay, cast in glass and throw pottery on the wheel. For the past year I have been doing pet portraits using water color batik on rice paper. I love dogs and have had dogs all my life although right now the only dogs I have are the ones I paint. They are like grandchildren (of which I also don’t have any) but I get to love my dogs without the responsibility of having to take care of them. I’ve set up an Internet business where people can see what I do. I’m retired and it gives me some extra money to buy supplies and take my wife of 44 years out to eat every now and then. My son who is 40 tells me I sell my work much too cheaply. My objective is to do pet portraits, not make a million. I’d bribe [Dogster’s Social Media Manager] Liz Acosta who seems to do most of your stories about pet artists but she doesn’t have a pet, so I’ve done a portrait of Moxie for you. Send me an address where I can send it and it is yours … without obligation unless you were raised Catholic and then guilt should take over.”
Like anyone else raised in Manila, I do carry a sizable dose of Catholic guilt. But bribery isn’t something editors like me can entertain. I was prepared to click over to the next thing in my inbox, when I noticed Ken had attached an image of his painting. And it was beautiful, set in a style I hadn’t seen in the wild before:
The damn thing actually put tears in my eyes because I came so close to losing my little guy, Moxie, mere weeks before. I navigated to Ken’s page and found his work to be consistently awesome. Seriously, man, no bribery required. Have a look:
Above: Brandy, a Great Dane
Above: Dachshunds Abigail and Amanda
Above: A Corgi named Princess
Above: A Blue Heeler named Baby
Plus, the guy is just such a firecracker. He introduces himself on his site’s bio page this way:
“My mother always described me as an interesting child. That’s because I was always into everything. I know now that I had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but back then you were just called ‘interesting.’
“As I rapidly approach the retirement age of 65 with no thought of actually retiring, I have considered what retirement is … doing what you love. After taking a class in watercolor batiking on rice paper I edged closer to making that discovery. After doing several pet portraits for friends I realize this is what I want to do. The thrill of seeing one’s pet immortalized is infectious, and the joy my clients experience on seeing their original art is extremely satisfying. Plus, I can do this art from anywhere in the world for anyone in the world.”
I shared Moxie’s story with Ken (short version: dog leaped from three-story window onto the concrete; broke a leg but miraculously survived … $8,200 in emergency vet bills later), telling him I was taking a hiatus from writing (at the time) to care for my little guy. And he insisted on sending me his portrait anyway, alongside a note that read “I hope Mr. Mox is mending and has decided to stick with running and stop flying forever!” Hey, that’s my hope too.
Check out more cuteness on Dogster:
About the Author: Janine is your typical annoying Aries overachiever with nine human siblings and a soft spot for sighthounds. She is a tattoo collector, tea drinker, and unabashedly into marshmallows and cheesy musicals. Janine believes responsible breeders exist — her dog is from one. She runs the show as editor-in-chief of Dogster and Catster.