Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tonka's back!

So, this is Tonka :)

He is a 5 and-a-half year old, 130 pound American Bulldog (mix - Mastiff, maybe? I mean, he's HUGE.) and we just adopted him. Here's his story:(sit still. it's a lonnng one.)

Tonka had been living at our local vet's office since July 25 (2008), as much of his back-history as I know is that the owners had to give him up because they couldn't care for him any longer ... I think they had kept him as an outdoor dog, and he has severe allergies which caused him to scratch alot and of course those areas got infected. He also had a hematoma (collection of blood under the skin of the ear flap) which the vet had to surgically remove. He has about a 2" scar there now, but it's okay! He is allergic to: Corn, Soybean, Beef, Chicken, Duck, Rice, Pork, Lamb (HIGHLY allergic to lamb! baaa!), Potato, Pea - all kinds of weeds, a few trees, a couple types of grasses, some dust mites, penicillium, cockroaches, black and fire ants, and of course; fleas. WHEW! So he MUST be kept as an indoor dog (a main reason I think he wasn't quickly adopted.) not to mention the superclose eye you have to keep on his diet so he doesn't have a flare up. He's on a special RX vet pet food made from mostly oat flour and kangaroo (Um. I know. I'd never heard of such a thing either, but there ya go. Bring on the 'Roo meat!)

Anyway, we got a newsletter email went out from the vet's on Sep 9 saying that they had a couple dogs needed to be adopted. Tonka sounded pretty cool, and since I got Weezer, the boys had been wanting a dog, so I called and got more info on him. When I heard he weighed 130 lbs I was like "Ohhh. Wow, that's big." and pretty much thought that was the end of that. I called Mr Gem up at work anyway and said "Hey! You wanna 130 pound Bulldog?!" ... After a bit of a laugh he said, Well, sure let's go look at him, at least. This was a Friday, and his next day off was Sunday (when the vet is closed) so we wouldn't be able to go see him 'til Monday. Well that didn't work for me ; ) so I called'em up and asked if they'd let me have him over the weekend; figuring that would give us all a chance to meet him, see how he did with the boys, the kitty, etc ... They said sure! so I went and picked him up before the kids got home from school. And I have to be honest. When I went back into the kennel and got my first look at him? I was thinking: Oh. GOD, no. He's Gi NORmous. And I really though about saying "nevermind." But I'd said I'd take him and when we went out in the yard area to "meet" he was really playful and sweet so I thought Well, he deserves at least a chance, right? ... And he hightailed it for the door when we went out and LEAPT! into the backseat of the car, and sat there as happy as could be on the 5 minute ride home. They gave me a bag of his special food for the weekend, and said if there was any trouble just bring him right back.

Not only was there no *trouble! but he was downright AWESOME! He got along with Weezer (the cat) who was completely intrigued by this super big walking fur thing, they played and pawed a bit but nothing worrisome (a 5 yr old dog and a 5 month old kitten, I mean come on!) - he signaled at the door to go outside no problem, he didn't bother at my neighbor's Labs when they came out, just kinda sniffed and peeked at them through the fence slats, then pee'd on the boards and went on his way. He didn't dig or jump up on the fence, - we had kids, teens and people in and out all weekend and while he woofed a few times at cardoors or people coming up to the door, he didn't jump or bark or bother anyone once they came in, let them pet him and scratch his ears and everything. My 11 yr old who is the one I was concerned about not being comfortable with such a big dog took to him immediately! With hugs around the neck and they went out and ran (Tonka gallops, actually) and played ball and chased had a fun time. He slept at the foot of our bed at night (on a Blues Clues blanket on the floor) and oh yeah ~ he SNORES. heh. Everyone seemed real happy, we all loved him right away! and he seemed quite at home from the minute he gallumped in the door.

Then we got serious and discussed it, and realized exactly what it would mean to take on this animal. He has the special diet, right? Well it's food that costs $75 a bag, and he goes through two a month. And it's not for a few months while his skin clears up then he can have regular food. It's FORevER. Plus this breed is prone to hip displaysia, and his size and age means he may be getting into that stage where more health issues will be coming up. We decided we just couldn't afford to keep him. Sigh. So we were pretty bummed on that Monday when we brought him back. Everyone at the vet understood, and appreciated that we'd given him a little break away from the kennel at least ... We did also offer to foster him for awhile or even just take him on weekends now and then until they could find an owner.

Sooooo. About a week and a half goes by ... Now understand, I am the impulsive, snap-decision, just get-what-I-want-when-I-want-it type, and Mr. Gem is ... NOT :D But I got the feeling he was hoping I would go back and get Tonka myself - he really was the perfect "Daddy Dog" if you know what I mean by that ... Mid week I started doing a bit of number crunching with our income, regular bills, where could we cut, etc - and realized (though this was actually something I already knew, pretty much) we are Very Wasteful $penders, and actually would be able to manage his food bill and normal vet visits, and even pet insurance if we thought that would be worthwhile - IF we would just make some changes in our spending habits as far as groceries and impulse buys, etc. Which we really needed to do anyway. I felt good about my plan, and was barely able to keep quiet! but I did ...

Tuesday, Sep 23:
I called Stephanie (adoption coordinator at the vet) to ask after Tonka and see if he'd been adopted yet (I was SO SURE he was gonna be gone! I almost didn't wanna call and find out) He had not, and she said he was probably only going to be with them another week, then they'd have to see about getting him in a rescue group. I said "Hold that thought. We very well may be coming to get him. Can't promise, but if hub goes for my new budget plan, we'll come get him tomorrow" - She also told me that he was back on antibiotics, beeeeecaaause, there actually WAS a teeeeny bit of *trouble when we'd had him over the weekend - see we ordered pizza one night and when the box was put in the fridge apparently it blocked the door from closing all the way, which no one noticed until doggy was there and snarfing up something off the floor. Seems he managed to knock the box down so some pizza slid out - he probably got two whole slices down before we got him outt there. Sooooo. We did tell them this when we brought him back and I could tell they were really concerned about it and I fel soooo bad! We'd been so careful with everything else - the garbage can, the cat food, making sure no one left food laying out anywhere ... it was just one of those stupid accidents but I still felt terrible knowing we'd set his recovery back by several weeks ...

Wednesday, Sep 24:
After the kids went to school I casually asked hub what he had planned for the day. Nothin, really. Well, says I - why don't we run to the bank, on the way back go pick up your dog, then maybe you could clean the pool when we get home ... Eyebrows up he's all "What's that? Dog? Excuse me?" - so I explained the plan, that Tonka hadn't been adopted and wouldn't be there much longer. He was tentative (so normal.) but agreed it looked like we would be able to do it - not easily! but not to the point where we'd be strained, either. YaY! I called the office and said Hi it's me, we decided we're gonna come get Tonka ... She said "Yeah, they've been expecting you to come today" (hehe. I guess I'm pretty transparent.) - So after we ran our errands, we went to the vet - filled out the paperwork, had his records transferred over to our account, got a goodie bag filled with his meds, special shampoo and wipes, some wet food so we could make "meatballs" to put his pills in, plus the rest of his dry food, and some flea treatment as well. Then they brought him out and we were so happy to see him, and I guess he was happy to see us - he came and flopped down on the floor and laid there, then ran out the door when it was time to go!

The kids were VERY surprised when they got home and saw who was there!, and very happy and glad to find out we'd be keeping him, even if it meant making some sacrifices ... He's SO worth it  --- (I'm giving up my craft store trips, if that tells you anything. I mean seriously, at this point I think I can craft-shop right in my own house, so I'll be fiiiiiiine!)

Anyway that's the *START* of the story of Tonka ~ expect many more pictures and tails (harhar) to come!

~ gem ~

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Collage Play with Crowabout

I recently joined an online collage-challenge group:
Collage Play with Crowabout ~ Nancy Baumiller's Flickr group for weekly collage challenges. She supplies us with a collage sheet of random images once a week on Saturdays, and we have until Friday to complete a collage piece of our own using those supplied images.

We're supposed to use at least three of the images in our own piece (though ideally you'd use them all in some fashion), and any other images or mediums are not only allowed but encouraged. I've seen many people use their own imagery in both handpieced paper collage as well as many wonderful digitally produced pieces - however these are my own self-imposed rules for my weekly pages:

1) Must use each & every image Nancy suplies (whether in whole or part)
2) Must use ONLY those images! no other printed or found images or items
3) Tools and media allowed such as paper punches, paints, markers, pens, chalks, etc.

Thought I would use this past week's page to do a step-by-step procedure posting on how I create my pages, which I am doing in a 10" by 7" spiral bound journal book. And here we go!

First thing I do of course is print out Nancy's collage page, on a letter size page of plain white cardstock. I usually adjust the brightness and contrast a bit in Photoshop first, so that the printed images are clear and bright. Then I color my page background, using either watercolors, pastels (chalks), art crayons, or - as in this case - direct to paper inking. I just randomly apply color in two to four shades, contrasting or co-ordinating depending on my whim of the day:

I then cut out all the pieces as they are on the page, and start figuring out what can become what. At this point I don't usually have any idea for an overall page theme or design, I just let it come to me as the individual elements work themselves out. Right off the bat here I see the two orangey striped triangles as legs, and as I try to incorporate a character or figure into all my pages, I know that's where I will start. I cut out bits and pieces until I've created these folks:

I like'em! but now what? Originally I'd intended to use the partial clockface as an umbrella, but once the figures were done I decided I would make it into the arch over the top of a doorway, which led to the idea of having the couple welcoming the viewer into their home. This is where I used the leftover sliver of home interior image and the large wood piece to create the doorway and door. I didn't like the blue BG showing through, so I painted behind that with a mix of ivory and burnt umber craft paints. Though it now looks as though a waterfall is pouring through their entryway - eyeroll

Now my page theme is taking shape ~ I see the cracker images as headstones, so I cut them smaller and add a bit of the text imagery for the "names" , and I decide to stagger them along a path of some sort ... I used the chickenwire image as a fence, and drew in my own path, utilizing my horribly disjointed sense of direction and perspective (is it a tomb tree? a funnelcloud? Jack's beanstalk, or what?!) to make a pathway meandering through the couple's yard, littering it with the dead along the way ...

Finally I add my *handwritten text (PITT pen): "The Bailey's Welcomed Everyone to Stay ... Permanently ..." to show my charming couple inviting you to enter their home, 'cept you don't realize there's only one way out and it ain't the way ya came in!

I also outlined everything in white Signo gelpen to help it standout - and I ink all the edges of the individual pieces with shades of brown before they are glued down to the page, using either Sharpies or inkpads, depending.

Now, I love the couple! and I like the "story" behind it, but overall I don't care for the entire piece as a whole. Yes, I AM my own harshest critic, but don't feel you have to comfort me or boost me up! - 'cause while I am definitely hypercritical, I am also usually my own biggest fan and that side tends to win out in the end : )

*One of the group members had asked for input on how everyone was doing their hadwritten journaling on the pages, and this is what I sent her, thought I'd included it here too for anyone else interested in my own lettering process ...

Take care now and havva GREAT day!
~ gem ~

First, get some good gel pens and markers (I like Signo gelpen in white, PITT ink pens or ZIG Millenium memory book writers, and of course SHARPIES - note the new Sharpie pens, they are fine line Sharpies in black or blue ink but no bleedthrough on your paper ...

If you look at my 2 most recent Crowabout collages, they both have lettering I did freehand right to the paper. And you can really tell the difference between those and the previous 2 which I did in my USUAL manner of writing, which is:

1) After the collage is done, I write out my text on a piece of scrap paper until I get the exact wording I want.

2) I take a thin sheet of writing or drawing paper (or tracing paper if need be) and lay that over the section of the collage that will be journaled on, drawing an outline of the basic shape of the area in pencil. Then either using a ruler or freehand (depending if I want say, curvy or shaped lines of text) I mark out my lines -

3) I practice writing my text block (still in pencil) on these lines until I get it layed out evenly and spaced how I'd like. Once I'm happy with it -

4) I carefully and LIGHTLY draw pencil guidelines on the collage itself. Then I copy the text from my practice page onto the collage in pencil, (just by eyeballing it, making any adjustments if need be) and once I have THAT done and am satisfied it's exactly how I want it, I go over the lettering in my choice of pen or marker.

5) Gently erase all the pencil marks including the guidelines (this can be a bit tricky if your BG is in say chalk or pastels like alot of mine are!) and then go over the letters again in your pen/marker, this time adding little flourishes or thickening the edges, etc ...

6) Accent with another color marker or outline in contrasting ink, whatever you want and TaDa! you've handlettered your page!

I know it sounds like alot of work and while I don't do EVERY page like this, it is how I prefer to do it (but that's cause I'm a nitpicking perfectionist so take that for what it's worth), but I think you can see the difference in those pages where I have done my method VS freehanding it all the way ... all in all it's at the very least good practice at lettering so that eventually you'll be able to just write away directly to your pages :)

Hope that helps give you some idea of how to go about it and that you see not all of us are supremely talented at journaling and handlettering - we gotta work at it! (though I do envy those who can just straight up write the page out freehand and have it look all font-perfect, grrr!)