Monday, January 30, 2017

Colonial Charm, Southern Hospitality, And The Perfect Kitty

After visiting Frederick, Maryland, for Easels in Frederick, it quickly made the list of possible places to settle down if we ever decide to go back to a sticks and bricks life.

Frederick and its surrounding communities are picturesque, and the people are friendly. Just as I have come to love some of the great neighborhoods of New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and St. Louis, I fell for downtown Frederick immediately, with its great shops and restaurants, and blocks of lovingly maintained colonial townhouses. It’s the charm of salvaged history coupled with all the desirable modern amenities. Frederick is also relatively affordable yet within easy driving distance of other great cities like New York and Washington D.C., something we took advantage of the first chance we got. So what’s not to love about Frederick?

The icing on the cake of the Easels event was our housing hosts. The couple have deep roots in the area, and we learned some interesting local history from them. They also gave me these playing cards as a gag after hearing about our bear adventures (exaggerations) in Cumberland. Love, love, love these people. 

Our hosts also have a young golden retriever named Summer, and of course we photographed and painted her. She’s such a gorgeous girl, how could we not?

Probably my favorite memory from this event was a peaceful morning Patrick and I spent at Monocacy National Battlefied. Patrick painted the historic Thomas House, and I was able to capture a vivid sunrise while he did. 

Patrick also painted a barn on the property of our housing hosts that ended up winning a light award at Easels … no shortage of historic barn charm in Maryland.

As soon as Easels in Frederick was over, we had to hustle to Richmond, Virginia for Plein Air Richmond, which started the day after Easels ended. Again we lucked out with a great host couple who could have not been more gracious and welcoming. They have two dogs who make the most adorable pair, especially side by side - big Bentley and little Dudley - so more pet photography and painting of course ensued. It was about at this point that Patrick and I realized that if we could just travel the country photographing and painting pets for portraits, that would be our ultimate dream job, a next level of joy even above the dream jobs we are already living. Maybe someday we’ll get there. Patrick loves painting pets - they are by far his favorite subject. We loved Bentley and Dudley's painting so much it ended up on our latest business card.
I tagged along with Patrick to Maymont Gardens, one of the Plein Air Richmond painting locations, out of sheer curiosity because I had never been there before. It’s a beautiful place, and well worth visiting, but I didn’t get any photographs of it because I ended up on a cat run.

After Patrick had scouted and picked a location at the garden, which produced another of my favorites of his plein air paintings this season, I wandered off to explore. I never got my camera out of its bag, because I stumbled across a scrawny cat, crying loudly. He was very friendly, and VERY hungry. He was pretty underweight, and had a small wound on his lower gums, something I have seen before in my years of work with animal shelters and rescues. It’s the type of injury that frequently occurs when a starving animal gnaws on things that aren’t particularly edible, in hopes of sustenance. From what I could tell, this little fellow was living under a bush at the garden, either a stray or dumped. He was very friendly and trusting with people, and while he was underweight and a little dirty, he wasn’t filthy, so perhaps he hadn’t been living in the garden for very long. I found a garden employee and asked if he knew about this cat. He did not, and said he would check with the rest of the staff. I went back to kitty, who continued to rub up against me, crying loudly. Anyone who’s ever had a cat knows that sound. It doesn’t matter how well fed they might be, cats can scream for food like they’re about to die. I decided to run to a deli down the street from the garden and pick up a can of cat food. Kitty came running as soon as I came back to his spot in the garden, and it broke my heart to see the speed at which this little fellow wolfed down his food - he was clearly starving.

A park volunteer came at this point with some food in her hand. As soon as she found out there was a stray cat in the park, she had rustled up the remnants of a staffer’s fast food breakfast in hopes of catching the cat. She was adamant about the urgency. “We can’t leave him here,” she told me, because of all the wildlife in the park - a hawk could get him, or he might wander into the bear sanctuary. At about this time I ran across one of the organizers of Plein Air Richmond from the Brazier Gallery. She suggested that I contact the Richmond SPCA, which happens to be the beneficiary of the Plein Air Richmond event. To make a long story short, I drove to the Richmond SPCA to get a cat carrier, and the Richmond SPCA agreed to check the cat for a micro chip. We were hoping we might be able to re-unite the cat with his owner. He was such a sweet and friendly feline that it seemed plausible that someone might be missing him. The SPCA was great - they gave me a carrier and a blanket, and I headed back to the garden to get the cat.

Until fairly recently, Patrick and I had four cats. We loved them to pieces, and they were spoiled rotten. The only thing I don’t love about cats is trying to get them into carriers. Most of them fight you like it’s a death match. I have a scar from trying to get a cat in a carrier. When I got back to the garden, I was dreading this part. I even asked the Plein Air Richmond representative from the Brazier Gallery to back me up, because I fully expected a fight. But bless his heart, this guy didn’t fuss or fight at all. Not even a squirm. He was as docile and gentle as could be. He whined a bit in the car on the way to the SPCA, but that was it. Cats seem to universally hate car rides as much as they hate carriers. I remember thinking “Wow, this little guy is perfect.”

Sadly, there was no micro chip. The Richmond SPCA then gave him a quick check up. He was under weight and dehydrated, but there were no outward signs of serious illness or disease. Unfortunately, because there was no micro chip, kitty’s next stop was the city animal shelter. The SPCA called ahead for me, because it was a Sunday, making sure that I could get in, and that the cat would be taken. They also promised to pull kitty back over to the SPCA as soon as possible. City regulations require that strays go to the city animal shelter and be put on hold for a certain number of days, which gives their owners a chance to find them if they are lost. I went to visit kitty at the shelter every day while we were in Richmond, and I felt really guilty about him being in a cage, but at least he was no longer starving, and I didn’t have to worry about him being injured or eaten. The city animal shelter took good care of him, and the SPCA pulled him as soon as his hold was up, and while it took quite a long time because he is an adult cat, little Potter, as he came to be named, was finally adopted.

I can’t say enough good things about the Brazier Gallery and the Richmond SPCA. Both parties stepped up immediately to help an animal in distress, and to get him out of danger. I can’t thank them enough. 

I still think about Potter from time to time, because he was a perfect gentleman. Even at the city shelter, he remained friendly, and it must have been scary for him. I really wanted to keep him for myself, but Patrick is terribly allergic, and I am mildly so. We could get away with having cats when we lived in a large space, but in an Airstream, it would never work. So we can only spoil other people’s cats these days. If you have one, give your cat a good cuddle for me. I miss always having a warm lap and falling asleep to a good purr. - Kimberly

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