I've always loved painting but I didn't get into it in a big way until I discovered my passion for painting dogs. That came about when I wanted a big bold painting for a large blank wall and couldn't find anything just quite right. So I painted my beloved black labrador, Murphy.
Murphy is the subject of many of my paintings, as is his crazy chocolate lab companion Bruno, and it's just as well because a few months ago we found out that Murphy has hemangiosarcoma. It's an aggressive cancer that can often go undetected until your dog collapses from internal bleeding. It's most often found in the spleen (as Murphy's was) and then it can also be accompanied by another tumour in the heart. Which means that even though Murphy had an immediate splenectomy, his prognosis isn't great. Especially since they found he also had melanoma in his right eye (if you look closely it is black compared to his other amber one) and a cell mast tumour. That's three malignant cancers, as well as a huge lipoma (fat tumour) no doubt fuelled by all the treats we're giving him now that we know his days are numbered.
In an attempt to have a handle on the future with such uncertainty ahead I googled and googled and what I came up with was statistics that said he had anywhere between 18 days post-surgery to a year, but most dogs didn't make it past three months. We should have known Murphy wasn't like most dogs because that was back in November and he's still with us today (the week before the start of May). In many ways he's better than ever because he's on anti-inflammatories as part of his palliative care and it's put a spring in his step. As someone said, "No one's told Murphy he's sick."
When we found out that Murphy's time wasn't going to be as long as we'd hoped, we started an instagram account for him. You can view it here. It's journalling the things that we are doing to make his last months super happy. We've taken him to the beach, let him eat steak, he's had McD's chicken nuggets, ridden in the back of a convertible, had cuddles whenever he's requested them, you name it...
This week, though, I managed something for Murphy that I really had my fingers crossed about. I had entered an Australia-wide competition run through my local council. It was something I had chanced upon by accident - as if it had actually sought me out. The competition, nicknamed 'Archipaws' as a nod to the Archibalds Portrait Competition, was run by Willoughby Council in conjunction with Billy + Margot pet foods. The culmination is a pet festival at my local Artarmon Reserve on May 20th, 2018. This week I received notification that I had been made a finalist, and as such my dream - and a tick on Murphy's bucketlist - came true: His face, as painted by me, would be printed on a 2 metre long banner and hung in Chatswood CBD for the month of May.
Tomorrow is the media launch and I am going. I'm very nervous as I'm more of a 'behind the scenes' sort of person, but I really want to see Murphy's banner in situ.