9.5x12" acrylic on wood
(C) Cara Bevan 2010
Tootsie brown chocolate labrador dog pet portrait acrylic painting
In my journey to paint the many animals that live on our farm, I had to paint our longest living dog Tootsie.

In 1997, a black Lab named Midnight had a litter of puppies in my father’s woodshop. The gentle tempered lab had six beautiful puppies. We already had three dogs at the time – a miniature schnauzer named Babe, a
basenji named Ninja, and a border collie named Sonny. Seeing the puppies melted our hearts though. My sister and I were allowed to choose one. The only chocolate lab of the six black puppies was Tootsie, and we
went straight for her.

As a puppy, Tootsie was energetic and mild mannered. We raised her inside before giving her an outside lot and house to live in. As she got older and interacted with the other dogs, her temperament changed.
Knowing little about dogs (and dog psychology), we couldn’t control her growing aggression. She would chase the cats, nip and jump, and bark and growl. The status of the pack became apparent, even though we
housed the dogs separately at night. Tootsie was the powerhouse and leader. She was overweight in her prime and could push around the others. Babe was never messed with, and obedient and half-paralyzed Ninja
was left alone. The obsessive, overactive Sonny got a different treatment. Tootsie didn’t like her constant running. The collie didn’t care for people, didn’t care for animals, all she wanted was to push a basketball
across the grass until her legs gave out and nose was raw. Tootsie would often attack her with little warning or restraint. I was scared of Tootsie at the time – I was around 10.

We added another dog to our pack, one of Tootsie’s black lab sisters. Haley’s previous owners couldn’t keep her so we openly took her in. The timid mellow girl fit in behind Tootsie. She submitted to Tootsie’s every
whim, making the chocolate lab that much more powerful. I remember one incident where Sonny was close to Haley, playing her usual game. I wasn’t far away when Tootsie attacked Sonny with all her power! They
screamed and hollered and I was horrified. I was young; I couldn’t do a thing against the overweight lab! My mom came running and screaming to break the fight up. I hated and feared Toostie for a while, even though
no damage was done.

I had little to do with our dogs for several years. Haley passed of a kidney infection. Sonny had a heart attack from too much exercise. Ninja went from old age, and Babe did too at the age of 18. Tootsie was left alone.
I gradually began to see Tootsie in a different light. With no other dogs to dominant, her weight under control, and age slowing her movements, she changed yet again. She let cats sniff and befriend her. One cat, our
berserker Louie, even began to dominate her! She submitted to his leadership. Every evening she waited by the door of her enclosure quietly so we could let her out to play. She’d pant and whine happily when the
door opened. She couldn’t jump anymore due to arthritis. I made a habit of seeing and giving her attention. I even taught her manners, something she’d never been introduced to before. I couldn’t fear the gentle old
girl anymore.

The one thing that lasted through her years, and what I remember the most, is her smile. She learned as a pup to greet people with a half raised snarl. She wasn’t really snarling; it was a unique Tootsie smile. As she
got older, her face “got stuck like that”. Her smile would widen when she saw me about to let her out of the pen. Even as a grumpy youth I recognized that smile. The joy it gave me to see helped me rid of the fear.

                                                                                                                                                       RIP, February 17, 2011
Dog Gallery
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