Since I’ve already sketched all of my childhood pets that I personally owned, I decided to sketch a memorable pet from my childhood. Meet Luke, he was the little sheltie that my grandmother got after her collie Lucky passed away. Lucky and I were fast friends, and used to do everything together, but this new dog didn’t seem to like anyone beyond my grandmother. Or, at the very least, he didn’t seem to be very interested in me. Each time I’d get close, he’d trot off in the other direction. This made my child brain explode as dogs were all meant to be friendly and love me on sight. I was determined to make this dog like me if it was the last thing I did. After many feverish attempts, I managed to get Luke to sit still next to me. Yet, the moment I moved too suddenly he would rush away without even looking back. I realize now, that something had indeed happened in his past to make him a bit skittish. Had I been an adult, I would have simply left him alone. But, I was a kid and kids must be loved by dogs. It was just how things were meant to be and I was not going to accept it any other way. I set out on a plan to make Luke at least my friend, if not my best friend, and a new adventure was born.

Each time I would visit my grandmother and see Luke, I would slowly go over to speak to him. Assuming he didn’t run away immediately, I would start talking to him about school and other mundane things. He would sort of look up at me in a questioning way as if to say, “why the hell are you telling me all of this again?” But, the fact that he stayed in one place to hear those things felt like a victory. Feeling encouraged, I would ever so slowly extend my hand to pat him on the head. He would flinch, at first, but then get a touch curious and sniff my hand. On the first few tries, I wasn’t able to touch him at all. But, I’ve always had this habit of never giving up. I just keep trying something I want until I make it so. In the case of Luke, this wasn’t going to be an easy task. It would take a couple of years before I was able to make that first contact. Interestingly, though, getting Luke to sit and listen to my ridiculously mundane stories was easy each time. He would sit and calmly listen to whatever I rambled on about, sometimes imperceptibly nodding his head in agreement or sniffing a bit to disagree. Though not much for the touching bit, he was a very good listener and so I forged on.

Then, after a couple of years, that most miraculous moment happened. I reached out my hand and he didn’t flinch or make a move to run away. I made my first contact and he bowed his head a bit so I could pet him properly. I gently touched his fur and even risked a little scratch of the ear, which he accepted in kind. This is the moment in the story that I’m supposed to tell you that from this day forward everything changed. And it did in many ways. But, I was never able to rush up to him with excitement or call him and have him come wagging his tail to greet me. But, I could sit and chat with him or at him and then pet him for a little bit. And once or twice, while telling him something that happened that day, his normally clenched jaw would relax. His mouth would open and expose his little pink tongue, which seemed, at least to me at the time, like a giggle or at least a display of happiness. In his own special way, I think it was. He was hurt at some point in life long before I met him, and though I never knew it at the time, taking the time to get to know him was all he ever really wanted. Sometimes, no matter what we want to happen, everything will simply happen exactly when it should. And still today, I have the fondest of memories of that time I made that unexpected connection while making Luke smile.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Terra Cotta, Opus (Vivid Pink), and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Day 27 - Sheltie Watercolor Illustration - Doodlewash


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34 thoughts on “Making Luke Smile

  1. Wonderful story, brings back memories of our herders. All a bit cautious by nature. The middle one was a Shelty Elkhound mix he’d nearly starved and been abandoned before he came to us. Our baby was always so timid with strangers, especially men. They are all worth the time to make friends with, so smart, so vigilant. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Did you know that some experts believe the Sheltie is the most intelligent breed of dog. Their nervous temperament makes it harder to tell than with Border Collies and other more trainable breeds. It is wonderful that you were able to forge a friendship with Luke. I can see why it would be a memorable experience.

    1. I didn’t know that! Though I could believe it. They say the same about basenjis… apparently we humans only ascribe intelligence to dogs easily trained. Funny that we don’t use the same thought process when thinking about humans. 😉

  3. Charlie says, ” Sometimes, no matter what we want to happen, everything will simply happen exactly when it should”

    So very true!

    As for the portrait of Luke, oh my what a beauty.

  4. Such a nice painting and story about Luke. Ah now I see your latest photo in your website..Blue frame does look good on you…..You have also organised the reference photo section ?? The photographs are nicely grouped together…I was looking for some flower photographs for my flower watercolor painting practice…and it was easy to retrieve them.

    1. Aww thanks, June! 😃💕 Glad you like the new specs! I figured I should update my photo after all this time to reflect the current me. I’ve gotten a bit older, but of course, I’m still NOT growing up! lol

  5. This portrait of Luke is simply beautiful. You’ve captured his handsome face so well that he looks alive, as if he’s sitting next to me. I really love the way you painted this one.

    The story of you and Luke is touching. You gave a wounded dog a new chance to learn to trust. He gave you something even more worthy, if that’s possible. He taught you patience, perseverance, and kindness. To learn any of that is terrific but you learned all at a very young age.

    Two years! Two years of letting Luke dissolve his grave fears, two years of you sitting by his side. That kind of friendship approaches the sacred.

    In three paragraphs every day, you find the nugget of truth that makes each little moment bigger than its footprint. Ya gotta write a book, Charlie.

    1. Aww you’re so sweet Sharon! 😃💕 Thank you so much as that means the world to me. You’re a talented scribe yourself so I truly appreciate the compliments! And yeah, I’m totally wanting to write a book from scratch, but right now the only one is a collection of my favorite stories here –

  6. I love this story. I’m pretty sure you are right about his history but that’s a lot of patience for a kid and it paid off, so well done, you! I used to have a collie and I really love this drawing. Such personality comes through.

    1. Thanks so much! 😃💕I’m so thrilled you liked this and that it brought back memories of your collie! And yeah… I’m not sure if kids think in terms of patience… they just have a lot of tenacity and will power! 😉

  7. What a touching story. You were so patient with Luke. Another child would not have had the perseverance to work with Luke for years but you did. While maybe all you wanted was to be able to pet him, what you did for him was far more important, reduce his fear, give him confidence, open his circle and trust another person. You might not have accomplished what you hoped for, him bounding to greet you in joy, you lightened the life of that little dog just a little. And that makes all the difference. While he may not have shown it, Luke probably looked forward to your visits. You did a wonderful thing for him.

    I notice you have taken a new photo wearing your lovely vintage blue glasses, now fitted with your prescription. They do suit you very well. The perfect color for you. Not everyone can pull that off.

    1. Thanks so much! 😃💕Thrilled you enjoyed this story. Luke was quite special and I think you’re right.. he was probably excited to see me after all, in his own way. And glad you like the new glasses! yeah… not a subtle color, but then I’m not one for subtle colors! lol

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