My Furry Muse


Creative inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Picasso had his beautiful model/mistresses to nourish his art. For my muse, the universe has given me a small, slightly scruffy rescue dog—with issues.

Of course, he didn’t start out as my muse, or even my dog. He was supposed to be for my daughter Maya, then eleven years old. Searching online for a hypoallergenic breed, she found a small white poodle-bichon mix listed by an animal rescue group. In July of 2008, we picked him up from his foster mom in the parking lot of a Sacramento gas station. Scrawny and shaved almost to the skin, with huge brown eyes, the dog attached himself to us right away. Maya fell head over heels, saying, “I love him so much that sometimes I just have to laugh to let it out—I feel like I’ll burst if I don’t.”

Maya and Gabriel with Misha on his way home from being adopted. July 2008.

Maya and Gabriel with Misha on his way home from being adopted. July 2008.

Misha, as Maya named him, had had a hard run. It seems he was abandoned somewhere near the Mojave Desert in Southern California. When picked up and taken to the San Bernardino pound, he was emaciated, filthy, matted, and suffering from giardia. He had dog bite marks on his head and shoulders, and a long infected cut almost completely encircling his neck. Most of all, he was emotionally traumatized. Thankfully, when his week at the pound was up, Debbie Hanson of K9BFF in Fresno took him in. This angel of the canine world got him treated, neutered, and microchipped. We adopted him three weeks later.

In our first days and months with Misha, we learned that he has deep-seated separation anxiety. When left alone, he has clawed his way through screen doors, dug under gates and fences, chewed through leashes, and scratched up doorframes and floorboards, all in desperate attempts to get out and find us. He is determined he will never again be abandoned. We have watched Cesar Millan's “Dog Whisperer” series, read dog books and discussed the problem with Misha’s vet, but found that this fear is not something he can be trained out of. Through trial and error, we have found ways to take Misha nearly everywhere with us, even if he has to wait in the car, wearing a little coat on the colder nights.

Despite Misha’s issues and all the traumatic events he has experienced, “His Dogship,” as my husband calls him, has turned out to be a very sweet and loving being who brings much laughter into our home. As anyone could have predicted, I quickly ended up taking over all his care from Maya. As a result, he has decided that I am his person. Misha follows me around the house all day, and I’m told he has a special bark in the high soprano range that he reserves for whenever he hears my car returning home.

Misha with his person. Mad River Beach, Arcata, California, November 2012.

Misha with his person. Mad River Beach, Arcata, California, November 2012.

Though I never used to think of myself as a dog person, this small, funny poodle has nestled himself deep in my heart. He has inspired a dozen dog paintings and many more stand-alone haiku. People I’ve never met before, who know me only through my art, ask me about Misha. Here are a few recent dogku.

campaign sign
the dog registers
his opinion

(published in Haiku News, Vol. 1, No. 44, November 2012)

winter night
the dog crawls deeper
under the covers

(published in Notes from the Gean, Vol. 4, Issue 1, June 2012)

dark bedroom
an unexpected French kiss
from our French poodle

You can view eight haiga (ink paintings combined with haiku) in the “haiku for dog lovers” series in

my online gallery

. I’ve made these into a hand-bound book,

True Love Comes on Paws

, dedicated to—whom else—Misha.

A friend has been thinking about getting a dog, but wondering about the practicalities. I said that there are really few rational reasons to get a dog, but just like having children, the intangible benefits far outweigh the practical disadvantages. Dog breath, slobber, and fur all over . . . this could be start of a beautiful friendship. Because what’s a little dog breath next to the purest, most unconditional love you will ever find? Misha and I wish you and yours much joy for the holiday season.

“Joy to the world”, shown above, is 9” x12”, painted with sumi ink and gansai paint on rice paper. It is stamped in red with my personal seal. This piece is also available as a blank holiday card or small matted and/or framed print.

Makino Studios News

Arcata Holiday Crafts MarketSaturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arcata Community Center, Arcata. Forty-five local artists and craftspeople, plus music and food.

Holiday Handmade/Makers FairSunday, December 16, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Bayside Grange, 2297 Jacoby Creek Road, Bayside. Friendly neighborhood fair. Tasty homemade soups and treats.

Pierson Christmas FairTuesday, November 13-Tuesday, Dec. 25. Ongoing fair of arts and crafts handmade in Humboldt County. Pierson Garden Shop, 4100 Broadway Street, Eureka. Free hot cider, eggnog and cookies.

Arts Alive Holiday Show – Mateel Cooperative Gallery, 773 Redwood Drive, Garberville, CA. Opening Friday, Dec. 6, 6-9 p.m. I will have several paintings and cards here, at my first event in Southern Humboldt. Runs through early January.

Home for the Holidays - MikkiMoves Living Room Gallery.I have several affordable prints in this group show as well as cards for sale. 7th and I Streets in Eureka, California. Runs through December.

Connecting: I regularly post fresh haiku and/or art on Facebook and Twitter. "Like" the Makino Studios Facebook page and/or follow @Ant99 on Twitter for the newest material. If you’d like to join my email list, just drop me a line here.