by Shelley Lowell

How I began painting pet portraits

I was shopping in PetSmart during an adoption day. I walked past one of the cages and saw a petite Himalayan cat with tan and cocoa markings. Having 2 Himalayans, I quickly went to her cage and asked if I could hold her. She was a precious delight and snuggled into my arms. I fell instantly in love. Now, I wasn’t in the market for another cat, but I just couldn’t leave this little girl. I filled out the paper work. The adoption personnel told me that they already had someone interested in her but they wanted Cocoa to go to a home with other Himalayans. 

A few days later, after the adoption center checked me out, I took Cocoa home. In the past, when I introduced a new cat to my cat family, I did it gradually, putting the new baby in their private room, keeping the cats separate until all could sniff each other through the closed door. No matter how long I did this, it was always a rough time for everyone to adjust.

So, this time, when I came home, I put the carrier on the floor and opened the door. Cocoa walked out of the carrier. Down the hall were my 2 cats, Buttons and Chadwick. They took one look at Cocoa and stopped dead in their tracks. Cocoa spotted them immediately. As they started walking towards her, Cocoa simply turned around with her back towards them and sat down. That was the end of a potential confrontation. Buttons and Chadwick accepted her and she accepted them. Cocoa was one smart little girl. 

It wasn’t long before I noticed something was wrong. I took her to the vet. After tests and tests, they couldn’t find the problem. When it finally showed up in her blood work, it was too late. She couldn’t be helped. It turned out that she had a liver shunt. This meant that the protein in her food was poisoning her body. I was devastated. She had such a beautiful personality. She was with me for only three months, but it felt as if I knew her my whole life.

Faced with a huge vet bill, the idea came to me to paint pet portraits on a commissioned basis as a way to pay off the bill. My first commission was the vet who treated Cocoa. That was in 1999. I am still doing this, having painted some wonderful dogs, cats, horses, birds, and of course people, all with beautiful stories of their own.

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