Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beth Stafford & Callisto

Who is in the photo at right?

Calli (Airedale Terrier) and Beth Stafford (artist), taken shortly after we met on our "Gotcha Day" in November, 2012.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Beth Stafford. I am an artist - started out as a traditional realist painter and have been down many side roads since, finally arriving at "representational abstraction" which is taken to an almost molecular level in my jewelry and digital works. My website has samples from most of my wanderings.

What's your dog's name, gender, age, breed?

My girl Calli is a 3-year-old Airedale Terrier. Her Vulcan ears are not typical of the breed - usually Airedale ears have some degree of fold. Calli's looked like satellite dishes when she was a puppy, but she has grown into them nicely.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Our daily routine starts with me dragging Calli out of bed and down the road for a walk. When that ordeal is over, we come in and I give her breakfast and meds (she has epilepsy), and then have my well-deserved dose of caffeine for the day.

What's brewing?

Eight O'Clock Coffee, drip ground. Should be "Ten" or "Eleven O'Clock" since that's usually when we eat (a couple of night owls here).

Any treats for you or Calli on this occasion?

I have a couple of thick slices of homemade whole wheat sourdough bread, topped by a peanut butter / powdered sugar spread, and Calli gets part of her kibble, one piece at a time. I do this to keep her moving as long as possible, since sleeping is her favorite "activity".

How were you and Calli united?

Calli came to me from Washington, DC, via North Carolina Airedale Rescue, when she was 11 months old. I had just lost 13-year-old Cassie six weeks before, and was so happy to have a canine in the house again. I fell in love immediately, which was a good thing for her, because she had seizures the first night and they have occurred on a daily basis ever since. Apparently no one had ever stayed around her long enough to notice, which gave us a lot of challenges to work on. She is the stubbornest, most uncooperative dog I have ever had - totally unlike my other two Airedales - but she also has an incredibly sweet disposition and beautiful eyes that melt my heart. That, and she's so darned cute. We have come a long way in two years, but still have far to go.

How did your dog get her name?

I wanted something that would have a similar sound to her previous name (which I didn't like). "Callie" would have worked, but I wanted something less common. I did a little digging and came on the story of Callisto, a nymph that Zeus was too fond of, so his jealous wife Hera banished Callisto to the sky, where she became the constellation Ursa Major (Big Bear). Airedales are often referred to as "B'Aires", due to their wooly teddy bear appearance - that was my sign that "Callisto" was the name I wanted, becoming "Calli" for short. Looks good on her art!

Any aliases?

Oh, yeah. "Space Cadet", "Idiot Pea-brain", "Sweetie-peetie", "Doofy Dawg", "Jaws", "Scissor Mouth","Big Foot" - these are just a few!

You collaborated on a lot of art with your Airedale Cassie (b. 1999 - d.2012) What contribution does Calli make to your art these days?

Calli's style is so different from Cassie's wildly exuberant "brushwork", mainly because she pays very little attention to the world outside. Some of her marks on the door are made when she is having a seizure - maybe she is recording or reacting to what she sees and hears in that altered state, because they mostly do resemble drawings and doodles instead of expressionist strokes like Cassie made. I use the name "PiCassieO for my collaborations with Cassie (representing our artist and dog team), but since Calli is in her "other world" so much, I let her work stand alone as "CalliGraphy", even though I am still the interpreter. I am having fun exploring the possibilities, taking a more linear approach in working with her "sketches". A few of her works are on my blog mentioned above.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

This is so funny - Calli is a cat-magnet. Two of our four cats love her, and one of the neighbors has a big gray one that jumps the fence to come visit when we walk by their house. She is not much of a chaser and her hunting instinct appears to be absent. She does love to play with other dogs when she gets a chance, but there is not an aggressive bone in her fuzzy body. Except when she first arrived, she was a terrible car chaser. I had a trainer to work with us for a while, and that was the one thing that Calli learned - to stand still when a car passed. Only now, she stops if there's one anywhere in sight and won't budge until it goes by. I feel like I should salute, since we've been standing at attention for so long.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Calli's favorite toys are her elk antler chews, a flat plush beaver with squeakers (I call it the road-kill toy), and an ancient basketball that belonged to Cassie. Forgot - she also likes a metal trashcan in one of the other rooms and whacks it over on a regular basis and then takes off running. It's part of the "zoomie" ritual.

She also has two stuffed pals that she sleeps with - "Foo Cow" [photo left] and "Puppy".

Where is Calli's favorite outdoor destination?

Once I get her out of the yard (she has a hang-up about that), she likes to walk to the end of our road and visit her "cousin" Gracie. Actually she walks faster coming home so she can go back inside - not an outdoor dog, this one.

What is Calli's best quality?

Her sweet nature. You just can't stay mad at her for long, no matter what mischief she does, due to that slightly spacey sweetness. Gotta love her.

Who is Calli's best pet-pal?

Been the cat [with Calli, photo right], who lives with us. He was a stray who stayed in spite of the objections of the other two outdoor cats. He claimed Calli as "his" dog and would wait for us to come out. When he got sick a year ago we found out he had FIV (feline AIDS) and to his delight he got to come inside and live upstairs to keep from infecting the other cats. He is now fat and sassy and he and Calli are furever pals.

If Calli could change one thing about you, what would it be?

She would probably change my sex, since she seems to prefer men. She belonged to a guy in her former life.

If Calli could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Hard to pick only one, since there is so much about this strange little soul that I don't understand. Confession: I consulted an "animal communicator" about Calli, and she told me that Calli explains her seizures like this: "I go away, and then I come back." The question would be, "Where do you go?"

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Calli could speak, who should voice her?

Probably Lily Tomlin in her "Edith Ann" voice.

What advice would Calli give if asked?

"Don't worry, be happy - and take more naps!"

Will that advice work for you?

Nope - I am a neurotic worrywart and epilepsy is the worst thing I've ever had to deal with. We do have episodes of pure joy, though - that keeps me going. Forget naps - too many other things I'd rather be doing!

Visit Beth Stafford's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

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