Be Still, Life

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Peach Sorbet Peonies, 24X24, oil

The blue pillow by my easel is empty today and my heart is broken. After 15 years of a life well lived, Howard Pee Pugpants is in his new home, Heaven. I do think he’s waiting for us there, even though my beautiful little man occasionally had a little devil in him. Howard developed acute bronchitis and, for the past weeks, his condition had gradually worsened. We made the decision this morning that he would not suffer.

This afternoon, the studio has been very quiet, and I rediscovered how grief and exhaustion go hand in hand. After a fruitless few hours, I put away the brushes and took a nap, and my little pug girl Avery crawled on top of my chest. She is not a lightweight by any means, but I didn’t consider shifting her away, not for an instant. Her love anchored me to the earth for a few moments in the sweet forgetfulness of sleep.

When I consider inspiration in the studio, and what drives my art journey, I have rarely given enough credit to the little pugs at my feet, the studio helpers who always remind me to play, to rest, to laugh, and, sometimes, to cry. They allow all of these things without judgment. Mister Howard (he did prefer titles) never doubted his place in this world, and was secure in the knowledge he was loved every moment of his life. His midnight paw pokes would wake me up for kisses and hugs, or requests to be taken outside or given a drink of water. In his later years there were more such requests, but I cherished every moment with him. Tonight the chasm beside me, where he slept, will be deep and terrifying. I’ll cling to better angels and not let sadness quiet or dim the powerful light of his personality, even if it is now in memory. He deserves better than that.

I’ve never liked painting inanimate objects, I’ve always been drawn to painting from life, to gardening, and never, from the moment I left home at the age of 18, never ever been without a dog by my side. I’ve always wanted to instill every flower I painted with movement, every still life with a shower of petals on the tabletop, something to shake the tableau, and remind me, that we are moving and alive and whatever we create on canvas is a celebration of that, and also of what surrounds us. Nature is not a still life or a photograph. It’s full of color and movement and love and laughter, and, for that, I’m so very thankful. For the love and companionship of a little soul with four feet and a bit of an attitude, my life was changed for the better. Here’s to you Howie, and to every little helper who comforts our hearts, and reminds us to smile. May you go gently with the angels and be adored in their care, until you are in my arms again.


Howie 2011
Howard Pee Pugpants surveying his domain


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Nancy Medina

Nancy is a master signature artist and instructor with over 1800 online students from around the world. She has worked with Disney, served on the art faculty of the Dallas Arboretum, and teaches workshops in France, Italy and across the US. More about Nancy

Reader Interactions


  1. I am drawn into your beautiful stories every time you post a new one on your blog. This one had layers of extra deep ness. I could see how “Mister Howard” (that name is beyond precious) filled your life with his presence. And now… the void that is there. You also described perfectly how our emotional state drives our creativity. Sometimes it simply needs to rest. Thank you for sharing from your heart with us. You are a blessing in my life. Take care, dear Nancy.

  2. No one can know another’s pain or feel the void of another’s loss. So sorry for the loss of your beloved Howard.

  3. Howie was King and quite the character wearing many hats. I so loved the Howie stories and photos. Heartbreaking now. I hope Avery and Taylor comfort you in their own special way. Hugs. ❤️

  4. I’m so sorry for the loss of Mr. Howie. I know your heart is breaking. Their love is so unconditional and and always there for us. Your beautiful tribute to Mr. Howard brought me to tears. We do often take our loved ones for granted. Thank you for this reminder and may your heart mend quickly.

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know how hard it is to make that decision as I’m sure a lot of us do. Just keep in mind the joy that he brought to your life.

  6. Prayers for blessings of comfort for you and Carlos. Furbabies are family too, and I believe they are angels with 4 paws and big hearts full of unconditional love. I also believe that this is not the end of the story. Thanks for sharing your gift of art, your love of life, and the joy of Howie with us, Nancy.

  7. All of us pet owners know how you feel and what you are going through. I hope that the happy memories will rise to the top and help you through this difficult time.

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