Sep 6, 2010

Rock Solid Memories

By Cathy Scott 
Reprinted courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society 

Glance at a painting of a dog named Mia, and her eyes appear to be looking back at you, glistening. Mia is one of the animals now memorialized on painted rocks. Walk around Angels Rest memorial park at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and you will see a sampling of those painted rocks.

They’re the work of volunteer Linda David, who has painted more than 1,300 rocks for Best Friends. As Mary Pat Dutton, who worked at Angels Rest until recently, said, “She does it as a hobby that has turned into a labor of love.” 

Mia was my dog, rescued from four feet of water by a Best Friends team in the Gulf following Hurricane Katrina. She passed away from heart disease in 2009 and is buried at Angels Overlook on the Sanctuary grounds. Now, thanks to the generous artistry of Linda, when I look at Mia’s rock, her brown eyes appear to look back at me, her face has that same pouty look she often wore, and it’s like a piece of her is with me again. She was an old soul, and that too was captured in Linda’s portrait. 

“That is my favorite part to paint--the eyes--and I have to put them in near the beginning, and then they start to come alive to me,” she says. “When I see a picture of an animal, I know instantly if I want to paint it. Usually the eyes speak to me, and with a story such as Mia's, I always hope it will find its way to someone who will cherish it."
Cherish it, I do, as do others who cared for pets who are now memorialized on stones.

When she finished the latest paintings of animals, Linda suggested they be offered to the employees for whom these animals were extra-special, which is how I was given Mia’s rock. The others were placed at the head of their graves, complimenting the atmosphere at Angels Rest, where, as you walk around to view the graves and the rocks, you hear the sound of 900 chimes in the wind. 

The comments Linda gets back about her paintings is what makes it all worthwhile. “It is so nice to hear from people and to know how much they are enjoying the rocks,” she says. “That is why I do it.”Hand Painted Memorial Rocks 

She’s also done paintings of some of the animals who are still with us, like Georgia. Her story particularly touched Linda, which is why she chose to paint her image. “Georgia is one of the Victory dogs who have gone through so much and can still have so much love in their hearts. That is so amazing to me. They have such inspiring stories that we can all learn from,” she says. 

She also paints a variety of portraits as well as rocks with just the names of the dogs, cats, rabbits, potbellied pigs, horses -- you name it. “Some are the portraits of specific animals, some breeds, and some have things such as hearts and butterflies and names on them,” she says. 

Linda, who had a grooming career for many years, has always loved animals. Once she retired, she was a pet sitter for a few years. “Now I am enjoying painting the rocks, which I started about 10 years ago. I had watercolor lessons many years ago, and my teacher was very inspiring,” she says. Linda and Terry David 

In exchange for her artistry, it’s the response from the people who cared about the pets that is payment enough for her artwork. “One of the biggest compliments I've ever gotten was from a man who lost his dog, Lobo,” Linda says. He said if his house was ever on fire, his Lobo rock would be the first thing he would save. That's all the thanks I need.”

Photos by Molly Wald


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