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Chase Nicholls

Chase Nicholls

Chase Nicholls

Chase Nicholls

On Tuesday we discovered that our beautiful German Shepherd, Chase, had an inoperable tumor on his spleen which had ruptured and spread to his liver. Within an hour of being diagnosed we had to put our lovely boy to sleep. Some of you reading this will have known him. He could be cuddly and loving and funny and sometimes scary. Here are a few memories of our beautiful, complicated boy. He was nearly 10.

Chase Nicholls

Soon after he joined us – look at those skinny hips.

We got him as a 1 year old rescue. After about a week of behaving perfectly he started to settle in and we realized we had a tough character on our hands. He was handsome, long-limbed and very strong but his back end was just bones with no muscle. If you gave him any attention he demanded more, grabbing at you when you tried to leave him calmly on his mat; he chased sunlight and shadows round the house, whining and obviously upset; he wound himself into a snapping, barking, unhappy frenzy when he saw children, strollers, bikes or other dogs; he didn’t use his nose – he just used his eyes and his huge ears; he didn’t know how to walk on a leash; but he was house trained and he was very polite around food.

Chase and Ali Nicholls

He had a great profile for shadow photos!

Years of training followed. My walks with him were often a battle of wills and, too often, a battle of strength. He walked nicely for a while to put me at ease, then he would completely lose control when we saw someone running, kids playing, squirrels, rabbits, cats, dogs or if he heard a truck with a deep, throaty engine noise. We tried different leashes but he could pull me for a few strides while wearing any of them. To add insult to injury he would try to bite me whenever I tried to regain control of him. We fenced our yard and carried on training, introducing him slowly to other dogs, to lakes and woods and all kinds of other things. Slowly he gained muscle (there were days when I wasn’t sure this was a good thing).

Chase Nicholls

As many of his ‘issues’ were resolved, we saw his loving, playful nature appear.  When he got up to have a drink of water during the evening, my husband Nigel would sometimes go and sit on his mat. Chase would see him there and run over, lying down and snuggling up as close as he could. If we danced to music in the kitchen while making dinner, he would join in, twisting and turning, always wanting to be touched and involved. He didn’t like his ‘pack’ to be separated. He loved going in the car. He believed that if he barked and jumped enough, one day the squirrels in our yard would fall out of the trees (one did once, but he wasn’t looking). He destroyed things that could harm us, like those dangerous expanding hose pipes! He did little leaps of joy when he knew he was getting dinner.  He loved to have his meals outdoors. He loved the snow and while we shoveled the driveway, he would dig in the snow piles, putting much of it back on the driveway for us.

Chase Nicholls

Loved the snow!

He had his share of injuries. He caught the tip of one ear on a thorn bush while we were out on a walk and I saw him shaking his head a lot. We were a mile from home so I stopped at a house to ask for tissues, to see if I could stop the blood dripping down into his ear. A man answered the door and immediately stepped back in shock, but did bring me some tissues. Afterwards I realized his head-shaking had covered my face, hands and clothes with blood!

Chase Nicholls

Not sure about his socks…

He got haematomas in both ears, one after the other, so they both had to be bandaged down to his head and we were afraid they wouldn’t stand upright again, but they did, although not quite straight. He chewed ferociously on bones and toys for years as a stress reliever, then his canines started breaking (the vet said his enamel was weak from chewing on the bars of a crate when he was a pup, before we had him). So he needed root canals on 3 of his broken teeth. Then, because he hates noisy delivery trucks, he tore both his dew claws while running along the fence line and they both had to be removed.

Chase Nicholls

Despite vast improvements in discipline, and many miles walked on our treadmill, he retained 1 trigger – mail vans or any large, noisy truck of any kind. His ferocity towards them increased over the years, as if he needed to keep 1 vice intact as the others receded.

Chase Nicholls

One memorable day, a mail van drove up a hill towards us. Chase’s amazing hearing had informed him of its presence some time before it turned onto the street, so he was already barking and had grown about a foot in height. I stepped into a driveway and of course the van stopped close to us. I had to move out of the driveway because at that moment the homeowner arrived home in her car. As I stepped onto the grass Chase lunged for the mail van, I slipped, and the next thing I knew I was being pulled across the grass on my stomach towards the van. Luckily the mail woman was still inside and I could clearly see her widening eyes and open mouth as I hurtled towards her while mouthing the words ‘sorry’. Another neighbor chose this precise moment to exit her front door to pick up the mail and stood, rooted to the spot, as Chase reached the front of the mail van, barking crazily and trying to bite bits off it. I picked myself up, smiled weakly at them all, and dragged my barking hound away as they gaped after me. Another day of Chase: 1  Ali: 0.

Chase Nicholls

Chase and Nig

But this big bad dog was also highly suspicious of plastic bags and cardboard boxes and would refuse to walk past them. If anything fell over in the house he ran a mile. If a piece of paper fell off a table, he would leave the room. He was nervous of thunder, but only when he was indoors, if he was outdoors he just ignored it. When we were gardening, he thought it was the greatest game to steal an empty plastic flower pot and prance away with it as if it was the best thing he’d ever found. During the day he would come in the house and bounce up to us, ‘asking’ us to come play soccer with him outside.

Chase & Rocket

Lazing around with his mate Rocket

Chase, Gordon, Tiberius

With Gordon & Tiberius

One of the things that made me most happy was that he did learn to make friends with other dogs. Rocket was a crazy doodle who didn’t mind if Chase liked to pin him to the ground in play. Visiting Gordon, Maddison and Tiberius was always the highlight of his day and he used to smile all the way there! Ajax, Paddy & Archie popped over every now and then and although they mostly ignored each other, he loved the company. All these dogs were equally mystified when the appearance of a delivery truck turned their friend into a crazed barking monster.

Chase Nicholls

Chase’s illness took him so fast we feel we didn’t get time to really say goodbye, that he isn’t really gone, that maybe he’s just going to walk back in anytime. We’ll miss his dark shape lying in a shady hole he dug under a bush. We’ll miss his constant presence at our garden gate, and his ears in the rear view mirror of the car. We’ll miss almost everything about him. He was a complicated boy but gave us a life rich with experiences, love and laughter. I’m glad we were able to keep him in a safe home for 9 years. Miss you, Chase!

Chase and me

Chase and me.

May 2020 in Art

Every month I make a short video featuring paintings, sketches, studio shots & snippets from my life. May was still a lockdown month but the pandemic was overshadowed by the callous killing of George Floyd, and when I looked at the dates, I found there were long stretches where I hadn’t recorded anything. Here’s May […]

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Working From Home

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International Women’s Day

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World Wildlife Day 2020

On this World Wildlife Day try imagining a world without wildlife. Why? Because the survival of millions of species (some as yet unknown to science) is in our hands. Quietly and unnoticed by many of us, wildlife is vanishing from the woods, skies, oceans, streams and rivers, plains, mountains and deserts. Some species thrive in […]

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1 Second Everyday

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Vines and Giraffes

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Watercolors featured on Artsy Shark

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2020 Portrait Party

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Crash – Rhino Poaching in South Africa

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Paws Trails Explorers

I and my art inspired by Africa have been featured in the beautiful Paws Trails Explorers digital magazine. The article is in the Wild Arts Showcase and focuses on my watercolor and ink work created from life in the African bush. I talk about why sketching from life is so important to me; how I […]

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Lion in Ink

Lion in ink was completed after the lioness (see previous post) and although 1 is vertical and 1 is horizontal, I think they make a great pair. Lion in ink took me 20 minutes to create, and is 1 of my daily sketches on yupo paper, based on a photo taken by my husband, Nigel. […]

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Lioness in Ink

After 10 minutes, when I hadn’t finished this Lioness in ink, I decided to just keep going for another 10 minutes because I thought she was worth finishing. When I look at this lioness, I’m amazed that I was able to confidently draw her directly in ink without screwing the whole thing up! Reminding myself […]

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Elephant and Impala

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Pros and Cons of Joining My Mailing List

In these social media saturated days, what are the pros and cons of joining my Mailing List? Here are the Pros: 1.Preview my new Paintings Yes, before I even post them on social media or put them on my website, you get to see all my new paintings in my newsletter. Which means you can […]

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Shepherd’s Tree and Giraffe

Trees, rocks and landscape features will be making more of an appearance in my upcoming paintings and here’s a great example – Shepherd’s Tree & Giraffe. Shepherd’s trees are not tall but can be very sculptural, and they’re frequently browsed by giraffes, which of course also have elegant lines. I took the giraffe silhouette from […]

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2019 Art Safari Video II

In August I led two Art Safaris in South Africa for Africa Geographic. Here is my short video of the second Art Safari. Both safaris were held at Kambaku Safari Lodge, in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, part of the Great Kruger National Park. Kambaku was a great place to hold an Art Safari as we […]

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Art Safari Video

In August I led two Art Safaris in South Africa for Africa Geographic. Here is my short video of the first Art Safari.   Both safaris were held at Kambaku Safari Lodge, in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, part of the Great Kruger National Park. Kambaku was a great place to hold an Art Safari as […]

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