Confessions of a Florentine Pet Sitter



Contentment is a portrait of Simon, a bright sometimes devilish male cat and the first cat I sat for when I began my pet sitting business. On this day he was resting on the floor in a spot of rare Oregon coast sunlight. Bathed in light and contentment, eyes closed, whiskers smiling happy, in a state of grace, he allowed me to drape my favorite scarf around his neck. He lay there in quietude showing his contentment for the longest time. I couldn’t resist reaching for my camera.

From that photo, I worked this painting. After I finished, I took it with me to Simon’s home when I was cat sitting again and leaned it against a wall. It was still stapled to its painting board. I often took paintings over for his approval or to photograph them or to look at them in a different light to determine if they needed more work. Always curious, Simon sniffed the paintings once or twice in no particular place, then walked away. His curiosity sated, he went about his business and never went back to check them out again.  Sometimes he walked just close enough to smell the edge of my painting board, then with a bored countenance, he walked on by. Oh hum, just another one of pet sitter Sue’s paintings! Nothing of interest here.  (I heard that kind of comment many times when I owned an upstairs gallery on Orcas Island.)

With this Contentment painting of himself,  Simon hesitated. He wasn’t sure he wanted go near it. He skirted far around the painting on his way through the house, like when he avoided walking on patterned throw rugs or when he avoided the evil green tennis ball that I bounced off his head. Normally my paintings did not intimidate him, but the cat image in this painting is larger than he is, and probably in his mind, bigger meant something to fear.

One bright sunny morning I got out my camera, set up my tripod, and was ready to take a picture of the painting. Camera! Lights! Action! Suddenly intrigued, Simon wandered past the painting without looking at it. He walked so close to it I could hear and feel the crackle of static electricity created from his fur touching the paper. He was testing the waters. He walked on by. Simon soon decided it was nothing to fear and turned around and came back at which time he walked right up to it and touched noses with the cat in the painting.

Of all the places he could have sniffed on the surface of this painting he chose the nose, as cats do with other cats and with people—they touch noses as a display of affection and interest. For him to have made that association—from iconic picture of a cat to a possible real cat so much so that he felt compelled to greet and touch noses with it—was simply magical. And the fact that it was a portrait of Simon made it even more special. I like to think he recognized himself in the painting.

Luckily, I was standing behind my camera and caught this photo of him in the act of kissing himself! And I thought I had bagged all the narcissism!

Simon kissing his portrait

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