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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Art (01/18/07)

TITLE: Unchained
By Teri Wilson


Paloma swatted the fly from her face and glopped more acrylic onto her canvas. Her easel wobbled in the mud. She was in the back corner of a swine barn and although the swine themselves were absent, certain traces of them remained. One of which was their pungent aroma. Paloma tried to breathe without using her nostrils and returned to the task at hand.

Her subject was quivering on a grooming table, also standing in the mud.

Paloma made a comfortable living as a pet portrait artist. More often that not, she worked at dog shows where she quickly painted in broad stokes until the dogs were whisked away by their handlers to prance around the show ring. For all the pomp and circumstance dog shows are afforded on television, they are remarkably un-glamorous in real life. And smelly. Take today, for instance. The dog show was being held in a rodeo arena and the grooming area was here in the swine barn.

“Thank you so much! It’s stunning!” The owner of the quivering Maltese on the table gushed.

“I’m glad you like it. Tell your friends I’ll be here tomorrow, too.”

“Oh, I will. I’m going to be back with a crowd of people around your easel.”

The woman headed for the ring and Paloma had a feeling she would be painting more than a few tiny white dogs tomorrow.

It was freezing in the barn and Paloma’s teeth chattered while she packed up her supplies. She was carefully maneuvering her van down a small stretch of Farm Road 316 when she saw him. Alone in the yard. He was shivering in the sleet, his head hanging down. His eyes squinted and he winced as icy drops pelted his face. Paloma had never seen anything so pitiful. Or cruel.

She pulled over and knocked on the door of the house. A burly man answered, clearly surprised to see a strange woman on his porch.

Paloma’s confidence wavered, but she couldn’t bring herself to walk away. “Um, sir. Your dog is chained out in your yard and it’s below freezing. Maybe he could come inside.”

“Lady, he ain’t allowed in the house.”

“But he’s shivering. Maybe you could put him in the garage or something?”

“He’s an animal. He belongs outside.”

Then Paloma found herself looking at the door, which had been slammed in her face. Defeated, she slumped back to her car and drove home in the slush. All night dreams of the heartbreaking black mutt cowering in the cold tortured her. First thing in the morning she called Animal Care Services.

“We can’t help you, ma’am.”

“What do you mean? The poor dog is chained in the yard. Have you looked outside?” A blanket of sparkling snow covered the ground.

“It’s perfectly legal to chain a dog, so long as it has food and water.”

Her eyes flashed with anger as she thought about the conversation later back at the dog show. Another fluffy white dog sat before her waiting to be immortalized on canvas. If she weren’t so upset she would have laughed at the irony of her situation. She was being paid thousands of dollars to paint a virtual parade of spoiled dogs and less than two miles away a forgotten black mutt huddled alone in the frosty wind.

It was ridiculous, really. In art school, her professors had always talked about how great art could change the world. Yet, she stood in a swine barn painting the same white dog over and over again.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” Paloma dropped her slender paintbrush and frantically began packing. She shoved a fistful of dollars at the stunned dog owner with the Maltese and tromped back to her van in the snowy parking lot.

The black dog was still in the yard when the van slid to a halt. His muzzle was covered with a layer of snow flurries and his chain had hardened with ice. Paloma saw the dog’s owner watching her from inside the house as she unpacked the van. Her gloved fingers shook; she wasn’t sure if it was the cold or fear. Just let him come out here, she thought. He can’t do anything to me. I’m not breaking any laws either.

Paloma secured her easel in the snow and set to work mixing the pigments on her palette. Then she began painting a picture which could change the world. At least maybe for one dog who lived on a chain.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Shirley Hegwood01/26/07
Good writing! I enjoyed this very much and would like to read a follow-up. I can imagine this story becoming a children's illustrated book...one that teaches children at an early age how to take care of their pets and not be cruel to them.
Janice Fitzpatrick01/26/07
WOWW! I like this! Very moving. I hate cruelty and htis sure ignites the fire to see the important things in life and to value what God has created, yes, animals too. Sometimes it really does take just one act on our part that changes viewpoints and opens people's eys, to make a difference. That in itself is a rare form of art! :0) Very well written. God bless your writing!
Betty Castleberry01/26/07
This really, really touched me. Unforutunately, you've written a lot of truth. There are people in the world who do such things to animals. This was a good read. I hope it opens some eyes.
william price01/26/07
I cannot stand animal cruelty. Very good story, excellently told and expressed. I'd love to see the painting, though your descriptions of the dog were very good and I can imagine what it would have looked like. But, I do wonder if she painted the dog in its current circumstance, or wagging its tail in front of a warm fire. Superb entry. God bless.
Joanne Sher 01/28/07
Love the contrast, and the description. This absolutely tore my heart out. Love the subtle comparison between the artist and that poor dog. Wonderful!
cindy yarger01/28/07
Empowered-that is what art should be. Great story!
T. F. Chezum01/28/07
It saddens me how some people treat animals. This is a well written story, great job.
Jan Ackerson 01/29/07
Good writing--did you choose Paloma for its meaning (dove)? Poor puppy!
Donna Powers 01/29/07
Oh, the poor puppy! This is a very well written story and she is a compassionate person. I pray someone takes action based on her painting; good for her for doing what she could do. Thanks for sharing this
Timothy Oesch01/30/07
Great story! Kind of curious what you were going for with Farm Road "316", reference to John 3:16? Either way, good job.
Connie Pilston Shoemaker01/30/07
Love it! What a great job wiht the irony and using ART to make a statement! Well done!
Marilee Alvey01/30/07
Paloma....the wife of Picasso! Interesting choice of names! I LOVED your story. I can't say I enjoyed it.....because I just want to scream "TAKE THAT DOG OFF THE CHAIN!" As I write this, it's 13 degrees where I live. I can feel his pain. Okay, Marilee, calm down. It's JUST a story! See what your talent has done to me? Your story moved me so much that I'm calling animal control RIGHT NOW! The irony of painting fluffy white dogs while this one suffered was keenly felt. Excellent story!
Linda Watson Owen01/30/07
Beatifully written! Very moving. You had me glued from the beginning sentence.
Sara Harricharan 01/31/07
This is a wonderful art entry. Very creative and with real emotions and conflicts that I could relate to. I loved the MC and her transparency. Very well done on this!
Sally Hanan01/31/07
This could be expanded to make a longer story, because the word limit doesn't do it the justice it deserves. I'm suspecting that there is a whole lot more in the picture in your mind that you would like to have added :)