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Man’s best friend immortalized on canvas

Richard “Dick” Bolender, a resident of Chartwell Elmira, has fond memories of his late dog Tara. For years the two were an inseparable pair as they competed and trained weekly as an award-winning agility dog team.

Amassing about 500 ribbons, Tara and Bolender were a great team, an accomplishment he still talks about to this very day.

It was the story of Tara and hearing his love for the dog that drove one staff member at Chartwell to do something special for Bolender, helping him memorialize the dog he misses.

Charity-Mae Votary, programs & support services manager with Chartwell Elmira, took it upon herself to create a painting of Tara.

“I think it was the second day I started working here, I went and talked to Dick in his room and he immediately started showing me pictures of his dog, and talked about her and all the training and stuff that he did. In his room there’s one picture of her on the wall and there’s so many beautiful, amazing pictures of her.

“So, then I thought I wanted to do something, and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, and then I opted to do a painting for him,” said Votary. “It turned out really good and it was so emotional to do it all, give it to him and see his lip quiver because he was so happy – it was right, it was worthwhile doing it. I love doing paintings, but I’ve never done an animal and I’ve never done something that was so personal. And I loved it, it was so nice.”

As a child, Votary had a clubfoot that required 13 surgeries and saw her confined to a wheelchair during that time. It was during this time that she developed her skills as an artist. While she does commissioned paintings in her spare time, this was the first she had done of an animal, starting it in January and working on it over the course of four weeks.

In addition to creating the painting, Votary also obtained the records of Bolender and Tara from the Agility Association of Ontario where they would compete. She also prompted them to award Bolender a certificate of excellence for his years of work and success.

Receiving the painting was somewhat overwhelming to Bolender.

“It was so wonderful. I loved my Tara and it was so nice of Charity to put this together,” he said.

The dog was his companion for 12 years, and he recollected how she would love to swim and tow people around on a raft, that she loved to go after frogs, and how good she was at obedience training.

While he may not be able to have another dog now, Bolender is able to remember his dog fondly thanks to the kind work of a staff member at the place he calls home.

In that vein, Votary says she is already considering painting a photo for another family whose dog recently passed away.

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