a WIP, tentatively titled, "Eat Dat" [Manga Studio 5]
Picture2.5"x3.5" gouache painting, "Dear Eating Deer"
Every artist has their 'focus', right? That thing they're known for? Maybe they have a background in anthropology, ecology, wildlife conservation, architecture, and their work all tends to be somehow related to that? 
Well. I feed my dogs big hunks of meat.
It counts, I suppose. 
But aside from that I've always been very drawn to the idea of dichotomy. Opposites living in harmony, irony at its finest. I've done paintings of snakes slithering around piles of candy. I've drawn spiders with bows in their prickly, fibrous hair. Picturesque monsters befriending field mice. And now, domestic meets wild.  
My malamute mix, Baldr, eating raw meat. Dogs are precious to so many people, they're seen as friends and family more than they are animals. As a proponent of NOT anthropomorphizing animals, I'm painting Baldr eating prey-model-raw to remind us that these companions are animals. They have teeth for tearing, they have saliva for dissolving, they have acidic stomachs for assimilating flesh. Dogs are metal, guys, I hope that these pieces remind us of that. 

A finless-variety 'Pembroke welsh pearlscale' goldfish dog.

Goldfish Dogs-- Genetic Abomination, or 'The Next Big Thing' in Exotic Animal Husbandry?  
by Maranda Cromwell

Since humans emerged as an evolutionary powerhouse, harnessing agriculture and claiming ownership over the lands, they have also taken control of animals. I'm talking about domestication. 

With the power we hold over the animals, we can control their fates. From wolves, we have made chihuahuas and maltese. From small wild cats in Africa we have created the common house cat. Fancy goldfish are no exception-- from the sleek and noble koi's ancestors to the 'fancy' goldfish: round and wiggly fish kept by aquarium enthusiasts all around the world. 

But humans did not stop at wolves and koi. 

In a frenzied quest to create the perfect companion, breeders and geneticists working together have made a breakthrough in the field of domesticated companion animals. The rationalization is clear: combine the loyalty and adaptability of dogs with the simple-mindedness and somehow cute appearance of fancy goldfish. At the time, perhaps that seemed like a good idea. 
Like the fabled story of the Two Headed Cat, scientists quickly discovered their folly as the first goldfish dog was created. 

With all the enthusiasm of a puppy and the relative brainlessness of a goldfish, the goldfish dogs proved to be many things, none of which was the scientists and breeders's idea of a good companion. Scatterbrained, moronic, clumsy on land and water, the goldfish dogs had one thing going for them: they were cute in the same way a two-legged-dog is cute. Pathetic, but well-wishing. In training classes and standard obedience courses, they only barely passed: just for trying their best. 

Most fancy goldfish owners will tell you that goldfish do not have a 3-second memory, and that their memory is closer to 3 months instead. And as we all know, dogs are among the smartest animals on the planet, the smartest of which can remember vocabularies up to 2,000 individual words and are the only animals to understand the concept of pointing-- looking at the object being pointed at instead of the hand. Sadly, goldfish dogs did not receive the long end of the stick. They remain famous for being "the most unintelligent animal ever to be created by man." And that includes chickens and guinea fowl, which are rated 2nd and 3rd on the same chart. 

But despite their lack of redeeming qualities in the mental faculty department, they somehow remain popular as household pets. The scientists and breeders are not sure how their popularity came about-- the operation was supposed to be top secret, yet somehow strains of several breeds were loosed upon the exotic pet trading networks. The smooth-coat shubunkin terriers, the Pembroke welsh pearlscales, and the black moor chow chows are among the most popular, though mutts are gaining quite a following as well. Thankfully, the goldfish dogs are considered too simple to experience advanced emotions such as fear or aggression, and generally have easygoing and aloof personalities. 

As of yet, there are no ongoing attempts to reclaim the "top secret" goldfish dog population, because as the head developer claimed, "We really just don't care anymore." 

"My goldfish dog is the best animal I've ever had the pleasure of keeping," one owner told us excitedly. I interviewed her at the 2nd annual Goldfish Dog Fanciers Association Meeting, which consisted of a grand total of 13 individuals, all claiming ownership of one or even several of the strange creatures. "When she borks at me at the door when I come home from work, my heart just melts. I love Bella so much," the owner went on to say. As I came to understand, "borking" is the sound the goldfish dog make: a garbled version of a dog's bark. 

The Goldfish Dog Fanciers Associations meeting consisted of various competitions, including 'Best Bork', 'Cutest Face', 'Buggiest Eyes', and 'Most Endearing Gait'. As opposed to the dog shows put on by the AKC, these meetings tend to be more casual, and 'breed standard' is more like 'breed suggestion'. Goldfish dog judging is more based on personal preference than a set-in-stone set of rules. Even the finless varieties of goldfish dogs, considered 'improper', have been known to win ribbons in a few categories. 

"The good thing about goldfish dogs, or gofogs as we call them, they're just so cool with everything! Marshmallow lets me put little shoes and sweaters on him, and he doesn't care! They don't bite, they don't scratch, and they only wet the carpet sometimes. I mean, compared to an actual dog, I'd much rather have a gofog," another fan said. 

The public seems to have other ideas regarding the 'gofogs', however. A random passerby, when asked what her opinions of the animals were, simply said, "Those things? They're gross." When I pressed further, she explained, "They're horrible, like, inbred things. I mean, either have a goldfish or a dog, don't put them together in some science lab!" 

Other opinions varied from outraged, to somewhat amused, to downright apathetic. It may be a few more years until the Goldfish Dog Fanciers Association picks up more members. 

But what does this mean for the well-meaning goldfish dog? "We have a very extensive breeding regiment," the president of the GDFA said, "we have a very small gene pool to work with, but thanks to one of our members who also breeds pomeranians, we have a genetic expert on our side. In a few generations, we should have a healthy breeding stock so that more people can obtain the gofogs and see what amazing, loving, adorable pets they make." 

Who knows what the future holds for the goldfish dogs? But somehow, many people doubt that 'gofogs' will ever reach the popularity of dogs or cats, or even goldfish. But time will tell. In the next few years, don't be surprised to see someone walking a celestial calico shepherd down the street, or see a red ranchu pug peeking out of a woman's purse on the subway. 
Usually, Halloween for adults means one of a few things. You either bum around a disappointing party in a half-assed costume, answer the door for trick-or-treaters while watching TV, or seek refuge from the Halloweenies at your friend's house in the middle of nowhere. 
But, as I'm quickly finding out, that's just not the case for me or my friends. Boring is out of the question. 

So here's what went down. 

I got off work after my new manager bought me a frappuchino for no reason. Nice. Then my fiance, Stark, and I shopped for ingredients for a recipe for leeks*. While picking out mushrooms, our friend Jessie ambushed us. I turned around and found that she had Day of the Dead skull makeup on. Nice. So we agreed to go back to our place so Jessie could drop off the eggnog and rum in the fridge. Nice. Then we were going to her place so she could pick out things to make a costume to match mine. My costume can be summed up as... well, just take a look.

I call it, "Nightmare-Spawn Skully Demon".
She happened to have a boar skull that would work nicely, and a big awesome cloak to wear, too. It was fate. 
After that we headed to the dollar store, where glowsticks and Christmas candy were obtained. Handing Christmas candy out at Halloween? Nice
Once we got home, the guys were there watching Adventure Time and drinking cider. Jessie and I immediately set to cooking, but not before a healthy dose of 'nog. It's never too early for 'noggin' it up. She said we should cook more often, and I agreed. Who else would get liquored up to cook a frittatta on Halloween night? I pick my friends well, ladies and gentlemen. 
We shoved the frittatta in the oven and set a timer for 30 minutes-- just enough time to go to the store and get more alcohol. Nice. Wednesday night at the Maranda-Stark Household, everybody. 
We got home, quite literally, in the nick of time. I ran into the house and pulled the glorious frittatta out of the oven. Spoilers: it was delicious
More cartoons were had and then Jessie and I decided it was costume time. Long story short, we scared a little kid dressed as a football player, but our shenanigans were cut short when Jessie tripped because her skull was obscuring her vision. (I have a feeling normal people don't have that problem, usually.)
Back at home base, we ate some more and gave candy to a group of kids. Then Jessie decided it was far too tame a night and proposed we go trick-or-treating instead. Us, a group of four, ages 21-26, no proper costumes, well-past tipsy.  
I was hesitant at first, but then when someone suggested I take Zaphod the ferret, I was all for that. I got his homemade spider costume and put together a very hasty costume for myself. Derrick went as "drunk guy with a deer skull on his head", Stark was a Mysterious Hood, and Jessie went as a homeless werewolf. 

One year, when I went trick-or-treating at 16 years old, I had someone outright refuse to give me candy on the basis that we were too old. That was my old neighborhood. My new one... completely different. 
We made friends with trick-or-treaters and folks giving candy, most of which were very surprised and mostly delighted to see a ferret come to their door. At one point, a van pulled up to us, and a woman asked if we had seen her son walking around. He was apparently dressed up as Steve from Minecraft. Nice. Then she saw Zaphod and exclaimed, "Oh, we have sugar gliders at home! Boys, look!" And her two little sons were very excited to see Zaphod, who accepted their petting. And what's even better, the two sons actually gave us candy out of their own candy stashes
As we continued, we came across a house with cool decorations, which included a fish tank half-full of water with a plastic snake and rat floating in it, with a sign that read, "Beware of the killer snake". I got one of those feelings that told me I already liked these people. The door opened to reveal a big fluffy Bernese mountain dog, very interested in my ferret and Jessie's bone accessory. We got to talking to the couple that lived there about skulls and animals and the couple let us in their well-decorated home. We learned that their son and daughter are both in the arts, they had exotic types of parakeets, and they collected fossils. I thought, "Where have these neighbors been all my life?!"
(Tessy, the dog, was very good at shaking hands. "Shake my paw. Oh my god just shake it. You're holding an animal and I don't know what to do with myself SHAKE MY PAW.")

We left the cool neighbors on the note of, "You guys should come by sometime!" Warm-fuzzies were had by all. 
We headed home, leaving our trick-or-treating escapade on a good note. Later, more cartoons were watched, candy and Taco Bell was feasted upon, and we all had the surreal moment of, "We haven't been trick-or-treating in 10+ years. No one refused us candy and everything went way better than expected." 

* I'm the only person I know who impulse-buys leeks. "But look at how big they are! And only for a dollar?! I can't afford not to buy these!" 
Resisting... urge... to murder cute fuzzy animals...
Seen above is a 6"x6" gouache painting on clayboard. It features a demonic golden fox with a long tongue and six legs. Or, well, it did, until one of our foster ferrets had her way with it. She got onto the table, turned over a glass of water, waded around in the puddle, then decided my art needed a little more... chaos. 
You can imagine how mad I was to find my painting I was actually happy with was reduced to a smeary mess. The detail on the face, the delicate background, all shot to hell. The painting then endured a vicious toss into the garbage bin, accompanied with a tapestry of swears. 
Eventually I calmed down, pulled it out of the trash, and reconsidered it. I had the technology to fix it. And by technology I mean very tiny brushes and a dark purply-black-colored paint. 
Here's what it looks like now. 
Still pretty chaotic, but I think it's better. And thankfully, the ferret decided to scratch and smudge the area near the paws, so it kind of looks intentional. Or that's what my friends think, anyway. They're all like, "Wow, I love it! Wouldn't have been able to tell it wasn't intentional if you hadn't said anything!" 
Damn, maybe I should let wet animals walk over my paintings more often. And why stop at ferrets? I can dabble in snakes and dogs, and maybe even chickens... The possibilities are endless. Revolutionizing the art world, brb. 
Some days, you metaphorically wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Something's weird, and you know it, and like a sequin bra, it rubs you the wrong way. You can't seem to take that bra off. This is especially uncomfortable if you're a dude. And at this point I've lost my metaphor so I'll just say: today is going to be one of those days that tests my strength and resolve. So to take my mind off things, I usually turn either to yoga, tea, rain sounds, and cartoons. Well, yoga is proving too difficult for my strained mind, the rain stopped, but at least I have tea and cartoons, so that'll have to be good enough. 

All this to say I did two paintings of my ferret recently. HERE YA GO. 
"Tree Ferret"
"The Littlest Carnivore"
Using the words "ferret" and "photography" in the same instance should be treated the same as "matter" and "antimatter". It's a big deal when the two are associated. Not because ferret shots are the Holy Grail of photography or anything, but because it's nigh impossible to pull of half-decent shots of the wiggly bastards. I still attempt the impossible, though.

But hey, at least the antler and springbok pelt held still. 
Zaphod wonders why the heck there's an antler and springbok pelt on the couch. Humans are weird.
Oh, Lucy's coming to say hello.
H-hi Lucy, that's close enough...
Strike a pose.
Man, check out that sweet antler. Oh I guess a ferret is in the shot too, huh, would'ja look at that.
I'm totally that person who buys a pet, thinking they're going into it with the right setup and proper knowledge, then finds out weeks later they were horribly, horribly wrong. Same goes for my collection of kittyfish. Turns out they like sand, not big rocks. So needy. So I  got them some sand, begrudgingly, so they can root around in it like their ancestors did in the wild. I don't actually know where their "ancestors" came from, though. Valhalla, maybe. 
I've painstakingly documented the process. Not for educational purposes, because I'm not good at fish, but maybe just because you have nothing better to do than live through my tank maintenance adventure. We're going with that. 
So here's the tank before I dumped sand in it. By "dumping sand in it" I actually mean "siphoning half the water out, taking out all the decor, rinsing the sand, potting the loose plants, pouring the sand in, mixing it all together, adding the decor back in, and finally putting more water in". So there I've basically outlined this whole post and you don't even have to read the rest but you're going to stay because you like me! ...Right? Please don't go. The internet is a lonely place. Like space. 
From the top counter-clockwise we have the siphon bucket (very high-tech), the decor bucket (also high-tech), the container to hold the kittyfish while I destroy their home, and last but not least, a pillow that may or may not be a Pokemon. 
I took out all the decor. The big rocks, the crocodile skull, the flower, the plants, the fake plants, and the tiny Buddha. Not even the Buddha was spared. (Please don't take that last sentence out of context. )
Then I sucked out most of the water and all the gunk in the gravel. So much gunk. Stupid, messy kittyfish. 

Now the tank is mostly empty inside. LIKE MY SOUL
And here Buddha laughs at my pathetic attempts at rinsing the sand. Which kind of looks like the charcoal ER technicians make you eat if you drink too much. Not like I know about that kind of thing. I'm a good girl.
I decided to pot all the lighter-colored loose plants because they always manage to suck, for lack of a better term. Is there a term for "those stupid live plants that always grow too tall and lose all their leaves to the point where you think they're going to die but they never do and keep growing too tall anyway"? Because that was what was happening to those stupid plants and I was having none of it. Into little pots you go, jerk-plants. (Not you, Mr. Anubias, you're a good plant. A nice, un-murder-able plant.) 

I added a bigger pot for the kittyfish to hide in as well. Also LOOK AT ALL THAT GUNK, UUHHHGH
Here's the tank all nice and not-empty. I like the look the potted plants add to it. Maybe now I won't be shunned by the catfish community for keeping the kittyfish in pebbley substrate. These are valid concerns.
So after I got everything back in order I put the kittyfish back in. Most of them sat in the corner and had a veritable fish-panic-attack ("oh god oh god oh god oh god there's sand in heeeereee"), but not Habernathy. Habernathy is the albino corydoras who is also a badass and nothing phazes him. Phases? Whatever, he's the best. He pretty much started zipping around and shoving his face into the sand like he'd died and gone to kittyfish heaven. Or like a kid in a ball-pit. His enthusiasm was not shared by the others who, to this day, are still not cool with the renovations. Whatever, man. It's cool. Don't appreciate my hard work. See if I care. I'm over it already. 
Today was the day. 
I say "was" because all the exciting parts of it are essentially over. Even though my boyfriend is making meatloaf for dinner. And meatloaf is totally something be excited about. But the most exciting things already happened. 
Because today was the day of the Reptile EXPO. 
I really had no idea what to expect when I got there. It was held at a community center, so basically it was in a giant gymnasium. But it was better because it had snakes and geckos and carnivorous plants. More on that later. 

We arrived at 8:15am. It started at 10am. My friend insisted that we arrive early. Like, 2 hours early. She assured me that lines were long and pickings (in terms of animals) were slim. So if you wanted to get a particular snake or lizard or tarantula or goodness knows what else they had, you had to be there before everyone else. 
So I dragged my buddy Jessie along so I wouldn't be that weird chick who went by herself to the Reptile EXPO because I imagine that's as socially awkward as going to a movie by yourself. Who does that
So we drained our phone batteries waiting in line (we were second) and we got our photo taken by a worker. (I bet the caption for it is going to be "Can you believe these nerds showed up at 8?! Oh man!") 
When we first walked in, we were ushered along a queue and handed a swag bag, like at a Comic Convention, full of little packets of turtle chow and water dechlorinator. At first it was like sensory overload. 
"Cute animal! Another cute animal! Oh my goodness they sell carnivorous plants! What is in that glass box over there? Look at the size of that boa!"
Aaaaand you get the point. On to the photo-dump.  
I have to compare the EXPO to the Emerald City ComiCon.
I feel more at home around the geekiest of the geeks than I do most places. I think one of the reasons for this is because of how casually the con-goers treat potentially strange situations. We rode the escalator next to a Tuskan Raider, waited in line next to Deadpool, and ate pizza next to The Doctor. And it felt normal. No big deal. 
The EXPO is a lot like that. If you see someone walking around with a snake around their neck or brushing an iguana's head with a toothbrush, it's casual. Nothing weird going on here. Everyone there loves their reptiles and is comfortable around them. It's not like at the zoo where the animals are practically drowned by fake rocks and pretentious backdrops of rain forests and deserts. There's such an air of easiness about the Reptile EXPO. If you're there, you're among friends automatically. 

Lizzy is awesome.
For instance... We approached a table that had a giant iguana lounging on it. I greeted her as if she were a dog ("Hey there pretty lady, lookit'chu! Beautiful girl!") and the owner was just all smiles. She then proceeded to give Lizzy a brush with a toothbrush between her eyes and Lizzy leaned into it and closed her eyes. It might have been the cutest thing ever, except for all the baby snakes everywhere
I was more surprised than anything at the sheer variety of the animals for sale. Really beautiful, all of them, and I stopped to admire almost every single critter. The vendors were amazing, too. There was none of that awkward "I-walked-up-and-looked-at-your-wares-but-didn't-buy-anything-and-you-gave-me-the-stink-eye" kind of stuff. If you've been to a craft fair, farmer's market, or convention, you know what I mean. These vendors were positively glad just to see you liked their collection, saying "thank you" and striking up conversation about particular morphs and variations. So basically it was wonderful. 
Also, worms. With horns. Goddamn Caterpies.

Aside from reptiles there were a host of other crazy things. 
Crickets, mice, rats, cockroaches, stick bugs, betta fish, and carnivorous plants, to name a few. Well okay that may have been all of them but still

We found Hypnotoad.
Giant tortoise in a bucket next to a table. NO BIG DEAL.
Chameleons are photogenic as shit.
Is there a word that means "super cool" and also "completely terrifying" at the same time? Insert that word here.
As well and fine as all the critters were, I had a nagging thought in the back of my head-- where are the hognoses?! Western hognose snakes, to be precise. Combine a shovel with a corn snake and give it angry eyebrows and you have yourself a hognose snake. They have snubby noses. And spots. And black tummies. And when they're threatened, they either flatten their necks or flip over backwards, open their mouth, and play dead. So essentially they're drama queens who also think they're badasses and HRRNG I WANTED ONE. In reality, I specifically came to the Reptile EXPO to get a hognose. 

Bleeeh, I am dead, also cute, bleeehhh
Moments into the EXPO, a lady we befriended in line earlier approached me excitedly and said, "Did you see the hogs?" And my mind went kind of stupid for a second and I think I replied, "Buhh?" And she led me to the table where they had a perfect little baby hog nose. Just sitting there. It was looking up at me, as if to say, "Take me home!" Although, more likely they were saying, "Human! Release me! This force field is too strong! I SEEK VENGEANCE!" But I don't speak snake, so it's really a tossup. 
So, $70 later, I walked out with a baby hognose snake. But not before looking at all the rest of the reptiles and somehow convincing Jessie to get her own snake. Unintentionally. 

Hey cutie!
It was a love-bite.
We actually only spent a couple hours at the EXPO, which is surprising since it felt so long. We did end on an amazing note, though. The lady we met in line was sitting outside of the main room and we were chatting about what we got. She came away with a ball python and then opened up a cardboard box and a chameleon just waltzed right out. Again, no big deal
Wait what
Who put that chameleon there
Get back in that box
On another (more critical) note, my hognose has no name. I've recieved a few suggestions, but nothing is sticking. I'm thinking the word "Banter" is cute, since it's a writing reference and has kind of a spunky attitude, but I'm not sure. 
Leave your name suggestions in the comment box! Then I'll post his photo, bio, and name on my "About" page with a shout-out to you for picking his name. 
I bought these catfish thinking they were upside-down catfish. But they are never upside-down. On the positive side, I can now add "why is my upside-down catfish not upside-down" to my Google search history. So there's always that.  
Despite my slight grudge against them, I did some gesture drawings of them because upside-down or not, they're still cute as sin
Yeah okay there's also a lot of corydoras in this but WHO CARES
Catfish are hard to draw. On a scale of Hands and Feet (very difficult) to Budgies (hella easy), I'd mark catfish closer to Hands and Feet. 
Because seriously to hell with feet. Ugh. 

On that note, I'm going to go find out what it means to have a catfish as a spirit animal guide. Especially a right-side-up catfish. 
Catfish-people are independently-minded but still rely on groups for emotional support from time to time. Catfish-people may also have an unexplained urge to eat food off of the ground.
So, if you read my last post, you knew my red betta, Levi, has a fungus. 
Well, had
He's better. Missing one pectoral fin, but the fungus is gone. 100% not there anymore. I'd sort of resigned myself, told myself he was a goner, but I was wrong! Horribly wrong! Which is good! 
But dammit I just bought three upside-down catfish and uuuugh the tank would be too crowded if I added Levi back in, now.