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Professional pet portraits by Canadian artist Gail MacGregor

wolf close-up

When I start a commission I always put the eyes in first because I feel it’s an avenue to the soul. As I work my way through the painting my excitement builds in anticipation for the finished product. My goal is to give my clients the best of myself in my work. Their satisfaction is paramount. There is nothing better in the world for me to see a client with tears of gratitude in their eyes when I reveal a finished painting to them. No amount of money can replace that for me. I feel very privileged to be doing what I love so much and making a living from it.

My art journey has been challenging and I have enjoyed every bit of it. In 1994 I took my work on the road doing many dog shows and was fortunate to have my work published in several newspapers and magazines.

champion shepherd
Portrait by Gail MacGregor
(a Canadian Grand Victrix Champion)
Published (1996)
The German Shepherd Dog Review
watch Gail on TV

Please visit my Galleries

Horse painting in video
inspired by Chuck DeHann

dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole husky eyes
Gail and her dogs

Gail MacGregor lives and paints in the Ottawa Valley, in the middle of the woods where she need only look out her window to see wildlife: fawns and their mothers grazing in the forest and sometimes on her flower gardens, bears with their cubs, or even wolves chasing their prey.

"Working in this environment is not only perfect for me but essential. Being surrounded by nature’s sounds and grace gives me the inspiration I need to put myself into the moment for creating my work. I am very fortunate in that I have undisturbed creative time."

As I look back at my art career, it all started with my love for animals, especially the dog. The first thing I see in the morning is my dogs' faces looking up at me with those warm brown watery eyes that say, “I love you”. For them, every moment in the day is anticipated with excitement. When I move, they move because they have to be with me all the time; it's all part of their instinctive ‘pack mentality’. When you leave them at home, it breaks their hearts, but when you return, their joyfulness is unmeasured. They look forward to each day like it's their first.

I have learned so much from my dogs: loyalty, patience, determination, fair play, and most of all, unconditional love. Living with a pack of dogs has shown me how to get along in the world: give and take, picking your arguments, and knowing when to turn and walk away.

When a client comes to me to have their dog's portrait done, it tells me that they love that dog very much. When we talk about a dog that has passed, it doesn't matter who they are or where they come from, tears will fall. I've seen large men crumble in a heap of tears when they see their dog's portrait for the first time since their death. It's heartbreaking, but also very rewarding because I know I have done my job well. Many times I will cry with them knowing all too well the pain that they are going through. I share a very special bond of love for dogs with my clients.

In the aftermath of losing many pets over the years, I have learned to celebrate their lives, not focus on their deaths. It is a very painful road in the beginning and at first I think it will never get any better: getting up and he's not there, opening the cupboard and seeing his favourite treats, bowl and toys, finding his hair in the house, even his smell on his collar. I have come to believe that they may not be there with me any more but they are still there in spirit, and in my heart. I do think animals have souls and are even our guardian angels when they leave; guiding us and keeping us company.

It is unfortunate that our pets’ lifespans are so short compared to ours. They have so much living to do in such a short amount of time. Even though we know when we get a dog that we will have to say good-bye one day, we will go out and get another and another because we know our lives will be the richer when shared with these four legged friends. Pets come into our lives in many different ways. Some are bred just for you, while others wait patiently in a shelter. There is always another puppy waiting to be taken into your home and your heart.

Our pets not only enrich our lives, but they can also save your life just by being there. When we find ourselves alone in the world and have no reason to look forward to another day, our little friends will always be there for us. Just the simple task of getting up in the morning to feed our dog can get us moving through another day. Taking our dogs for a walk is a time for bonding and something to look forward to, getting us out of our houses and into our neighbourhoods. Our pets are there when we laugh and when we cry, to snuggle and hold, or just to spend quiet time together. A dog will never tell us later. We are the most important thing in their lives and they love us like no other. They have been known to even follow their masters into a burning house and put their own lives at risk in order to save them.

I can't give my clients back their pets when they are gone, but as a pet portrait artist, I can give them back a memory in a portrait that will be there with them for all time. That's why I do what I do. I understand the love of man and beast - nature has given me a talent and I am honoured to be able to use it to give back to my fellow human beings in times of sorrow and joy.

Having dogs of my own is a very special privilege that I don’t take lightly. I consider myself very fortunate to share my life with them. They have taught me patience, living in the moment and above all, unconditional love. A love of a dog is something so special I find it hard to express. It’s like nothing else in the universe. When I look in my dogs’ eyes I see an endless horizon of love that still isn’t broken by death either by them and eventually me.

Gail MacGregor