British Columbia

Art show honours the comfort pets provided during B.C.'s wildfires and floods

The Creature Comforts art show, running from Jan. 26 to March 13, tells the stories of the important role pets of the artists played during the evacuations from the wildfires and floods that ravaged B.C. last year.

The Creature Comforts art exhibition is at the Nicola Valley Art Gallery in Merritt, B.C., until March 13

Amanda Pryzner-Dunn's portrait of her canine friend Jeff is displayed at the Creature Comforts art show at the Nicola Valley Art Gallery in Merritt, B.C. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Artist Amanda Pryzner-Dunn and her husband were evacuated from their home in Merritt, B.C., amid flooding in November.

Their home is still being repaired.

Despite the upheaval, Pryzner-Dunn says she was grateful for the comfort and support she received from her canine friend Jeff  and drew a portrait to honour him that is now on display in a local art exhibit.

Pryzner-Dunn is one of the 17 artists featured in the Creature Comforts exhibition being held at the Nicola Valley Arts Gallery in Merritt from Jan. 26 to March 13.

In paintings, photographs and clay dioramas, these artists share stories about the important role pets played in their lives amid the wildfires and floods that ravaged B.C. last year.

The Creature Comforts exhibition features paintings, photographs and clay dioramas created by 17 artists who live in Merritt. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Pryzner-Dunn left Merritt for Kamloops on Nov. 15, the day an evacuation order for the entire city of more than 7,000 residents was issued due to heavy rain and flooding.

She returned to Merritt on Dec. 5 and has lived at her parents' place since then. As an artist specializing in paper craft, she says it took her several weeks to sketch and paint her nine-year-old black shepherd cross on a 20-by-16-inch canvas with watercolour and acrylic. 

"I wanted to do some type of art that included that aspect of his spirit and personality that he's tough, but that doesn't mean that he's not friendly and gentle," she said.

Pryzner-Dunn says Jeff, a rescue dog she adopted from the B.C. SPCA in Kelowna four years ago, is blind and has body co-ordination issues due to a head injury, but he has been very active sniffing around and greeting other dogs while walking in the park.

"During the flood and the evacuation, he was so resilient and adaptable, and he just [was] great to be around and offered lots of comfort," she said. "He was a constant reminder about resilience and how to find peace sometimes when it's really difficult, when there seems to be chaos and uncertainty."

Pryzner-Dunn says her shepherd cross Jeff, 9, has reminded her of staying resilient during challenging times of evacuation from flooding in Merritt. (Submitted by Amanda Pryzner-Dunn)

Curator Jano Howarth, who fled Merritt for the Shuswap with her son and cat last year, agrees that pets can offer a lot of comfort to their humans during stressful times.

"I posted on Facebook. I told stories about her [the cat] and read about other people as well, and realized that it was one of the threads that keep us going during difficult times," she told host Shelley Joyce on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops

"It's just having the focus, something outside the difficulty that's happening, and giving us something to care for and think about [and] love."

Curator Jano Howarth, also an evacuee from the Merritt flooding, says her cat has helped her live through the challenging times. (Submitted by Jano Howarth)

Besides displaying her works, Pryzner-Dunn will hold an arts workshop for children at the exhibition on Feb. 26, where they will have a chance to share stories about their pets.

Creature Comforts is open for public viewing from Wednesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops and Jenifer Norwell

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