A portrait of love: Youth’s artistic talents lead to portrait for K-9 unit
Special to The Union
A love for dogs permeated the room as a 14-year-old budding artist presented a portrait of a local K9 officer to the police dog’s handler Tuesday.
Grass Valley Police Department officer Evan Butler was delighted with the portrait of his K9 partner drawn by Kaydence Smith. She was thrilled to earn money to further foster her relationship with her own dog, Cedar, which she rescued from Sammie’s Friends last year.
Butler and Kaydence were drawn together by social media.
When Kaydence drew a picture of her grandmother’s dog, it was so professional and realistic it inspired her grandmother to post it on Facebook and explain her granddaughter’s desire to produce more portraits and earn money to take Kaydence’s own dog to obedience school.
Butler, who handles K9 officer Kano, a three-year-old Malinois, saw the post. He and Kaydence arranged a photo shoot at the Grass Valley Police Department in February, giving Kaydence plenty of photographs to refer to while she drew the 11-inch by 12-inch portrait over the next few months.
“I myself can’t draw, but I thought it would be cool to have a portrait of Kano and help her out with her dog training fund,” said Butler.
Although Kaydence didn’t work nonstop because of school commitments while finishing her eighth-grade year at H. Clarke Powers Elementary School in Loomis, she racked up more than eight hours agonizing over every detail of Kano’s portrait.
The big reveal Tuesday drew “oohs” and “ahs” as Butler and other officers, including Chief Alex Gammelgard, admired the portrait. The dog is drawn in color pencil, and the background is acrylic paint. Onlookers agreed Kaydence perfectly captured the essence of Kano’s rugged good looks and energetic personality.
Kaydence earned enough from the first few portraits she drew to send her dog, a three-year-old Dutch Shepherd rescue mix, to one of Sammie’s Friends’ basic listening and obedience courses.
“We barely passed,” laughed Kaydence.
She’ll have a chance to pay for more dog training classes as she sells more portraits. Prices start at $100 and increase with the size of the drawing (Grimessn@yahoo.com).
Kaydence said a few family members have already commissioned portraits, and the waiting list also includes a New Mexico woman who breeds and trains Malinois dogs.
“She said if I created a portrait of one of her dogs, she’d give me one of her pups,” said Kaydence, who hopes someday to become a dog trainer.
Kaydence is the daughter of Ben and Stacey Nix of Grass Valley, who say their daughter is a “self-taught” artist.
“Neither of us can draw,” admitted Ben.
“Kaydence loves watching reruns of Bob Ross and could watch them all day,” said Stacey, referring to the painter/instructor who hosted the TV show “The Joy of Painting” on PBS until his death in 1994.
Butler and Kaydence have developed enough of a rapport that he invited her on a ride-along during one of his and Kano’s shifts — once she reaches the minimum age limit in two years. Butler also offered to connect Kaydence with professional dog trainers he knows through his work to help her learn more about the career she hopes to pursue.
Butler paid Kaydence for the portrait of the dog he considers his “best friend.” When Gammelgard offered to reimburse his officer, Butler refused but said he’d loan the picture to the department.
“We’re as honored to have this portrait of Kano displayed here at the department as we are to have Kano and officer Butler serving our community,” said Gammelgard.
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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