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Accentuating the ‘pawsitive’ with animal art therapy

Gayle Ritchie and Angie Gray of K9 Trax with their dogs in Glen Isla. The picture shows Gayle pressing her dog's paw into a clay mould.
Gayle Ritchie and Angie Gray of K9 Trax with their dogs in Glen Isla. The picture shows Gayle pressing her dog's paw into a clay mould.

Gayle and her dog Toby go for an art-focussed walk in Glen Isla and create a Christmas decoration.

Angie Gray is a whirlwind of colour, enthusiasm and joy.

Blue-haired and sporting a multi-coloured bandana, purple bum bag and pink and black cargo trousers, she appears in striking contrast to the dull, gloomy landscape in which I find her.

We meet up in Glen Isla – which, I must add, is normally stunningly beautiful, but we’re here on a particularly grey, dreich winter’s day – for a walk with our dogs.

Blairgowrie-based Angie is a woman of many talents – artist, photographer, mental health therapist, dog breeder, puppy trainer and canicross instructor.

Today, our plan is to combine a walk with a special festive-themed art project – creating a Christmas tree decoration using my dog Toby’s paw print as the main feature.

Gayle and Angie take the dogs for a walk in Glen Isla.

First up, the dogs spend time getting to know each other.

It seems that Toby, a chilled-out (and neutered) Lab, has the hots for Sachi, Angie’s extremely cute Shiba Inu, an ancient Japanese breed.

Meantime, Gus, Angie’s male German wirehaired pointer (who still possesses his “bits”), is desperate to get his leg over Toby. Poor, confused animals! It’s hilarious to watch though.

Strolling through the mist.

As we wander up the wooded Angus glen, we chat about Angie’s main mission in life, which is largely to make people feel happier and healthier, both mentally and physically.

“It’s a challenging time right now, with Covid-19 taking over many people’s lives,” she reflects.

“So many people struggle with mental health issues, social isolation and what I call ‘invisible illness’.

“It would be great to be able to offer walks, hikes and runs with dogs as a form as social prescribing, combining it with art as therapy.”

Enjoying the scenery despite the weather!

Angie, who runs K9-Trax, boasts more than 30 years of experience in the professional dog industry, breeding, working and exhibiting her beloved pets and gaining top honours with her home-bred pooches across the UK.

When she was forced to give up her job as a home support worker after developing a long-term illness, she turned to her childhood passion of painting and drawing.

It helped her on the road to recovery and she found it extremely therapeutic.

She now offers “art with your dog” sessions, combining her love of art with all things canine.

Workshops include creating dog paw canvasses, framed prints, key chain keepsakes and paw moulds.

She also takes commissions for bespoke pet portraits.

Angie Gray of K9 Trax.

“My motto is – healthy minds with canines,” says Angie.

“It’s all about ‘pawsitive’ partnerships and the power of the dog and human bond.”

With Christmas round the corner, Angie’s latest project is creating special festive paw print tree decorations with dog owners.

Toby has gigantic, hairy paws, so I’m keen to see how his print turns out.

Toby’s a little suspicious at first!

Stopping in a woodland clearing to shelter from the rain, Angie digs out a fresh block of clay and invites Toby to place his paw on it.

He’s a tad suspicious at first, sniffing the material and cautiously wagging his tail, but I help him along, putting light pressure on his leg and pressing down on his splayed toes.

After a few minutes, I allow him to release his paw while checking the imprint is deep enough.

Nodding her approval, Angie places the clay into a sealed box.

Gayle places Toby’s paw into clay.
Gayle with the clay mould of Toby’s paw print.

The plan was for us to meet up a few days later, when the clay had dried and hardened, to paint and decorate it.

Alas, with lockdown restrictions, this isn’t possible, so Angie very kindly finishes the job for me. She paints my creation blue, as requested, adds Toby’s name, pimps it up with festive glitter and sequins and hangs some gorgeous feathers and a bell on the back of it.

I’m hugely excited when it arrives in the post. It looks absolutely fab and I can’t wait to hang it on my Christmas tree… perhaps tomorrow, once I’ve dug the thing out of the attic.

The fab paw print decoration.

Once all the festive madness has died down, Toby and I are hoping to meet Angie for a canicross session, as we’ll no doubt have piled on the pounds.

This is basically cross-country running with dogs and, while it might sound a wee bit daunting, Angie caters for all abilities, so you can walk or jog if you prefer.

Maybe I’ll see you there?

Gayle, Angie and the dogs… while Toby puts his paw into clay.

Info

K9-Trax offers a range of dog-related services including art workshops, dog memorial workshops, puppy training, obedience classes, social dog walks, keep-fit and canicross sessions. Visit k9-trax.com for more information. For info on pet portraits, see Angie Gray Pet Portraits on Facebook.

An example of Angie’s art.
A pet portrait by Angie.

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