When you meet all the animals whose portraits you paint, sometimes they die. And you learn about it. Most of them have lived long and well-cared for lives, but not all. When I learn another has passed, it suddenly makes them seem more real than ever.

The most recent to pass was Rudi Valentino. He was really the first orangutan I spent hours with and was the gateway being to make me such an orangutan fan. I met Rudi at the Houston Zoo in 2014. Most every afternoon he was sitting high on his scaffolding for hours on end. We stared at one another. I talked to him. When I went back to the zoo a few years later, it was August and hotter and he wasn’t out as much.

Rudi was a hybrid orangutan. Half Sumatran, half Bornean. Born before they decided they were two separate species. For this reason, Rudi was never a father himself. When he died a few weeks back, he was the oldest male orangutan in North America. He had just turned 45. He had advanced heart disease. Although it’s not listed in my shop, I do have 20×20 prints of this portrait available if interested.

Here are two more Rudi portraits:

The first animal I painted who I learned had died was a shock to me. He was quite young. Not 4 years old. I had met him at the Denver Zoo in November 2015 when he was the very proud papa of twins. I had just finished his portrait and another of a beautiful okapi when I reached out to the zoo to learn the okapi’s name. It was Almasi. I mentioned I had just finished a portrait of Sango when they said “it’s so sad about Sango.” What !?!?!?

Beautiful Sango had died before his portrait was finished – less than 5 months after I met him. He couldn’t stand one day he was shaking so badly. Scans and tests showed a deformed pancreas, I think, and liver problems. I may be fuzzy on the details. Not survivable to be sure. I hope it was not anything genetic that could be passed on to his cubs. I fell for him hard that day we met.

I also have prints of Sango’s portrait, but it is a crop of the original painting.

And then, several years later, I learned the beautiful okapi Almasi also was no more. I think her death was old age, as with Rudi, but I do not know for sure. Her keeper, who was in charge of all hoofed animals at the Denver Zoo said she was the sweetest of all.

I think she looks it. Her portrait is available as a print, too.

No living thing lives forever. Except perhaps in our hearts for as long as we live. They live in mine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.