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A species-spanning look at health, happiness, illness, diagnosis and recovery

In 2005, feeling very disconnected from nature while living on the Jersey Shore, I decided to invite another animal species to live with me. Not too long after my Weimaraner, Sugar, arrived in my life, it became clear that NJ was just not big enough for her high-energy needs nor did it meet my own needs to be even closer to the natural world. So, in 2010 we moved to Bigfork, Montana. Finally we were where we were supposed to be: humbled by the earth on a daily basis, and creatively inspired by the simple things like a walk in the woods or a stroll around the neighborhood.

In 2015, at the age of 10 and after joyous years of running free and wild in NW Montana, Sugar started to slow down. Age? Arthritis? After a few visits to two different veterinarians, I was told that it was likely both. Then one day in September of that year, just 2 days after our most recent appointment, I awoke to Sugar being completely paralyzed in her hind legs. After 12 days of paralysis and pushed by a third vet, we finally went to Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Then, after an MRI, a diagnosis of discospondylitis (a staph infection in her spinal column likely caused by a UTI), and antibiotics, within two days Sugar was walking again - wobbly but walking.

Sugar Rising, my first solo exhibition, was on view at the Animal Health Library at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine from September 2017 through January 2018, and at Kalispell Regional Medical Center's Healing Arts Gallery March through September 2018.

This exhibition is a celebration of the human-canine bond, the creative spirit that bond unleashed, the wonders of technology and medicine that saved Sugar from this difficult-to-diagnose paralyzing spinal infection, her remarkable comeback, and the MRI that saved her life. Sugar, my best friend and muse, has graced the pages of many publications (including The Bark and Barron’s Weimaraner Complete Pet Owner's Manual), the walls of fine art galleries across the country, modeled in a Perry Ellis ad campaign, and spent 12 days in the Bob Marshall Wilderness with me during an artist residency. The story is a broad overview of her varied and adventurous life including her slow, undiagnosed decline to paralysis, to her complete recovery as told through editorial and fine art imagery.

Sugar Rising is dedicated to our friend Kelly Gownley, without whom Sugar would not still be with me today, and supported in part by a Strategic Investment Grant from the Montana Arts Council.

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Originally from NJ, Lauren moved to Montana to heal the wounds that are created by living in the most densely populated state and being so isolated from nature. Her photography falls in the matrix where fine art and documentary meet; where she can tell truths about our relationships to other people, animals, nature, and ourselves. Her work is about empathy.

Lauren’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at Blue Sky Gallery, Newspace Center for Photography, and Black Box Gallery in Portland; Arthill Gallery in London; Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai UAE; Photoville and powerHouse Arena in NYC; Trieste Photo Days festival in Italy; Colorado Photographic Art Center in Denver; Candela Gallery in VA; Atlanta Celebrates Photography at the B Complex Gallery; SE Center for Photography in SC; Yellowstone Art Museum, Missoula Art Museum, and the Montana Triennial 2012 & 2018; and online at Humble Arts Foundation, Der Greif, and World Photo Organization among others. Publications include The New York Times, Harper's, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and Photographer’s Companion (China).

Camera Aware: first day together - 8 weeks old ✩ NJ, May 2005
In the Hammock - 9 weeks old ✩ NJ, May 2005
The First Week ✩ NJ, May 2005
Sweet Coquette ✩ NJ, November 2005
Sunshine In The Arboretum / Powdered Sugar ✩ NJ, February 2006
East Coast Rambles ✩ NJ, November 2007
Necessary Roughness: recovering from a dog bite in the eye ✩ NJ, March 2008
The Model Dog: posing in a Perry Ellis ad campaign ✩ NY, August 2008
Dancing with Maverick I ✩ NJ, March 2009
Dancing with Maverick II ✩ NJ, March 2009
Sugar in Chicago: Triumph of The Will (Ode to Leni Riefenstahl) ✩ IL, July 2009
Sugar In Blue ✩ NJ, February 2010
Portrait with Her Human Above Flathead Lake ✩ MT, April 2011
Sugar in the Landscape: Jewel Basin ✩ MT, August 2010
On The Beach, Flathead Lake, Bigfork ✩ MT, May 2010
Friends In The Car: Sugar & Steve ✩ MT, October 2010
Friends Off The Grid: Sugar & Steve ✩ MT, October 2011
First Deep Cold in Montana ✩ MT, November 2010
Scenting (from the series Dead Things with Sugar) ✩ MT, November 2010
Buck (from the series Dead Things with Sugar) ✩ MT, January 2012
Sugar in The Hoar Frost ✩ MT, December 2010
Dreams of Sugar ✩ MT, July 2011
Off The Grid ✩ MT, July 2011
Into the Wilderness ✩ MT, August 2011
In The Bob Marshall Wilderness: Granite Cabin ✩ MT, August 2011
Wacky Racer ✩ MT, September 2011
Sugar in the Landscape: Mount Aeneas (from the series Planetary Travels with Sugar) ✩ MT, July 2012
Sugar in the Landscape: Ross Creek Cedars ✩ MT, August 2012
Sugar in the Sunshine ✩ MT, September 2012
West Coast Rambles ✩ OR, February 2013
Sphinx at Stonehenge ✩ WA, February 2013
Celebrating 8 Years Old ✩ MT, March 2013
A Trip in the Woods ✩ MT, November 2013
The Watched Watching ✩ MT, March 2014
Shadow Play ✩ MT, August 2014
Sugar Noir ✩ MT, December 2014
A Perfect Day, Flathead Lake ✩ MT, September 2014
Sugar In The Forest, Winter ✩ MT, November 2014
Sugar Detail: Body ✩ MT, February 2015
The Birth of the Comma ✩ MT, April 2015
Sugar in the Clouds, Flathead Lake ✩ MT, February 2015
10th Birthday Portrait ✩ MT, March 2015
Resting (diagnosis unknown: slowing down and pain before paralysis) ✩ MT, August 2015
The First X-rays: Arthritis? ✩ MT, August 2015
Kisses (diagnosis unknown: slowing down and pain before paralysis) ✩ MT, August 2015
Trying to Be Comfortable (diagnosis unknown: slowing down and pain before paralysis) ✩ MT, August 2015
The Chair She’s Not Allowed On (diagnosis unknown: slowing down and pain before paralysis) ✩ MT, September 2015
Feeling Distant - closer to me yet further away (diagnosis unknown: slowing down and pain before paralysis) ✩ MT, September 2015
Woke up to her paralyzed in the morning, hugging her that night (1st day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ MT, September 2015
Comfort (2nd day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ MT, September 2015
Propped Up: Monday waiting outside for the first visit to veterinarian, Dr. Barbara Calm (3rd day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ MT, September 2015
At Ease: acupuncture to ease the pain at Dr. Calm’s, who practices both Western and Eastern medicine (3rd day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ MT, September 2015
Full of Heart (diagnosis unknown) ✩ MT, September 2015
Rest & Confusion (4th day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ MT, September 2015
Still Wanting to Walk (4th day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ MT, September 2015
Hammock Time (10th day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ MT, October 2015
Morning in Pullman (12th day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ WA, October 2015
Uncertainty (before WSU Visit, 12th day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ WA, October 2015
Going To Be Examined (12th day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ WA, October 2015
Possibilities (Neurologist, Dr. Tom Jukier, 12th day of paralysis; diagnosis unknown) ✩ WA, October 2015
Sad Dog in the MRI (do you see her?) - Diagnosis Discospondylitis ✩ WA, October 2015
Going Home: diagnosis known! (discospondylitis) ✩ WA, October 2015
Dreams (recovery: 4th day on antibiotics) ✩ MT, October 2015
Hopeful (the day after Sugar took her first steps and 3 days after starting Clavamox; recovery) ✩ MT, October 2015
Evidence (recovery: 5th day on antibiotics) ✩ MT, October 2015
First Walk - and a long road ahead of us (recovery: 12 days after starting antibiotics) ✩ MT, October 2015
Walking My Anteater (recovery: leash walking per doctor’s orders - 2 weeks on antibiotics) ✩ MT, October 2015
Sugar in the Landscape Again ✩ MT, January 2016
Selfie Mode: back on the trail ✩ MT, March 2016
Joy at Holland Lake ✩ MT, April 2016
They’re Here ✩ MT, June 2016
Summer Day on Flathead Lake ✩ MT, August 2016
Wild Horses Couldn't Tear Us Apart ✩ WA, August 2016
Running Wild Again: exactly one year after MRI and diagnosis ✩ MT, October 2016
They’re Not Hibernating Yet (fear of bear encounters now that she's a little slower) ✩ MT, November 2016
Back to Our Overlook (they’re hibernating now so hiking ok according to Sugar) ✩ MT, December 2016
Artist & Muse ✩ MT, January 2017
Follow Up at Dr. Calm’s ✩ MT, October 2016
Calm Animal Care (recovery) ✩ MT, January 2016
Portrait in Boots ✩ MT, February 2017
Depths of Winter on Flathead Lake ✩ MT, February 2017
Winter Sugar Detail ✩ MT, February 2017
Winter Stroll on Frozen Flathead Lake ✩ MT, February 2017
Celebrating 12 Years Old, Flathead Lake ✩ MT, March 2017
Winter Blues, Flathead Lake ✩ MT, March 2017
Sugar in the Landscape: Palouse Falls ✩ WA, March 2017
Sugar in the Landscape: Muddy Trails, Portland ✩ OR, March 2017
Sugar in the Bathtub: Muddy Trails, Portland ✩ OR, March 2017
In the Backyard (free from bear worries - it’s spring) ✩ MT, April 2017
Sugar Rising, Swan River ✩ MT, April 2017
Midday Siesta ✩ MT, May 2017
Sugar in the Landscape: Shady Lane ✩ MT, May 2017
Sugar in the Blanket ✩ MT, June 2017
Almost Summer ✩ MT, June 2017
Sugar Detail: Legs ✩ MT, July 2017
Sleeping Details ✩ MT, July 2017
Reflections, Flathead Lake ✩ MT, July 2017
The Eclipse ✩ MT, August 2017

Installation at Washington State University Animal Health Library

Sugar at the opening reception of Sugar Rising
Sugar Rising article in The Daily Evergreen, the student newspaper of WSU.

Installation at Kalispell Regional Medical Center's Healing Arts Gallery

Media

Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine article: An MRI Helps Solve a Dog's Medical Mystery

Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Library press release: Library Exhibit Documents Montana Dog’s Life, Illness, Recovery at WSU VetMed

The Daily Inter Lake feature: Sugar's Story

Created By
Lauren Grabelle
Appreciate

Credits:

All photos © Lauren Grabelle (#ilookatmydogalot)

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