"Chase No Face" is a ten year old, female, domestic long-haired cat. According to Chase's Facebook page:
"I WAS IN A CAR ACCIDENT (UNINTENTIONALLY HIT BY CAR) WHEN I WAS 4 WKS (2005), I BECAME DISFIGURED. I HAVE A FURRY WILL TO SURVIVE & I AM COMPLETELY HEALED. I REQUIRE MEDICATION DURING THE DAY TO KEEP MY EYES MOIST. I WILL ALWAYS LOOK DIFFERENT BUT I AM IN NO PAIN! I HAVE SEEN 10 VETS AND THEY CAN ATTEST TO THAT! IM A HAPPY KITTY AND HOPE TO HELP OTHER HUMANS FEEL JUST AS GREAT ABOUT THEMSELVES AND REALIZE THAT IT'S OKAY TO JUST BE YOU. =^..^="
When asked about her vision, Chase's owner Mel had this to say:
"She isn't in pain and her face is similar to a burn victim. It's not raw tissue. She isn't in pain and receives eye gel through out the day for lubrication aid but does still create tears herself. She has vision in both eyes. It will become blurrier as she ages but can in fact still see. She has one partial lower lid. It doesn't move and she rolls her eyes downward to sleep. So one eye is covered. The other eye stares off. She can sleep under blankets or in a sunlit filled room. Doesn't affect her."
In 2011 I made a drawing of Chase No Face from a photograph posted on the popular blog BoingBoing.net. The original photo had been pixelated because some people were too freaked out by Chase's jarring appearance on the main page. You had to click through to the full article to see the full photo. I had been posting drawings of internet-famous animals on Laughing Squid almost everyday and when I saw Chase's unique face, I knew she was my next subject. Eventually, I came in contact with Chase's owner over email and sent her a print of my drawing. She then took a picture of Chase with the artwork and sent the photo to me. Since then, I've been getting nice Christmas cards, cookies, and correspondence from Chase and her family. So, out of mutual admiration I've become pen-pals with a cat. A very unique cat.
A Valentine's Day Date With Chase No Face
Recently, Mel reached out to let me know that the family would be in California for Valentine's Day and asked if I would like to meet Chase in person. I really couldn't think of a better Valentine than Chase No Face, so I set in motion a plan to commemorate the occasion with a professional portrait shoot. The meet-up was planned for San Diego, far from where I live in San Francisco but the occasion seemed worth the trip so I researched Yelp and found the perfect photographer. Jeff Christensen at America's Finest Portraits has over twenty years shooting portraits of families and their pets. You can see some of his work at his website here. After some correspondence with Jeff and Chase's family, an appointment was made and the plan was set in motion.
I met up with Chase in the parking lot about ten minutes early for the shoot and we all hung out in the shade near a Del Taco while we waited for the appointment to start. It was nice just to chat with everyone and we exchanged Valentine gifts. I brought a tiny sombrero for Chase from my recent trip to Mexico, some snacks, and a felted mini-Chase head made by my friend Whitney. Chase brought me a gift bag of art supplies and a hand-made stuffed version of herself. As a bonus, the face flips up to reveal a bottle opener.
The shoot was ridiculously fun. Jeff Christensen was a complete pro and a breeze to work with. Chase No Face was exceptionally laid back and even though she seemed a little confused by all the attention, she made it through the entire session like a seasoned superstar. We got photos of Chase by herself, Chase with me, and Chase with Mel's kids. When we were discussing ideas for other poses, someone brought up an example hanging in the hall of a new father posing topless with his naked baby son held overhead. So, we decided to give that a shot too. My friend Jessica managed to capture some video of me posing with Chase.
In the end, it was an incredible experience. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time and it was so nice to finally meet Chase No Face and her family. Everybody was such a good sport and the photographs really speak for themselves. If you're ever in the greater San Diego area and want some great portraits, you should get a hold of Jeff at America's Finest Portraits. Since the portrait shoot, I've been sketching new cartoon versions of Chase No Face and posting them on Instagram. Here are some of those:
Special thanks to Mel, James, Jeff, the kids, Chase No Face, Jessica, Xeni at BoingBoing, Scott at Laughing Squid, and everyone who helped in some way to make all of these things fall into place. This was really one of the best things, ever.