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Artist’s goal: Painting all 51 Vick dogs


I’m not sure what I love more about this artist — her paintings, her name, her theme or her determination.

Levity Tomkinson is a Kentucky artist who has tackled a serious project — painting all 51 of the dogs seized from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation in 2007.

She’s more than one-fifth of the way there.

levityFinding herself struck by the resiliency of those Vick dogs who were rescued and rehabilitated, Tomkinson got the idea in 2012 and started what she calls The Re51lient Project.

Tomkinson had started painting dogs — beginning with her own, a pit bull mix named Rinlee — in 2010, when, after graduating college, she found herself without any good job leads.

After reading an article about Vick dogs who had been rehabilitated and adopted, the project began.

“I thought of the idea during a time in my life that was really unpleasant, where I was trying to find meaning and happiness and purpose again, and these dogs were absolutely a part of my healing process. They inspired me to be positive, to smile and look at the world and appreciate all different kinds of beauty …. I am forever indebted and grateful to these dogs for changing my life.”

Like many dog lovers, Tomkinson was moved how many of the dogs taken from the NFL quarterback’s Bad News Kennels managed to overcome the horrors inflicted on them there.

As she explains it on her blog, “I cannot begin to fathom the daily lives of the 51 dogs who were rescued, and those before who weren’t. I paint for the 51 …

“I paint for the dogs … that didn’t win in a fight they never wanted anyway, dying from injuries with punctured skin and a mauled lip and face that became raw meat. I paint for the dogs … with that were forced into a rape stall to unwillingly bring more dogs into the world of dog fighting. I paint for any dog who has been, is, or will be a part of this heinous world. The resiliency of the 51 is my courage, my push, my determination, and my love for this project.”

rayTomkinson, according to the Huffington Post, hopes to turn the project into a book, with portraits of all 51 dogs — those who were adopted and those who spent the rest of their lives in sanctuaries.

“Every single dog has importance and a story to tell, something to teach us, and either their passing or not being adopted doesn’t lessen their message or them,” she said.

“If Re51lient can empower one person to choose positivity over negativity, triumph over fear, allow them to let go of past hurt or add one more pit bull lover to this world, then my heart is happy. ”

(Photos: Lucas, a former Vick dog who died last year at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; Tomkinson, from her Facebook page; and Ray, a Vick dog adopted this year)


Comment from Levity
Time May 7, 2014 at 9:54 am

Hi there! Thank you so very much for picking up The Re51lient Project’s wonderful news of being featured on The Huffington Post! I am so incredibly passionate about The Re51lient Project and I hope that through this exposure Re51lient is able to spread its message of carrying a positive image of pit bulls as well as inspiring people to change their lives to be more positive, happy and kind to an even wider audience. The blog for The Re51lient Project is http://re51lient.blogspot.com and the GoFundMe efforts can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/TheRe51lientProject. Thank you again so very much!

Levity E. Tomkinson
Creator of The Re51lient Project

Comment from robert
Time May 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm

The Vick dogs have inspired so many people with their story and done so much for changing attitudes that one almost feels there should be a memorial built for them. But this sounds like the next best thing.

Comment from Judith Pannebaker
Time May 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

Looking forward to the book being published!!!

Comment from Jen Brighton
Time May 14, 2014 at 10:48 am

The Vicktory dogs should never be forgotten as they started the trend of giving dogs rescued from fighting operations a chance. They have more than proved that a dog is a dog is a dog with the right owner. Thank you Levity Tomkinson with all my heart–the owner of two spoiled (trained) pit mixes.