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Canadian dog lover with autism created art featured on the National Dog Show program


There’s a story behind the cover of the program for this year’s National Dog Show — one that strikes us as far more interesting than who won the annual canine beauty pageant.

(For the record though, it was Newton, a Brussels Griffon, who captured best in show at the Thanksgiving Day event, held in Philadelphia.)

The official show program this year featured a cover (above) designed by a Manitoba artist who began painting dogs as a way to cope with struggles associated with autism.

rottweilerAlec Baldwin’s parents were told when he was 2½ years old that he had mild to severe autism and likely wouldn’t be able to speak until he was 18.

They refused to accept that. When schools didn’t seem to be expecting much out of him, or doing much for him, they took him out, figuring they could do a better job themselves. But the big change came when they brought him a how-to-draw dogs book.

“He just took off,” his mother, Tanis, told CBC News

Alec drew every dog in the Canadian Kennel Club book, and then every dog in the American Kennel Club book. He used watercolour pencils and made 200 portraits of dogs that he gave to the owners of his subjects. He is a dog handler who shows at competitions and is a Special Olympics athlete going to Nova Scotia next year as part of the Manitoba team.

And, yes, at 24 now, he speaks:

It was after switching to paint that one of his pieces, a 40-by-60-inch night scene with 35 champion dogs, won best acrylic painting in the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba’s fine art show in Gimli last year.

Baldwin gave a poster of that painting to Wayne Ferguson, president of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, which runs the National Dog Show, who hung it in his den.

Ferguson then commissioned Baldwin to do a painting for the show.

The finished work shows the Philadelphia skyline at night, with 15 previous champion dogs in the foreground.

It appears on the cover of the program, the show’s VIP passes, posters and 8,000 brochures, even on the wrapper of the show’s official chocolate bar.

The painting was unveiled at a special gala for VIPs, including Baldwin and his mom.

“When I was at the show, I looked down at my VIP pass and it had his painting on it, and it dawned on me that everyone around here who was a VIP has his painting around their neck,” Tanis said.

“We’ve worked on his weaknesses and built on his strengths,” Tanis said. “That’s the best you can do with any child,” she added. “I’m really proud of him. He’s worked really hard — he’s had to work harder than anybody … But above all, he has a good heart.”


Comment from Karen P
Time November 30, 2017 at 7:52 am

Good morning guys, would you please change the title of this article to person with autism? You probably didn’t know that that’s the way we address persons with disabilities now. Persons first, and then disability second. Super article about a truly awesome young man. Thank you for profiling his achievements! Have a great day guys

Comment from Lynn (In Lousiana)
Time November 30, 2017 at 12:48 pm

I was going to comment yesterday about the title but know from other posts that John is a long time advocate of people with disabilities having covered de-institutional efforts back in 80’s. But I agree with you Karen P. The title hit me too. My edit would have been “Canadian dog lover with autism…

Comment from John Woestendiek
Time November 30, 2017 at 5:35 pm

OK, that fits 🙂

Comment from Jen Brighton
Time December 2, 2017 at 7:14 pm

The title must have changed by the time I saw this. Agreed. My husband worked w adults w developmental disabilities, so I learned early on people first language. And then learned again when my two pitties became Pet Partners therapy dogs. 💙

Comment from Jen Brighton
Time December 2, 2017 at 7:20 pm

P.S. one of my favorite memories is taking one of my husband’s clients camping who has autism. My husband warned me not to turn my back on him as he hits. We had our female dog with us. He sat at the fire and stroked her contentedly for over an hour. The power of animals is infinite. He never once acted out.