It’s easy to ignore statistics. They’re cold and dry and lack soulful eyes. And when the numbers are overwhelming — like the 5,500 unwanted dogs who are put to death daily in U.S. shelters — we tend, as a rule, to find life is more comfortable and less depressing when we don’t do the math.
Louisville artist Mark Barone is an exception to that rule. Rather than ignore the problem, he decided to put a face on it — 5,500 of them, in fact.
For two years now, he has been painting portraits of dogs who have been put down at shelters across the country, and he’s more than halfway to his goal: 5,500 portraits that he hopes will someday — unlike their subjects — find a forever home.
Their hope is the works will someday be displayed in a permanent memorial museum, which — between its emotional impact and the funds it would help raise for no-kill rescues and shelters – could help lead to their larger goal, a no-kill nation.
Mark, a well-established artist, had moved to Santa Fe when, about three years ago, he lost his dog of 21 years, Santina.
“It was kind of a sad time, and I thought it would be therapeutic for Mark to go to the dog park,” Marina recalled. “I thought it would be helpful for him to get some dog love, and it was. It was really great. It got me in the mood to think about adopting another dog. Mark wasn’t at that stage, but it didn’t stop me from looking.”
Looking for adoptable dogs online and at local shelters, she quickly learned the sad reality that she says neither she nor Mark, up to then, were aware of — that millions of dogs in need of homes are put down at shelters every year.
“Instead of finding a dog, I found out all these horrifying statistics,” she said. She shared them with Mark, along with images and videos of dogs who had been, or were on the verge of, being put down.
He asked her to stop sharing, but she kept up.
“If we don’t look at it, nothing will change,” she said. “So he looked at it, as painful as it was, and day or two later, we were standing in the kitchen and he asked me the number of dogs killed everyday in the country … I gave him the number 5,500, based on statistics from Best Friends.”
It was then that the idea of honoring shelter dogs by painting 5,500 portraits of those who had been killed was born, and along with it, the longer term plan of a memorial museum, along the lines of the Vietnam Memorial and the Holocaust Museum.
Santa Fe wasn’t interested. Louisville was among about 30 places that were.
That’s where the couple lives now, and where Mark has completed about 3,200 of the portraits — some of them life- sized, some of them larger.
“It’s the big ones, 8 feet by 8 feet, that slow things down,” Mark said.
Only one of the 8×8-foot paintings depicts a dog who died a natural death — Mark’s dog, Santina. According to Marina, Santina will serve as the gatekeeper of the exhibit. Other large portraits feature Batman, a 10-year-old pit bull who was left outside in 21 degree weather, and was found dead at a shelter the next morning, and Grant, who was deemed unadoptable due food bowl aggression and put down.
The large paintings — there will be 10 of them — will include the individual stories of those dogs, representing the most common reasons shelters give to put animals down.
Mark and Marina are still looking for a permanent place to house the works, and for sponsors and benefactors for the museum, and they have some promising leads, both in Louisville and around the country. In addition to being an educational center, the museum would also be an outlet for selling merchandise that features the images – shirts, cards, and other products. An Act of Dog, which is a nonprofit organization, would pass on all profits to no-kill facilities and rescue groups.
The dogs in the paintings come from shelters all around the country. Their photos are submitted by rescue groups, volunteers and shelter employees. They have all been put down.
Mark and Marina object to the use of the term “euthanized” when it’s applied to healthy animals. “Deliberately ending the life of a healthy and treatable pet is killing. Deliberately ending the life of a medically hopeless and suffering pet is euthanasia,” Marina said. They don’t much like “put to sleep,” either.
“Semantics are a powerful way to keep people from the truth and our mission is to show reality without the candy wrapping,” she added.
Mark paints everyday, from sunrise to sunset. At night, he and Marina work on the An Act of Dog website. They’re both foregoing salaries at this point.
Mark has served as a consultant to cities interested in using the arts to revitalize blighted areas, among them Paducah, Kentucky, and its Paducah Artist Re-locaton Program. Marina worked 20 years coaching corporate executives.
“We could turn away and pretend like we didn’t see what we saw, or we could do something about it,” she added. “If that means we have to live poor, we’re OK with that, because we know we did something.”
They’re working now in studio space provided by the Mellwood Art Center in Louisville, where they did end up adopting a new dog, named Gigi, from a local shelter.
What drives the couple, though, are all the dogs who don’t get out alive — the thousands put down each day.
“The no-kill movement is making strides, but not fast enough,” said Mark who, on those days he doesn’t feel like painting, reminds himself of the bleak numbers, and the 5,500 reasons — every day — he must continue.
(Photos and video courtesy of An Act of Dog: At top, a collage of Mark’s paintings; Mark and Marina in their studio; some of the larger paintings, with Mark’s former dog, Santina, at left; and three shelter dogs dogs Breeze, Freckles and Sky)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: act of dog, an act of dog, animal welfare, animals, art, artist, death, dogs, euthanasia, faces, holocaust museum, kentucky, killed, killing, louisville, marina dervan, mark barone, mellwood art center, memorial, museum, no kill nation, no-kill, painting, paintings, pets, portraits, project, put down, put to sleep, rescues, santa fe, shelter, shelter dogs, shelters, statistics, vietnam memorial
Patrick Stark says he and his dog Copenhagen, a Queensland heeler, were asked to leave a Wawa store in June.
He’d gone to the convenience store in Millville with his dog — who helps him cope with recurrent seizures – to pick up some sandwiches, but an assistant manager argued that his dog wasn’t allowed.
Other customers reportedly joined in. Copenhagen reportedly sat quietly and watched.
Stark said even when he pointed to the special tags on Copenhagen the assistant manager would not listen to him and called police.
“The police were great when they got there,” Stark said. “They were so nice to me.”
New Jersey state officials announced the settlement Wednesday. Despite the payoff, Stark said he plans to avoid Wawas, or at least that Wawa, in the future. Wawa Food Markets operates almost 600 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
The Pennsylvania-based chain has agreed to post signs in its New Jersey stores saying service dogs are welcome and to train employees about state laws regarding service animals. The company didn’t admit any liability as part of the settlement, according to NJ.com.
“Service dogs are permitted in all Wawa stores,” said company spokesperson Lori Bruce. “It is always our effort and intent to fully comply with the law and treat all customers with sensitivity and respect. If for some reason we find out that there was an individual experience that did not reflect that, we will always do our best to look into the situation and address it immediately.”
Stark served in the Army from 1998 to 2000, and began having problems with recurrent seizures three years ago when he was hit in the head during a mugging in Seattle.
“He’s my lifeline,” Stark said of Copenhagen. “Without him I can’t function. Without him I can’t go anywhere and have an independent life.”
Posted by jwoestendiek August 10th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, artist, complaint, convenience store, copenhagen, denied, dog, dogs, heeler, millville, new jersey, patrick stark, pets, seizures, service, service dogs, wawa
Snoop Dogg was detained by authorities at an airport in Norway yesterday after a drug-sniffing dog alerted to a small amount of marijuana the artist brought into the country, Norwegian media are reporting.
Customs officials declined to confirm the report, saying only that an American artist who entered Norway was briefly held and fined.
Norwegian law prevents law enforcement officials from naming suspects.
The Associated Press quoted an anonymous customs officer as saying Snoop — found to be holding marijuana and more cash than is legally allowed – was fined 52,000 kroner ($8,600) for the violations.
Snoop Dogg was scheduled to perform Thursday at a musical festival in the southern town of Kristiansand.
The Daily Mail reported that Snoop, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, allegedly arrived at the Kjevic Airport in Kristiansand with around eight grams of the drug.
It was his second drug bust this year. In January he was arrested in Sierra Blanca, Texas after an inspection at a Border Patrol checkpoint.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: airport, animals, artist, calvin broadus, cash, customs, detained, dog, dogs, drug detecting, drug-sniffing, eight grams, fined, Kjevic Airport, Kristiansand, marijuana, norway, pets, rap, snoop dogg
Nio Tavlos believes his 12-pound miniature poodle, Diego, should be permitted to live with him at a 36-story, no-pets-allowed condo development in Lakeview.
The 67-year-old artist says Diego helps him battle bouts of depression. Without the dog, he said, “I spend a lot of time in bed, I’m lethargic, I’m not creative.”
Six years after the dispute began, Tavlos took his case to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. On Tuesday, the agency filed a lawsuit on behalf of Tavlos accusing the condo association of violating anti-discrimination laws.
Tavlos first asked for special permission to keep a dog in 2007 after learning other residents had pets as service and therapy animals, and that others secretly kept pets in the building.
Twice, the request was denied — even after letters from two of Tavlos’ doctors.
Tavlos, who lost another dog last year, is a painter who travels between his home in Santa Fe, N.M., and his wife’s Lakeview condo.
” …I’ve never lived without a dog my entire adult life. I wouldn’t want to live without dogs, to be honest with you … They are like my children,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Department of Human Rights said his depression qualifies as a physical disability under Illinois state law, and that it found “substantial evidence” that the condo association discriminated against him by denying a reasonable accommodation for the dogs.
The suit asks that the condo association create a policy to deal with other requests from disabled residents and that it train employees in fair housing practices. It also asks for an unspecified amount in damages and court costs.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 13th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, artist, association, chicago, condominium, depression, diego, disability, discrimination, dog, dogs, housing, lawsuit, miniature, nio tavlos, no dogs, no pets, pets, poodle, rights, rules, service, therapy
The U.S. Postal Service is issuing four new stamps that honor working dogs.
The “Dogs at Work” series celebrates the enduring partnership between working dogs and the people who count on them.
The four dogs depicted in the 65-cent stamps are a guide dog assisting a woman who is blind, a tracking dog on the trail of a scent, a therapy dog visiting an elderly woman in her home, and a search and rescue dog standing in a field.
Artist John M. Thompson created original paintings for the stamps, which were designed by art director Howard E. Paine.
The “Dogs At Work” stamps will come out in January, 2012, and are being issued at the two-ounce rate.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 29th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 65-cent, animals, artist, celebrate, detecting, dog, dogs, dogs at work, guide dog, honor, issuance, issue, john m. thompson, office, pets, post, postal, rate, rescue, search, series, sniffing, stamps, therapy dog, tracking, two ounce, working, working dogs
Nancy Schutt was painting pictures of dogs.
Rich Reising and his son were writing a country song about dogs.
Like chocolate and peanut butter, they came together, Reese’s Cup style, merging their projects into the video above.
Rich, who has three Jack Russells, wrote the song, “Life Was So Much Better With You There,” with his son Dan, much of it by exchanging emails. That’s Dan Reising performing it.
“When it was finished, I brought it to work to play for some ‘dog loving’ friends,” Rich said. “When I saw their reaction to it, I wanted other dog lovers to enjoy it.”
Rich was contemplating posting it on YouTube when he crossed paths with Nancy Schutt, who was contemplating posting a video of her artworks on YouTube.
“So we took the paintings she planned on using and arranged them in an order to go with the story of ’Better With You There,’” Rich said.
“From the feedback we have gotten … we think we got it right — so many nice letters on how it reminds people of their lost loved ones.”
Rich reports that any profits made from the song being downloaded — from Napster, iTunes, Rhapsody, etc. — will go to Hearts United for Animals in Nebraska.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 11th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, artist, better with you there, country, dan reising, death, dog, dog art, dog lovers, dogs, grief, life was so much better with you there, loss, loved ones, memorial, music, nancy schutt, paintings, partnership, pet, pets, rich reising, song, tribute, video, youtube
The San Francisco Arts Commission has terminated one of its two contracts with New York artist Tom Otterness after a public outcry from animal lovers enraged that the city would cut a deal with a man who, nearly 35 years ago, killed a dog and called it art.
The commission yesterday voted to void its $750,000 contract with Otterness to create and install 59 bronze sculptures at Moscone station, part of the Central Subway project.
Otterness will still receive $700,000 for his sculpture, “Mother with Children,” at the new San Francisco General Hospital.
According to the San Francisco Examiner, the city has already paid the artist $365,750 for that unfinished sculpture and would lose the money if it terminated that contract.
“I think a prudent decision … is to penalize him pretty severely for the loss of this major, major creative as well as financial opportunity, but not penalize the San Francisco Department of Health and its hospital and not cost the city an extraordinary amount of money …” said Arts Commission chairman PJ Johnston.
One commissioner said she felt both contracts should have been terminated. ”It’s not about forgiveness. I respect his license to make such a piece, but I can’t stand behind it,” said Jessica Silverman, a local artist and gallery owner. “By approving such a thing you make it OK. And it’s not OK.”
Otterness procured a dog from an animal shelter in 1977, tied it to a fence and shot it, turning the film footage into a work of “art” he called “Shot Dog Film.”
“I am disappointed they didn’t cancel both,” said Sally Stephens, chair of San Francisco’s Animal Control and Welfare Commission. “But at least we got the one.”
Stephens said the city should have terminated the hospital contract, even if it meant taking a loss.
“It’s the cost of (the Arts Commission) not doing their homework,” she said.
(Photo: “Large Sad Sphere,” a sculpture by Otterness that has been displayed in New York City parks)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, artist, arts commission, contract, dog, dog killer, dog lovers, dogs, killed, otterness, outcry, pets, san francisco, sculpture, shot dog film, terminated, tom otterness
San Francisco is considering terminating its $1.4 million in art contracts with Brooklyn sculptor Tom Otterness, who once shot and killed a dog on film and called it art.
San Francisco’s Arts Commission, which is in charge of publicly funded art projects, will hold a meeting today to vote on whether to rescind the contracts, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
The commission awarded Otterness earlier this year with a $750,000 contract for 59 bronze sculptures in the Moscone station of the proposed Central Subway project. That was in addition to a $700,000 contract he received last year for a sculpture at San Francisco General Hospital.
The commission said it was unaware of the incident in his past when they approved the contracts, the second of which was signed in September.
Apparently they missed out on the hubbub on the east coast when, in May, Otterness was awarded $750,000 to sculpt a set of lions to sit outside the Battery Park City branch of the New York Public Library.
Otterness, when he was 25, shot and killed a small black and white dog he adopted from a shelter for an art project — basically a repeated loop of film showing the execution. He called it ”Shot Dog Film.”
The incident has repeatedly surfaced during the career of Otterness, who is famous for his whimsical sculptures of people and animals, and it did again after he received the second San Francisco contract. After media reports and amid public complaints, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee placed a hold on both contracts, pending review.
Arts Commission Chairman PJ Johnston said that review is completed, and discussions have been held, but he declined to discuss them and said he was unsure how he would vote. He said he was concerned with the commission “getting into the position of judging the artist rather than the art.”
If I may boldy opine: I don’t understand that statement, or piece of one, but I’m not a real artist. I see nothing wrong with judging both the artist and the art, or, for that matter, the actor and his acting, the football player and the football play, the author and the book, or the arts commissioner and the art he commissions. Doing something well should not relieve one of the responsibility of being a decent human being, or following the rules everyone else lives by.
End of bold opining.
It’s unclear whether the city, if it terminates the contract, will be able to redeem the $365,750 in payments it has already made to Otterness, the Examiner reported.
The San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission, called for the termination of the contracts in an Oct. 14 letter sent to the mayor and the Arts Commission.
“The city of St. Francis cannot display, with public funding, art from someone who has committed such an unconscionable act of animal cruelty,” the letter said.
St. Francis, after whom the city is named, is the patron saint of animals.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, artist, arts commission, central subway, commissions, complaints, contracts, dog, dogs, ed lee, filmed, funding, haunted, judging, killed, mayor, moscone station, new york public library, past, pets, public art, san francisco, san francisco general hospital, sculptor, sculpture, shot, shot dog film, st. francis, termination, tom otterness
They both killed dogs, then went on to even greater achievement, fame and fortune in their respective professions — Vick as an NFL quarterback, Otterness as an artist.
But both are still dogged by their pasts, and both seem to imply that’s wrong — that those who keep bringing up the dogs they killed should forgive and forget and let them get on with their lives.
Boo. Freakin’. Hoo.
Otterness, a Brooklyn artist who once shot and killed a dog and called it art, has just landed a $750,000 city art contract for the Central Subway in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
Vick, meanwhile, will have to subsist under the terms of the $100 million contract he recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In June, the board of directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved a contract with Otterness for 59 bronze sculptures for the proposed subway’s Moscone station. (The board was unaware of the incident in Otterness’ past — even though it has reared its ugly head several times before.)
“Tom Otterness is a world-renowned sculptor who has been commissioned by government agencies around the world to create major permanent public art projects,” Susan Pontious, who pilots the San Francisco Arts Commission’s public art program, said in a statement. “The Central Subway Artist Selection Panel chose Otterness based on the strength of his proposal and his impressive portfolio of past sculptural work.”
We can only guess Otterness doesn’t list his dog-shooting movie on the resume.
Otterness has repeatedly apologized for the 1977 film project. He was 25 when he bought a small black and white dog from an animal shelter, chained it to a fence and then shot it. He filmed it for a work entitled, “Shot Dog Film.”
But the artist, like the football player, has learned that — no matter how much remorse is expressed or, in Vick’s case, time is served — some people aren’t willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to slaying dogs.
“You do not let an animal shooter put up 59 sculptures in your subway system,” said Anita Carswell, director of the Guardian Campaign for In Defense of Animals. “This is a slap in the face of the city. It’s going to be offensive to everybody that rides the subway, a reminder: ‘People who shoot dogs for stupid reasons get rewarded.’”
As Carswell noted, San Francisco is named after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
In a recent New York Observer article, here’s how Otterness responded when the dog killing was brought up:
“What the f— do I do with this? Certainly the scene it was part of, it was in the context of the times and the scene I was in … It is something I’ve grown to understand that nothing really excuses that kind of action. I had a very convoluted logic as to what effect I meant to have with that video. Whatever I had in mind, it was really inexcusable to take a life in service of that.”
Posted by jwoestendiek September 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, apologies, art, artist, contract, criticism, dogs, killed, killing, memory, michael vick, moscone station, past, pets, quarterback, remorse, san francisco, shelter, shot dog film, subway, tom otterness
And, even though he’s living in a new state now, Wall-E — with help from an artist — is still raising money to build a new shelter in Murray County to replace the overcrowded one where he was injected with lethal drugs, pronounced dead and tossed in a trash bin.
After he survived euthanasia — he received two lethal doses, one in the leg, one in heart — Wall-E went on to become a much sought after dog, with national publicity leading to thousands of inquiries from people wanting to adopt him.
After months of reviewing the applicants, the shelter has placed Wall-E with a family that lives out of state and wants to remain anonymous, according to an Associated Press report.
“For some reason I had a complete comfort in picking them. They just really stood out,” said Amanda Kloski, the veterinarian technician at Arbuckle Veterinarian Clinic in Sulphur who cared for Wall-E after he was found alive. “They can give him what I can’t give him and what a lot of people probably couldn’t.”
Kloski said that while Wall-E’s story has made more people aware of the need to find homes for stray animals, overcrowding at the local shelter in Sulphur, about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City, remains a problem.
But donations to the shelter in his name, and sales of his portrait, are helping to raise the money needed to build a new shelter in Murray County.
Animal artist Ron Burns painted a portrait of Wall-E, and is donating 40 percent of the proceeds from sales of the prints.
“I believe Wall-E is still with us for a certain purpose, and that purpose is threefold — that through his ‘tail’ of miraculous survival, he is here to help his fellow four-legged friends, to remind us all of the importance of animal adoption and to stress the necessity of local spay and neuter programs,” Burns said.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adopted, adoption, alive, animals, artist, bin, dog, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, found, garbage, injections, lethal, murray county, oklahoma, pets, rescue, ron burns, shelter, shelters, sulphur, survival, survived, survivor, trash, wall-e