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A one-eared dog named Van Gogh discovered a new passion – painting – and in the process, also found his forever home.
A Colorful Backstory
Van Gogh was a victim of dog fighting. He was found hiding in a drain pipe, covered in blood, cuts, and scrapes. A North Carolina shelter took him in, but he was at risk of being put down. That’s when Jaclyn Gartner stepped in. She’s the founder of the Happily Furever After Rescue in Bethel, Connecticut, which rescues animals that might otherwise face euthanasia.
“He’d had an absolutely horrific life, and yet he looked happy, and I was told he got along well with people,” Gartner told the Washington Post. “His ear had to be surgically removed, but Van Gogh was resilient, even after all he’d been through.”
Gartner recruited the nonprofit Pilots N Paws to fly the pup to her home state of Connecticut last summer. She advertised that the adorable Boxer-Pit Bull mix was available for adoption on Facebook, Petfinder, and Rescue Me, but didn’t find any takers.
“Not a single application came in,” Gartner said. “I couldn’t believe it. He was the cutest dog ever.”
The 7-year-old canine bounced from foster family to foster family for four months. Brainstorming on how Gartner could make the one-eared dog more adoptable, she decided to try something she’d seen on TikTok: dogs that paint. It was the perfect hobby for the one-eared pup.
Gartner facilitated the creative process by dropping paint onto an 8-by-10-inch canvas, then wrapping it with plastic wrap, and spreading a thin layer of peanut butter on top. Van Gogh began to create works of art simply by licking.
A One-Eared Dog Wonder
Van Gogh’s first painting only took five minutes to come together, so the duo did more. One of the creations was even an impression of “The Starry Night” by the dog’s namesake.
After a week of painting, Gartner hosted an outdoor art gallery event. She placed the paintings on stands and served pastries and sparkling cider. But only two people showed up. One of them purchased Van Gogh’s “Clouds” painting for $40.
Gartner was bummed by the turnout of the exhibition, but she didn’t give up. She took to Facebook to show off Van Gogh’s creations, and in two minutes, she sold out the entire collection, netting about $1,000 that went back into Happily Furever After Rescue.
Van Gogh painted one piece after another, and by late fall, Gartner had enough artwork to host an online auction. Almost all of the paintings netted more than asking price and she raised $2,000 in total.
Even better than the monetary spoils is that one of Gartner’s foster volunteers, Jessica Starowitz, adopted Van Gogh on the final day of the auction.
“As soon as I saw him, I knew he’d be a foster fail,” Starowitz told the Washington Post. “He was romping around and licking everyone and playing tug of war. My whole family fell in love with him.”
Starowitz anticipates many more painting sessions for Van Gogh. She’s even set up an official Instagram account for him.
As for Gartner, she’s been able to place many more pups in forever homes thanks to the publicity Happily Furever After Rescue has received as a result of Van Gogh’s 15 minutes of fame.
“I never in a million years thought I’d see a dog become popular for his paintings,” Gartner told the Washington Post. “It’s really changed my life and his.”
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