When Erica of Dolly’s Foundation contacted The Pet Shop to create a one-of-a-kind triple portrait with a crew of very special rescued pups, I was excited to bring her vision to life. Located in Orlando, Florida, Dolly’s Foundation rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes bully breed dogs, all the while bringing positive awareness to the breed. And because partnering with nonprofit animal rescues is so, so important to us (and Jack, Maddie and Libby too!), I asked if she would share the stories behind this trio, (from left to right) Betti, Gracie and Smiley:
Here’s what Erica has to say about these standout stars:
In December of 2011 I was contacted by the Highlands County State Attorney’s office out of Sebring, FL about 39 dogs they’d rescued from a cruelty case. All dogs were to be euthanized so they wanted to see if it were possible to bring in a rescue organization that could help prevent that and evaluate the dogs. I took the insanely large task on with full force and began spending much of my time at the shelter where a handful of the dogs were located. The shelter was 3 hours away but I was making trips there multiple times a week visiting with the dogs, evaluating them, photographing them, bringing treats to them while they sat and waited out this whole ordeal. I began to really connect with some of the dogs in the case – they were all amazing – but there were two that particularly stood out to me.
One of them was a little black staffy bull with such an underbite that you couldn’t look at without laughing. The deputy that led the raid found her first, and as he carried her out of the house he named her Smiley (above, right). Smiley had some serious medical issues while at the shelter. One day as we were visiting the shelter we noticed Smiley’s lack of interest for anything she typically loved. She was lethargic and her gums were pale, so we rushed her to the emergency clinic. This was a frustrating task considering these dogs were still owned by the defendant, as the forfeiture hearing was taking longer than expected, but after a few frantic phone calls, Smiley was in the ER. Her red blood cell count had plummeted to 15%, she was bloated, and she was near death. She stayed in the hospital for a few days while she recovered and was then transferred over to the local humane society so she could relax in the air conditioning rather than going back to the county shelter which was outside and awful with the heat and humidity.
Smiley was doing great until she had another episode; it was at that point that we decided to take Smiley into Dolly’s Foundation, requiring special permission from the court, and even met an Assistant State Attorney on the side of the road so we could rush Smiley to our vet clinic. We never found out the cause of Smiley’s episodes, though we suspect it was babesia, although she initially tested negative for it. (Babesia is a blood born disease that is common among dogs used in dog fighting, as they transmit the disease through blood shed in other dogs that are infected.) It has been a year and a half since we rescued Smiley and now, she is healthy and living happily with her family in central Florida, along with her sisters Betti and Gracie!
Gracie (above middle) is another girl who we rescued from the Sebring cruelty case. She was a quiet girl who had many, many litters in her day. She was missing nearly all of her teeth and was heartworm positive. Today, we’re proud to say that Gracie is now heartworm free and living the life on 10 acres in central Florida with her siblings Smiley and Betti.
Finally, there’s Betti (above left). She came to us after a few frantic emails from a woman about a dog running down the side of the road. We don’t typically take dogs from the public because we’re so inundated with requests, but once we received a photo of this dog we knew we had to take her. Betti was 20 lbs underweight and didn’t have a stitch of hair on her. Her face and head were scabbed over from the worst case of demodectic mange we’d ever seen! After taking Betti in, we soon discovered her heart murmur as well. However, a year of all natural treatment later, and Betti is big, beautiful and living an amazing life with her amazing family!
Erica, thank you for your huge heart and your advocacy for the bully breed. I adore reading about and “meeting” every single pet I paint – often times, Scott will come home and find me sobbing over my email, only to tell him the heartwarming tale of a pet that got his second chance! – and the outpouring of love for these four-legged kiddos is no exception.
You can learn more about Dolly’s Foundation right here, and find out more about partnering with The Pet Shop here. Betti, Gracie and Smiley were painted on two cutie, pint-sized 4×4 panels. For more information on custom work of your own, check us out at The Pet Shop, a tiny division of this Yellow Brick Home.
What an amazing story. Erica, you truly are a saint for taking on a task many people would overlook. What sweet doggies you have, and how lucky they are to have such a great mom as you (although I suspect you feel the same way about them)!
Kim, thank you for sharing the wonderful paintings you did of all three. What a great idea to include them in a split painting!
This story made my day!
So cool to hear the stories behind the pups. Love the triple setup on the dual panels! It turned out beautifully!
Liz, you’re so sweet. I agree with everything you say about Erica!
Trude, thank you!
I always get very emotional reading about abused and neglected animals. I can imagine your feelings while painting them. You did a great job capturing their essence. I have two pit mixes and they are so willing to please because of their loyalty to us. Fighting dogs are not evil as some may think. They fight because that pleases their (bad) owners. Thank you for sharing this with us.
Thanks, Helen! Yes, knowing the back story behind every special pet I paint is a definite perk of the job.