Jaclyn Gartner, the founder of Happily Furever After Rescue in Connecticut, was scrolling through photos of shelter pups last summer. A seven-year-old dog named Van Gogh caught her eye. The former stray pooch had been used as bait in a dog fighting ring. His left ear was so damaged that it had to be surgically removed.
A shelter in North Carolina was trying to get the boxer-pit-bull mix adopted. But Gartner knew he would be put down if no home was found. Determined to find Van Gogh a permanent home, she enlisted the nonprofit Pilots N Paws to bring Van Gogh to Connecticut on a private plane.
"When he came off, he was wagging his tail and rubbing up against everybody," Gartner told Today. "He was so friendly right at the start."
Gartner was able to find a foster home for Van Gogh. But getting him adopted proved challenging. Nobody seemed to want the seven-year-old pooch. "Not a single application came in," she told Washington Post. "I couldn't believe it. He was the cutest dog ever."
After four months, Gartner knew she had to get creative to make Van Gogh more appealing. She wondered if the one-eared pooch could live up to his namesake artist.
"I'd seen TikTok videos of other dogs creating paintings, so why not Van Gogh?" Gartner told Washington Post. "He certainly had the name and the ear for it."
She dotted a blank canvas with different colored paints and placed it inside a plastic bag. Gartner then spread a light layer of peanut butter across the plastic. As the pooch eagerly lapped his favorite treat, his tongue traversed the canvas, creating a colorful "painting."
"He has a fast and creative tongue," Gartner said. "It takes more time for us to get the canvas ready for him than it does for Van Gogh to lick off the peanut butter and smear the paint around."
Within a week, Van Gogh had created enough artwork to have his own art show. On October 23, 2022, Gartner held an exhibition to showcase the artist and his work. The two people that came each bought a $40 painting to benefit Happily Furever.
However, Van Gogh's adoption prospects remained dire until Gartner posted his story on the Happily Furever Facebook page. It instantly went viral. His 30 remaining masterpieces sold out almost immediately, and dozens more were ordered. The best part was that local foster volunteer Jessica Starowitz fell in love with the one-eared dog and decided to adopt him.
Van Gogh continues to create and sell his artwork from the comfort of his permanent home. More importantly, his heartwarming story is helping other rescued pooches at Happily Furever find families!
Resources: Artnet.com, Washingtonpostt.com, CNN.com. Happily Furever After Rescue /Facebook