2018-12-05 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

How many dogs have premieres scheduled in NYC, Los Angeles and on Long Island of a television show featuring their good work? Well, Dagger DogVinci the Lab that paints and sells his masterpieces to help other pets in need does. You are invited to the New York advance screening of “The Art of Kindness,” the next episode of Shelter Me, an award-winning PBS program, and your tickets are free.

Who’s Dagger DogVinci? Several years ago Dagger, released from training to be a Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) service dog for a disabled person because of fear issues, went back to live with his puppy raiser Yvonne Dagger of Massapequa. He watched his Mom paint in her studio daily. By nudging her, he told his Mom he’d like to paint too.

Yvonne improvised a brush he could grab in this mouth by attaching it to an old-fashioned meat tenderizer stick. With his excellent grasp of CCI tasks, work ethic and practice following his Mom’s commands, Dagger became an accomplished, abstract artist, soon discovered by the media.

Fame did not go to Dagger’s handsome head. Instead, he covers it with a red beret which tells him he is working, and travels to schools and libraries with Yvonne to give painting classes to kids (and sometimes adults). His message: “If a Labrador/Golden Retriever can create masterpieces, they can too.” Kids use the same flat one-inch brush and non-toxic, acrylic paint as the DogVinci.

In 2015, a Newsday story about Dagger’s first demo at a LI rescue fundraiser sparked a huge response from people around the world wanting to purchase his work; at first Yvonne offered Dagger original art for $50 per painting. It was so difficult to keep up with the demand and shipping.

Jim Perna, owner of Long Island Picture Frame came to Dagger’s demand rescue. He set up a website to sell and ship the DogVinci’s original art, unframed or framed, plus limited edition Giclee prints. Part of the proceeds of each sale goes to charity. The buyer chooses from a drop-down menu to designate a cause.

Dagger at his art gallery show surrounded by friends. Left to right, Jim Perna, Yvonne Dagger, Steven Latham, Chris Elton. Dagger at his art gallery show surrounded by friends. Left to right, Jim Perna, Yvonne Dagger, Steven Latham, Chris Elton. Dagger is chosen for an episode of Shelter Me: Steven Latham, an award-winning filmmaker, creates and produces “Shelter Me,” a PBS series that celebrates the human-animal bond with uplifting stories about shelter pets. One episode features an innovative Tucson shelter program where Alzheimer’s facilities foster orphaned kittens. This project not only gives kittens the 24-hour care they require to survive, but also helps the seniors at the memory care facilities feel needed.

Celebrities narrate the episodes. Katherine Heigl hosted the episode about female prisoners that train shelter dogs to become service animals, while Dr. Jane Goodall narrated the “Shelter Me” program about a group that trains shelter dogs to help protect endangered elephants and rhinos in Africa. Steven is currently working on a program about efforts to protect wild mustangs out west.

Steven followed Dagger’s progress online for three months before contacting Yvonne about featuring the DogVinci in episode #9 to broadcast soon on Channels 13 and 21. Steven wants each “dogumentary” to be multi-dimensional.

Dagger’s art show at Long Island Picture Frame gallery in Oyster Bay included in the episode would bring awareness to Babylon Shelter pets, while gallery sales of 40 donated Dagger paintings would help equip the new shelter which then was poised to open.

Filming Shelter Me: Steven and crew made two trips to LI last spring—first to film Dagger painting at home and at a children’s program at Islip Library. They returned in June to get footage of Yvonne meeting staff and long-time pets at Babylon Shelter and to film Dagger’s spectacular art opening in Oyster Bay. DogVinci arrived by limo. His painting sales raised over $7,500 for Babylon Shelter.

“The Art of Kindness” Episode #9: Shelter Me is presented by the Petco Foundation. Three other innovative shelter programs are featured along with talented Dagger. A senior dog adoption event showcases these often overlooked shelter pets. Susie’s Senior Dogs partnered with more than 10 shelters to find loving homes for golden oldie pets. The Long Beach, California animal shelter worked with its mayor and turned City Hall into Kitty Hall for the day. More cats were adopted in one day than in a typical month. This fun cat concept will be duplicated across the country.

Pop artist MAX gave free concerts at municipal shelters in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. His hit song, “Lights Down Low,” was on the Billboard Top 10. Many young fans that had never been to a shelter were introduced to the homeless animal problem. This unique concert venue shows uplifting events held at shelters can bring in more adopters.

How Get Free Tickets to the NY Premieres: Tickets are reserved online via Eventbrite. The NYC premiere is Mon., Dec. 10 from 7:30-9 p.m. at the NYIT Auditorium, 871 Broadway, NY 10023. And the Long Island premiere is Wed., Dec. 12 from 7:30- 9:30 p.m. at the Farmingdale Movie Theatre at Airport Plaza, 1001 Broadhollow Rd. (Rt. 110), East Farmingdale 11735.

You can find these free ticket links on the Shelter Me website and on Babylon Animal Shelter or Dagger DogVinci Facebook pages. The actual link is: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/long-island-premiere-shelter-me-the-art-of-...

Two Shelter Me Surprises: We don’t know who will be the celebrity host of “The Art of Kindness” episode of Shelter Me. We also aren’t sure if Fendi, a wonderful Pit with ties to Babylon Shelter and Last Hope, has made the final edit. Fendi worked before the camera about 45 minutes because she was the only “chosen” Pit not afraid of the filming crew and equipment.

Before Christmas 2017, Fendi came into Babylon Shelter as an owner surrender after shelter staff went to her N. Babylon house and discovered Fendi and her puppies living in a pen outside. She welcomed them into the pen to see her babies. During the June filming in the Babylon shelter yard, Fendi responded to every command from a volunteer while interacting with Yvonne and Chris Elton, shelter director. Fendi never lost her focus, nor was she put off by the men with the huge cameras. Her performance was flawless. It won her a trip to Last Hope in Wantagh where soon after she was adopted by a lovely couple who adore her. Don’t forget to reserve your Shelter Me premiere tickets today.

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