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St. Petersburg dog mural honors man's best friend

ST. PETERSBURG

Dog mural artist Anna Hamilton sees many similarities between people and dogs.

"Dogs are toddlers, cats are teenagers," said Hamilton, who is working on a mural at the Gas Plant Antique Arcade on Central Avenue.

Hamilton has been painting murals for 15 years. Her latest project was the "Dogedin" mural in Dunedin, which she said raised $4,000 for the Dunedin Doggie Rescue. When it hit 450 pets, Hamilton realized she was running out of room.

"We want to spread the love and save animals everywhere," Hamilton said. She met Dawn Carney, a fan of the "Dogedin" wall, and they started Murals for Mutts. After painting expenses and salary, Carney said the rest of proceeds will go to an animal rescue, but they have not picked a specific one.

She already has five portraits on the St. Petersburg wall. Most of those were commissioned by fans of the Dogedin mural.

"I love the idea of immortalizing my best friends," said Tawny Castle, a Dunedin resident whose dogs Amoré and Duke, both 9, are on the Dogedin mural. The two black Lab mixes that Castle picked up from a pound eight years ago helped her when she was in a wheelchair.

"When I first fell down, he instinctively helped," Castle said of Duke. Duke now works with Castle as a therapy dog at the Homeless Emergency Project.

"He almost seeks out the person who needs him most," Castle said. "He just reduces the tension."

Castle said she has since started walking again and recently ran a 5K race.

There are also stories behind the faces on the St. Petersburg dog mural.

Suzanne Gregoire said her dog, Bailee, a 5-year-old Yorkie-Schnauzer mix — or "Yowzer" as Gregoire calls her — changed from shy and timid to the friendliest dog in the neighborhood.

Gregoire, a Dunedin resident, said Bailee was two days away from being euthanized when she picked her up. Because Bailee spent time in a puppy mill, Gregoire said she was afraid of any human touch.

"I put a towel on the couch so she could sit next to me, and she would go on the other side and bury her face," Gregoire said.

Eventually, Gregoire said that Bailee warmed up to people.

"If you show dogs love and affection, you can teach them anything," she said.

Tony Fasullo, Gas Plant Antique Arcade general manager, is also a dog lover.

"That's why we came in, because of the cause," he said.

Gregoire said she paid $75 for Bailee's portrait on the mural. Hamilton said the price depends on the size of the dog. According to the Murals for Mutts website, portraits for pets up to 25 pounds are $75, pets between 26 and 60 pounds are $100 and pets 61 pounds and heavier are $150.

Hamilton said she looks at photos of the pets while she paints. She said about 30 percent of the portraits are memorials.

Hamilton remembers one dog owner who brought her granddaughter down to see one of the murals.

"She pet him and said, 'If we pet him, will he come back?' "

Carney said the goal for this mural is 1,000 pets.

"Everybody has a story with a pet."

St. Petersburg dog mural honors man's best friend 05/03/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 6:01pm]

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