After their beloved dog Biff died in May, Mary Taylor was searching for a meaningful way to memorialize the 14-year-old golden retriever when an idea just bounded onto her lap.
For $100, Biff's portrait would adorn a wall in the main lobby of Pinellas County Animal Services on Ulmerton Road in Largo.
Now the image of Biff — as well as Taylor's current golden retriever, Gracie — greets the veterinary technician every day when she goes to work.
"This is just perfect," Taylor said. "It will be here forever."
And it'll help animals in need.
Artist Anna Hamilton has partnered with Pinellas County Animal Services to create the Pinellas Paws Cause mural. The idea behind the partnership, organizers say, is to offer people an opportunity to "put their paw in" by volunteering, adopting and donating.
For a $100 donation, a portrait of one's furred or feathered friend is painted from a photo onto the mural, which is just beginning to take shape at the shelter. A digital photo of the portrait will be sent to donors upon completion.
Twenty-five percent of the donation goes to the Animal Welfare Trust Fund. Established in 2006, the fund helps buy medicine, food for special diets, toys and other special-need items for the animals at the shelter, where more than 20,000 are cared for each year. It also helps keep pets and their families united during these tough times by assisting families with basic necessities.
On Wednesday, it took Hamilton about an hour to create the likeness of Brittani, a seeing-eye dog who serves a Marine who lost his sight in combat in Iraq.
"I'm thrilled that I can give back to the dogs by doing this," said Hamilton, 39, a professional muralist for the past 15 years.
Hamilton is the artist who has been painting hundreds of animal portraits on three murals in Dunedin since last year. The murals have helped raise more than $4,000 for Dunedin Doggie Rescue. The biggest — dubbed the Dogedin mural — depicts sugar gliders, horses, cats, a flying pig and a goat among the menagerie.
The idea has been so popular that Hamilton and her business partner, Dawn Carney, established a nonprofit group called Murals for Mutts. Since then, Hamilton has been raising her brush for animal welfare groups in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Gulfport.
The thinking is that not only will the mural contribute to the well-being of creatures, but it will transform the adoption center into a warmer and more welcoming place. Potential pet adopters will be surrounded by the likes of Chelsea, Biscuit, Molly, Theodore, Ben-G and Petunia, a 2-year-old French bulldog pictured wearing a red sweater.
"It's her first time on a mural," said Petunia's owner, Joan Ghassemi of St. Petersburg. "We just wanted to support the trust fund. It helps the animals and families, and that's important during these times."
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