Since Centralia artist Dee Dee Murry trained her blind 12-year-old Dachshund Hallie how to paint more than a year ago, the two have received national attention and recently won a Humanitarian award at the PAWS Community Hero Pets Awards on Bainbridge Island.
Hallie won the Humanitarian award for donating all proceeds she raised from her paintings to Purple Heart Rescue, a nonprofit dog foster care program based in Chehalis.
To date, Hallie has raised more than $15,000 for the local foster care program.
Murry said Hallie, who paints about five to ten pieces a week, has become an motivation for her to keep pursuing her own artistic career.
“I could have stayed home and been depressed with her when she went blind,” Murry said. “She is inspiring to me.”
Hallie suffered a retinal degeneration syndrome, or SARDS, which left her blind almost overnight last April. Murry had to retrain Hallie to paint, which consists of the dog biting down on a brush and dragging it across a canvas.
About three months ago, Murry said, Hallie also went deaf, yet has not stopped painting.
“She hasn’t changed a lot and maybe she works more on her own then I realized,” Murry said.
Hallie’s ability to pick up a paintbrush with her mouth and dab at a blank canvass has also become an inspiration to others.
In the past year, Murry said Hallie has been featured on King 5’s Evening Magazine and New Day Northwest, KOMO News, and various radio shows. A clip of Hallie painting also made it on Good Morning America.
Murry said she was contacted by representatives for Anderson Cooper of CNN who asked if she could fly to New York to appear on his show Anderson Live.
“They said he really likes art and animals,” Murry said. “We really tried to work it out, but I didn’t feel comfortable flying her out there.”
With all the attention and sold paintings, Murry said she doesn’t use any of the money for her income. All of it goes to the Purple Heart Rescue. Murry supports herself with her own artwork and web development skills.
“I joke that my blind dog sold more art than I did,” Murry said.
Murry and Hallie are often recognized when they are out in public. Murry said she welcomes the fame but she is most satisfied with giving her dog, who was rescued, a good life.
When Hallie isn’t painting, she participates in K9 Nose Work, canine classes that helps develop a dog's sense of smell.
“When she went blind I figured the rest of her life we would just have to sit at home,” Murry said. “The opposite has been true. The most important thing out of all the things she’s done is not that she is more famous, but it’s what she has overcome.”