Thursday, September 18, 2014

The 66 Dogs Project

     Animal overpopulation. What a dry term-no hint of the size of the problem or the suffering of the 3-4 million dogs and cats in the U.S. that live their last days in a cage and ultimately are killed each year. 
     A problem of this magnitude can seem overwhelming. Yet many animal lovers find a way to make an impact, a dent in the problem. Some volunteer for animal rescues or in shelters, some donate money or toys or food. Jenny Williams is donating her talent.
     Jenny is a Colorado-based freelance writer, editor and illustrator who spent some time working at a local shelter. After a while, she began to think, "I could spend every day there and still not feel like it was making a difference in a bigger way."
     So, she came up with an idea-something she named, 
"The 66 Dogs Project." Jenny decided to paint watercolor portraits of 66 dogs in shelters or rescues that, for some reason, were being overlooked by potential adopters. She hoped to cast a fresh light on these hard-to-adopt dogs, in hopes that her portraits would help them find forever homes.
    Some dogs from the Baltimore area have gotten in on the action, including two from the Baltimore Humane Society, and Molly, a dog rescued from the Baltimore County Animal Shelter and boarded at a local kennel while her rescuer looked for a home. You might remember Molly from my first blog post and video. 
     Here's the story of the 66 Dogs Project with its very own Baltimore happy ending.

      Jenny has a website, "" which includes the portraits of all the dogs she's painted so far. Her Facebook page allows shelters and rescues to download the portraits to share on their own sites. 
     Every time a dog is adopted, Jenny sends the original portrait to the adopting family as a gift. If you look on the 66 Dogs Project webpage, you'll see many have found loving homes. 
    In case you're wondering, there was no reason to pick the number, 66. "It just felt ambitious enough that I was really committed, but not all-consuming," she explains. 
     Jenny says she felt driven to paint dogs because some, like pit bulls, have a particularly difficult image to overcome. 
     "Part of the motivation for the project," she says, "is focusing on dogs that tend to have a stigma against their breed." She feels her portraits combat stereotypes in a positive way. 
     I was struck by Jenny's story because so many of us experience the same feeling that Jenny described-a desire to positively impact the problem of unwanted dogs and cats.
     Jenny says, "Each of us finds a way to feel useful because that's the only way to keep going. It's allowing me to stay connected to this world in a way that feels good."
     For me, this blog is a way to achieve that feeling. If I can educate and inform, and perhaps even help an animal, I will feel I made a difference.
     As June Carter Cash once said, "I'm just trying to matter." For all the people like Jenny who are finding their own way to make a difference, you matter. 

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