A Seattle-area painter has turned her sadness when her pet dachshund went blind into an opportunity to create unique works of art to help other pets in need.
DeeDee Murray, who has made a career as a painter of realistic portraits of horses, dogs and wildlife, was saddened to learn that her beloved rescue longhaired dachshund Hallie had gone blind from Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS), an autoimmune disease that attacks the retina.
"It came on really fast - overnight," she told ABC News affiliate KOMO. "It probably happened within 2 or 3 days. She was seeing fine and then suddenly she was walking into walls."
Murray had already taught Hallie the painting trade before she lost her sight. She said that within a few days after she had taught her to take to a canvas with the brush in her mouth, Hallie was picking the brush up herself.
"She would never want to stop, if I set the brush down and told her how good she was and it was time to stop, she would quickly grab the brush back and start painting again," Murray wrote on her website.
Murray became distraught when she learned the news of Hallie's blindness, and went to great lengths to help her pet. She writes on the website Hallieart.com that she and her dog flew to see Dr. Sansini Grodanic at Iowa State University, hoping that the doctor, who had success helping other dogs regain some of their sight, could help Hallie.
Sadly, Hallie's retinas had become detached in many places, and the doctor could not do anything.
When the two returned home, Hallie became depressed for several weeks, while Murray lined the walls of her house with body pillows. Outdoors, she used blow-up pool mattresses.
Hallie's can-do spirit eventually returned, Murray wrote, despite her blindness. Murray says that her dog has now passed an odor recognition test, and has now begun to paint again.
"I'm amazed," Murray said. "She can't see the paper … she'll put her paw out, and she's only done that since she's been blind - so I'm guessing that she's reaching for the paper. But her paw is shorter than her nose so she can't reach it. "
The two are now using Hallie's artwork - each piece of which is signed with a rubber stamp imprint of her paw - to help out other animals in need. Selections of the dog's work are posted to a website, and all of the money from sales goes to Purple Heart Rescue, a dog rescue charity.
Hallie will also be featured this weekend at the fine arts building at the local Puyallup Fair in western Washington State.
Murray says that the dog that she once thought had lost all hope is now an inspiration to her.
"She showed me that you can overcome, and enjoy life," she said. "She's been here to teach me things. She's always been a happy little dog. She's inspiring."