The art of finding new homes for hard-to-adopt dogs

A Nova Scotia artist has painted portraits of hard-to-adopt dogs to help the animals find new homes.

Haley MacLean said the person who adopts the dogs will get the acrylic-on-canvas painting for free.

Waffles basks in the sun in the painting above, and the original photo below. (Submitted by Haley MacLean)

MacLean has painted more than 100 dog portraits over the years and recently donated paintings of Waffles to Misfit Manor Dog Rescue in Kentville, N.S., and of Max to Halifax-based Fly With Me Animal Rescue.

“Waffles’s eyes are actually closed but his foster mom said that’s his personality — a very smiley guy,” MacLean said Wednesday, which happened to be National Dog Rescue Day.

“There’s something really cute about him having his eyes closed. It’s kind of like he’s looking up at the sun with a big smile.”

MacLean is a former journalist who is currently earning her law degree at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law. She’s also an avid gamer and hopes to graduate next year and find a job representing a video game company on issues like intellectual property and contract law.

She started painting dog portraits as Christmas presents for family and friends nine years ago and soon found a commercial demand for her “side hustle,” which she calls Paw Paints.

MacLean said even though she generally paints from high-quality photos, people find something deeper in paint.

Bruce shares a smile in one of MacLean’s earlier paintings. (Submitted by Haley MacLean)

Kelly Nunn of Misfit Manor Dog Rescue said MacLean’s portrait has generated interest.

“Waffles is full of personality,” she said. “He provides a lot of laughs every day to his foster family. The paintings make the dogs feel real. They show they have a personality.”

Max is still looking for a new home. (Submitted by Haley MacLean)

Misfit Manor Dog Rescue temporarily adopts dogs that are old, or have medical or behavioural issues that make them hard to adopt. It cares for them in foster homes until a permanent home can be found. They’ve had Waffles since the fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic means they can’t visit potential new owners at their homes, and would-be owners can’t visit the dogs at their foster homes. For now, they’re taking applications on the 12 dogs in their custody and hope to adopt out the dogs as soon as the restrictions are lifted.

“Don’t overlook the special needs dogs, the dogs that need a little more support,” Nunn said. “Keep an open mind. Older dogs have so much love to give and special needs dogs just need a special person who understands them.”

Both Max and Waffles have had many offers since the portraits were shared online and their respective agencies hope to get them to new homes once the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

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