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Animal Shelter raises funds by painting pooches
Life-size mural adorns walls of Hall County facility
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Artist Beth Henson adds some flowers to the dog portraits Jan. 12 at the Hall County Animal Shelter. Pet lovers can make a donation to the shelter and have Henson paint a portrait of their animal on the wall at the facility.

Hall County Animal Shelter fundraiser

What: Beth Henson paints murals of donor’s pets on the walls at the shelter

When: As time and space provide

Where: Hall County Animal Shelter, 1688 Barber Road, Gainesville

How much: $75 small dog, $125 for medium dog and $150 for a large dog

Contact: www.hallcounty.org/276/Animal-Services or 678-450-1587

Most people hear the word “mural” and probably think about Greek gods and goddesses or scenes from the Bible. But at the Hall County Animal Shelter, the newest murals adorning the concrete walls are all about mammals of the four-legged variety.

Area pet lovers may have their favorite furry friend painted on the walls and included in the mural in exchange for a donation. It is part of the shelter’s newest fundraiser, which has garnered $1,825 in donations.

The cost of the paintings, which are meant to be as close to life-size as possible, vary with the animal’s size. So far the shelter has received requests to paint only dogs, which costs $75 for a small dog, $125 for a medium-sized dog and $150 for a large dog. Half of the proceeds covers the painter’s labor. The other half benefits the shelter’s Transport Project, a program that brings dogs and cats to various adoption events across the country in the hopes of finding them happy homes.

“It’s sort of a unique project in this area, because we do send so many animals to different parts of the country where there’s a shortage,” said Cindy Langman, the shelter’s program coordinator and fundraising architect. “That’s mainly where money goes, just to support that project and any other ways we can get animals adopted.”

Dogs of all shapes, breeds and sizes take up a third of the wall at the shelter. Langman hopes the whole space will be covered in four-legged friends one day.

“It’s a nice way to give some recognition to your pet, because people are just crazy about their pets,” Langman said. “They’re such a huge part of our lives.”

Langman developed the fundraising idea after visiting an animal shelter in Tampa, Fla.

“I think a couple of them are memorials, but most of them are just in honor of (the pets),” Langman said, referring to the newly painted faces.

Local artist Beth Henson has been commissioned to paint the murals, which she does from photos.

“It’s special to be able to honor these pets in a mural, whether they’re still with us or if they’ve passed on,” Henson said. “It’s just something special for the whole family.”

In 2006, Henson graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a bachelor’s degree of fine art with an emphasis in painting. In college, she adopted her own rescue animal, a pit bull terrier, and began to cultivate a lifelong passion for helping animals.

“One of my favorite charities that I’ve always wanted to support has been the humane society, the animal shelter, anything with rescue animals,” Henson said.

Henson’s murals also can be seen around town, including at the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church of Gainesville and in the children’s wing of Westminster Presbyterian Church. She regularly exhibits her paintings at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center on Green Street.

In her own work, Henson has some experience painting furry individuals.

“Just in my own personal work away from the murals, I have probably done just as many animal portraits as I’ve done humans,” she said. “That kind of goes to show you how much people love their animals.”

Henson doesn’t seem to mind how frequently she finds herself painting pets as opposed to human subjects.

“Animals (are) so adorable, and they’re fun to paint,” she said.

Those interested in having a four-legged friend painted may fill out a form on the shelter’s website and make a donation. He or she needs to send a photo to the shelter for Henson to commence immortalizing their furry friend in paint forever.

While the wall is occupied by dogs, Langman insists animals of all species are welcome.

“I think someone was going to send in a picture of a cat, too,” Langman said. “We can do cats.”

To make a donation or submit an animal photo for the mural, visit www.hallcounty.org/276/Animal-Services.

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