Just like the dogs shown on the Nightline special about puppy mills, Mozart lived the first years of his life in an Amish commercial dog breeding facility as a male breeder or “stud.” Then when his owner didn’t want him anymore he was sent to a dog auction.
Mozart is a Harlequin Great Dane who lived in a wire cage and never played in the outdoors until a fateful turn at the Buckeye Dog Auction. Usually dogs sent to this auction are bought by other Amish puppy mills, but a young, impulsive couple purchased him on a whim and brought him home.
Sadly, two days later they contacted animal control about turning him over to them. When the officers saw the frightened dog who was terrified to walk on hard surfaces and ran from people they knew he would be un-adoptable and contacted the Harlequin Haven Great Dane Rescue.
That’s where Janet Carleton came into the picture. She is a volunteer with the rescue group and serves as the voice of Mozart (Mo) on Facebook and Twitter. Mo needs a human speaking on his behalf because soon after arriving at the Great Dane sanctuary he became a celebrity.
Mo is an artist and his paintings are shown in galleries and special events all over Ohio. Here is my interview with Janet Carleton about Mozart’s interesting talent and how he became the unofficial spokesdog to stop puppy mills.
How did you discover that Mozart liked to paint?
Carleton: It was part of the rehab process for all of the rescued sanctuary dogs, but most of them don’t like the feel of wet paint on their paws. Most dogs don’t like to walk around after having paint on their paws, but Mo doesn’t like to walk on hard surfaces so the paint didn’t bother him.
How does Mozart paint a picture?
Carleton: He paints while laying down on a futon. We squirt paint onto the canvas and he massages the colors in place. He’s gotten so particular he actually nudges his handler when he needs more paint and he picks his own colors.
How often does he paint?
Carleton: Mo paints everyday. It’s his job and he gets really excited when he sees the canvas being pulled out.
How many pictures does he paint in a sitting?
Carleton: He’s getting ready for a new art show, so right now he is painting two small canvases a day. With larger pictures, he usually does half in one sitting and then finishes it the next day.
Does Mo go to the events or gallery openings where his paintings are shown?
Carleton: Yes, he’s learned to love the star treatment. He has evolved because in the beginning he would run away from people, but now he hangs out with his fans. He is still afraid of cameras and hides when people try to take his picture. And of course we have to prepare for his fear of walking on hard surfaces when he attends an event.
What happens to the proceeds from his paintings?
Carleton: The money goes to support our sanctuary. Last year our veterinary bills were more than $20,000. Some of the dogs coming from the puppy mills are in very bad shape.
Have Mozart’s paintings changed since he started?
Carleton: Yes, if you look on our website you’ll see that his early painting were just a paw print, but now he takes his time massaging the paint all over the canvas.
Does it look like Mozart will be adopted into a family of his own someday?
Carleton: Probably, not. Mozart has a lot of issues that make him un-adoptable. But he lives in a home-like setting at the sanctuary with about 40 other dogs. He stays with the director and her husband.
You can see Mozart’s paintings at the Harlequin Haven Great Dane website. In addition to helping homeless Great Danes, Mo has donated some his paintings to raise money for the Franklin County City Shelter, Columbus AIDS Task Force and a military support group that ships supplies to soldiers in Iraq.
And if you get a chance say hello to Mozart on Twitter.
Harlequin Have Great Dane Rescue