Rescued dog beats parvo & distemer to raise $ for charity

Oct 25, 2006
Portrait of the artist as a young dog.

By Ann Parker
Special for The Republic
April 15, 2000

Spanky doggedly pursues career in world of art.
Pit bull's paintings raise funds for charitable causes

Referred to as the "Pitcasso" of the art world, southeast Valley resident Spanky cuts quite a wide swath locally. One of his paintings recently sold for $550 at the American Diabetes Association's Valley of the Sun Celebrity Art Auction.
The pit bull's artistic sphere of influence is not confined to the Valley. At Santa Fe's famous Indian Market, his works usually command four figures.

"I've learned to really appreciate the saying "Don't ever follow an act with children or animals," says fellow artist J.D. Challenger (no slouch himself when it comes to artistic recognition). "We share a gallery at the Market, and Spanky's canvases sell out long before mine."

Spanky's talent is equaled only by his generosity. All the proceeds from the sale of his paintings go to special causes, such as the Assistance Dog Training Fund, which helps train canines for the disabled.

So how did this 3 1/2-year-old pound puppy achieve such fame? It wasn't easy. Rescued Hollywood-style by Challenger a few hours before his execution, the very next day, Spanky fell victim to parvo and distemper. (His name was inspired by The Little Rascals film shorts.) After six weeks in the hospital, the rebellious puppy tore up everything in sight at Challenger's home. To curb destructive impulses often associated with artists (just look at Van Gogh's behavior with a razor!) and help Spanky focus his boundless energy, the assistance of Valley trainer Bob Dolan was enlisted.

Using bold paw strokes, Spanky also employs a unique tongue-and-nose technique. His work has commanded four figures in Santa Fe's Indian Market.

Part of Spanky's enthusiasm, Dolan said, comes from his love of the spotlight. "Put him in his tuxedo, and he turns into a little ham," Dolan said. "Spanky can be in a crowd of 300 people, and he instinctually seems to know who has a camera."

He has an extensive wardrobe, created by a personal tailor, for public appearances. (The Elvis suit is one of Challenger's favorite.)

Spanky spent months watching Challenger at work in the studio and must have said to himself, "I can do that."

The big moment came when he saw a blank, prestretched canvas leaning against a wall. Dipping his paws in paint spilled on the floor, Spanky applied it to the canvas and blended the colors with his nose and tongue. Voila, an artist was born.

Spanky's achievements are not restricted to artistic pursuits. This dog can best be described as a Renaissance pooch. A recipient of American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Certification, he was awarded a diploma in personal protection and possesses a Phoenix Police Junior Officer badge. The good citizen also has received certification as an assistance dog and is especially skilled in medical alert. For instance, Spanky has the ability to sense beforehand when a person might suffer an epileptic seizure. His talents extend to helping train other dogs for the disabled.

"We've even used him to motivate an abused puppy who was terrified of everyone and everything," Dolan said. "Spanky really helped that pup regain his confidence."

In terms of survival instinct, dedication, hard work and helping the other guy, Spanky is a shining example for all. That includes Homo sapiens as well as canines.

He he, Pitcasso, that is too cute.


Staff member
Dec 16, 2004
wonder what he paints with, sure must not be acrylics for they taste terrible. I hope he doesn't get anything bad out of the paint into his system but they must know that. What a neat story, and a wonderful dog!

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