Painting pups find artistic way to raise money

LILLEY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s natural for everyone to think their dog is the cutest. It’s easy to tell which dog is the best trained, most groomed, but creativity that’s something much more difficult to measure. 

Becky Wilkinson, founder of West Michigan Bulldog Rescue, found a way to turn her bulldog brood into painting pups to help them find their forever homes. 

“It’s just this has worked out best for us,” Wilkinson said. “That’s the first time we’ve had engagement like this. I’ve tried auctions, I’ve done 5K runs and I haven’t had as much interest as these paintings have had.”

Wilkinson was able to find homes for 42 rescue bulldogs last year alone. Surprisingly, that’s down from the year before. Also, funding is down. Her nonprofit depends on donations to sustain itself and keep the dogs away from the shelter. That’s when she came up with the idea. 

“Well, my friend saw a video and said Becky, this is a great idea. The pandemic was happening, and donations are down, food donations are down, and she was like why don’t you try this? She sent me a video of dogs painting with their tongues,” Wilkinson said. “I thought if this can help these bulldogs stay out of the shelters because no dog handles shelters very well but the flat-nose breeds take it harder. It’s just harder on them.”

It’s a lesson she has learned from experience of her own. Wilkinson says she has saved dogs from the pound her entire life, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that she adopted a bulldog. 

“I didn’t even know what a bulldog was. I had only seen one in my lifetime,” Wilkinson said. “They have such great characters. They are just different. There are so many things about this breed that draws me to them. They are so needy. When my kids started moving out and having their own lives, I missed them needing me. I felt like I was working for nothing, I needed a purpose and these dogs have given me that. It’s all about me finding the perfect home for the dog. So that’s what I do.”

With their unique appearance, bulldogs often suffer unique health problems. Wilkinson watches these dogs like hawks and selects only the best homes to fit their unique needs.

“During the pandemic, I do interviews through video. People have to send me pictures and videos of their whole house because I can’t get out of state for some people interested from far away. I want to see what kind of yard they have. I want to see what every room is like. I want to see where the dog is going to stay,” Wilkinson said. “Then I call references and I will drill a reference and I’ll want to drill their vet as well. Sometimes interested parties have to wait a while but I have never had an unsuccessful placement and I’m proud of that.”

Now, even with donations down, she is finding ways to engage anyone interested in her dogs through the art they create. 

“Everyone asks me how they’re able to paint with their tongues safely and it totally is,” Wilkinson said. “I put paint blotches on a canvas, place it in a Ziploc bag and then cover it in peanut butter so they’re liking the bag which spreads the paint on the canvas beneath it.”

If you’re interested in helping the West Michigan Bulldog Rescue they’re accepting donation and bags of Hill’s Science Diet for sensitive skin and stomach dog food.

“I love these dogs and they can provide a lot of joy for you family, if it’s the right fit.”

If you would like to purchase a painting, foster or adopt a bulldog for yourself, you can also reach out to Wilkinson on the group’s Facebook page.

“Every time one leaves, I cry like a baby, but I can’t give them everything that they need,” Wilkinson said. “They need the love of one family, maybe yours.”