Pets are surrendered or abandoned during the summer months in appalling numbers. The RSPCA report that the rate of abandonment equates to approximately one an hour during the summer. It's an unpleasant situation that's all too commonly seen across many countries and is thought to be linked to people getting bored of Christmas pets as well as not wanting to pay for, or make suitable arrangements for them during the holidays. The French Fondation 30 Million D'Amis this year launched a hardhitting video to highlight the problem. It's had over 15 million views worldwide.
For UK-based artist and teacher Annabel Wilson, this dismal reality for animals has been a catalyst to launch an innovative art project to raise awareness of abandoned dogs. On each day throughout August, she's drawing a rescue dog in what she's called the Rescue Dog Days of Summer Project. Making use of social media, she's exhibiting each dog in an online gallery. Her aim is to highlight the plight of the world's homeless dogs by giving faces, names and stories to 31 dogs behind the bald statistics. Dogs languishing in shelters, or worse, waiting for people to adopt them; dogs who deserve better from humans. Her drawings include dogs now happily adopted and living good lives, as well as some still in rescue.
Dogs like Percy who was chosen as Annabel's dog No.3 shortly after he arrived in rescue with the Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue Centre.
Speaking about the project, Annabel said:
I've been drawn to use art to promote awareness of rescue however I can. I'm always trying to think of ways to use drawing to encourage pet adoption. I know I'm a small piece of the puzzle, but I'm so driven by it. I'm also passionate about drawing and dogs and trying to make a difference to some dog somewhere.
For Percy, #rescuedogdaysofsummer no.3 the difference is huge. Shortly after his drawing was published, he was offered his new home. We don't know what part, if any, Annabel's art played in Percy's adoption, that's not really the point, what matters is that for one surrendered dog in rescue, his life this summer changed for the better. His image could be that of many millions of dogs in the world today not so lucky.
Human attitudes to our animal companions are depressingly heartless to those of us who cannot imagine acting in this way. It can all begin to seem overwhelmingly bad. But, through projects like Rescue Dog Days of Summer differences can be made. Art moves people. It gets into people's consciousness in ways that other campaign methods sometimes struggle to do. Good art, arising from deep commitment and genuine passion can change human perception and behaviour.
Other dogs that have been featured include Dora, rescued from a US puppy mill:
Then there's Polly, given up at only a few weeks old, adopted and now loving a life which includes travelling in Europe:
By celebrating dogs like these, this art project might just show people how normal dogs in rescue are. That they're homeless, often nothing more complicated than this. Too often people dismiss adopting animals, fearing they'll come with all kinds of problems. This misperception must change and this original project might just help some dogs be adopted and counter the dismal swell of those being given up.
You can see - and if you have a rescue dog take part in - the whole unfolding Rescue Dog Days Of Summer project, day by day on these links:
Annabel Wilson is illustrator for my book, Saving Maya which educates young readers about pet rescue and puppy farming.