With comfy couches, toys spread all around and warm artwork on the walls, the dog shelter facility in Penticton looks an awful lot like a cozy living room.
“When I originally came here, it was bare walls,” said facility manager and dog control officer Elizabeth Bigg. “It was just a very cold environment.”
The centre sees a lot of dog owners and their children coming up to pick up their lost furry friend.
“When they come in, they’re already nervous,” Bigg said. “So I wanted to create a really nice, warm, comfortable environment that was children-friendly, dog-friendly and adult-friendly.”
And so Bigg put a call out to the Penticton community looking for artists willing to donate their time and creativity.
True Colours, a local paint store, donated the supplies, and two local artists gave their time and passion to beautify the shelter.
“I thought a dog park would be a good thing to do,” said one of the artists involved in the makeover, Barb Hofer. “I had friends and relatives send me photos of their dogs.”
Hofer’s dog park mural showcases dozens of rescue dogs she knows as well as members of her family, like her grandchildren.
She also took over a second wall and painted a garden-themed mural across it.
The project took the artist about 30 hours to complete.
“I love dogs, and we’ve always had dogs in our lives,” Hofer said. “They’re man’s best friend and they’re wonderful animals so I think they need a safe place and a welcoming place.”
The second artist, Lyse Deselliers, is a former veterinarian and was quickly sold on the project due to her love of dogs and immediate connection with Bigg and the team.
“I like to do a project to give back to the community every year, just one around my birthday,” Deselliers said. “I came up here and talked to Elizabeth. Because of my vet background, we just hit it off because talking about dogs, you can go on forever.”
Deselliers completed one mural paying homage to a historical Canadian figure.
“This was actually done to commemorate a trip that one Canadian explorer, Karsten Heuer, had done years ago when he walked from Yellowstone to Yukon,” Deselliers said.
The second mural had a very personal connection to Bigg.
It’s a mural of Bigg’s husband, who passed away tragically in 2016, walking alongside their dog.
“It’s so lovely to have a piece of him up on the wall,” Bigg said. “This painting was done in loving memory, and it’s very fitting with the pound and the connection between man and his dog.”
Both artists were happy to donate their time to create a welcoming space for the dogs using the shelter, the team and the visitors.
“The process of painting itself gives me a lot of joy, and I think we all need to celebrate whatever gives us joy in life,” Deselliers said. “It allows me to point to what is important.”
Bigg and her team manage the shelter with love and respect for the animals, who are rarely caged.
“Rather than being stuck in a kennel when they’re here, they can run around,” Bigg said. “There’s toy boxes, there’s beds — lots for them to do.
“I’ve always been really passionate and very connected to animals so it just comes easily and very naturally for me.”