10/21/2009 at 10:49 AM EDT
These may seem like the words of a jaded pets writer, but, paintbrush-wielding animals? Dime a dozen around here – we've seen chimps
and even alligators
dabble in the art world. So what makes Sammy the painting dog so special?
The 6-year-old foxhound shepherd mix not only commands up to $1,700 for one of his abstract works, but he is also a trained service dog who can open doors and withstand rainstorms to help people in need.
His owner, Mary Stadelbacher, who is the founder and president of Shore Service Dogs in eastern Maryland, has run the training organization since 2004, and in 2006, started teaching the dogs how to paint. She rescued Sammy from the pound – where he had been surrendered, twice – and has two other service dogs, Major and Kayne.
Stadelbacher, who suffers from advanced Lyme disease and who has needed the help of her service dogs in the past, teaches animals to paint (with non-toxic, acrylic craft paints) by holding a specially designed paintbrush in their mouths. She takes her "Doggie Da Vincis" to do demonstrations for charity, and has taught them how to focus in the middle of the frenzy of children, loud noises and strange smells (see video of Sammy in action here
Sammy, a "big ham," excelled at painting early on, and his paintings are currently on exhibit
at the Denise Bibro Fine Art Gallery in New York City. Unlike Major, who is an overachiever with busy canvasses, and Kayne, who is too much of a minimalist, Sammy has a "Goldilocks syndrome," according to Stadelbacher. "He's good at combining strokes and going in different directions," she tells PEOPLEPets.com. "He does a good job of trying to make it look good." Click here to see a gallery of Sammy at work on a masterpiece!Read more PEOPLEPets.com stories about painterly canines:New York City Art Gallery Really Goes to the DogsTillie the Dog Fetches Up to $2,000 for Her Art