A burst of canine color is now greeting clients as they enter the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital – a cacophony of greens, oranges, and blues, of beaming doggy faces, goofy grins, and soulful eyes. Magically drawn to the paintings, enchanted clients and their pets often forget to check in first for their appointment, such is the draw of the vibrant world of Ron Burns, the artist-in-residence at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital through February 2013.
Burns, a Fort Collins artist, is known for his richly pigmented work which draws the personality of his four-legged subjects out in colorful bursts, and captures their mannerisms, personality and unique character traits. Burns, who is the first and only “Artist in Residence” at The Humane Society of the United States, also is known for his art philanthropy, creating pieces for charitable causes and donating a percentage of his sales to animal organizations. He has painted shelter dogs to create awareness of their plight, and raise money for humane societies. He’s worked with search and rescue, and therapy dogs; developed a campaign that would support legislation to make dog fighting illegal and, in his latest project, is painting dogs that have survived against all odds.
Front and center at the VTH exhibit is one of Burns' private commissions – a large portrait of Doc Holliday, a Chesapeake Bay retriever Burns painted five years ago when Doc was 5. His owners, George and Shannon, have loaned the painting to the VTH in tribute to Doc who died last year after being diagnosed with advanced cancer. Shannon, Doc’s “mom” tells the story of how Doc came to be in their lives:
“My husband really wanted a dog and I kept saying, no, no, no, no, no, I am not a dog person at all,” said Shannon. “Finally, I said fine, get a dog, but it is not my problem. You will get up with it at night, clean up its messes, feed it, walk it…but I soon discovered that Doc was warm and snugly, he kept my feet warm at night; and if I was feeling bad he would come snuggle with me. Though he was George’s dog, he just worked his way into my heart.”
As a surprise for Shannon, George had Burns paint a portrait of Doc, a portrait that “completely captured his personality,” said Shannon (even the lip perpetually caught under his tooth).
Last year, Doc began having trouble getting into the car, and Shannon and George could see his hip and leg appeared to be causing him pain. After consulting with veterinarians in Arizona, the couple decided to bring Doc to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University.
“George’s philosophy has always been that if there is a problem you go to the best to solve it,” said Shannon. “CSU is the best so that’s where we went. We brought Doc here, but his prognosis was not good. We talked about amputation and chemotherapy, but after looking at our options with the staff there, we decided that what we wanted was for Doc to be as comfortable as possible. It was an incredibly difficult time, but the staff at CSU was wonderful, and made us so comfortable, even when we had to make the difficult decision to put Doc to sleep.”
Ron Burns’ dog Loganberry also was receiving treatment at CSU, and, after Doc’s death, Shannon and George worked with Burns to thank the hospital staff for the care Doc had received, as well as the care Shannon and George had received during a difficult time in their lives. Part of that tribute is the current exhibit at the hospital. Burns also has donated to the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences artwork for holiday and thank you cards, and will donate 20 percent of orders made at his website through February to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Center for Emergency and Critical Care renovation project when customers enter “HONORDOC” in the coupon code. Customers also will receive a discount on their order.