Dagger II, aka DogVinci, has been a happy-go-lucky black Lab-golden retriever mix, going about his business, romping with his doggy housemates and, yes, creating artwork that sells for $50 to $100 a canvas.
He’s also become a paint-brush-wielding media sensation since March 18 when Newsday first told the story of the 3-year-old canine. Dagger had been headed for a career assisting the disabled, but his life took a pivot and he’s now applying the follow-command skills he learned in his training as a professional artist.
News outlets, near and far, have been “clamoring” to come see Dagger — sporting his signature red artist’s beret — at work in his Massapequa studio, says his human mom, Yvonne Dagger, 65, herself a fine artist.
He’s been profiled by the likes of WPIX11, ABC7NY, CBS NewYork, as well as Mashable.com, time.com, today.com, insideedition.com, nydailynews.com and telegraph.co.uk.
This week he visited with a reporter for a Brazilian news outlet, with a scheduled meeting Friday with area journalism students, his mom said. Do a Google search, and you’ll find page after page after page of links to Dagger mentions from around the world.
“It’s exhilarating. It’s exciting. It’s a wonderful time for Dagger and me — and it can be mind-boggling,” his mom said.
It’s also led to more than 60 commissions for paintings — a fine artist who’s also an Adelphi University professor described the artwork as having the look of the abstract expressionists.
People are saying they’ll wait as long as it takes for a Dagger original, says his mom, who admits to being a little behind in processing the flood of requests. All proceeds from Dagger’s work are currently earmarked for the Medford-based Canine Companions for Independence, where the artist got his assistance-dog training.
Of course, invitations for public appearances and other opportunities have been coming fast and furious, with Yvonne Dagger saying that the direction in which her painting boy’s unexpected stardom develops is best described as “to be continued,” at this point. It’s all “evolving right in front of us,” she said, pointing to the need to “keep grounded” amid all the celebrity.
Dagger received his first paint brush last summer, when, instead of quietly watching his mom at her easel, he started nudging her, says Yvonne Dagger. She presented him with an 11-by-14-inch canvas, a brush made with duct tape and a paper towel tube and a tabletop easel, placed at dog height on the floor of her — now their — studio.
“Brush,” she tells Dagger, and he takes the makeshift brush in his mouth. “Paint,” she says, and her prodigy is off and running — running the brush across the canvas, making a red dab, then another, then pausing for more paint.
One of his two housemates, Miss Yaya, a Lab-golden cross, who sometimes sits next to him, observing the creative process, has been known to get painted some herself, when Dagger turns his head — and paint brush — in her direction.
Dagger’s workload of late has certainly increased, going from one painting session a day to three, though “we don’t overwork him,” his mom says. Besides getting paid in treats, he’s also highly motivated, and can sometimes be found sitting outside the studio door, waiting for her to come and get started.
Of course, Facebook is showing some love, too, with “likes” for Dagger’s page jumping from under 200 to just over 1,400, with comments such as “what a wonderful talent and a wonderful dog” and “he’s such a talented cutie.”
His new website — DogVinci.com — is expected to be up and running in the coming week, his mom says.
Dagger, who is also a certified therapy dog, is “helping in his own little four-legged way,” says his mom, who with her husband, Denis, had served as his “puppy raisers,” caring for him and providing socialization before advance training kicked in at Canine Companions. A little insecurity around going up and down stairs eliminated Dagger from the assistance-dog route, so the Massapequa couple adopted him.
Despite all the hoopla, the creature at the center of it remains happy-go-lucky, his mom says. “Dagger sleeps, eats, runs with my husband, and paints in his free time,” while she’s “running around like a chicken without a head.”
Mostly, though, she’s experiencing abundant delights, she says, including getting to tell people that “I’m sleeping with a famous man, and it’s not my husband.”