Dagger DogVinci paints at the Brandywine Senior Living Center in...

Dagger DogVinci paints at the Brandywine Senior Living Center in Melville on Oct. 30, 2018. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Chocolate-colored eyes round and wide, Dagger the black lab-golden retriever mix approached his owner’s easel with curiosity. He nudged her leg with his nose.

Yvonne Dagger set a tabletop easel down on the light wood floor of her art studio. She attached a 1-inch flat paintbrush through the midpoint of a brown cardboard tube, then wrapped the contraption in royal blue duct tape. Her student held the tube with his teeth.

Floor speckled with paint splatters, his canvases became works of art. Abstract paintings in nontoxic children’s paint would sell for upward of $130 a piece, and Dagger would earn the name “DogVinci — The Do-Good Dog.”

“From the time that he started painting, until the day before he passed away, he had painted over 900 works of art, and donated $213,000 to charity,” said Yvonne Dagger, of Massapequa. 

Dagger was 10 years old when he died Jan. 17 of cancer.

Born in Santa Rosa, California, in October 2012, Dagger had trained for several months to become a service dog through Canine Companions. Yvonne Dagger, who sits on the organization's northeast board of directors, described him as “a very intelligent, gentle, loving soul.” 

She added: “He was handsome too.”

But Dagger was afraid of stairs and the dark so the program released him.

“It was bittersweet when we found out that he wasn’t going to be a service dog for one person,” Yvonne Dagger said. 

An unfinished painting by Dagger DogVinci at the Brandywine Senior Living...

An unfinished painting by Dagger DogVinci at the Brandywine Senior Living Center in Melville on Oct. 30, 2018. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

She and her husband, Denis, adopted Dagger and took him to visit rehabilitation centers as a therapy dog. A painter herself, she was quick to recognize Dagger’s interest in creating his own art.

Once his painting career took off, Yvonne started leading workshops: children lined up to paint with Dagger, in the style of true abstract.

Ann Barile, of Amityville, identified herself as Dagger’s roadie. She would help set up the workshops and make sure Dagger was happy and comfortable. 

“He was very gentle, he was very patient, and he just had a way with people and with kids,” Barile said. “He would always try to get to the kids so that they could give him a belly rub.”

His talent was in interacting with people as much as it was in painting, Barile said. 

“Dagger always brought community together, no matter where he went,” Yvonne Dagger said. “His message was always that: create, learn, inspire.”

Dagger inspired her art, she said, and her works became freer after he started painting. She would load his paintbrush with two colors at a time, facilitating a one-stroke application of light and dark, and watch as brush met canvas. 

“Believe it or not, he taught me to be more flexible with my work,” she said.

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