Hallie's strokes of Genius
By Carie Broecker
Just like Beethoven, who could compose music without the ability to hear it, Hallie creates art that she can’t see. Hallie is a 14-year-old long-haired Dachshund. She and her two littermates were left in the night drop box at Thurston County Animal Services in Olympia, Washington.
Dee Dee Murry was still mouring the loss of her long- haired Dachshund, Jessie, who had passed away four years earlier. She was not ready to get another dog, although dogs either kept finding her, or she would find them and help them find new homes.
Her friend, Diane Jessup, worked at animal services and asked Dee Dee if she could foster the threesome so they wouldn’t have to stay at the shelter. Dee Dee agreed to foster the pups. Hallie’s two siblings found wonderful homes, but Hallie ended up stealing Dee Dee’s heart. She thought she was the perfect dog - smart, sweet, and adventurous.
The next ten years flew by. The two were inseparable, and Dee Dee discovered that Hallie loved to learn and to show off. She started training with her, and Hallie earned several titles including Companion Dog, Rally Novice, Schutzhund, and Canine Good Citizen.
Dee Dee is an artist, and Hallie drapes herself across Dee Dee’s shoulders when she paints and works on the computer.
One day when Hallie was ten years old, Dee Dee wondered if she’d like to paint. Hallie was already so well-trained and used to holding items in her mouth because Dee Dee was always dressing her up in the studio and having her hold things for photo shoots.
She pretty quickly learned to hold the paintbrush in her mouth, and with the “target” or “touch” command, Dee Dee taught her to tap the paper with the brush. Within a few days, Hallie was picking the brush up out of the paint cup and going over to the paper and making strokes and dabs. She never seemed to tire of painting. She could do it for hours.
A few months later their world was turned upside down when Hallie went blind, suddenly, from SARDS (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome), a canine autoimmune disease that attacks the retinas.
Dee Dee was devastated and Hallie moped around for a couple of weeks, but then just as quickly as their life turned upside down, Hallie turned it around again. She adjusted to her challenges, quickly learned how to get around the house, and was ready to go everywhere with Dee Dee and have more adventures.
She started a K9 Nose Work class, which she loved and excelled at! She also started doing her tricks again, and to Dee Dee’s surprise she started painting again, too.
She picked up the paintbrush just like she used to. You would never know she was blind. Dee Dee says when she could see, Hallie seemed to contemplate her paintings more with slower strokes and pauses, but since being blind Hallie is a much faster painter and doesn’t stop until her painting is done.
Hallie has become an Internet sensation and has appeared on several local and national news shows. Anderson Cooper invited her to be on his show in New York, but Dee Dee thought that was too far for her and Hallie to fly and declined the invitation.
Hallie’s paintings are for sale on her website, www.hallieart.com. Her paintings have been purchased by people from all over the United States and as far away as Israel, Japan, and Europe. The sales of her artwork have raised over $30,000 for Purple Heart Rescue (www.purpleheartrescue.com.)
There are also t-shirts, ornaments, and photos of Hallie for sale on her website. Next year, her first children’s book will be out. It will include the true story of Hallie, as well as several fictional stories about her adventures..