WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- If you saw Chloe in one of the West Chester parks near her home -- a sleek, black-and-white border collie, twirling, jumping and weaving on command around the legs of her owner, 26-year-old Ashley Kallay -- you'd think, “What a well-trained dog!”
But you wouldn't have seen Chloe's best trick, the one she'll use this month to raise money for PAWS Adoption Center and brighten the holidays for dozens of families at the Ronald McDonald Children's House of Greater Cincinnati.
She chooses the colors, using mostly bright hues to make abstract works of lines and dashes. Fifty percent of the proceeds from Chloe's Canine Canvas benefit PAWS, and this holiday season, Chloe also made red-and-green paw-print ornaments to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. She and Kallay will visit the house this month to show off all Chloe's tricks.
“She has this spirit where she just brings a smile to everyone she meets,” Kallay said.
An Artist is Born
Chloe joined Kallay's family three years ago as a puppy. Like most herding dogs, Chloe was rambunctious. Kallay took her to one-on-one training sessions through Petco's Canine Good Citizen program and found that she and Chloe enjoyed learning together.
“It really helped me to connect with her,” Kallay said.
So, they started working on therapy skills. Kallay began teaching Chloe how to hold things in her mouth because she had a vision, too, of a holiday picture -- Chloe holding a basket in her mouth, a cat curled up in the basket.
“That never happened,” Kallay said.
What did happen was that Kallay saw another dog painting on Instagram and decided painting might be something Chloe would enjoy. She was right.
She didn't anticipate how much other people enjoyed seeing Chloe paint. To teach Chloe to work with distractions, Kallay often set up the painting board in parks and people always stopped to watch the dog. They laughed at her tricks. They requested specific colors and asked if they could buy Chloe's paintings.
Kallay set up the Etsy shop, using Chloe's paintings to support PAWS, and started taking Chloe to do demonstrations and painting sessions to support causes like the Ronald McDonald House.
“We're excited to have her back,” said Jaime Fisk, activities coordinator at the Ronald McDonald House.
Honing Her Art
Kallay spends any where from two to eight hours a day working with Chloe on all her tricks. In the year since Chloe began painting, she and Kallay have refined their tools and techniques.
They started with paintbrushes taped to used toilet paper rolls. Those squished too fast, so Kallay upgraded to sturdy packing tubes.
At first, Chloe painted by slashing the brush between two dots Kallay marked on the board. Now, Kallay lets Chloe work the brush as she chooses, but still hopes to use the dot technique to teach Chloe to write her name.
Chloe and Kallay tried out this fall for "America's Got Talent" and will find out this winter if they made the cut. Kallay said the judges were particularly charmed by Chloe's trust-fall into her.
Kallay's tips for training your dog
1. Make everything positive.
2. Use a clicker and train your dog that every time she hears the click, she gets a good thing. This is how you'll work through complicated tricks.
3. Be creative.
4. Be patient and know your limits -- yours and your dog's. When you or your dog start to get frustrated, stop, do something easy and praise your dog.
5. Always end training sessions on a positive note. Ask your dog to do something you know it knows how to do. Make a big party when the dog does the trick and end training for the day.