Updated: Mar 27, 2019
We hear that you and Ivy do some special things together. Can you tell us about yourselves?
Well, my husband and I moved to Charlotte in 1988 where we raised three kids; I retired from nursing at Carolinas Healthcare System to raise my children. Ivy, my Australian Shepherd, came into our lives about five years ago. Ivy has some pretty cool and amazing talents: she creates beautiful paintings and can tell the difference between beer, wine, water, and soda in the fridge—and then retrieves your beverage of choice!
It all started with my son Jonathan’s Aussie named Chewie. I loved his dog and when he moved to Seattle with her, I was heartbroken. That’s when we got Ivy. Since Aussies are very active and I’m an empty nester, I decided to give her a lot of jobs to keep her mind busy. When she was about 12 weeks old, I learned how to start teaching her to walk on a leash, as well as clicker training—it all comes down to positive reinforcement.
Tell us about her tricks!
My initial goal was to teach her to get a beer out of the refrigerator for my son—when he came for a visit from Seattle. It's a lot of work teaching small behaviors and then linking them together. Once she mastered the beer, a neighbor said that she wouldn’t know the difference between beer or anything else. Well, I took that as a challenge. I taught her the difference and now if you ask for water, that’s what you will get. If you want a beer, she’ll bring the opener too!
You mentioned painting. Your dog paints??!?
Yes. Three years ago, I bought her an easel in an after Christmas sale. I asked her to figure out what I wanted her to do with it. After she figured out how to paint, people wanted buy her work. I’m not an artist in any way, but I did meet with some artists because I have no idea about paint or mixing colors. At first, I would put four colors out and let her choose her paint. After learning that she should use one color at a time, I allowed one layer to dry before she could layer another color.
How long does it take Ivy to paint?
Ivy usually finishes a painting in four weeks. So she will have four or five going at a time. I only let her paint once a week so she won’t get tired of it. She always “signs” them with an orange paw print. They sell for anywhere from $60 to $150. Because of Instagram, people took notice around the world. She now has paintings in Australia, Germany, France, England, and Canada, as well as all over the US.
Wow! She sounds famous!
A friend started her Instagram account so people could see her paint, since I had no exposure to social media. It just didn’t seem like something I wanted to do. That changed pretty quickly once I learned how to use Instagram. There is a large dog community on Instagram: people inspiring each other with training ideas, photography, and tricks. When I started posting her tricks and paintings, Ivy gained 14K followers. As a result, she has done a few commercials and local TV spots. Ivy was featured in the Charlotte Observer and her story was picked up by more than 50 papers across the US. She’s been in our neighborhood magazine several times and was the cover girl for the Christmas issue.
You must really be proud of her.
I really am. I’m as surprised as anyone that she can do all these tricks. She has a three page spreadsheet of tricks—I use a spreadsheet so I can remember to practice them all! What I’m most proud of is her philanthropy. Art supplies are expensive so she uses a portion of her PayPal for supplies, but the majority of her money goes to animal welfare charities. We regularly donate her paintings to rescue groups for fundraising auctions. In fact, we have donated to Humane Societies across the country and have auctioned paintings to help cover medical costs for animals in need. It’s a very interesting hobby! We have given away a lot of paintings, a lot of which is due to her exposure on Instagram.
What’s your end game?
I have been asked that before and what I’ve come up with is to just keep enjoying this amazing dog, since she’s a once in a lifetime dog! I want to keep stimulating her and give her the best life that I can. I want to continue giving to charities while finding inspiration on Instagram. She has been asked to do a PBS show which is in the works; it may or may not happen, but it’s flattering to be asked. Far, far out end game—I think a children’s book about a dog that paints and helps dogs in need would be cool! Who knows?! I couldn’t have dreamed of having a dog that sorts laundry, gets beer, takes my jacket off, puts money in a piggy bank, skateboards, picks up any and everything she’s asked to, and also paints! Ivy and I are enjoying our journey together.
Social Media Accounts
YouTube Channel: Ivy The Aussie