Pet Tales: A brush with fame for Lucas




Lucas has no way of knowing he's famous on the Internet, where as many as 100,000 Facebook followers have "liked" pictures of the painting, "A Golden Retriever at the Museum." But he clearly enjoyed the attention that fame has brought as he greeted people who came to meet him at the Animal Rescue League shelter in Larimer.

Lucas was accompanied by his owner, Tom Mosser, the artist who painted his dog staring raptly at a painting of a giant green tennis ball. The original oil on canvas was also at the shelter for the press conference, but it's not for sale. You can't buy a print, either, because 100 signed, limited-edition prints -- $495 each -- sold out in five weeks after photos of the painting went viral on social media.

You can buy T-shirts with a reproduction of the painting on the front, and a signature paw print from Lucas on the back. They're $25, with half of that going to the shelter. You can buy them at Animal Rescue League, 6620 Hamilton Ave., 15206, or order them on the shelter website.

A big stack of T-shirts was unveiled on Wednesday along with Mr. Mosser's just-completed follow-up painting: "Sharing the Love: A Golden Retriever and a Labrador Retriever at the Museum." The new one shows Lucas, 3, and his friend, Norma, 7, sitting side by side, staring raptly at a giant green tennis ball. There are 100 signed prints at $495 each.

Norma's family brought the chocolate Lab to the big "reveal," and Lucas couldn't have been happier to see her. The dogs get together occasionally because Norma and her family in Fox Chapel -- Harold Balk, his wife, Ingrid Wecht, and their daughters Jessica Balk, 8, and Norma Balk, 7 -- are friends with Mr. Mosser.

Every day is "take your dog to work day" for Mr. Mosser and Lucas, who live and work at The Spinning Plate Artist Lofts on Friendship Avenue in East Liberty.

Mr. Mosser has been working on a "museum series" of paintings that feature people looking at abstract paintings. He said it made him wonder what Lucas would enjoy seeing at a museum. The dog also loves sticks and food, but like many retrievers Lucas goes bonkers for balls, so that's what made it into the painting that was finished in March. He created a Facebook page, A Golden Retriever at the Museum, that got 840 "likes" from people who shared and posted to other sites. Someone posted it to the Facebook page Life With Dogs, where it picked up more than 25,000 "likes" and nearly 11,000 shares.

That's when Mr. Mosser started getting telephone calls, emails and prospective buyers from all over the world, including golden retriever rescue groups that bought prints for fundraising auctions. He gave them discounted prices on the prints.

While Mr. Mosser declines to give his age, he admits to working as an artist for at least 40 years. It's his full-time job, and many of his paintings and murals involve sports figures. Nothing has garnered as much attention as the painting of Lucas. He's surprised but admits "it's incredibly gratifying ... and a little scary."

He's especially touched by the people who share with him stories about their own dogs, and he's excited about the prospect of working with shelters and rescue groups to help them raise money.

Here's a fun fact: Mr. Mosser was the Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot mascot from 1988 to 1996. That means Mr. Mosser is the Parrot that our son, Dante Fuoco (now 22) so enjoyed watching during trips to the ball park during his pre-school years.

Go to www.tommosser.com for further information.

Rabies clinics

Animals Friends is hosting clinics where rabies shots are $10 for cats and dogs. Here are the dates and locations:

• Sunday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., McKeesport Fire Hall, Eden Park Boulevard.

• July 7, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Penn Hills Public Works Garage, 6600 Leechburg Road.

• July 28, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Hook & Ladder Co., 120 Brownsville Road, Mount Oliver.

• Aug. 11, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Forest Hills Fire Department, 2071 Ardmore Blvd.

• Sept. 15, 1-3 p.m., Christ Lutheran Church, 910 North Ave., Millvale.

All dogs must be leashed and cats in carriers. Information: www.ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org/rabies or 412-847-7076.

Dogs at work

Friday is Take Your Dog To Work Day. The event was started in 1999 by Pet Sitters International to celebrate the human-canine bond and promote pet adoptions from shelters and rescues. Pet Sitters has designated Monday through Friday as Take Your Pet To Work Week to accommodate other animals and the people who don't work on Fridays.

It starts with getting permission from the boss, and making sure co-workers are not allergic or fearful. Go to www.takeyourdog.com for further information and to download a free kit.

Paws for Cancer

The fifth annual Paws for Cancer Walk is next Saturday at Fairview Park on Greenwood Drive in South Fayette. Registration is at 11 a.m., followed by a noon blessing of pets and people and then the one-hour walk.

It's $25 for the first dog and $10 for the second. Money raised goes to the South Fayette/Bridgeville Relay for life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

There are usually vendors. The makers of Big Ben's BBQ Sauces is donating a percentage of proceeds to the walk.

Though the walk requires leashes, Fairview Park has an "off leash" area with woods and meadows where dogs can romp before and after this event. Past events have had 40-170 dogs, depending on the weather.

Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to petpoints@post-gazette.com. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.




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