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Alexandria Shelter Dog Raises $4,000 for Animals in Need…Using Only His Tail!

Ricasso admiring his masterpiece. (Photo by Animal Welfare League of Alexandria)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Dec. 13, 2019) —When bidding began on Dec. 6 at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA), no one had anticipated the impact that one Staffordshire terrier would have.  But “Ricasso,” the AWLA’s Artist in Residence, was dedicated to helping the shelter where he’s been living for the past 15 months, so using his ingenuity, his creativity and a paint-colored tail, this painting pup raised more than $4,000 for animals in need.

The Wagging Paintbrush

Rico had been at the AWLA for nearly a year when volunteers noted that his happy, wagging tail might be able to do more than convey his mood — he could use it to paint!  And paint he did.  Over the fall of 2019, the newly minted “Ricasso” produced 20 artworks as part of his debut collection, which were displayed throughout the AWLA’s halls.  Soon visitors began to ask how they could own a “Ricasso Original,” and it was then that the 6-year-old realized that he had an opportunity to give back to the shelter that had been sheltering him.  He proposed that the AWLA auction the pieces to give other animals the chances that he’d been given, and to help more dogs and cats find families of their own.

20 Ricassos Hit the Block

At last week’s sold-out event, animal- and art-lovers alike enjoyed some sparkling cider, hors d’oeuvres and a brief visit with the artist himself before the bidding began…and it was in earnest.  In less than an hour, all 20 pieces had been sold, and Ricasso raised more than $4,000 for the AWLA.  His iconic piece “Pinny in Technicolor,” highlighting his muse, a blue bowling pin toy named Pinny, sold for nearly $600, the pinnacle of the evening’s event.

Ricasso at home with his art (Photo by David Fawcett).

“Owning a Ricasso original means so much to me,” said one of the evening’s bidders.  “The value isn’t just in the painting but also knowing the journey the artist took during his time at the shelter.”

The artist himself is still at the AWLA, splitting his time between a foster home and the Artist’s Suite in the shelter’s kennels.  While he may be done with painting for the time being, he continues to undertake new challenges, including training classes with his foster dad and exploring scenic Alexandria with his team of volunteer friends.  And, of course, ahead of him is his biggest adventure yet: finding a family to call his own.  Ricasso’s adoption fees have been prepaid by a generous donor, and more information about Ricasso is available for potential adopters on the AWLA’s website.

“Artist in Residence” (Photo by Dirty Paw Photography.)

About the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria

The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is a local 501(c)(3) organization. Operating the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter, which is Alexandria’s only open-access animal shelter, the AWLA touches the lives of more than 6,000 animals every year, including strays, lost pets, local wildlife, rescued animals and animals surrendered by their owners. The AWLA is committed to addressing animal homelessness, promoting animal welfare and serving as an educational resource for the community. More information can be found at

Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.

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