Our Mission

Personal Mission:

With spiritual gifting first and foremost as an encourager, I have a fundamental background in volunteer management, or what I lovingly refer to as Cat Herding. With over 34 years in ministry, I have learned more about human nature, emotion and healing than can ever be taught in an academic program.

As we age and experience loss of loved ones (human and animal) passing on before us, we emotionally attach more deeply to the ones “that are left.” In my life’s observations, an elderly person who has lost their spouse, even children, other family members and more and now lives alone with a pet dog or cat will attach emotionally to that pet in such a strong way that onlookers tend to find it “odd.” When that beloved pet passes away, friends are often shocked to see the unexpected depth of grieving that many times ensues.

Emotionally, the grief is cumulative, and at this mature point in the person’s life, nearly their whole emotional world could have been focused on Pookie or Fluffy. Is it rational? Emotions are not rational, but to them, the grief is very real and very deep. To be subjected to their human friends’ “comforting” comments such as, “goodness, Mary, it was just a cat! You can get another one!” is far from comforting and only increases the emotional pain of loss.

Somehow I instinctively sensed this very early in life, probably the grace of my gifting. The very first pet sculpture I made for someone was of a dearly departed Favorite Cat. It was made of simple recycled materials and painted to resemble the general markings of the pet. More caricature and cartoon-ish than realistic, to be sure, but the impact it made on the receiver made the strongest impression on me that keeps my focus true to this day: touch heals.

Part of healing is getting past the fear and guilt of “forgetting” the loved one. We don’t want to forget because we do not want to be forgotten. A photograph is flat and not “real.” 3-D is what we see as “real.” Being able to run their hands over the painted three-dimensional piece of art employs a part of the human memory that is the very last to go, even in the most advanced cases of dementia: the power of physical touch. When we are in the womb, we are surrounded by warmth and the first thing we experience is physical sensation. The comfort of touch to an infant is integral to their development, something that has been well-documented in studies of orphanages of abandoned babies.

Running a hand over the head of a stand-in pet sculpture gives comfort to the grief-stricken person in a way that cannot be quantified. It is likely to be the topic for my master’s thesis in gerontology. This is the foundation of my art studio philosophy and why I make sculptures of people’s dearly departed pets.

Professional Studio Mission:

Each of us has our own unique gifts and talents. Some of us have hearts that cry for children, for the tigers, for the homeless. My heart has always cried for the displaced family pets that, through no fault of their own, suddenly find themselves dumped at a shelter or the pound, without their humans, without familiar surroundings or routines, and who do not know why they are there. Perhaps an elderly owner went into the nursing home and nobody wanted to take in the dog, or the family moved to a place that doesn’t allow pets. Dogs love unconditionally and don’t understand why people abuse or abandon them, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

One of my earliest mentors, a retired pastor, helped me past my self-imposed guilt as to why “donate to the hungry children” commercials didn’t emotionally affect me but a “donate to save the rescued/abused dogs” commercial upset me so much I still have to walk out of the room. Rev. Carl Luthman said to me: “If everyone was wired to only help children, who would help the elderly? or the elephants? or the environment? Everyone has a different God-given focus to care about so that the entirety of creation has advocates.”

I don’t apologize any more for being a dog advocate. My heart goes out to senior and large-breed dogs, especially those with black fur who for superstitious reasons get overlooked at shelters and euthanized more than any other fur color. I do not discriminate against small dogs or cats, however, as all of the above are here at the studio. Smaller breed and puppies and kittens are just more desirable to adopters than “used pets.” I just have a soft spot for the senior displaced ones. The communications aspect of my Studio work aims to help both cat and dog rescue groups with large projects or small ones such as creating cute memes to help bring attention to animals available for adoption.

When I am finally able to create my Dog Benevolence Foundation as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, it will be for advocacy efforts.

Nemo Ryan Memorial Dog Benevolence Foundation

Happy dogs are happy because they are part of happy families. Therefore, we strive to reach our studio’s ultimate advocacy goals by attaining one milestone at a time:

  • No dog left behind. Promoting adoption of abandoned and rescued dogs, especially seniors and large breeds.
  • No dog left at home alone. Promoting the addition of community amenities that allow both dogs and families to participate together.
  • No dog put in “time out.” Promoting free dog training activities that not only create good canine behavior, but also increase a dog’s sociability, making him a Good Canine Citizen that his owners feel confident taking him to community events.
  • No dog bullied or harmed. Promoting social awareness of anti-cruelty matters and legislation to correct and, if necessary, punish bad human behavior toward dogs.
  • All dogs loved. Promoting a culture within each community that values domesticated animals as family members and not merely pets so that the concept of “family” is raised to a higher level of understanding to include all of those living creatures one welcomes into one’s home for the purpose of taking voluntary responsibility for caring for all of those living creatures’ needs until the natural passing of the individual lives of those family members.

Big Black Dog Studio strives to attain our ideal vision of Dog Utopia through practical accomplishments, the combination of which equate to the reaching of great and small milestones in continuously raising the quality of life standard for dogs and their humans.

We work hand-in-hand with those who can create better conditions and lives for the dogs and their families especially encouraging communities to provide a safe and lawful place for dogs to get both exercise and play in the water off-leash with their families. No longer forcing any family to leave their dog at home while the humans go out and have fun, the ideal of “happy families include happy dogs” in our community is attainable. By providing a lawful community place that meets the physical and emotional needs of the entire dog family, more dogless families are then willing to adopt a dog in need of a home..

One day, we hope to see the reality of a true Dog Utopia. Until that day arrives, we will keep on working to be a voice for the furry voiceless.