Picture perfect: Artist aids in pet adoption

Aires, a black pit bull mix resides in pen No. 80 at the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 2805 Reach Road. She has been waiting for her forever home for almost eight months now. She is the longest resident at the shelter, but Aires actually has been adopted out twice since she first came to the shelter in February 2012.

Each time she has been brought back because adoptees have had issues with a landlord and personal life problems.

Barb Yates, a 59 year old artist from southern Illinois, found Aries while searching the internet for shelter’s with long term residents.

“Somehow I landed on the SPCA’s page and there I immediately saw Aries,” she said.

Three times a year Yates donates a portrait to be given away with a dog when its adopted.

When she saw how long the dog had been there, she immediately knew she was going to be the one she painted.

Offering a painting of a shelter’s dog or cat helps to rejunvinate interest in the animal, and can lead to its adoption.

“I am big on details, the eyes talk to me and tell it all,” she said.

In Aries’ eyes Yates saw a gentle sweetness.

“I could still tell she is full of love … she is so bursting with love and compassion, and someone needs to be informed about this dog,” she said.

Yates has never met Aries before, but still sees many great qualities in her.

“She has a huge grin on her face, how could you not fall in love with her face,” Yates said.

Aries loves attention and is a very happy dog, considering she has been at the shelter for so long.

“She is a very sweet dog and we have been working with her. She is in a special training class with our volunteers where they work with the animals. So she is learning how to walk nicely on a leash, sit, stay and come,” Vickie Stryker, executive director of the Lycoming County SPCA, said.

Along with being very eager to please, Styker said she is very smart.

Yates has been promoting Aries on her Facebook page,, and then re-sharing and tagging information to cross post to the Lycoming County’s facebook page, who also posts about the partnership.

Stryker said the shelter’s Facebook page has been very successful in helping draw interest to the animals there, and also even connecting people with their lost pets.

“It helps stimulate interest in some that have been here for a long time, and also, there’s a movement toward no kill,” she said.

Even elderly animals who are 10 or 11 years old are being adopted more easily thanks to Facebook. Older animals are often harder to find homes for. Receiving outreach all the way from Illinois makes technology an added benefit for the shelter.

“Its pretty amazing and you know the interest is amazing. People all over the country can look at this dog and this beautiful portrait that was done for her,” Stryker said. “And maybe entice to adopt her because of all the effort being put in to finding her a home.”

Yates also chooses a dog from one of her clients through the year and donates 10 percent of the commission to a shelter of their choice.

“I am not a rich person, if I was I would be giving a whole lot more,” she said.

She said she has been campaigning for animals all her life, and began painting them around 2007.

As a child, she said she had a very obvious interest in painting, but it wasn’t encouraged and was told it was just a waste of time. Her husband, who passed away in 2006, would see her doodles and always would tell her she had talent. To help deal with her grief, she took up painting and has been doing that ever since.

“Its something I should have been doing all my life,” she said.

Her work can be found in the state museum and gallery in Illinois, which she said makes her feel honored. Yates used to show dogs, great danes, but now she just wants to paint them, she said.

“I have loved animals all my life and have worked with them,” she said.

This is what she believes gives her a little bit of a special edge when it comes to painting animals.

“The texture of the fur, muscle tone … comes through in my painting,” Yates said.

Aries is spayed, micro-chipped and up-to-date on her vaccines. Styker said she is recommended for families with children 10 or older, due to her playfulness. Her adoption fee is 50 percent off and comes with the portrait by Yates.

“I keep praying every night. I send out prayers for Aries that she will get adopted. I know there is person for her,” Yates said.