WARRENSBURG -- A local woman may be in the midst of finding widespread acclaim after just a month in the painting business, thanks to Danny, the therapy dog, who is gaining fame in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe.

Mechelle Roskiewicz has for years operated a successful interior design business.

But the art school graduate didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to her lifelong passion of painting portraits.

In January, after friends and relatives raved about a portrait she painted of her family Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lilly, Roskiewicz decided to go into the dog portrait business.

Just four weeks after putting her work online, her second commissioned piece is set to be enshrined in one of world’s oldest and most respected canine organizations.

"It’s all happened so quickly," Roskiewicz said on Tuesday. "It’s become much more than we thought it would be."

Dog culture has been a hallmark of England’s aristocracy for centuries. The British, especially the noble class, has embraced dog breeding for purposes ranging from creating lap breeds to draw body lice from the person to the animal, to rearing hunting dogs capable of chasing down foxes.

That history has recently taken an educational turn, as the United Kingdom Kennel Club is bringing dogs into English classrooms in an effort to make children with reading disabilities more comfortable as they struggle with deciphering the written word through the Bark and Read Foundation, according to Kennel Club Library and Collections Manager Ciara Farrell.

The Kennel Club’s initiative has made a star out of its first reading therapy dog, Danny, a 3-year-old greyhound, according to his owner and handler, Tony Nevett.

Danny has been awarded for excellence by England’s House of Lords, hung out at 10 Downing St., home of the British prime minister, and become a media darling among the island nation’s press corps.

But it’s Roskiewicz, an American canine enthusiast, who has been given the task of memorializing the dog on canvas for the Kennel Club’s library.

Nevett spent days searching the Web for the right artist to paint his beloved therapy dog, until he stumbled upon a humble website from upstate New York.

"I then came across this drawing of a Cavalier dog. Somehow, it just made me fall in love with it," Nevett said of the artist’s painting of her own dog.

Danny’s portrait left Warrensburg for London on Wednesday. There’s a spot already reserved on the Kennel Club’s wall for the piece.

"It’s fantastic and will be hung with pride at the library," Nevett said.

Nevett said Danny is slated to tour the United States for two weeks in July, trumpeting the success of the reading program.

It takes Roskiewicz four to six hours to complete one of her portraits, she said. She uses pastels because she likes how it moves on the canvas.

She said it’s the animal’s eyes that make the painting.

"When you look at your dog, you look at its eyes," she said.

She charges between $250 and $350 for a commission and sells prints for $30 each to raise money for area dog shelters.

She said she opted to donate the Kennel Club piece because of the exposure the work would bring her new business.

Her new goal is to paint a member of every American Kennel Club-recognized breed.

"I guess I’m just crazy about dogs," she said.

Roskiewicz’ work can be viewed at www.loveddogsart.com.


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