Inver Grove Heights artist Danette Malerich started painting dogs when a mother asked her to paint a portrait of her son's dog as a Christmas present.
"Belle was my first dog portrait," Malerich told the Pioneer Press. "The woman wrote me a note later. She said that while her son is very introverted and doesn't show much emotion, when he opened the gift and saw the portrait, he started to cry.
Malerich said she knows she's been successful when "the painting captures the spirit of the animal so much that people can feel it."
Malerich told the Pioneer Press more about how she picks pooches to paint:
Malerich prefers to meet the dogs she is commissioned to paint rather than working from photos.
"I like to see the dogs in their environment, so I can get a sense of their personality where they feel most comfortable -- at home," she says.
And no, the dogs are not required to sit for a portrait like humans do.
But Malerich has worked from photos when the subject lives far away or for remembrance portraits.
She recently painted a memorial portrait of her own dog, Soozie, who died in February 2012.
"At first, I couldn't even look at pictures of her after she died," Malerich says. "Nine months passed before I could paint her."