Combination of art, charity covers owners' bills FRANKLIN — Fine artist John Cannon, whose studio/gallery is located in The Factory at Franklin, is teaming up with Brentwood’s Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners and a nonprofit organization, Frankie’s Friends, to help save pets’ lives.

The purchase of commissioned pet portraits, as well as the artist’s current show at Blue Pearl, along with selected pieces at his Franklin gallery, will result in 30 percent of sales going to Frankie’s Friends, which offers assistance to people who are suddenly faced with unexpected pet crises and who are unable to afford life-saving treatment.

Matt Laing, hospital administrator for Blue Pearl’s four Middle Tennessee locations, said there’s no planning ahead for a pet that needs to be rushed to a pet emergency facility as a result of injury or in need of life saving treatment for a diagnosis of cancer.

“Some people have pet insurance, but many are caught facing significant veterinary bills just out of the blue,” he said. “Think of the dilemma someone can face in this difficult economy. Do you feed your family or save your pet? Frankie’s Friends can step in to help in such situations.”

Kristy Hemp, development director in Tennessee for the Florida-based charitable organization, says she well identifies with that kind of crisis.

“When our cat, Zorro, was only 1 year old, he suddenly had a significant medical crisis,” she said.

“We took him to an emergency clinic. At first they suspected cancer. As it turned out it was not, but saving his life cost us literally thousands of dollars. Fortunately, we had just received a tax refund and we used it all on his treatment; I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.”

Artist knows the joy and the pain of pets

Cannon, a lifelong pet lover, lost his beloved 13-year-old dog, Buddy, three months ago. Though he was not faced with a financial crisis, he says he well knows the joy pets bring and the pain of losing them. Already an artist who enjoys painting pet portraits, he says he was thrilled when Frankie’s Friends contacted him about helping the organization by donating a portion from the sale of his paintings.

“Over the years I have rescued so many pets and loved so many, to help in any way to save pets’ lives is so wonderful,” said the artist. “The work this organization is doing is just fabulous. I’m as excited as I can be to take part.”

He is often commissioned to do pet portraits; now a portion of those commissions goes to Frankie’s Friends.

“If a pet is deceased, I of course do the portraits from the family’s pictures. Otherwise, I like to meet the pets and get a sense of their personalities. I also shoot photos of them during that meeting, and I work from those as well as pictures provided by the family. It’s a real joy to create the portraits,” says the artist, who taught English and then practiced law for 25 years.

“I studied art as an undergrad, then obtained a master’s in English, taught school and didn’t enjoy it. So I became an attorney and spent my career there. All those years, I kept drawing — and remained drawn to art,” he said.

A decade ago he began studying art again and started painting. Six years ago, he opened John Cannon Fine Arts in The Factory. Two years ago he stopped practicing law and fulfilled his lifelong dream — he became a full-time artist.

Emergency vet practice expands

While Cannon was finding his dream, veterinarians in Brentwood were finding their own.

Three years ago, Pet Emergency Treatment Services had three doctors seeking to expand emergency and critical care.

“We found the Blue Pearl system, based in Florida. It was a good fit for what we wanted to do here. We joined what was then an organization of three hospitals. Now there are 27 across the country,” said Laing.

Now the Brentwood practice has 15 physicians offering 24-hour emergency services and maintains satellite facilities in Goodlettsville and 12th Avenue South in Nashville. A fourth opens next month in Murfreesboro.

“Our specialists go to those other clinics by appointment; we look forward to growing all of them to be 24-hour emergency centers,” Laing said.

Blue Pearl’s vets also specialize in cancer, cardiology, internal medicine, radiology, surgery and rehabilitation. They frequently work by referral from area veterinarians.

The area Blue Pearl facilities join the founding Florida hospital in working with Freddie’s Friends to find funding for families in need of financial assistance to provide life-saving care for their pets.

Charity program dates to 1996

In 1996, the founding physician of the forerunner of Blue Pearl started Veterinary Cancer Foundation to help clients facing huge medical bills in the treatment for their pets with cancer.

In 2008, the foundation’s name was changed to Frankie’s Friends to honor Frankie, a greyhound who died in 2007 after battling heart disease and cancer since 2000. Frankie’s family made a significant donation to the foundation and continues to be generous supporters.

The local Blue Pearl facilities began working with Frankie’s’ Friends to benefit their patients, and this past April, the organization hired Hemp to establish a full-time presence here.

“Frankie’s Friends recognized right away the dedication in this area by people to their pets,” Hemp said. “Blue Pearl only had some printed materials in their offices; the level of interest and support they garnered prompted them to establish here. All monies raised for Frankie’s Friends here stays here to help area families and their pets.”

Requests can be evaluated quickly

Laing says while Blue Pearl also works with a number of other pet charities in the area to assist their clients, that work can often take precious days to get financial decisions on assistance.

“Sometimes days — even hours — are critical in saving a pet’s life. Frankie’s Friends can evaluate requests immediately and offer help within the same day,” he said.

As Frankie’s Friends steps in, Blue Pearl also discounts fees by at least 25 percent.

“We ask that the families participate at some level financially, but certainly it is our goal to save those pets’ lives. Often people who are in temporary tough financial times come back when their situation improves and give back so other animals can be saved,” he said.

Mural in Brentwood depicts 'Tree of Life'

Frankie’s Friends’ local initiative is painting a huge mural in the Brentwood’s hospital of “The Tree of Life,” with leaves that bear pets’ names and messages.

Smaller leaves are $100 each and larger are $150 each. All donations are tax deductible.

“The leaves can be in memory of a beloved lost pet or in celebration of a healthy vibrant pet. You need not be a Blue Pearl client to buy a leaf nor to come enjoy and/or purchase a piece of John Cannon’s art from his collection hanging in the lobby. His pieces range from $100 to $1,000 and encompass broad subject matter — from pets to landscapes,” Hemp said.