Stacy Tang is an artist in California who volunteers at a local animal shelter and has created a heartwarming art project called My Dirty Paws. With an eight-year-old, adopted cat at home named Casper, he is Stacy’s inspiration and favorite model. However, it is shelter and rescue pets that truly drive this touching project.
MY DIRTY PAWS is a passion project I created in 2014 to document the lovely souls that I met at animal shelters. A lot of shelter animals are instantly labeled as difficult and trouble, but only with a little more patience and love, you will get to see the true characters underneath their fearful shells. They all have their unique personalities — quirky, goofy, affectionate, shy, outgoing, you name it. These dirty paws are not less-than-desirable animals waiting for your pity. They may have come from an unfortunate past that needs more TLC to trust humans again, but the love they give is just as much, if not more!
Each animal is special. Each story is touching in its own way. I want to capture their beauty through every illustration and tell the stories of how these animals have become loving pets.
My intention is to encourage people to see the beautiful souls of these animals and motivate more people to adopt. To the world, that is just one animal out of millions. But to that animal, you will forever change his/her world.
A Conversation with Stacy
What inspired you to start My Dirty Paws?
It all started because of a stray cat (I called him MeowMeow) in the apartment building where I used to live. It was about three years ago and I was still very afraid of cats at that time. This tuxedo cat started following me for food and I had no idea what to do with him at first. But slowly, as I let him come closer and spent more time with him, I began to build affection for him. I wanted to understand cats more, so I signed up to be a cat TLC volunteer at a local animal shelter. My fondness for cats grew quickly! Since I’m an artist, it’s only natural for me to use art to express my emotions. In the beginning, I was just drawing what I loved. Gradually this pet project turned into something bigger, especially after I adopted my cat Casper and was hugely inspired by him.
How did you come up with the name My Dirty Paws?
Because of my lack of knowledge about cats, for the longest time, I thought MeowMeow’s paws were gray. Until I looked at photos of my friend’s cat who had bright white paws, I realized MeowMeow was just dirty! It made me think how tough life must be for homeless cats. That’s why I named this project “My Dirty Paws” to represent them.
How do you create the pieces of art for My Dirty Paws?
They are all digitally painted. My background is in traditional art and my main medium was acrylic. Three years ago I was making a big transition from traditional medium to digital because of work. So, I wanted to use my spare time to hone my digital painting skills while working on something fun. Initially, the various techniques were done as practice. Later on, I really loved how each of them was different, so I began to purposefully use different styles to express each animal’s characteristics.
I see you also have plans to do a book. Will you talk a little bit about that?
I have the intention to do a book when I reach at least 50 illustrations. One book for cats, one for dogs. Every piece will come with a story about the animal. My wish is to create an art book carrying an educational message.
How long do you plan on continuing the project?
Probably as long as my love for art and for animals continues – I hope that would never end!
Will you talk about what you do as a TLC volunteer at the shelter?
What I do is to provide socialization to the cats to help them build confidence since most of them came to the shelter confused and scared. The shelter is a very stressful environment to them and we volunteers try to give them the care they lack. Sometimes it also means simply taking them out of the confining cage and letting them exercise in a room. Even just 15-20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Maintaining their well-being gives them a better chance to find an adopter and help them adjust when they move into their new home later on. My cat Casper was also adopted from the shelter back in 2014.
What’s a fun fact about yourself?
Most of my friends still find it weird that I went from disliking cats to being a crazy cat lady in a few years’ time. It’s been an amazing journey; cats have opened up a whole new world to me.
Do you have a favorite rescue or shelter that you’d like to give a shout out to?
Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue in San Francisco is doing some really great work in helping adult and senior cats with treatable medical and behavioral issues.
Thank you to Stacy for sharing her beautiful artwork with us! You can purchase art prints from My Dirty Paws at the project website. 50% of proceeds are donated to non-profit organizations. If you want to submit a story/photo for consideration in the My Dirty Paws project, please visit the submission section of the website to learn more. Follow My Dirty Paws on Facebook!
I love it when people like Stacy use their talent to showcase shelter pets. Don’t you?