A-paw-ling Internet Scam Accidentally Sparks Partnership with Pet Rescue Group

In late October, I received an Instagram alert that I had an incoming message. A follower of my Art By Choleena account was asking if I take commissions. They wanted a mosaic portrait of their dog. Having never sketched a dog, I wrote back with hesitant enthusiasm that I would love to try but that that subject matter is new to me. I said that I would not ask for a down-payment until I did some sketches and felt assured that I can draw dogs.

My first-ever attempt at drawing a dog. I was quite happy with the result, and so was the ‘scammer client’.

After several sketches, I was confident that I could create a likeness of their dog, so I requested an e-transfer down-payment of $125. Instead, the client emailed a low-resolution, heavily-pixelated image of a cheque. Surprisingly, the cheque was for $1000. Accompanying the cheque was a note indicating that the client’s account had a charge-back dispute so their bank instructed them to only pay with a cheque. In addition, their bank had a minimum amount of $1000 for cheques, so I would have to return the overage of $875. Highly suspicious, I contacted the client with my concerns and let them know that it was akin to well-known Internet scams. After some odd responses, including them scolding me for not trusting them, the client ghosted me. I guess that’s how it goes. They push until it’s clear that you’re not falling for it, and then they disappear. So, I ‘scratched’ the commission.

During the project (but before the ghosting), I had proudly posted the image on social media; many liked and commented on it. My friend Linda Berube responded asking if it was possible for me to draw cats, and would I consider donating a piece to a holiday fundraiser of a rescue group that is dear to her: Ottawa Stray Cat Rescue (OSCatR).

Ottawa Stray Cat Rescue is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to getting adoptable stray cats off the streets and into loving homes, as well as healthily managing feral cat colonies in the National Capital Region.

No stranger to rescues, and a companion to two rescue dogs and two stray cats, the project seemed purr-fect for me, so I leaped in to help. Linda introduced me to full-time veterinarian and founder of OSCatR, Dr. Katie Jones, and we worked-out the details of collaboration. I produced a playful mosaic that included a black cat and three red tulips. Linda helped with the title “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”, and the piece was put on auction.

My paper mosaics have a lush, glossy finish. I’ve taken a photo at an angle to show the surface.

It received an excellent response, and soon the concept was expanded to a Variable Edition of 9 more cats (an apt number for felines). A Variable Edition (VE) is a numbered set of images that are similar but with the allowance for each image to be varied in some way. In this case, clients could specify their preference for the colour of the cat and the colour of the tulips. Moments after the edition was announced, Dr. Katie pounced at claiming one, as she thought that her orange and white kitty, Sheldon, would look very handsome in mosaic.

All 10 sold quickly, netting a total value of donations to the rescue at $460. It was clear that a second edition would be well received, and so we are taking orders for it. The mosaics are 5×8″, framed in black, and have my classic lush, glossy surface. Each is titled, signed, and numbered with an authentication label on the back, and is $160, with $30 going directly to OSCatR.

Dr. Katie’s adorable Sheldon kitty. 5×8,” framed in black.

If interested in immortalizing your cat with a mosaic artwork, I hope that you will get in touch.

Keeping the momentum going, a set of images has been produced as greeting cards and postcards.

With the kind permission of all the fur-baby parents, the cat images have been turned into greeting cards and postcards!

Talks are also underway to research local dog rescues to partner with and support. I hope to be able to ‘rescue’ the ‘abandoned’ dog drawing, and repurpose it for good. Should you have a proposal, please feel free to contact me.

As you can see, this scam created a confounding cascade of events. What could have been a cat-astrophe, was turned around with paws-itive thinking. 😉

Here are the variations so far…

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