colorful dog art created to honor shelter and rescue animals


Acclaimed opera singer, accomplished visual artist and shelter animal advocate, Martha Cares is a creative powerhouse doing good for animals. I love her fun, whimsical sculptures and jewelry quality key ring/dangles. But, that they remind us furry works of art in all shapes, sizes and colors exist in shelters across the country; well, that brings it to a whole other level.  These enamel and steel pieces of dogs, cats and bunnies grace the lawns of museums and public city spaces, and her iconic Red Dog has come to mean support for the shelter dog around the world.

And, Martha is generously giving away one of her famous keychains to two lucky Bark & Swagger followers, so read on to see how to enter! You can also check out the Bark & Swagger radio show on Martha, on Pet Life Radio!

Martha’s rescue dog changed her life


colorful dog art created to honor shelter and rescue animals

Martha and Poppy in her studio. Don’t the little dogs look like her?


It began with Poppy. Martha had lost her beloved Peachy at 16 years of age and was devastated. She didn’t think she could get another dog. “Even though I didn’t want to get another dog, on each of my birthdays, I would go to the Humane Society and say hi to the animals there,” Martha shared. “I kind of became a junkie. One day, a little dog caught my eye and she was beautiful. I noticed she was being fostered close to home. I adopted Poppy and this adoption changed my life.”

Cares began creating colorful little works of art – 8″ tall sculptures in steel – and featuring them in her studio. “They were ‘adopted’ very quickly, but everyone said to me, ‘Martha, I love this sculpture; it’s so happy and it reminds me of your rescue dog, Poppy,'” she recalled. “I hadn’t realized it at the time, but they were right. It was Poppy. So, I named the sculpture My Rescue, and as my confidence grew, I enlarged upon the theme. Then, I applied to a special exhibition and was accepted at the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I exhibited the five primary-colored dogs (see photo at head of article) and devoted my art to raising awareness about the importance of rescue and dedicating my work to all who rescue, foster, adopt and donate.”

My Rescue combines the two loves of Martha’s life; animals and the arts. In 1985, while on the road singing opera, she published a children’s coloring book, featuring a cast of characters, which was well received.  “I was traveling for my opera but was always doing my art, and my colleagues and cast members would ask me to design for them,” Cares explained.  “I remember designing something for Broadway Cares: Actor’s Equity Fights AIDS.”

Where does opera fit in?

You might be thinking, what about opera? How did that come about? Because it’s not everyday we meet someone who sang over 1,000 performances of the highly acclaimed Phantom of the Opera national Broadway production, directed by the legendary Hal Prince. How did Martha become an award-winning opera singer?

She began singing as a child, and people would stop and marvel at her voice. It was so strong, she went on to study at special schools to become a classical vocalist. Her operatic career highlights include roles with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Florida Grand Opera, Grant Park Music Festival, Milwaukee Opera Company and the Chicago Opera Theatre. In addition, Cares was a guest solo artist with symphony orchestras, including the Miami Chamber Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Racine Symphony and the Tulsa Philharmonic, where she sang with international opera star, Simon Estes. And, Cares was honored as Grand Prize winner of the International Bel Canto Opera Competition in Italy, where she made her European debut.

McDonald’s, United Airlines, Cheer…you’ve also heard Martha sing in national commercials on tv. Her versatile voice is so sought out, she’s currently booked through 2017!

Remember I mentioned that My Rescue honors two of her loves? The arts has always been in Martha’s life, too. She was drawing and sculpting dogs and horses as a child. It’s always exciting when you find your calling in life, and that’s what happened with Cares.

A symbol of rescue around the world


colorful dog art created to honor shelter and rescue animals


Today, the Red Dog is a notable symbol of rescue in all 50 states, and in Australia and Canada. Her exhibition at the Ford Museum resonated so deeply with the community, she began  hearing from rescue organizations around the country saying they loved her work as a symbol of rescue. She received suggestions to create My Rescue kitties (which she did), and then her Lulla Bunnies, which represent compassion, followed. Creating miniatures of her work made it available for those who might not be able to afford a large-scale piece, and the key ring idea was born.


colorful dog art created to honor shelter and rescue animals

Martha and Poppy with Chihuahua exhibition, Baby Blue Velvet and her friends


And, she began donating proceeds from the sale of her art to rescues and humane associations around the country. “I learned that, after Pitbulls, Chihuahuas are the most at risk dogs in our country,” Martha described. “To draw awareness to this issue, I created Baby Blue Velvet, a 400 pound, steel Chihuahua. She’s large, but very delicate and beautiful, and she has friends I created with her.” They were also exhibited at the Ford Museum.

Her public art exhibitions


colorful dog art created to honor shelter and rescue animals

The Lulla Bunnies, which signify compassion


Her large-scale, public art has also been exhibited at the Krasl Museum’s Biennial Sculpture Invitational, at Sculpture in the Park in Saint Charles, IL., at the brand, new City Hall in Valparaiso, IN. and at the Ella Sharp Museum in MI.


colorful dog art created to honor shelter and rescue animals

Wear it as a dangle from your purse


A substantial, beautiful piece, so when you show it, whether its on your handbag or as a keyring, it stands out and the colors of fantastic. Our Labor of Love Giveaway.

What’s next?


colorful dog art created to honor shelter and rescue animals



I asked Martha what we can look forward to from her over the next year or so. “I have some exciting projects coming up to draw more attention to the puppy mill issue,” Cares enthused. “I’ve just launched a new character to my repertoire, a rescue Pug.”

My Rescue gives back. They’ve donated  to the National Mill Dog Rescue, to Harley to the Rescue, the Beagle Freedom Project and more. And, if you’re out and about at a black tie charity event, you might run into Martha and Poppy, who step out often. Most recently, the nationally-known Chicago PAWS Fur Ball auctioned a My Rescue piece Cares created specifically for it in the event’s theme colors of silver and black.

If you have a shelter you love, and want to see if you can work with Martha, email me at, and I’ll make an introduction.

To find out more about My Rescue.

The Labor of Love Giveaway!


colorful dog art created to honor shelter and rescue animals


Win a gorgeous My Rescue key chain, which can also be worn as a dangle on your purse, in your choice of color. We call it the Labor of Love Giveaway because each piece Martha creates is, indeed, a labor of love for shelter animals and those who support them.

The giveaway runs from Monday, September 26 at 8am EST through Sunday, October 2nd at 11:59pm EST. Here’s how to enter, which can be done here, or via my radio show on Pet Life Radio:

This is a Facebook giveaway, and that’s where you’ll enter:

We’ll choose two winners from the entries to each win a key chain/dangle in your choice of color. Choices include red, pink, blue, cream and black. Aren’t they gorgeous?!

What’s your rescue dog story?

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Written by Jody Miller-Young
What does stylish mean to you? I’m passionate about animals, fashion, travel, home decor and rescue, and that's what you'll find here. After a recent move to Fort Lauderdale from NYC, we're loving our new life in the sunshine. Welcome to my world! Grab your favorite beverage, curl up and stay awhile.