Annie Semer is "rescuing" grieving dog owners through art.
The Bellevue High School junior has formed a bond with people all over the United States and England through her understanding and real-life experience of owning a dog with bone cancer.
After the family pet, Sarah -- a 7-year-old collie-mix with big brown eyes -- was diagnosed with cancer in October, Annie's mother turned to bonecancerdogs.com for comfort. Patty was supported by the nearly 1,400 people on the Web site community for those struggling with the aftermath of canine cancer. Annie found another kind of comfort: art.
"It helps, being able to connect with other people going through the same thing," Patty said. "We got online to find more about the disease. Since, we've been able to help others and they've helped us."
When Christmas arrived, Annie presented her mother with a penciled portrait of Sarah in a hand-painted frame with "I'm a survivor" lettered on the top.
"I burst into tears," Patty said. "I immediately told everyone in the chat room about what she had done, and they started asking if Annie would draw them pictures."
Annie has created more than 20 portraits of dogs who died from or are being treated for cancer. She sends the portraits to the pet owners all over the United States as well as England.
Using her own supplies and postage, Annie details and personalizes each drawing. She said she has only run into one complication.
"The first few dogs I drew, I used a lot of black," she said, laughing. "I go through a lot of black colored pencils."
Artistically gifted since elementary school, the 16-year-old is taking Advanced Placement studio art classes under the direction of Monica Bankowski.
"Annie is a truly gifted art student, and she's been doing this outside of school," Bankowski said. "She's doing something healing for other people, healing by helping others."
One portrait recipient wrote, "The most beautiful surprise emerged on Tuesday when I opened the box and saw Trooper's portrait that Annie did ... I cannot thank you both enough for this treasure."
No stranger to animals, Annie has taken care of dogs, cats, goats and horses at the Paw Patch Veterinary Clinic in Clyde for some time. A close friendship with the clinic's owner has been vital in helping the family deal with the amputation of Sarah's right leg and shoulder, as well as her chemotherapy treatments.
Sarah will soon take an experimental drug under the direction of Dr. Guerimo Cuto, a veterinarian at The Ohio State University. Cuto has researched bone cancer, working alongside a vet school and the Arthur James Cancer Center.
Annie has saved copies of all the artwork she's done and the thank-you letters. She remembers each owner and dog's name.
Why does she spend her free time drawing portraits?
"For them," she said, rubbing Sarah's head. "Look at those eyes. Why wouldn't you?"