Longest Stays: The Dogs of DeGrazia

Story and Photos by Colleen Keefe
Nestled at the base of the Catalina foothills, sits the DeGrazia Gallery of the Sun Museum. The ten-acre site is adorned with a rotation of more than 20,000 of Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia’s work, a gift shop, chapel, home of the late artist … and dogs.

Though DeGrazia is known for his wistful paintings of Indigenous American children, he did a few pieces of dogs and coyotes. He was also pet-parent himself.

“I know he [DeGrazia] loved dogs – he loved animals,” said Lance Laber, executive director of the DeGrazia Foundation. “There was Sissy who was a Red Weimaraner, and then there was Babyboy who was a pill,” Laber recalled. Babyboy was a mixed breed. “He used to like to bite people. If you went in the back where he lived, he’d get you in the corner and try to bite you,” Laber chuckled. “Then there was Nutsy. He was part Bulldog, was a sweet dog that looked scary, but he wasn’t. So, the dogs always stayed in the back,” Laber explained.

How Dogs Started Coming To Work At The Gallery

Curator Jim Jenkins started bringing his dog Honey back in 2012. “Everybody loved Honey,” Laber said. The Vizsla mix started coming to the gallery on Wednesdays. “It was always nice when Honey showed up,” Laber said. Then Honey got a brother – a rescue named Marley. Wednesdays were Honey & Marley Day or “Dog Day Wednesday” according to Laber.

Chance began coming to the gallery as a puppy about three years ago. “He started living in the back [of the gift shop]. He kind of became the mascot,” I’m surprised that Chance doesn’t have his own timecard. He just kind of hangs out and people love it,” Laber said.  “Chance is a morale booster for the employees and the visitors. He gets lots of attention, kisses, and hugs from the visitors and staff,” Palmer said.

Daisy doesn’t know she’s a senior. This Weimer Reiner mix “just loves her DeGrazia days to play with her friends,” Debauche said. “I think she considers Weasel her best friend. I don’t know that Weasel would agree. Weasel likes to play the field, but Weasel is absolutely Daisy’s best friend,” Debauche joked. “Daisy’s a sweet dog, a little skittish, but she’s getting better,” Laber said. “She likes to snuggle up by my computer and watch me package all the orders. She is my little DeGrazia companion,” Debauche said. “Daisy’s favorite thing is watching Lisa’s hands and pockets checking to see if there’s a treat coming at any moment.”

Jenkins adopted Sophie from the Humane Society, a Vizsla mix who was returned after a failed placement. Her anxiety issues were so severe it took her a year to comfortably get into a car. “Sophie hangs with Jimmy in his office [often sleeping at his feet]. But he brings her in five times a day, and she runs into my office just to say hello to me. We get our kisses. She’s like a whole new dog. She has friends up here,” Laber smiled. “She’s got a fulfilling part-time job,” Jenkins said.

“The most outgoing dog is Taj,” Laber said. Von Isser adopted the giant Doberman from a friend when he was just nine weeks old during the pandemic. The year-and-half-old canine is funny and friendly. “He wants to play with those little dogs, and they get freaked out because he’s so big – he’s still a puppy and what he does is he gets down on his paws to get on their level to try to get them to play with him – It’s hilarious,” Jenkins explained.

The resident social butterfly, “Weasel is just one of a kind. There’s another dog that everybody that walks in the gallery is like ‘ohhh, aww we love that dog’” Laber said. “She’s a Bitsa Hound, bits of this and bits of that,” Ure explained. “Some friends found her. Somebody had dumped her in an ally – they knew I liked dogs, so they called me up. She would shred my stuff when she was home alone, so now, she comes to work with me and of course doesn’t have the opportunity to shred it. But the separation anxiety has gotten a lot better,” Ure said.

All throughout the day, people bring their dogs to the gallery. “We’re well-liked on
bringfido.com. So, we see dogs in here almost every day,” Jenkins said.

“We try to keep the dogs in the back. But people will walk in, and the dogs will come to the gate to say hello and ask to pet the dogs,” Laber said.

There’s no guarantee you’ll be accompanied by a dog docent as you stroll through the DeGrazia Gallery of the Sun Museum. But considering every day of the week there is “dog day”, just maybe you’ll have a Chance encounter.

Prior to the printing of this story, The Tucson Dog Magazine learned that Daisy had passed. We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Daisy’s family and friends – human and canine.

Visit DeGrazia Gallery of the Sun Museum at 6300 N. Swan Rd.



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