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Shop Dogs: Loretta & Joe of Tanner Art Gallery

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At Tanner Art Gallery (830 Royal St., 504-524-8266; 2855 Magazine St., 504-267-0772; www.hauntingart.com), two rescue mutts, Joe and Loretta, hold down the fort. While Joe and Loretta are the best of friends, the stories of how they came to the gallery are very different.

  Tanner (who prefers not to use his first name) found Joe lying in the middle of St. Claude Avenue at midnight 15 years ago. The two-year-old pooch was badly injured. Tanner thought the dog might be dead but took him to a veterinarian, then another and another. They discovered Joe was infested with heartworms, had mange and was paralyzed in his back legs. Every veterinarian suggested Tanner should euthanize the injured dog.

  "Eventually, after taking [Joe] to so many different doctors and receiving the same answer, I decided to care for him and make him comfortable," Tanner says. "I couldn't euthanize him. I even told one doctor that if Joe was a human, the suggestion would never have come about."

  At the time, Tanner sold his art on the street and was barely making ends meet. Though adopting an ailing furry friend did not seem like a practical choice, Tanner's friend, veterinarian Cheri Hansen, offered to assist him in nurturing Joe back to health. After several days with the vet, Joe's health improved but the dog was still suffering.

  "He really was miserable," Tanner says. "You could just tell he did not feel good, but I took him home and cared for him. ... A man recognized Joe and told me the kids around his neighborhood in Treme used to throw fireworks at him."

  Under Tanner's care, Joe recovered. Now he spends his days on a pillow in Tanner Art Gallery, which Tanner opened in March 2010.

  Tanner Art Gallery displays Tanner's work exclusively. The art depicts forest and swamp scenes Tanner observed during his years in Semmes, Ala., a small, wooded town that inspired Tanner to create majestic treescapes.

  "My inspiration came early on in life, but it took quite a while for me to see any profit," Tanner says. "Being a street artist was difficult, especially when the city would not allow me to sell reproductions."

  Last year, Tanner opened a second location on Magazine Street. He also acquired a new dog, Loretta. Tanner says he adopted her after his other dog, Kelly, died last year and Joe seemed lonely.

   "I was looking for a foster dog to see how things would go, and my only request was that I get a senior dog," Tanner said. "Instead, I get a puppy. After a week, it was time to return Loretta to the SPCA, but after hearing that she may or may not be put to sleep, I kept her."

  Two-year-old Loretta has charmed Joe, Tanner and the people and pets who visit the Royal Street gallery.

  "The gallery has seldom slowed down since opening," Tanner says. "Loretta stands in the doorway greeting each customer with her wagging tail while Joe enjoys his retirement." 

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