Neighbor stories

Napa artist paints animal portraits for families affected by NorCal wildfires

Written by Nick Brinkerhoff

The 2017 wildfires in Northern California were devastating, with more than 8,000 structures destroyed, 42 people dead, and nearly 200,000 acres burned according to Mother Jones.

Among those affected and often overlooked are pets and animals, many which were injured, sick, or killed in the fires as well.

Melissa Toole, a professional artist and neighbor in Napa, has been evacuated three times over the last year due to fires. Luckily, she has been fortunate enough to not lose her home, but has seen the devastation around her and wanted to find a way to help.

Melissa realized the best way to give back to her community during this time was to use her artistic abilities to bring cheer and encouragement to families.

She posted on Nextdoor that she would paint portraits of animals that were lost during the fires as a gift to their families free of charge. Many families, who Melissa did not know beforehand, were interested and responded to have their animals memorialized, and shared photos of their furry family members.

Melissa shared with us that while each painting takes about 14 hours to paint and can be emotionally draining, it’s been a rewarding experience. It is the perfect way for families to remember a piece of their life in their new homes, and has made this tragedy a little bit easier for dozens of families.

You can check out more of her art here.

1 Comment

  • What a unique and greet story! Brought many tears to my eyes thinking of all the pets, horses, etc., that didn’t make it. What Melissa did was beyond fabulous and heart wrenching, too, I’m sure. I’m so grateful for her and such a selfless thing she did.

    Terrific story. Thank you !

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