Canine Companions Model for Sketch Artists at NYC’s Society of Illustrators

I’ve lived in New York City for over 20 years, and I thought I had experienced a good amount of what this sprawling metropolis has to offer. But two weeks ago, I found something entirely different, all because of Spike.

The Society of Illustrators is a non-profit organization of artists and members with the mission of promoting Illustration, its history, practices and artistry. It’s the oldest organization of its kind in the world, with notable members like Norman Rockwell and Rube Goldberg. And it’s housed in this beautiful townhouse in Manhattan.

Twice a week, the Society hosts a “Sketch Night” which is open to the public. You bring your pencils, watercolors, oils, and/or iPads — yes, we saw a lot of iPads — along with $20, and hopefully walk away with a masterpiece. Each Sketch Night has a different theme. They provide the live models, chairs, a small-plates buffet, and have a lovely bar where you can purchase drinks surrounded by amazing artwork.

Fellow Canine Companions puppy-raiser Jenny Sherman attended a Sketch Night and thought it would be a great idea to feature live puppy models — great for the pups and for the artists. She approached them with the idea and luckily they agreed.

The event lasts three hours, so we had several shifts of dogs and puppy-raisers. The room was packed, so we put the dogs in several locations so the artists could easily see at least one of them. Spike and I took the first shift on stage, and his brother Swain was in a different part of the space.

Spike — and I — had to be perfectly still for five to ten minutes at a clip, as dozens of sketch artists created their versions of us. We’d then change positions so they could get another angle. The venue played dog-themed music (“How Much Is That Doggy In The Window”) while everyone worked, some with a glass of wine or cocktail by their side. It was such a pleasant experience.

Some Sketch Nights feature nude models, and I was informed that even more people show up for those nights. (Don’t worry, Spike kept his Canine Companions cape on the whole time.)

The event was also a great training experience for Spike. One of the goals for training a puppy is to ensure your dog will maintain a command until you give him a new command or release him. And to model, you need to be completely still.

Aside from a couple of restless rearrangements, Spike nailed his duty. He was more or less still and posing for a couple of hours, which was awesome.

Fellow puppy-raisers Ann and Bob Benson, and Jane Nagy, brought Simba, their 6-month-old Canine Companions puppy-in-training, and he was a huge hit. At one point he just fell asleep on stage, actually making it easier for the artists to sketch him.

Several artists posed with Spike and the other pups and their artwork. They asked questions about service dogs and the training. It was truly an open atmosphere of creativity and comradery.

If they ask Spike to come back for a nude night I’d have to think twice — but we will definitely be back to further enjoy this hidden gem of New York City.

To learn more about Canine Companions for Independence, visit