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Liver failure claims paw-painting sheltie Q-Boy

"Q", a Sheltie named after the Star Trek character, paints pictures with his paws on Thursday, January 23, 2003. The paintings are being auctioned on eBay to benefit Sheltie rescue efforts by his owner, Kathy Cochran. (DENNIS WALL, ORLANDO SENTINEL / January 23, 2003)

When it came to painting, Q accomplished more in 15 years than many artists do in decades.

His paintings raised more than $20,000 for animal charities and earned him a spot on the Ripley's Believe It or Not! television show.

Q, whose formal name was Q-Boy, died today with his family at his side.

Q was a Shetland sheepdog.

He was diagnosed recently with liver failure and went downhill over the weekend, said his owner, Kathy Cochran of Longwood. She and her husband, Mark, made the difficult decision to have Q put to sleep.

To let him die naturally would be too painful for Q, she said. "That would be cruel."

Q was just a puppy when the Cochrans bought him from a breeder. "He's just been the best dog," she said.

It was through owning Q that Kathy Cochran learned about sheltie rescue groups and began bringing shelties into her home. She estimates 200 shelties have come to her home, some to stay, but many for foster care until a good home could be found for them.

Recalling a television show about a painting gorilla, she decided to see if Q could do the same thing to raise money for sheltie rescue organizations.

So she put some blobs of paint on a canvas, gave Q the command "High 5," and he started smacking the paint and canvas with his paws. "It just came naturally to him," she said.

In early 2003, Cochran sold one of the paintings on eBay. Hoping to raise $50, she was stunned when bids soared to more than $250. It ended up selling for almost $300.

Later that year she learned that Smithfield the Painting Pig was diagnosed with nasal cancer and surgery left his owner in Virginia with a $5,000 bill. So a painting started by Smithfield was finished by Q and sold to raise money. That painting brought almost $700.

"He's done so much good," said a tearful Kathy Cochran. "He's helped save the lives of many animals."

Gary Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@orlandosentinel.com or 407-391-9681