When I ask Melissa Hudgens, Director of the Women’s Program how she knows artist and dog rescuer Shawn Aswad, they both start laughing.
Shawn interjects, “We have known each other forever. Her brother was my boyfriend in fourth grade.”
But how did they stay friends for so long? Outside, their lives may looks different, but inside they are much the same. They’re both healers. Shawn founded Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue in Nashville, TN. There are no breed restrictions, size limitations or age requirements. Many come in sick, injured or brokenhearted. Snooty Giggles helps those suffering find life again, not unlike what we do here at Cumberland Heights.
Not only is Shawn a caregiver, she’s a creator. She spends countless hours on art projects that she then sells, with proceeds benefiting dog rescue. Her friend Melissa, or “Missy” as Shawn affectionately calls her is always commenting on the projects Shawn posts on social media.
“I told her if she saw something she wanted I would bring it up here (to Cumberland Heights), “said Shawn.
Melissa was thrilled.
“The pieces have a lot to do with people becoming more empowered to be present in their life, and for the women this is huge for them. So many of the pieces really speak to the work that they are doing here, and I just fell in love with this one. I fall in love with a lot of them,” said Melissa.
And so just like that Shawn loaded up the large canvas in her truck and drove down River Road to Cumberland Heights.
The piece is bright and colorful. It shows two dogs surrounded by birds and flowers, standing on a bed of grass made up of letters. The quote at the top reads “Use your words. The good ones. Put them together. Leave a legacy of love with them. Make sure all the people hear them. Make sure they see them. Even the strangers. The misfits. Love is for everyone.”
Art, recovery, dog rescue. Surprisingly, they all mirror each other in one way or another.
“It’s recovery for dogs too. Everyone has a different battle that they’re fighting, but all living things are fighting a battle,” said Shawn.
Words are always present in Shawn’s pieces because she says they matter more than ever.
“In this day in age, with social media and all of the technology we have we don’t choose our words wisely. We put words online that we wouldn’t say to people’s faces, and we are crushing our society with those words and all the negativity that comes with them. I want people to put their good words out there all the time and think about what they’re saying,” said Shawn.
In recovery, words are everything. That’s why this piece from a dear friend who is also a healer means so much.
“It means the world. I think the work that she does is the work that we do on so many levels. In teaching the women to be positive, not just in the words they speak to others, but in the words they speak to themselves. That is particularly why I love this one. It’s a big deal for the women to see themselves as valuable human beings. They get here so broken and torn apart. It takes them awhile to see the love and beauty within, so this is great. I am so excited I can’t stand it,” said Melissa.
Shawn has agreed to come back and help the women create their own art pieces incorporating the power of words. That way they can leave messages behind for the women who come to Cumberland Heights after them.