Briana Heaney Published

Spot The Difference: Baby Dog Shows Up In Capitol Murals

A grandiose picture of Senneca Rock with depictions of life in the Appalachian region.
A BabyDog look-alike sits left of center next to a man playing a musical instrument.
Perry Bennett/WV Legislative Photography

Last week the governor unveiled a series of murals in the capitol’s rotunda. Onlookers noticed multiple changes in the murals from when they were previewed in April, most notably the addition of a painting of a dog that resembles the governors pet. 

Gov. Jim Justice’s English Bulldog, Baby Dog, has been a common political prop, appearing in official campaign photos and also being present at many of the governor’s speeches. Baby Dog’s likeness was portrayed in one of the murals unveiled on Thursday. 

A depiction of a mural featuring 16 different individuals. In the distance, is a mountain, and some of the individuals are playing music and dancing.
The mural that was previewed to the public in April.

Courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Critics say that immortalizing Baby Dog’s likeness in the state murals is a misuse of taxpayer dollars. The total cost of the project is $350,000. 

Any substantial changes to the appearance of the capitol building’s interior or exterior must be approved by the Capitol Building Commission. 

Secretary of Arts, Culture and History Randall Reid-Smith oversaw the project and has defended the decision. 

“I want to say thank you to everybody in the press, because people are coming to see those murals because of Baby dog. Because they love her,” Reid-Smith said at a press conference held by the governor.  

Reid-Smith went on to say that the governor did not have a role in deciding what would be included in the murals but was responsible for getting them commissioned. 

“The only involvement that Jim Justice had in these murals is that he gave us the money to pay for these murals that had not been done in 92 years,” Smith said. “And I thank you for that, governor.” 

Justice said an English Bulldog was portrayed in the mural in part as a nod to times before the American Revolution when the English ruled. Either way, he says Baby Dog has brought himself and the state a lot of joy. 

“I think it’s kind of a neat thing. I love it to death,” Justice said. “And so just be happy, I mean, for crying out loud, don’t we have enough to worry about.”

West Virginia Public Broadcasting is part of the Department of Arts, Culture and History.