Anyone who has ever experienced the loss of a pet knows the pervasive sense of grief that never fully goes away. While treasured pets may leave a hole in hearts, they no longer have to leave a hole in lives.
A new Dog Memorial Sculpture Project is being developed by the St. Charles Park Foundation and the St. Charles Park District as a way for pet lovers to honor those animals who have brought them so much joy.
It was the loss of their own treasured pets that inspired fellow Park Foundation Trustees Julie Miller-Longo and Vanessa Bell-LaSota to develop the idea and scope of the Dog Memorial Sculpture Project.
“I was already aware of the love locks that people had placed on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris when I read about a group of pet lovers who had formed an impromptu kind of pet memorial by hanging pet tags on a tree in the Mayslake Dog Park in Oak Park,” said Park Foundation President Miller-Longo. “I had just lost my beloved American Brittany, Lily, and thought, why couldn’t we do that?
“My vision was to commission a sculpture of a dog upon which members of the community could hang their dog’s tags to memorialize these loyal companions and cope with their grief. The sculpture would also have artistic merit, as it would organically grow in beauty with each tag that would be added.”
Miller-Longo shared her vision with fellow St. Charles Park Foundation trustees, quickly finding kindred spirit in Secretary Craig Knight, Trustee Jim Denison and Treasurer Vanessa Bell-LaSota, who had also recently suffered the loss of her English Springer Spaniel, Mike.
With her background in the arts and connections with the St. Charles Arts Council, Bell-LaSota knew she wanted a St. Charles artist to participate in the project.
Douglas Eageny, a self-trained sculptor who has had numerous works accepted in the Park Foundation’s “Sculpture in the Park” annual exhibitions, was a natural fit.
“I thought it was a very unique idea,” said Eageny. “I thought of families and small children who have lost pets and wanted to give them some place to visit where they could remember their happier days, perhaps even having walked their dog through this very park.
“Timeless Tags,” a larger-than-life-size steel sculpture created by Eageny, will grace the Dog Memorial. Inspired by Eageny’s own Labrador Retriever, Molly, the sculpture is festooned with welded steel loops of various sizes and depths where pet tags can be attached. A deep Scottish Terrier gray at the outset, “Timeless Tags” will weather over time to a lustrous Irish Setter brown.
“The addition of thousands of colored tags of various shapes and sizes on an ongoing basis means that the sculpture will constantly be growing and changing. Nor are the tags limited to those for dogs who are no longer with us. Any pet can be honored with a tag on the Dog Memorial,” Bell-LaSota said.
The sculpture will stand on a substantial concrete pedestal, upon which durable cast bronze plaques of various sizes can be mounted. The plaques provide name recognition for sponsors at various levels, from individuals and families to corporations and businesses – making it a perfect way for veterinarians, groomers, trainers, animal shelters, pet sitters and pet stores to show their support for this loving tribute to the beloved family pet.
Eageny’s work has been showcased at least six times in the St. Charles Park Foundation’s Sculpture in the Park Exhibit at Mt. St. Mary Park. Also, several of his sculptures are located in private collections. He is a St. Charles resident of 40-plus years, married with one daughter and a graduate of St Charles High School.
Sponsorship levels cleverly reflect the Dog Memorial’s theme.
One can contribute at the “Grand Champion” or “Top Dog” level for 20 × 16 or 20 × 8-inch plaques, respectively, or become a “Fur-lanthropist,” “Pick of the Litter,” or “Bark-efactor” plaque sponsor for other sizes.
Plaque sponsorships come with additional perks, such as name recognition on promotional materials and commemorative photos at the official dedication ceremony, tentatively slated later this summer.
— Planned St. Charles’ Dog Memorial Sculpture project will honor pets —-