There are 20 steel dogs waiting to be adopted at the Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
ORLANDO – There are dogs all over the grounds of the Mennello Museum of American Art, and several of them have red collars.
That’s a happy symbol, indicating that the dogs have officially been adopted. But the adoption process doesn’t mean a group of prospective owners will be showing up anytime soon to take those pets home. The dogs, after all, are sculptures, made of steel by an artist from New England, with no ability whatsoever to bark and fetch a ball.
Their charms lie elsewhere — in their ability to help seniors and disabled people.
“The dogs with the red collars are the ones that have been adopted,” said Lindy Shepherd, public relations manager for the Mennello Museum. “We’ve adopted quite a few — actually, 14 to date.”
It’s all done, she added, for a very nice and worthwhile cause.
“The money is donated to Canine Companions for Independence,” she said. “They train the dogs and they become working dogs for people with disabilities.”
On Dec. 1, the museum at 900 E. Princeton St. at Loch Haven park in downtown Orlando celebrated the outdoor installation of 20 new steel dog sculptures during the Big Dog Show Happy Hour, an exhibition sponsored by the Mennello museum and the City of Orlando Public Arts Program – and it’s an exhibit that continues through March 17.
For a $100 donation, people attending the event were given an opportunity to adopt one of the 20 steel dogs, and place a name tag on it. That $100 adoption fee directly benefits not just Canine Companions for Independence, but also A New Beginning Pet Rescue Inc., both national non-profits.
“We have adopted the ones with red collars,” Shepherd said.
The actual event on Dec. 1, said Mennello volunteer Geri Williams, was a great event, because the museum also had asked the folks attending it to bring recommended donations of unopened dog and cat food for the SPCA of Central Florida’s Pet Food Xpress Prgoram, which delivers food to the pets of seniors on fixed incomes in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.
The turnout, Williams said, was terrific – and not just among the pet owners.
“It was fabulous,” Williams said. “Everybody brought their dogs. And if you have a $100 donation, you can have a red collar with any name you wanted on it. It was wonderful.”
The sculptures will remain on the museum grounds for another three months. They were created by artist Dale Rogers, who hails from Haverhill, Massachusetts. The dogs are aimed at raising awareness of two good causes.
Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that works to enhance the lives of people with disabilities, by providing them with highly trained assistance dogs.
Based in Santa Rosa, Calif., CCI is the largest provider of assistance dogs, and is “recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs, and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people,” the agency notes on its Web site. “The result is a life full of increased independence and loving companionship.”
A New Beginning Pet Rescue, Inc.. is also a non-profit, this one a rescue group that has been rescuing and finding homes for unwanted pets since July 2001.
“We primarily rescue animals that are on death row at local Animal Control agencies to save the lives of the animals,” the group notes on its site. “Unfortunately, traditional local shelters are forced to use euthanasia regardless of age or health, as a means to control ‘overpopulation’ of ‘unwanted’ animals. The purpose of our organization is to save discarded companion pets’ lives and find new homes for them. We do not ship or adopt our pets to homes outside of the state of Florida.”
To learn more about the exhibit, call the Mennello museum at 407-246-4278.

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