AthenscapeSeptember 2003: Vol. 82, No. 4

Easily the most outlandish of the "We Let the Dogs Out" bulldog statues, Carmen Mirandawg has a supper club get-up that Uga wouldn't be caught dead in.
"We Let the Dogs Out"

Forget that CowParade idea that's been turning heads from Zurich to NYC. In Athens, bulldog statues rule

by Margaret Goerig (ABJ '03)

If anyone is to blame, it is the cows. With their Chick-Fil-A ad campaign crowding the air waves and that international CowParade tour turning heads as far away as Switzerland, these beasts want world domination. Standing in their way is the city of Athens, where a pack of 36 brightly painted bulldog statues has begun keeping silent watch on the Classic City, ensuring that no bovines invade.

Started in Zurich, where artists decorated 800 fiberglass cows for public display, CowParade was quickly hailed around the world as a great way to enhance awareness for local artists, boost tourism, and raise money for charitable organizations.

When Athens-Oconee Junior Woman's Club member Linda Ford (BS '81 MS '83) got a look at New York City's CowParade, she and fellow club member Julie Walters put their heads together and came up with a "We Let the Dogs Out" project that has put bulldog statues all over Athens.

To herald the beginning of the downtown entertainment district, local artist Gretchen Fennell created Caesar Dawgustus on behalf of patron Phil Hughes Honda-Mitsubishi-BMW.

In all, there are 36 statues and they stretch from the "Sky Dawg" bulldog out at Ben Epps Airport in Winterville all the way to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on South Milledge, where a "Reflections of a Classic City" bulldog mirrors the beauty of Athens.

And talk about freedom of expression.

Ready-to-party Caesar Dawgustus, who anchors the corner of College Avenue and Broad Steet, is clad only in a toga. Whereas, Carmen Mirandawg, who occupies the front porch of the Slippers boutique in Five Points, has false eyelashes out to here and a supper club get-up that Uga wouldn't be caught dead in.

Each statue required a $2,500 contribution, but the idea proved so successful that the woman's club's original 25-statue goal had to be increased to 36.

(top) Rebekkah Curlee and Emily Burke play with "Clover" at the Athens Regional Library on Baxter Street. Artists: Andrea Davidson (BSEd '90, MEd '91) and Eric McLachan. Patron: Georgia 4-H.

(left) For the front yard of the UGA Alumni Association on Hull Street, artist Chris Wyrick (MFA '00) created a bulldog in honor of Heisman winner Herschel Walker.

"It's hard to say no to Julie and Linda," says state senator Brian Kemp (BSA '87), who sponsored a dog and installed all of them around town.

Ford and Walters originally planned to keep the dogs out for just three years but that may change. "We may leave them up," says Ford. "We may relocate them to a park or something."

The main thing, say both women, is to raise as much money as possible for charity. The $2,500 fee basically covered just materials and the artist's time. The real moneymaker will come on Oct. 24, when the woman's club will auction off 17-inch replicas of the jowly giants. The beneficiaries: Nuci's Space, Oconee County Art Foundation, Sandy Creek Nature Center, Georgia 4-H, Extra Special People, Hope Haven, Canine Companions for Independence, Operation Smile, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bike Helmets for all Kids Programs, AIDS Coalition of Northeast Georgia, and Tallulah Falls School.

Ford and Walters plan to write a book about "We Let the Dogs Out" and hope to have it out in time for Christmas. They also have one more statue to place. The Lavonia Welcome Center off I-85 asked for a bulldog to entertain their annual flood of 450,000 visitors. Walters says they want to find a corporate sponsor that would find it worthwhile as an advertising endeavor. She predicts the dog would also serve as a lure to curious tourists who might venture to Athens to see the rest of the exhibit.

"The most important thing is to raise as much money as possible for charity."
—Linda Ford (BS '81, MS '83) and Julie Walters

This mirrored bulldog by artist Charlotte House (BSFCS '95) and patron Terry Trotochaud is perhaps the most beautiful statue in the exhibit. Titled "Reflections of a Classic City," you'll find it under a gazebo adjacent to the visitor center at the State Botanical Garden on South Milledge.

With all the running around they have done for the past year, the women say they have had little time to run their small businesses. "But it's been so worth it," says Walters, adding that the two of them still enjoy pausing beside one of the bulldog statues and waiting for a passerby to see it for the first time.

"We laugh!" they say. "We call ourselves the Happiness Fairies."

Margaret Goerig (ABJ '03) is an Athens-based freelancer.

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