By Sallie James
Speckles McFreckles, a much-touted Dalmatian sculpture whose existence has been shrouded in mystery, has surfaced.
The whimsical sculpture conceptualized in 2021 finally materialized in 2023, two years after the city held a formal naming contest for the perky pooch, picked a winner and awarded a prize.
After six weeks of creating the tile-covered piece, Puerto Rican artist Celso Gonzalez and his crew completed the towering $38,000 dog statue on Monday. The giant dog emerged from a custom mold which was poured with concrete, then encrusted with a mosaic of black and white tiles. The towering K-9 stands guard on the southeast corner of the station at 7499 Northwest 72nd Street.
Now, every day at station #36 is a dog day afternoon. But October 26 was especially “ruff.”
The artist who created the sculpture fell from a scaffold during the construction and was transported to Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach with an abdominal wound. He is expected to recover completely, said Tamarac Fire Chief Michael Annese.
“It was a crazy fluke,” Annese said. Gonzalez could not be reached for comment, but one of his co-workers said he was doing fine on Monday.
The project has been somewhat of a dog and pony show from start to finish.
The installation was initially delayed because the originally planned site on the west side of the fire station had drainage issues, said George Gadson, who directs the city’s Public Art Program. Then COVID hit.
The design and installation of the art piece were paid through developer contributions to Tamarac’s Public Art Fund and not through local taxes.
Tamarac resident Adoni Wollaston, who won the sculpture naming contest, viewed the giant dog statue for the first time on Tuesday and was duly impressed. He’s grown up a lot since the contest took place.
“It’s so big!” marveled Wollaston as he posed for a photo before the giant dog on Tuesday.
So is Wollaston.
After two years of waiting, Wollaston is now a Sawgrass Springs Middle School 8th grader who is 12 inches taller and seven shoe sizes larger than the diminutive Challenger Elementary 5th grader who made headlines with the unique name he chose for the sculpture.
Wollaston was honored at a June 23, 2021, City Commission meeting for his catchy name. At the time, Tamarac commissioners presented him with a tablet equipped with internet service and a $100 Visa gift card.
But he was never contacted again.
Wollaston learned that the wheels of government turn very, very slow.
“I’m sure the city had more important things to do,” he said.
But his mother, Renata Richardson, said it was a doggone shame that no one from the city bothered to tell them what was up. She called Tamarac twice this year, trying to find out what was happening with the elusive sculpture, but never got any answers.
Richardson said she specifically sought out District 4 Commissioner Kicia Daniel for information but was “transferred from one person to another” without any luck. The city left her a voicemail once in August, assuring her they would keep her updated on the progress, but they didn’t. Instead, she learned that the project was completed from Tamarac Talk.
Now the city is in the doghouse, thanks to its poor communication skills.
“It shouldn’t take that many years to do something,” Richardson said. At least the sculpture was completed before her son finished high school and graduated, she conceded.
Delays aside, Richardson gave the project a thumbs up.
“I love it,” she said.
Stop by Fire Station #36, and you will see why it’s unique for two reasons: it’s the only fire station in the city that doesn’t have a fire truck, and it’s the only one that now has a gigantic K-9 mascot.
Par for the course, said city resident and activist Carol Mendelson, who is dog tired of complaining about the missing fire truck, which was finally ordered earlier this year.
“Like other unmentionable issues at fire station #36, it has taken two years to get the statue of the Dalmatian in place,” Mendelson noted. “Now, how about a truck for him to ride on?”
- Sallie James is a veteran reporter/blogger/copywriter who spent most of her writing career in South Florida, including 22 years at the Sun Sentinel. She has also freelanced for The Coastal Star, South Florida Gay News & Florida Weekly. Sallie is the mother of grown boy/girl twins, a Guardian ad Litem, an animal rescuer, and a longtime Tamarac resident. She earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Indiana University.
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