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Artist who brainstormed Dog Park Memorial enjoys seeing project take form

Dog Park Memorial artist Ric Helstrom holds up a sample plaque – one he made for Kesha, a dog of his that died. The monument work is being done behind him by the Wilhelm Monument Company (Dick Wilhelm is at far left).
Westside Pioneer photo
Local artist Ric Helstrom has taken his dogs to the Bear Creek Dog Park for a long time.
       Then one day four years ago, he had an idea. Wouldn't it be nice if people could memorialize their well-loved canines after they passed on?
       The plan, organized with the Friends of Bear Creek Dog Park, has recently been taking physical form at the 20-acre off-leash facility at South 21st and Rio Grande streets. Not far from the entrance are three vertical slabs of stone, eight feet high, each topped with a dog silhouette that Helstrom created from quarter-inch steel and protected with powder coating.
       The silhouettes are different - one represents a large dog, one medium, one small.
       The three stone slabs stand on a concrete pad, with river rock around that. The memorial area will be surrounded by a fence and a gate allowing access.
       For a fee of $75, people can order an aluminum plaque that will be attached to one of the slabs. A plaque is 4 inches wide by 2½ inches tall, allowing space for a picture and words of remembrance. Aligned in rows six across, plaques can be placed on the front and back of each slab, Helstrom said.
       The memorial is a fundraiser for the Friends, a volunteer group that helps County Parks staff look after the popular, free-access, 20-acre facility. A dedication event is
Ric Helstrom watches workers with the Wilhelm Monument Company place the silhouettes Helstrom built atop the slabs in Bear Creek Dog Park.
Westside Pioneer photo
planned this spring, according to Friends President Maureen Tuttle.
       During the planning process, to illustrate his plan, Helstrom created a sample plaque. It honors Kesha, his former border collie who died at 13 1/2. “She was a sweet loving companion,” her plaque reads. “She will be missed but not forgotten.”
       Wanting to lead the project's construction, Helstrom quit his position on the Friends/County Parks committee (out of ethical considerations) and put in a bid for the job, and it was the one selected.
       The process to construction was painstaking, requiring review by the county and plenty of paperwork. “Sometimes I thought it would never happen,” Helstrom laughed.
       Now he's considering other fundraisers/possibilities, such as a place where live dogs could put footprints with identifying plaques. “I want to keep improving on the park,” he said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 3/10/16; Outdoors: (City/County Parks)

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