The Main Line goes to the dogs

Matt Kelly

How much is that doggy in the window? The one with the checkered tail? Checkered tail? That’s right. And how about the one with the baseball cap? Or the one with beads for fur? That’s what locals will be asking this Sunday when an auction will be held to find permanent homes for 50 decorated fiberglass dogs.

All summer these colorful pups have been lined up and down Lancaster Avenue looking for a little puppy love. And they’ve gotten it.

Mainliners and Philadelphians have come out in droves to see these artistic canine creations, prompting them to ask, “Who let these dogs out?”

Behind the mass canine unleashing is the Main Line Art Center. Last spring the center initiated the program “Art Unleased,” calling on local artists to help decorate the 50 fiberglass dogs that would be placed on suburban streets. The professional artists sent in sketches, then waited to see whether their designed dogs would be selected and transformed onto a doggy mold.

Weighing 60 pounds apiece, each mutt has a unique style. Take, for instance, the one that glows in the dark. Of course, the litter wouldn’t be complete without a “Diva Dog” and her red lipstick. There’s “Chocolate Lab,” a dog draped in candy wrappers and “Watch Dog,” a pooch who always knows the time, given the real watches glued to his body. And then there is “Man’s Best Friend.” The name is fitting considering this pup’s coat is made out of real dollar bills. Lucky dog.

But don’t think about trying to get your paws on this puppy or any of the pedigree pooches before the auction. The MLAC has instituted a “Puppy Patrol” of volunteer dog watchers to keep an eye on the art, looking out for scrapes and damages to the animals. After all, sponsors paid $2,500 to have the dogs displayed in front of their businesses. MLAC is hoping that many will want to keep the dogs permanently.

The “Puttin’ on the Dog” fundraiser will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at The Plaza at the King of Prussia Mall. Tickets for the dinner and auction are available to the public ranging from $125 to $500 a seat.

The dog auction will raise money for the MLAC. All money collected from the sale of the dogs will go into an endowment that the center plans to use to offer more classes, scholarships and outreach programs. In addition to the money the dogs draw in from the bidding, local supporters, Len and Norma Klorfine are matching every dollar raised, up to $1 million.

The city of Chicago started the trend of displaying decorated animal sculptures throughout city streets in 1999. The windy city copied the concept from Switzerland, painting 300 fiberglass cows and placing them throughout the town. The cows drew 2 million viewers, milking in $200 million for the city.

Following Chicago’s lead, New York also adopted the artistic cows, creating the famous “Cow Parade” that moo-ves through Manhattan annually. Other cities quickly caught on adding a twist.

New Orleans and Baltimore have decorated fish, while San Jose has opted for sharks. Bison have appeared in Buffalo and moose on the Toronto border.

“Our center director, Judy Herman, was in St. Louis and saw the fish. Philadelphia hadn’t done an animal display yet and she thought, ‘why can’t a suburban area do this?’ ” says Lisa Clark, the public relations director for the Center. “We decided dogs because this area is very family oriented.” This is the first time the animals have been displayed outside city walls.

Clark remains unsure how much each dog will go for in the auction this Sunday, but has high hopes. “We know that the average price, based on previous auctions is between $1,500 and $2,000. Other auctions have gone up to $10,000, with a few going higher. We would love that,” Clark added.

The auction will also feature two dogs not part of the original pack. The neo-pop “Puppy Love” is the work of Miami-based Brazilian artist, Romero Britto. The other, “Pig Dog,” is sure to be a favorite because it is a working piggy bank. The sculpture even has a curly tail!

Auctioneer C. Hugh Hildesley from Sotheby’s in New York will be appraising each canine to determine the starting price. Hildesley will be running the event; he served as the auctioneer for the sale of the Cows in Chicago.

City officials raked in moo-cho dinero. They raised more than $3 million for charity. The MLAC is hoping that people’s pocketbooks will show the same support for these fashionable pooches.

Dog-lovers can log onto the MLAC’s website and print out a map to track the pooches before they are gone for good.

**All information obtained from