Richland dog to be remembered with sculpture

By Kevin McCullen, Herald staff writerFebruary 21, 2010 

RICHLAND -- Bodie spread cheer to hospital patients, children, employees and shoppers on The Parkway and customers of the Richland Farmers Market for years.

Soon, a bronze statue of the friendly and widely loved black lab mix is expected to become a permanent fixture on The Parkway. And it already is evoking comparisons with a famous dog statue in Scotland.

Artist Tom McClelland of Benton City is creating the sculpture, which has been approved by the Richland Arts Commission and must get final approval from city council, likely at its March 2 meeting, said Joe Schiessl, city planning and redevelopment manager.

Bodie was a certified Delta therapy dog who made regular visits to patients at Kadlec Regional Medical Center. He also served as a reader dog for children twice a month at the Richland Public Library.

Moreover, he was a 95-pound "Momma's boy" and lifelong companion to owner Cindy Irvin of Richland. He accompanied her daily to her job as a framer at Klais Antiques & Creative Framing on The Parkway, where he greeted customers, lounged outside the back door, accepted pats from passers-by and made daily rounds with Irvin for treats and hugs at neighboring businesses.

He'd observe people coming and going from the Richland Farmers Market during the summer, soaking in their attention. He accompanied Irvin to concerts in John Dam Plaza in summer, and often could be seen with his head protruding from her car's back window, goggles over his eyes.

Tara Erben, who owned the River House on The Parkway for a dozen years before moving the business to Kennewick, was among the business neighbors who welcomed Bodie's daily visits.

"Bodie was so special, and everyone loved him. He was a lovely, gentle dog who would do absolutely anything Cindy asked him to do," said Erben, who also helps manage the Richland Farmers Market.

"This will transcend Bodie himself because everyone remembers a beloved lost pet," she said.

The $25,000 cost of the statue will be covered by donations of $10,000 from the Columbia Center Rotary Club, $10,000 from the Richland Farmers Market and a $5,000 grant from the city lodging tax. Donations are being sought to help pay for a plaque detailing Bodie's story and other costs. Erben said those wishing to donate can contact her at 396-8989.

Bodie came into Irvin's life as a puppy in 1997, when friends said they could not keep him. He quickly became fast friends with her older lab, Nakia, and started going to work with Irvin at the framing shop in 2005 after Nakia's death.

Charlene Olson, the shop's owner, said Bodie became the store greeter.

"He owned the neighborhood," Olson said. "Everyone brought treats for him. Some people came in just to see him. ... We still have people who come in and ask about him."

Bodie also easily took to being a therapy dog. A store customer whose dog was a regular visitor to Kadlec mentioned the therapy dog program to Irvin, who signed up for a workshop and then enrolled Bodie in a course.

He was certified in fall 2006, and made twice monthly visits for two years before cutting to one trip per month in his final year of life.

On one visit, he went into an intensive care room to see a man who had a head injury and was nonresponsive. Bodie licked the patients' hand and nudged him, causing the man -- who later died -- to open his eyes briefly and stroke Bodie's broad black head.

He started twice monthly visits to the Richland Public Library in summer 2008 to help with children's reading efforts. Bodie would lay down, let children pet him and stare at them as they read aloud to him.

"He also helped introduce some kids who were not used to dogs become comfortable with them," Irvin said. "If you were afraid of dogs or had a bad experience with dogs, he'd be the one to work with that fear. He was gentle and he wasn't a barker. He wouldn't move fast, he would just saunter along."

Bodie died in August 2009. Irvin took him to her veterinarian after he'd shown signs of illness. Exploratory surgery revealed several large tumors, forcing Irvin to make the choice all dog owners dread.

Upon his death, business owners and their employees on The Parkway and many customers also mourned Bodie. Erben said she and others wondered what they could do to honor him and became inspired by the tale of Greyfriars Bobby.

A statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier, was erected in 1873 opposite Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland, in honor of a dog that never left his late master's graveside after he died in 1858.

For 11 years, Greyfriars Bobby remained by the side of his master's remains, leaving just once daily for a midday meal at a coffee house where his owner, John Gray, regularly dined.

After the dog died in 1872, the president of the ladies' committee of the local animal protection society sought permission to erect a statue in his honor. Ironically, Irvin saw and photographed the Greyfriars Bobby statue during a visit to Edinburgh.

"I am honored by having my dog honored in that way," Irvin said. "I have been surprised by the number of people who knew him."

-- Kevin McCullen: 582-1535;

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