Sculptor Honors the Nation’s K-9 Heroes
In October 2005, a War Dog Memorial Monument was dedicated at the H. Lee Dennison Building, Long Island, New York with a special War Dog Memorial service and monument dedication.
The bronze statue is two times the size of a real German shepherd, standing 48″ from paw to shoulder, and extending nine feet. The shepherd stands on a granite slab, leaning forward and staring intently into the distance, with an inscription that reads:
THIS WAR DOG MEMORIAL IS DEDICATED TO ALL THE DOGS WHO SERVED THIS GREAT NATION FAITHFULLY AND WELL. TRAINED AS MILITARY WORKING DOGS, POLICE DOGS AND VOLUNTEER SEARCH AND RESCUE DOGS, THEY HAVE SAVED COUNTLESS LIVES OFTEN AT THE COST OF THEIR OWN. THEY PROVIDED A THOUGHT OF HOME DURING TIMES OF TURMOIL AND THEIR MEMORIES WILL REMAIN. Forever in Our Hearts.
Hired by Marilyn and Hal Wilson of the War Dog Memorial Committee, Doug Roper was commissioned and given the charge originally to create a sculpture for the planned War Dog Memorial in Long Island, New York, honoring the many K-9 heroes that have served in the military from the Revolutionary War through the present. His concept of a German shepherd-one of the most commonly used breeds in wartime-stepping off a boulder “into the unknown” was selected out of the nine artists that were contacted about the sculpture.
Hal Wilson said of the statue that stands atop a hill overlooking the human war memorials along route 347, “I like to think she’s watching over us old soldiers and the firefighters of 9/11: always vigilant, her bronze eyes unblinking, lest the unexpected comes once more.”
An actual K-9 model for the project was chosen after September 11, 2001 when Wilson, a Vietnam veteran, and Tsunami, his female black German shepherd, worked on recovery efforts at Ground Zero. As Wilson spoke with various K-9 groups across our nation, Tsunami’s presence triggered memories many had of search and rescue dogs in the military. With each meeting, there grew a broad consensus that she would be a perfect model for the monument-not only for her looks, but for her record of service. Working with more experienced dogs and their handlers, Wilson and Tsunami helped recover 21 bodies. Today, this courageous shepherd is helping local police find missing people in their home town of Moriches, New York.
Brought up in a military family with his father and grandfather both serving as career army officers, Roper was moved by the significance of the project. “I knew it would be a profound way to respect my father’s and grandfather’s memories and give something back to all those who were served and protected by these amazing dogs,” said Roper.
Roper received the go ahead to begin the sculpture in the spring of 2004, utilizing only photographs of Tsunami. As the work neared completion, Roper felt compelled to see Tsunami in person.
Wilson and his very special companion made the trip down to San Antonio on September 3, 2004 where Tsunami sat patiently over the span of two days as Roper refined the texture of her coat and details of her face to capture her gentle personality and spirit.
“From as far back as Attila the Hun to the wars in Vietnam and the present day wars in the Middle East, dogs have been faithful, dedicated and irreplaceable soldiers, serving as trackers, scouts, sentries, messengers, attackers, mine detectors and rescuers,” Roper adds. “They certainly deserve this lasting recognition; I am proud to be part of the commemoration.”
With so many war and rescue dogs deserving of gratitude, Roper is selling limited edition War Dog Memorial miniatures to those wanting a personal remembrance of the nation’s K-9 heroes and their handlers. Ten percent of all sales will be donated to the Ramapo Rescue Dog Association (www.ramaporescuedog.org), one of the nation’s oldest volunteer search and rescue dog units. If the buyer desires, he will donate the 10% to the K-9 organization of their choice.
In addition, Roper has been commissioned to create a War Dog Medallion Tag to be presented to each of the 9-11 search and rescue dogs and their handlers. Funding proposals are currently being considered.
About Doug Roper: Roper’s love for art and history began while spending his childhood in Europe, Central and South America, southeast Asia and the United States.
Encouraged by the noted sculptress Waldine Tauch, Roper’s formal training began at the Warren Hunter School of Art in the 1970s. He spent his first fifteen years as a professional artist honing his commercial art, architectural renderings, murals and watercolor paintings skills, some under the direction of noted Chilean sculptor Luis Guzman. He is a life member of the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, as well as the Boerne Area Artists Association.He now spends the majority of his time creating sculptures and limited edition bronzes in many themes, including–but not limited to–western, animal, Southwestern, wildlife, figurative work, fantasy and religious. Sizes of execution range from three-dimensional larger-than-life figures to miniatures, bas relief and presentation pieces. Roper has exhibited in numerous galleries and art shows and has received a variety of awards which recognize the quality and authenticity of his work, including Artist of the Year, Coppini Academy of Fine Art, San Antonio and Best of Show, Sundown Gallery Art Show, Taos, New Mexico. His creative works have been shown throughout the country and at The Carriage House Gallery of Artists, 115 Highlands Street in Boerne, TX, a gallery he co-owns with several other Texas artists (www.thecarriagehousegallery.com).Besides the War Dog Memorial in New York, his works can be found at the US Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado; the CEO’s office of the Hershey Corporation, Hershey, PA; St. Mary’s University, San Antonio; Sandhill Shores, Galveston; Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio; Cibolo Nature Center, Boerne; Jefferson United Methodist Church, San Antonio; Travis Park United Methodist Church, San Antonio; University United Methodist Church, San Antonio; and more than 300 creative works in private collections. He was one of seven artists whose work was selected as part of the cultural exchange with Kyoto, Japan.Roper’s completed images attain historical and anatomical accuracy that successfully transmit his passion for natural beauty and his belief that art has the power to help the viewer envision and experience the spirit of a person, place and time. “I pride myself in my meticulous attention to detail and exhaustive research for my sculptures,” Roper adds. “When commissioned to sculpt a horse, I not only watched the horse in all stages of activity, but even looked at the bottom of its hoofs to be sure I understood the anatomy in the smallest detail.”
He believes he has a responsibility to develop and refine his God-given talent, and signs his works with an ichthus symbol as a personal statement of faith. Roper’s creative works can be viewed online at www.dougroper.com. He can be reached for more information at his gallery in Boerne, Texas at (830) 248-1184, at his studio in San Antonio at (210) 684-6368, or via email at email@example.com.