If there’s an unattended bag left on the CTA, 4-year-old Arco and his handler, Chicago police Officer Bob Gilleran, check it out.
Arco is assigned to the Chicago Police Department canine unit to detect explosives on mass transit. He is one of 65 dogs that assist officers, a role that is highlighted in a new public art installation featuring more than 100 German shepherd sculptures standing guard downtown, mostly along Michigan Avenue.
“Canine officers trust their canine partners to conduct building searches, detect narcotics and explosives, and search for evidence and even missing people,” said Phil Cline, executive director of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
The 54-inch-tall fiberglass dog statues are part of the K9s for Cops campaign to pay tribute to the canine unit, honor fallen Chicago police officers, provide financial assistance to families of those wounded or killed in the line of duty, and raise money to support the spay and neuter program offered by PAWS Chicago.
The statues are sponsored by local companies or individuals and designed by local artists — including three Chicago police officers. One sculpture is of a dog with holes in its body and wearing oversized black glasses like Harry Caray. The art piece will be on display at Water Tower Place, home to the Chicago Sports Museum operated by Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group. Another statue features a mosaic of dogs and cats that have gone through the adoption process at PAWS.
The pieces are being installed this week and will remain on display through Labor Day. Then they’ll be auctioned off on eBay with the goal of raising $250,000 in proceeds, Cline said. Seventy percent of the proceeds will go to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation and 30 percent to PAWS Chicago, Cline said.
The foundation provides financial assistance to families of slain officers and those wounded, maintains the Gold Star Families Memorial and Park near Soldier Field, and contributes to the purchase of bulletproof vests for police officers. PAWS Chicago will use the proceeds for free spay and neuter services and medical care it provides for pets.
“Right now, across the country, is a difficult time for law enforcement. When tragedies happen, it takes the whole city really to get behind those police officers, and the memorial foundation has done a fabulous job in supporting the police department,” Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. “It’s a humbling thought for us to know that the residents of Chicago and this great foundation will stand with us in times of need.”