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A dog's day

Driscoll and Guide Dogs for the Blind honored at Gresham ceremony


There was something special about Driscoll.

Ken Jernstedt, the late mayor of Hood River, knew it. The duo was paired until Driscoll’s death in 2006, and despite his best attempts, Jernstedt was never able to replace the yellow Labrador retriever that became his best friend.OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Staff and friends of Guide Dogs for the Blind in Boring pose with the newly-unveiled statue of guide dog Driscoll, which is located at the corner of North Main Avenue and Northeast Third Street in Gresham. Driscoll is part of the Gresham Outdoor Public Art effort, and honors the town's close relationship with Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Now everyone can share in Driscoll’s memory, thanks to a new bronze statue of the pup recently placed at the corner of North Main Avenue and Northeast Third Street in downtown Gresham. The work was created by Cascade Locks artist Heather Soderberg-Greene and unveiled at a special “Pause for Paws” ceremony on Friday night.

“They just had an amazing bond,” explained Soderberg-Greene of Jernstedt and Driscoll. “He’s looking up into Ken’s face.”

The statue honors not just Driscoll but Gresham’s close relationship with Guide Dogs for the Blind, the nation’s oldest guide dog organization, which was founded in California but has a campus in nearby Boring.

Some 150 guide-dog teams graduate from the Boring campus every year.

Guide dogs are a frequent sight in downtown Gresham, as staff from the organization take would-be guide dogs to the area to hone their real-world skills.

And it’s not only staff: As part of the organization’s intensive training program, dogs and their new partners also visit Gresham as they get ready to work together.

Tracy Boyd has had three working dogs from Guide Dogs for the Blind, including her latest, 6-year-old black Lab, Chiffon. A Gresham resident, she trained with her first working dog at Guide Dogs for the Blind’s California campus, and with her next two at the Boring campus. Being closer to home was a blessing and a convenience, especially as a mother of three young boys.

At Friday’s ceremony, she described the downtown Gresham community as being one that’s sensitive and savvy to the needs of those working with a guide dog. For example, if she enters a coffee shop, the barista might say the name of the café and add that they are standing behind a counter.

Also, most in Gresham are familiar enough with guide dogs to know not to pet them or make a fuss over them.

“Everyone here in Gresham is so exposed to these dogs that they treat them like the professionals they are,” Boyd said.OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Gresham resident Tracy Boyd speaks to the crowd at 'Pause for Paws' on Friday, July 15. Boyd has had three working dogs, including her current black Labrador retriever Chiffon, and trained twice at the Boring campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Driscoll’s addition to the community comes as part of the Gresham Outdoor Public Art effort, chaired by Judy Han. Money to pay for his creation and installation was raised through personal donations and contributions from service clubs, including the Gresham Breakfast Lions Club. Lions clubs have traditionally supported many vision and blindness-related initiatives.

Han described guide dogs as being part of “the fabric of the community.”

“That’s what we see every day,” she said.

In addition to Driscoll’s reveal, the celebration featured live music and other activities, as well as face painting and a sculpting demo by Chad Caswell. The evening event drew about 200 attendees, including some notable Greshamites such as Rep. Carla Piluso, D - District 50, who attended with her friend Jana Ince-Carey, a Guide Dogs for the Blind volunteer.

Piluso said she’d often seen guide dogs out in Gresham being trained, and described them as a “huge asset.”

The installation of more public art in Gresham is another asset, as was the way several groups teamed up to make it happen.

“For me, it’s what Gresham is all about,” Piluso said. “We do it as a community.”

Plans for Driscoll began percolating last year, when Gresham Outdoor Public Art commissioned Soderberg-Greene to put her talents to work on the beloved canine companion.

But for Soderberg-Greene, the relationship with Driscoll goes back even earlier than that: She was asked to create a statue of Jernstedt, who died in 2013, and Driscoll prior to receiving the GOPA commission, and was able to reproduce the Driscoll element for Gresham.

Beginning with the face and eyes and working from pictures and anecdotes, she aimed to assemble a perfect remembrance of Driscoll, one that would reflect his treasured spirit.

“I’m a dog lover, and have lived with dogs my whole life,” she said. “I didn’t get to meet Driscoll because he’d passed away, but his family talked about Ken and Driscoll’s relationship.”OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Local dignitaries, including Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis, applaud after the reveal of the new statue of Driscoll, a guide dog that was partnered with the late mayor of Hood River, Ken Jernstedt. Driscoll is located in downtown Gresham.