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Community paws-itively thrilled as Tessa the guide dog returns home to Stockton

Page Power from Guide Dogs Australia, Mrs Jean Dowsett's nephew David Williams, Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen and artist Julie Squires at the new Tessa the guide dog statue in Stockton

Tails were wagging today as City of Newcastle (CN) unveiled a new Tessa the guide dog statue in Stockton to replace the much-loved original, which was stolen over a year ago.


 

In response to the theft, City of Newcastle engaged Newcastle artist Julie Squires to replicate a new bronze Tessa as a tribute to the statue that stood for over half a century in honour of the loyal guide dog.


Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said the local community were thrilled to have Tessa the guide dog return home to Stockton.


"Many local residents have fond memories of Tessa, and it is wonderful to have her back in Stockton," Cr Clausen said.

"While Tessa's new statue is certainly something to be celebrated, the story behind the bronze dog has incredible heart and deserves to be retold and remembered.


"Guide dog Tessa and her owner Mrs Jean Dowsett spent many hours visiting the Stockton ferry wharf and seeking donations from passengers. The pair raised over $45,000 for Guide Dogs Australia between 1958 and Tessa's death at age 11 in 1971.


"At the time this was a world record amount of money raised by a single dog and its owner for the charity, which was why at Mrs Dowsett's request, Stockton Lions Club commissioned the original iconic statue in Tessa's honour."


Mrs Dowsett's nephew David Williams thanked City of Newcastle for bringing Tessa back to Stockton.


"It was upsetting to discover that Tessa had been stolen so we are thrilled to be here today to celebrate this new statue," Mr Williams said.


“I have fond memories of my aunt Jean ‘Elsie’ Dowsett who tragically lost her eyesight in a car accident in 1958.


“She was selected to train with a guide dog in Perth at first before returning to Sydney and then home to Stockton. She became a tireless supporter of Guide Dogs Australia and was awarded an OBE medal for her record-breaking fundraising with Tessa.


“The original statue of Tessa had a very shiny head and nose thanks to the countless number of children who patted her. I hope this new bronze is just as admired for many years to come.”


Gary Bristow, Guide Dogs chief philanthropy and fundraising officer, said that the fundraising of Jean Dowsett and Tessa left an unforgettable legacy, and the reinstalled statue was an important part of Tessa's story in Stockton.


Guide Dogs NSW is delighted to participate in the unveiling ceremony of the new statue for guide dog Tessa, reinstating her in the rightful place at Lynn Oval," Mr Bristow said.


"This event not only commemorates Jean Dowsett and Tessa’s dedication to fundraising but also emphasises the lasting impact their incredible efforts had on the lives of those living with low vision and blindness.


"The raising and training of life changing guide dogs like Tessa is made possible because of the generous ongoing support we receive from all our donors, enabling us to provide vital support thousands of Australians living with low vision and blindness, we are immensely grateful for the continued commitment to our cause.”


The complex process of creating a new statue of the beloved dog was carried out by artist Julie Squires, who began her research by examining archival photos and videos of Tessa given to her by community members.

A life model in the form of Winnie the labrador from Islington Off Leash Area was also photographed from different angles before the modelling and moulding of the lifelike statue began.


The new Tessa, now sitting proudly on her plinth at Lynn Oval, is made from marine grade stainless steel, rubber, and fibreglass moulding for durability, with a beautiful bronze casting metal finish.


Tessa will have anchor fixtures drilled to a granite base to prevent any vandalism or theft and ensure her longevity as a beloved fixture for the people of Stockton well into the future.

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