The newest member of the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library sports four legs, blue fur and a dashing cape. His name is Duke.
Duke found his way to the jewel by the bay with the help of the Southeastern Guide Dogs.
Southern Guide Dogs is based out of Palmetto, Florida and works to pair guide dogs with veterans and the visually impaired. The organization works to place more than 100 guide dogs each year with no expense to those who need them.
Earlier this year, Dr. Deni Elliott, department chair of the journalism program, began working with the on-campus Puppy Club and Southeastern Guide Dogs. Elliott, who uses her own guide dog, reached out to Cathy Cardwell, the dean of the library, to inform her of the Superheroes on Parade event.
The event took place at Sundial St. Pete, March 8. Over 50 life-size sculptures of real life guide dogs were created by local artists and placed around the downtown area.
Dr. David and Kathy Nateman, sponsors of the real Duke (pictured above), were looking for a place that would proudly display the black lab’s sculpture. Elliot knew that the library occasionally hosts therapy dog sessions and asked Cardwell if it would be willing to house Duke’s sculpture.
“The tricky part is [that] I didn’t know what he would look like, but boy is he cute,” Cardwell said.
Duke “the superhero” was accepted on behalf of USF St. Petersburg by Cardwell and Mayor Rick Kriseman. The real life Duke and his family attended the unveiling of his sculpted doppelganger.
It’s almost impossible to not be captivated by the superhero guide dog who is currently on display in the main aisle of the library. However, the staff hopes to move him to the front walkway of the library, which will become his permanent home.
“People were so happy when [Duke] came in — all of our staff and students. He just makes people happy,” Cardwell said.
Students and faculty who fall in love with Duke’s sculpture may vote for it on SGDA’s website. There are five superheroes scattered around the downtown St. Petersburg area. Each sculpture is identical, excluding the design painted by a local artist.
Duke was painted by USF alumna Carrie Jadus. Votes will determine the top dogs among the superhero bunch and the winners will receive People’s Choice Awards. Each vote requires a $1 donation and the proceeds go to SGDA.
Cardwell feels that Duke is a great example of how the library partners with the community to bring the space to life. She strives to make the library a welcoming and entertaining place for everyone.
“We look for things that will give the library a human touch, or in this case a canine touch.” said Cardwell.
To vote for Duke’s sculpture, visit https://superheroesonparade.dog
Photo courtesy of the Southeastern Guide Dogs