SAFETY HARBOR — City firefighters have a new helper standing at the ready outside Fire Station 52 on Main Street.
Brooklyn, a 9-foot-tall Dalmatian made of recycled steel, wears scuffed yellow boots and wields a fire axe. His collar tag reads: SAVE DOG SAVE.
Brooklyn is the second piece of public art installed in Safety Harbor this week. The first, Rock-ET Man, a sculpture by stone carver C.R. Gray, was erected at the Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center on Bayshore Boulevard on Monday.
It took seven men to unload Brooklyn from a semitrailer truck Monday. The big dog's story spans three states and 12 years.
Brooklyn was made by Chicago artist Mitch Levin, who runs High Voltage Studio there with his wife, Susie. The Dalmatian is a tribute to New York City firefighters and paramedics who fought to save lives on 9/11.
"It was an incredibly negative event, but I wanted Brooklyn to be positive," said Levin, who fashions dogs from melted bass drums. "I want him to represent love, courage, hope."
Brooklyn, named after the home borough of Levin's stepfather, an emergency room doctor, made his way to Safety Harbor through local artist Todd Ramquist. Levin and Ramquist are longtime friends. Six months ago when Safety Harbor issued a call for public art, Ramquist called Levin.
Brooklyn, Ramquist thought, would be perfect: A fire dog for the fire house.
Levin sent photos, and the city's public art committee voted to post the Dalmatian between the fire station and City Hall on Main Street.
Ramquist, who is involved with creating the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center, gave Brooklyn a sponge bath Tuesday.
"Probably 20 people rolled down their windows and yelled, 'Great work!' or 'That makes me happy!'" he said. "People walking their dogs stopped and took photos. The art is playful and interactive."
Brooklyn, donated by Levin, will remain at his post at the fire station until December. After that, he will be moved to his permanent home in the Art & Music Center, which is scheduled to open by Christmas.
Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.