LINCOLN PARK — There were flowers in the snow beneath the statue of "Wizard of Oz" characters Dorothy Gale and her little dog Toto, too, in Oz Park this week, in memory of the dog who modeled for sculptor John Kearney.
"The love of my life, my little girl," Jackie Kelly, of Provincetown, Mass., said Tuesday, after her dog, daVinci, died in her sleep Sunday night. "Little dog, big heart."
Kelly got the dog as a stray 17 years ago, and while the dog was the image of a cairn terrier, Kelly also believes she had a little Chihuahua in her, as she was small. The dog was nonetheless a natural stand-in for Toto from the very beginning.
"Right after I got her, within two or three weeks, I was sitting on a park bench with her when a man who was part of our community theater pulled up and asked if she could be Toto in a school production of 'The Wizard of Oz,'" Kelly recalled Tuesday.
She was leery, having just adopted the dog, but it turned out "she was a little ham," loved the actress who played Dorothy and proved to be a huge hit, Kelly said.
"Then, several years later, I was at a party with her," Kelly said, when she was approached by Kearney. "Jack was in Provincetown for at least 53 summers," she added, and had a work space in Cape Cod.
Dedicated in 2007, "Dorothy and Toto" was the last of four "Wizard of Oz" sculptures executed by Kearney for the park. Kearney was a silversmith and goldsmith who once made a set of cufflinks for Duke Ellington before he was inspired to start making sculptures out of car bumpers.
He was commissioned by the Oz Park Advisory Council and the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce to create the Tin Man sculpture now at the main northeast entrance to the park at Lincoln and Webster avenues in the '90s. Going on to work in bronze, he executed sculptures of the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion before finishing with "Dorothy and Toto."
"He was just about to start looking for models for Dorothy and Toto," Kelly said. "So he asked if he could use her for a model, and I loaned her for the day."
She almost didn't get daVinci back.
"He gave her little bits of steak pieces all day and took photographs," Kelly said. "I'm vegan, and she was, and she came home saying, 'I don't know. Maybe I want steak from now on. But I know I like modeling.'"
Kelly heard about the sensation the statue created when completed and placed alongside Dorothy's Playlot at Oz Park, but has never seen it in person.
"I've never been to Oz Park," she said, "but I've seen photographs."
At 17 or 18 years old, daVinci had been ailing lately, and Kelly had finally decided on Sunday to put her down the next day. She died that night.
"It's a gift to take it out of our hands and just do it herself," Kelly said.
In what she called "a lovely confluence," an old friend, a Buddhist nun, turned up "absolutely unexpectedly on Sunday" and stayed on. After daVinci died that night, Kelly wrapped her body in a cloth the Dalai Lama had blessed years ago. They buried her Monday before the big storm blew in.
"My friend chanted blessings on the dead while I buried her," Kelly said. "So it was a very fitting end for a really, really sweet dog who was very loved."
But how did the flowers mystically appear at the foot of the statue Monday?
It turned out that a former tenant of Kelly's posted an item on Reddit Monday targeted for Chicago and asking, "Anybody live near Oz Park? I need a favor."
Believing that Kelly was going to be putting the dog down that day, the poster explained that the dog had modeled for the "Dorothy and Toto" statue and asked, "If anybody lives near the park or passes through it ... and if it's not too much to ask, could you put a little flower next to Toto and snap a photo?"
A few people did, including someone who slapped a hat on the Toto figure.
At the end of the day Monday, there were still a handful of red carnations at the foot of the statue.
Kelly saw the picture.
"It's a sweet photo," she said. "Jack Kearney would approve! As do I!"