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Tessa the guide dog returns home to Stockton

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More than 12 months after heartless thieves stole a much-loved icon, a new Tessa the guide dog statue sits proudly in Stockton.

City of Newcastle (CN), in response to the theft, engaged local artist Julie Squires to replicate the original ornament.

And, the latest tribute to the long-standing memorial was officially unveiled at the weekend.

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

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 work began.

The new Tessa, 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.

It’ll also have anchor fixtures drilled to a granite base to prevent any vandalism or theft.

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said the local community was thrilled to have Tessa the guide dog “back home”.

“While the new statue is certainly something to be celebrated, the story behind the bronze canine has incredible heart and deserves to be retold and remembered,” he explained.

“Tessa and her owner Jean Dowsett spent many hours visiting the Stockton ferry wharf and seeking donations from passengers.

“The pair raised more than $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.

“It’s why at Mrs Dowsett’s request, Stockton Lions Club commissioned the original iconic statue in Tessa’s honour.”

Mrs Dowsett’s nephew David Williams was moved by CN’s gesture.

“It was upsetting to discover Tessa had been stolen,” he said.

“So, we’re thrilled to be here to celebrate this new statue.

“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 had a very shiny head and nose, thanks to the countless number of children who patted her.

“I hope this one is just as admired for many years to come.”

Guide Dogs chief philanthropy and fundraising officer Gary Bristow said Mrs Dowsett and Tessa left an unforgettable legacy.

“We’re delighted to participate in the unveiling ceremony of the new statue for guide dog Tessa, reinstating her in the rightful place at Lynn Oval,” he added.

“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.

“It enables us to provide vital support to thousands of Australians living with low vision and blindness, so we are immensely grateful for the continued commitment to our cause.”

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