Forever in the garden
Bronze of beloved pooch was unveiled Sunday
For eight years Tigo, a large black curly-coated Portuguese water dog, romped the 15-acre estate of Marlene and Bill Rebello, their fun-loving, faithful boy.
Tigo died in February 2011, but his likeness lives on in the garden in a bronze statue by sculptor Lena Toritch. The statue was unveiled Sunday before 40 or so of the Rebellos' good friends, who exclaimed over the likeness and reached out to caress the bronze curls. Tigo is short for Rei Antigo do Mar, which is Portuguese for Ancient King of the Sea.
The Rebellos first thought of commissioning the statue when Tigo was alive and well. A few years ago the three of them were at the Barkus Parade of dogs in the French Quarter in New Orleans when they realized anew how special Tigo was.
"He drew people to us," Marlene recalled. "We were watching the parade and more people were taking his picture than the dogs in the parade."
Residents of Sunol, the Rebellos had always admired the statue of Bosco, a black Lab-Rottweiler mix character around town who was even elected mayor and is now immortalized in a statue by Toritch. His bronze tribute, complete with his signature kerchief and lolling tongue, was unveiled in 2008 next to the post office. Folks give him a rub for good luck.
"Tigo was so special that we thought a statue would be a really neat thing," Marlene said. "We contacted her and got some ideas and the cost, then said go ahead and start it. Shortly after that, he was diagnosed with cancer."
Tigo was a fixture in Pleasanton for many years as Bill, while coping with health problems, took daily hour-long walks downtown, ending at Tully's coffee house to rest before starting home.
"I would see this young guy sitting there and one day he got up and started walking towards me," Bill said, explaining that the man had some physical problems. "He came over to me and said 'dog,' and he said 'nice,' then proceeded to say 'stroke.' He and I spent about two hours talking, just trying to know each other."
Bill said he'd been feeling sorry for himself due to his own recent health problems -- until he met Dave Fassio.
"I came home and told Marlene, 'I just met this guy today, who was only 45 years old when he had a stroke.' I said he had such a positive attitude about life and he changed my whole outlook on life," Bill recalled.
Marlene, who had just retired as a speech pathologist, met Dave at a 50th birthday party for him, six months later. She told the family that she would love to volunteer to work with him one hour a week to improve his speech and now, after seven years, he is much improved, Bill said.
"Tigo was instrumental in that relationship that we have with Dave now," Bill explained, as the dog was in so many of their friendships.
A few years ago, Tigo won Pleasanton's Pooch Parade in the owner-dog lookalike contest when Bill donned a black Afro wig and the two marched up and down Main Street in identical scarves.
Marlene and Bill worked closely with Toritch, modifying Tigo's likeness as it took shape.
"It took a little over a year," Marlene said. "We wanted it absolutely to his likeness. We zeroed in on specific areas, the shape of his head, his tail."
The statue is 10% larger than Tigo was, Bill noted.
Toritch, who trained at the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts in Russia and lives in Salt Lake City, said the statue of Tigo is one of her favorites.
"The most important and challenging part was depicting Tigo's intelligent eyes. But I did it," Toritch wrote on her blog.
Now "Tigo" sits at quiet attention in the Rebello's garden, a short walk from the house, upon a brick base.
"We walked down this morning and sat on the bench and had coffee," Bill said Monday morning. "He was so extraordinary; we contemplated what to do and made the decision that he would watch over us all."