Painted sculpture taken from downtown business recovered near bike trail
The great dog-napping case in Grafton came to a happy end early this week.
Two days after the theft of a fiberglass Labrador retriever sculpture outside a downtown business was reported, authorities recovered the decorated artwork near the Ozaukee Interurban Trail on Tuesday morning.
The sculpture, which was stolen early Sunday from outside LaBudde Group, 1239 12th Ave., was one of several Art Bark creations on display in front of businesses as an Ozaukee Humane Society fund-raiser.
The theft of the painted sculpture, which was mounted on a concrete base that weighed well over 100 pounds, attracted widespread media attention as LaBudde employees and Humane Society and village officials called for its return.
The sculpture’s whereabouts was unknown until a resident called the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department after finding it in a secluded area near the trail off Highway O north of the Grafton Family Aquatic Center — several miles from the business.
Although the dog was scuffed and had a damaged eye, it was in good shape, LaBudde President Richard Erickson said.
“We’re happy to have him back,” Erickson said. “At least he wasn’t damaged too much We’ll have to do some touch-up work.”
The sculpture, which was painted by LaBudde employee Joel Deutmeyer and his sister Erika Deutmeyer, had been on display at the corner of 12th Avenue and Bridge Street for two weeks before the theft.
The dog, named “America the Beautiful,” was painted in an assortment of colors, with one side decorated in red, white and blue with a Statue of Liberty.
Grafton Police Capt. Joseph Gabrish said the sculpture was discovered missing by police officers on a downtown patrol early Sunday.
After contacting LaBudde officials to determine it was not moved by an employee, they searched parks and the Milwaukee River.
“It was stolen around bar time,” Gabrish said. “No one saw it happen, but somebody picked it up, probably put in a truck and eventually dumped it along the bike trail.”
Police and Humane Society officials had asked local residents for help in recovering the sculpture, which was part of the village’s first public art program. Businesses participating in Art Bark pay a sponsoring fee for the dogs, which are then painted and displayed throughout the summer.
In October, the dogs will be auctioned, with all proceeds going to the Ozaukee Humane Society. Most of the sponsoring fees collected by the village are also being donated to the agency.
“There was really no reason for anyone to take the dog because they couldn’t do anything with it,” Erickson said. Although the dog has been returned, Gabrish said the theft remains under investigation. If the thief is caught and the artwork owner chooses to press charges, a municipal citation could be issued, he added.
“Hopefully, with all the attention this has gotten, no one will try this again,” Gabrish said.
THE PAINTED POOCH stolen from outside LaBudde Group last Sunday is back on display. Photo by Sam Arendt