“Paula, I am so grateful for your talent, knowledge of your business, the vendors you dealt with and your guidance in the process of the creation of the Military Working DogTeams National Monument and the Not Forgotten Fountain. You were very patient and kind, for the project was one of so many very difficult memories and complex emotions by all involved.
Your work ethic and your attention to the most minute detail, makes each item that you create a ‘center piece’ of attention and discussion with everyone in attendance. Thank you Paula, you are the best.”
~ Richard Deggans - John Burnam Monument Foundation (JBMF)
“Paula, I just wanted to say I’ve been following the work you have been doing on the U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument and I am impressed with your work. I especially like to compliment you on your exceptional job on detail. Again, you’re doing a beautiful job in honoring our service men and K9’s that have protected our country. Your willingness to spend long hours in meticulous research has brought impressive results. Congratulations on your quality of work that will be appreciated by all and salute you for your significant contribution
~ James A. Cortina, Director
CPWDA K9, Connecticut Police Work Dog Assocation
When John Burnam, president of the John Burnam Monument Foundation, contacted Slater in 2008 about possibly sculpting the U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument project, she was greatly enthused. However, when John related to me the story of all the military working dogs that were left behind in Vietnam, Slater says her heart broke. Thousands of military working dogs were crated and ready to be air lifted to safety at the end of the Vietnam War, only to be downgraded to non-essential equipment and left on the tarmac. Hearing this story touched her deeply and she says she knew this was a project she was meant to sculpt. Slater says brought all the emotion and skill she had as a sculptor to these heroic figures.
JBMF President, John Burnam also decided to have a working fountain added to the National Monument. He had the very creative idea of a dog handler sitting crossed legged pouring water from his canteen into his helmet, which is how Vietnam War era handlers provide drinking water for their military dog partners. Slater was asked to sketch several fountain concepts to present to Dave and Cheryl Duffield, who had contributed funding for the massive amounts of granite used at the monument and wanted to fund a fountain as well. The Duffields liked John’s idea for the fountain, but asked if their dearly departed German Shepherd, Sadie’s portrait could be added to the fountain in some way. Slater said she would work on it and then later remembered she had seen a wonderful photograph of Burnam in a crouched position with his dog partner cuddled up next to him and the dog’s leg was draped over Burnam’s leg. Slater drew up another design sketch with this addition and presented it to the Duffields and to Burnam. They all loved it and gave her the go ahead to sculpt the piece.
Off to the side of the main Monument in its own contemplative courtyard is the bronze Not Forgotten Fountain. It is composed of a 1.3 times life size Vietnam War era Dog Handler pouring water from his canteen into his helmet for his military German Shepherd to drink. Where the main monument is more formal in nature, this bronze sculpture conveys the bond between the handler and his dog partner.
Slater says, “It really is the loving story of a boy and his dog, and exemplifies all of the Vietnam War dog handlers I have met while researching this project. They were so young when they were deployed to fight in that war. Yet to this day, forty years later, in their wallets, they still carry a small worn photograph of their dog partner from that war. And, they still well up with tears talking about how their furry best friend saved their life time and again, but was left behind on foreign soil to die alone.”
Slater says she considers herself one of the most fortunate people on Earth because she has had so many opportunities to create public art that is powerful and majestic and that touches people who see her sculptural work.
“My greatest hope is that this U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument and the Not Forgotten Fountain becomes a thoughtful place of honoring the departed and inspiring the living, and for those who are still in need of a deeper healing, that they begin to find that deep healing when they visit this touching monument.”
Vietnam War Dog Handler Richard Deggans writes, “The ‘Not Forgotten Fountain’ speaks volumes to any Vietnam War era dog handler, but also for anyone who has ever loved and lost a dog. You can see your best friend in the body language of the dog and glory in the love expressed by the handler as he pours water into his helmet for his dog, as well as the dogs who visit the monument with their owners. The scene depicted in this inspiring bronze sculpture has been repeated many times by military working dog handlers. The gear may change, but the dog and its handler will be eternal.”
“…and these dogs gave their all, for what? A bowl of food, a toy and an affectionate touch by their handler?” – Richard Deggans