Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Rhinestone Doggie
Rhinestone Doggie

To obtain a print-quality JPEG of this photo, contact the Office of Public Affairs at (815) 753-1681 or e-mail

News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

October 14, 2008

How much is that Huskie Pup
on the eBay auction block?

‘Communiversity’ auction of Huskies on Parade pups begins
at 8 p.m. Saturday via eBay to benefit Feb. 14 memorial fund

DeKalb — After Sharon Freagon’s husband died in April of 2004 of a cardiac arrhythmia, the family members found themselves searching for a way to best represent his legacy.

Bob Freagon had worked 28 years at Village Commons Bookstore, where he ran the art department. Art – pottery, especially – and students were his passions.

“Everybody sent their art students to Bob to get materials, and he would really take a lot of them under his wing to help them and guide them,” says Sharon, a retired College of Education professor who headed Northern Illinois University’s Center for Child Welfare and Education. “When he died, VCB set up a memorial with flowers, and students lined up all the way out of the store to sign a book for him the day before his funeral.”

Four years later, the family remained unsure of where to apply his memorial money.

“When Feb. 14 happened, we were devastated. The whole world was devastated,” says Freagon, who volunteered to help students cope. “When I went to the reception where they honored community members and announced Huskies on Parade, I heard it and thought, ‘Holy cow. That’s just perfect.’ ”

Now the “Rhinestone Doggie” pup designed and painted by Brooklee Norris, Freagon’s daughter, is among the more than 30 “Pups” set for an eBay auction that begins at 8 p.m. Saturday as part of NIU’s Homecoming activities. Bidding closes at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27.

All proceeds from the auction will benefit the Forward, Together Forward Scholarship fund.

The auction kicks off with a sneak preview from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Huskies on Parade tent in the Alumni Village southwest of the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center. During that time only, many of the pups will be available at a special “buy it now” price of $500.

Saturday afternoon also will mark the debut of Superfan, attired in a Chicago Bears uniform and adorned with the autographs of NIU alum Garrett Wolfe and 17 of his Bears teammates. Superfan is only part of the auction – it’s not displayed in the public art exhibition – and is not available at the “buy it now” price.

“Huskies on Parade has exceeded all of our expectations,” says Rena Cotsones, executive director of Community Relations at NIU. “The stories we have heard from sponsors and artists about what this project has meant to them have been truly moving. These aren’t just painted fiberglass dogs; they are testaments to people’s love and affection for their community, NIU and one another. It has been a wonderful experience.”

Artists behind the dogs agree.

Charlotte Rollman, who has taught in the NIU School of Art for two decades, painted Canine of Commerce, Farm Dog, Prairie Dog and the Sally Stevens-sponsored Huskie Paws.

“With Farm Dog,” Rollman says, “one side is a farm I see all the time on Bethany Road with horses in front. One morning, I saw a storm over that farm, and later in the day, facing the other way, there was a rainbow after the storm. I painted storm clouds over Illinois and then the rainbow after the storm. It’s subtly about what happened at NIU.”

Rollman considers Prairie Dog, commissioned by the DeKalb County government, as Farm Dog’s cousin. “One side is sunrise over Merritt Prairie,” she says. “The same day I did that painting, I turned around and saw the full moon was setting in the west. The whole thing is the morning – with the moon in the morning.”

Local artist Chelsea McGhee, who paints murals in homes and businesses, including Sycamore’s Taxco, painted dogs for Ideal Industries, National Bank and Trust and Nestle.

Sponsors at Ideal wanted their dog to reflect concepts of unity among family and community, McGhee says.

“The design has recognizable architecture from DeKalb, Sycamore and NIU: the courthouse, Altgeld Hall, the clock in DeKalb,” she says. “All the way around the dog are people holding hands – kids, parents, students – in silhouettes.”

Football became the theme for the bank and Nestle dogs, she says. The bank’s dog pays tribute to NIU’s gridiron squad while the Nestle dog nods to the Huskies and the two local high schools.

“Nestle’s dog is wearing a jersey with all three colors from the three teams: orange, yellow and red,” McGhee says. “On the rear end of the dog are the mascots: the Huskies, the Barbs and the Spartans.”

NIU alumna and mural artist Eileen Balcom-Vetillo’s seven dogs include Paw McCartney, sponsored by Vidicon. The DeKalb-based company provides video and special effects for live entertainment productions and counts the famous Beatle among its clients.

Balcom-Vetillo, who helped to paint one of the entries in Chicago’s Cows on Parade and is the artist behind The Junction’s mural, changed the shapes of some of the dogs and added physical elements such as sunglasses and a shopping bag.

Kishwaukee Community Hospital’s dog, which she built to wear to a lab coat, was later painted by hospital staff. Lincoln Highway Dog sports a beard and a bow tie. The City of DeKalb’s dog is half police officer and half firefighter.

“I always tried to think outside of the box on the dogs. With the City Dog, I held my breath, took a saw to that dog and said, ‘I hope this works,’ ” she says. “The designs were a combined effort with the sponsors, which makes it more fun for me. Someone has an idea in mind, but they can’t express it visually. I take their thoughts and put it in a picture.”

NIU’s Convocation Center staff chose student Steve Ruiz as its artist.

“Our dog is a montage of some of the events we do here. It has everything from our family shows – it’s got Big Bird on there – to commencement with kids throwing their caps in the air and from the Blue Man Group to Carrie Underwood and everything in between,” marketing manager Kevin Selover says.

“Obviously, anything we can do to donate or help out with the Feb. 14 memorial fund, we’re going to chip in,” Selover adds. “I’ve been amazed by how much community support there has been for the Huskies on Parade. It’s a true tribute to the amount of support this community gives to the university.”

The community can’t help but see and adore the dogs.

“It’s funny how much more visible they are than I expected them to be. I didn’t anticipate how eye-catching they would be when you’re driving down the road,” McGhee says. “It’s really great to be a part of a community that embraces art and really values art, and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to showcase my gifts and my passion.”

“Everyone has put their whole heart into this, which always comes out well. I hope they last a real long time. I think they’re gorgeous,” Rollman says. “When I saw the Huskie Paws dog after it was coated, it was 10 o’clock in the morning. The sun shone on its face, and the eyes glistened. I thought, ‘This dog is alive, and I didn’t even know it.’ ”

Sharon Freagon’s dog, covered in “bling,” stands outside VCB.

Freagon’s daughter, who lives in Gilbert, Ariz., painted the dog and the pup during an annual two-week trip home to celebrate the Fourth of July. Brooklee Norris, a mother of two, taught art there before her children were born and probably will return to the classroom eventually.

“Brooklee was apprehensive at first because she didn’t know how she would have the time. She would have to get it done within those two weeks. She worked on the dog for seven straight days, eight hours a day,” Freagon says.

“The dogs are just wonderful – we’ve seen most of them – and I would have to say that hers is the most different or unique of all the dogs. Students are going by and having their pictures taken with it, and we just feel real good about it. I’m going to make sure the maximum amount of money goes into the scholarship fund from that little dog.”

Visit or call (815) 753-0835 for more information.

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