FROM HOMELESS TO HERO TO HONOURED

8th Feb, 2022

Written by Brenda Bryden

Images courtesy of Sarah Richards and Alwyn Immerman

Remember the happy tale of Humphrey, the dog adopted from the SPCA by Umhlanga resident Alwyn Immerman? The rescued dog who turned out to be a fundraiser par excellence, raising over R1 million for the Durban and Coast SPCA. Well, that isn’t the end of the story and efforts of this remarkable dog (and his philanthropist owner). Humphrey can now add another title… Honoured!

On the 24th of January 2022, a life-sized bronze statue of Humphrey with a plaque and donation details, created by KwaZulu-Natal artist and sculptor Sarah Richards, was unveiled at its permanent site near the Cabana Beach Resort on the Umhlanga Promenade. The statue was erected in the second week of December to capitalise on the influx of holidaymakers over the holiday season – on a normal day, an average of 5,000 people walk the promenade, many more during the holiday period.

Over 100 people attended the official unveiling of Humphrey’s statue, including a local poet who prepared a special poem of dedication, the artist, and one special guest, a young introverted boy who’s developed an incredible bond with Humphrey. Humphrey visits this young boy from time to time and, according to his mom, is proving to be a wonderful therapy dog. Testament to the strong bond they share was the fact that this young lad, despite being shy, bravely stood up in front of all the guests and spoke about his and Humphrey’s friendship.

Humphrey is immortalised

The bronze 56 x 45 x 58cm statue, weighing approximately 46kg, is the product of many hours of meticulous planning, behind-the-scenes work, the creative talent of sculptor Sarah Richards, and an obliging and patient Humphrey who modelled tirelessly. Sarah, who’s been creating bronze sculptures for over 25 years, is passionate about her work and displays extraordinary attention to detail, working closely with her clients to creatively express their vision, as Alwyn explains in this video.

This extraordinary work of art truly captures both the likeness and essence of Humphrey and will be enchanting visitors for many years to come. “Sarah has done an incredible job of rendering a life-sized, life-like statue of Humphrey. It looks like he’s smiling, and she’s accurately and artistically duplicated Humphrey, my best friend and a dog in a million – one who’s touched the lives of so many and who’s worked tirelessly to raise much-needed funds for the SPCA,” says Alwyn. “The statue is the culmination of 10 years of hard fundraising work. I’m in awe of what we’ve achieved over the past decade and for the wonderful work done by the Durban & Coast SPCA in caring for homeless and sick animals and providing them with shelter, veterinary care and, of course, love! It’s incredibly special, a real honour, to have this statue permanently sited in this location,” he explains.

The statue is based on a concrete plinth featuring a plaque with the wording:

“HUMPHREY IMMERMAN
A DOG IN A MILLION
From Homeless to hero
He has raised over R1 000 000 for the SPCA
Because that is where he came from
Humphrey cares for his lost and lonely friends.”

and a Zapper code that people can scan and make a donation to the Durban & Coast SPCA.

“This is going to raise a lot of money for the SPCA,” says Alwyn. “In the first three days of it being erected, the SPCA reported over 1,000 hits from people showing interest and donating. Money is coming in thick and fast.”

An amazing journey

Alwyn relates the events and work leading up to this momentous occasion. “Humphrey finally reached his R1-million fundraising target in 2021, thanks to a very generous R100,000 donation from a close friend. I always said that when this target was reached, I’d do something special to honour Humphrey’s efforts. The idea of erecting a statue in his honour was always top of mind, but it’s an expensive exercise. So, I put out the word to friends and colleagues and was overwhelmed with the response. The copper used for the brass was donated by an old friend in the ferrous metal industry, and soon, thanks to the help of many generous donors, we raised 50% of the money for the cost of the statue. Then, a customer at the pharmacy where I work who’s the architect for the Cabana Beach Hotel organised the siting on the Umhlanga Promenade and helped to work out the logistics. He also designed the base and organised a team to donate the materials and time to build the base. None of this would have been possible without the support and generosity of so many,” Alwyn says.

“It has indeed been an amazing journey! I’m so pleased that this statue will continue to raise money for the SPCA for many years to come, especially as Humphrey is starting to feel his age – he doesn’t want to jump into the car so willingly anymore and is slowing down. This way, his fundraising efforts can continue and he’ll live on in the hearts of many. And, it’s a pleasant change to have a statue of a dog rather than a politician or historical figure in a prominent place – it certainly intrigues the passersby and provides a novel photo opportunity. I’m receiving loads of photos of people and their dogs sitting next to Humphrey; it really warms my heart.”

And Humphrey’s friendly, charming personality and fundraising efforts have even made national news. Watch this SABC interview with Alwyn, featuring the one and only dog in a million, Humphrey.

Read more about Humphrey, his adventures and fundraising success at https://www.facebook.com/HumphreyImmerman

HONOUR HUMPHREY BY MAKING A DONATION

If you can’t get to the Umhlanga Promenade and use the Zapper code to donate, please EFT Durban and Coast SPCA. First National Bank, Branch 220226, Account No. 6208 7236 925. Use your name as well as “Humphrey” on the deposit details.

You can also support the SPCA by purchasing a Humphrey maquette – a mini version of the full-sized Humphrey statue. Cast in bronze, it’s approximately 15cm high. Contact the sculptor, Sarah Richards, at sarah@sarahrichards.co.za for more information.

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