Madra Dog wore red, white, and blue for the September 11 Patriot Day observance. Two weeks earlier, the 30-inch tall, 300-pound statue of a rottweiler wore a birthday hat topped by a balloon.
The decorated dog's name describes its location, at the end of Janet Mika's Madra Avenue driveway. The birthday tribute celebrated the first anniversary of displays that Mika created with assistance from her brother Rick Albin and Gracie, a six-year-old rottweiler that he adopted from an El Cajon shelter.
The displays started after Mika, a software developer, bought two statues shortly before Simpson's Nursery closed. The pieces were faded, so she wasn't sure what breed they depicted. Albin, an electrician, informed her the statues were rottweilers. He painted the statues, using Gracie as his model.
In late August 2012, Mika was hosting a party and put a party hat on the dog. "Everyone laughed,” she said. Because football season was starting, she decorated the dog for Saturday Aztec games and Sunday Chargers games.
Mika continued the dog displays, usually buying costumes and accessories at Party City and the 99 Cents Only store. Pictures on Madra Dog's Facebook page provide a look at Mika's take on events during Madra Dog's first year.
"I try to stay in tune with what's going on in the city and nationally," she said. On April 15, Madra Dog wore a red grim reaper costume and held a battle-axe with the word taxes on it. Albin made the weapon and rigged Superman's cape so Madra Dog appeared in flight for the Man of Steel opening. Madra Dog wore white for a June wedding. The Father's Day display that followed introduced Madra Pup, a rottweiler Beanie Baby.
Comic-Con tributes included a Spider Man costume, and Shark Week started August 6 with the dog and pup in a cage built by Mika. The statue wore fins, a mask, and snorkel. The next day, a giant inflated shark "attacked" the cage. The week ended with the shark caged and the dogs outside.
Mika's favorite is the Cinco de Mayo display with Madra Dog wearing a sombrero and serape. An empty Corona carton sat on a table. Mika discovered an addition to the display the next morning. "Someone left a [filled] fifth-bottle of tequila," she said. "People stop by all the time and ask about donating." Mika tells people to send ideas by posting them on the Facebook page. "We'll get to them if we can."
She takes "generic" requests. She turns down those to wish someone a happy birthday, but filled the request for a display during the petition drive to recall Bob Filner. "People took pictures signing the petition," she said.
During the interview, a driver pulled over. "There's a real one," Barbara Wilder said, referring to Gracie. Her route includes Madra Avenue to see the latest display. "When I first saw [Madra Dog], I thought it was real; then I realized it was in costume," she said.