The first time Lazarus saw the life-sized sculpture of himself he was frightened.

At 100kg he is used to always being the biggest dog in the room.

But the friendly mastiff has warmed to the idea as he laid nose-to-nose with the bronzed version of himself at the Hairy Maclary and friends sculpture on Tuesday, January 16.

Wide-eyed children flocked to the Tauranga waterfront to catch a glimpse of Lazarus who was visiting the statue of Hercules Morse, as big as a horse, with his owners Lloyd and Maria Woodroofe.

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Six years ago Lazarus, or Lazzy as he is called by his owners, was the model for the large statue, created by Brigitte Wuest.

Mr Woodroofe said Lazzy was the only dog who did not move for more than an hour as he was photographed and measured at Wuest's studio in Wellington, which was true to his kind mastiff nature.

Eight-year-old Lazzy had an interesting start to life as he gained the name Lazarus after dying at three days old and being brought back to life.

"I accidentally put a feeding tube in his lung at three days old, and he was dead for more than an hour," Mr Woodroofe said.

He said he gave Lazzy CPR and was able to keep his tongue pink.

"I pounded extra hard on his little heart and lungs, he gurgled and convulsed and came back."

Mr Woodroofe said "in desperation" he made a silent oath that if Lazzy survived his recovery, he would use him for therapy work, as mastiffs were "perfect" for the role.

And that is how Lazzy spent the majority of his working life after he was enrolled in the St Johns Ambulance / SPCA Therapy Pets.

"He was a natural and true to his mastiff nature, he was outstanding with kids," Mr Woodroofe said.

"He can be smothered with kids with disabilities and never tires of it, he takes them all in and gives them the responses they need."

Lazzy retired around three years ago but his last assignment was working with a boy with Selective Mutism, which meant his teacher and therapist had never heard him speak a single word, Mr Woodroofe said.

"I asked the boy if he would help me train Lazzy for Starship Hospital and he nodded. Within five visits, he was shouting commands to Lazarus on the school field, and he read a 'Mastiff and his boy' book to Lazzy in front of his teacher."

Mr Woodroofe said the teacher cried when she saw the impact Lazzy had on her student.

Lazzy now spends his days living in rural Hunua, South Auckland, with his owners, his 4-year-old daughter Jessiecroix, and his 1-year-old grandson Jed.

With three large mastiffs to care for Mr Woodroofe said a lot of dog food was consumed in the Woodroofe household.

"Lazzy's favourite thing to eat is chicken legs . . . and he loves collecting rabbits at home too," Mr Woodroofe said.

Mr Woodroofe said the "downside of having the biggest, most incredible dogs" is they have a shorter lifespan than smaller breeds.

"He is very special," Mrs Woodroofe said.

It is thanks to Lazzy and the other models for the Hairy Maclary and friends sculpture who had helped bring more visitors to the Tauranga waterfront.

In January 2016 the Bay of Plenty Times reported an average of 42,000 people a month crossed the railway line since nine statues of Dame Lynley Dodd's famous storybook characters were unveiled in July 2015.

The Tauranga City Council said the counters on the waterfront had not been "counting correctly" to provide updated figures of how many people had crossed the railway to visit the waterfront, but the counter would be replaced later this month.

Former chief executive of Creative Tauranga, Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell, was instrumental in bringing the Hairy Maclary and friends sculpture to Tauranga and said she feels "great joy" knowing the community was enjoying it.

"It's my happy place, and I go down often and enjoy the area. I love seeing people interacting with the area particularly children who are enjoying it," she said.

Rudduck-Gudsell said she often received messages from people telling her how much they enjoy the sculpture.

"I never doubted the idea, and it's all been worth it."

Downtown Tauranga spokeswoman Sally Cooke said the Hairy Maclary and friends sculpture was one of the attractions that were making the Tauranga waterfront "come to life."

Cooke said the sculpture added "energy and life" into the Tauranga Waterfront and she had received a lot of positive feedback.

"You can go down to the waterfront and see children and adults enjoying the area, and the Hairy Maclary sculpture really is one of the highlights."

"What do you think about the changes that have been made to the Tauranga waterfront?"

"It's a lot better; it gives us a place to go and hang out for a long period of time."
-Awanga McGeady, Papamoa


"It's awesome, just look at all the people here. It's the place to come and hang out."
-Aroha McGeady, Great Barrier Island


"It's more kid-friendly and a good place to come. There needs to be more parking though."
-Hope Allen, Otumoetai.
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"It's really good. It's easier to get down into the water off the tidal steps and really good for fishing off the wharf."
-William Brown, Otumoetai
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