SALT LAKE CITY — When it came time to create the casket for fallen police dog Hondo, a Utah automotive body shop stepped up to create a custom piece of art.
There are still some places out there where quality matters more than quantity.
“It’s hard work, but there’s an incredible sense of satisfaction,” said Johnny Ward.
Sure, Ward knows a sticker or a graphics wrap would be a lot faster in his line of work, but there’s just something about a hand-crafted piece of art that has made RawTin Garage in Salt Lake City a successful shop.
“We do custom paintings and custom artwork on cars, motorcycles, trucks,” said Ward, who runs the place with his friend Keith Eccles. “It has emotion to it.”
Right now, orders for custom jobs will put customers on a two-month waiting list.
It takes time to do things right and do things well. However, for their latest project, they didn’t have much time.
“John and I had 24 hours. We had to get this done,” said Eccles.
It was all because Herriman K9 officer Hondo’s funeral was just a week away.
RawTin Garage in #SaltLakeCity is well known for its custom paintings on cars and motorcycles. But, a casket? For @HerrimanPolice K9 Hondo, only the best will do. Here's our story for @KSL5TV 🎥Aubrey Shafer #ksltv#herriman@HerrimanCitypic.twitter.com/q1RsbjRcTk— Alex Cabrero (@KSL_AlexCabrero) February 23, 2020
“We had a lot of pressure,” said Ward. “I think the call came in Wednesday night. And they said, ‘Hey, we’re bringing in a casket tomorrow morning.’”
Painting caskets isn’t normally the type of project that comes through the shop.
“I didn’t expect anything like this,” said Ward.
The two have a soft spot for a good dog, though.
“Especially this dog,” Ward said about Hondo, who was killed in the line of duty Feb. 13. ” This dog really is a hero.”
Ward got to know the Herriman Police Department after doing the custom artwork on their patrol motorcycles. He and his team worked extra hours, even through the night and into the morning, to get the casket looking just right.
They especially focused on Hondo’s face, which Eccles drew by hand while looking at a photo of the police dog.
“In a weird way, it was kind of a spiritual experience,” said Eccles. “You feel like, by the time you’re done, you really got to know Hondo.”
It meant other projects had to be put on hold for a day or two. In the end, though, the RawTin Garage team thinks it came out as well as anything they have done.
“Standing back and seeing it, it was something to be proud of,” said Ward.
The team did the top-quality job or free. They figured it’s just part of being in the community.
“Hondo was a special dog. A great dog. And we all love dogs,” said Ward.
It was great job for such a good boy.
Funeral services for Hondo are planning for Feb. 29 at 11 a.m. inside Herriman High School, 11917 S. Mustang Trail Way, Herriman. The public is invited.