Growing up, Andy Rosen enjoyed playing with action figures. At age 40, not much has changed.

Rosen, a South Portland artist, is turning heads with his installation “Unpack” at the former Grand Trunk railroad pier. Installed last weekend, the temporary sculpture involves seven lifelike dogs that Rosen created and placed on the dilapidated pier on Portland’s eastern waterfront, just beyond Ocean Gateway.

Since Rosen installed his sculpture last weekend, the mangy hounds have drawn spectators – and raves. It will be officially unveiled at 3 p.m. Saturday, but the ceremony will feel anticlimactic. The pack of dogs is the talk of the waterfront.

“It catches you off guard,” said Alan Potthoff of Scarborough, who snapped off several photos earlier this week. “At first, I thought they were real.”

“Oh my god,” said Debbie Woodbury of Gorham, who made a trip to see the dogs after a friend recommended it. “They look so scary.”

Rosen appreciates the reaction. “It’s silly, but I wasn’t expecting this,” he said, noting that all an artist really wants is an audience.

Rosen received a $5,000 grant from the Kindling Fund, administered by SPACE Gallery, to make the sculpture. Rosen often works with animal images. Two years ago, he constructed a black bear at the Community Recycling Center in Scarborough, using materials scavenged at the landfill. That piece received a lot of attention, as well.

He built the dogs with PVC and fake fur, which he painted and distressed to look weathered. While the seven dogs are bolted in place on the pier, they move a little bit, especially their tails in the breeze. Rosen arranged them to look like a pack on the move. Two are perched atop single pilings, as if ready to launch themselves into the water. The others are gathered on the pier, looking toward the mainland, which is just a few feet away.

He worked with a local lobsterman to transport and place the dogs. An engineering friend, Karl Pepin, helped solve design questions. Rosen was interested in creating specific, lifelike gestures, and needed help constructing the dogs to achieve his goal.

The dogs look like wolves, but Rosen says they’re not. He sees them as an amalgamation of dog and wolf.

Rosen has been thinking about these dogs for years. “Some variation of this is something I have wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “It’s lived in my mind in some fashion for some time, and now it’s here.”

He thinks the roots of this project go back to his childhood, when he arranged superhero figures for play. This is the same thing, he said.

But here his goal is to get people to think about their environment and how “organic communities” fit in and survive. He chose the pier for a few reasons. It’s in falling-down condition, which speaks to its temporary nature. He also likes that small trees and patches of moss are growing on it, which speaks to the adaptive quality of nature.

And he likes that the pack is elusive. The animals are out of reach, but appear ready to bound the gulf between the pier and the concrete seawall, instilling fear and awe at the same time.

During the hail, wind and rain earlier this week, Rosen drove over from South Portland to watch over the pack, which will be on view into November. He worried about their well-being. He’s lived with them a long time and feels protective. “Part of me is out there with them,” he said.