Did you know that there are amazing dog memorials located across the country? From war heroes to local favorites, canines have inspired permanent tributes that attract all kinds of dog lovers. Here’s an in-depth look at eight of these memorials.
The Highground Working Dog Tribute
Situated in Neillsville, Wis., the Highground Veterans Memorial Park pays tribute to individuals who fought in Vietnam, Korea, World War I, and World War II; to women veterans and Native American Vietnam veterans; to military families that supported and lost loved ones, and to military working dogs.
The story of a scout dog handler killed in action three months into his tour of duty inspired this Working Dog Tribute, which was conceived in 2010 by a committee of Vietnam vets, including dog handlers. Sculptor Michael Martino created the statue: a life-size bronze of a soldier holding a rifle and his dog’s harness, along with two canteens (one for him and one for his dog). The canine by his side is a German Shepherd Dog, the most common breed to serve in Vietnam.
According to Jon Weiler, executive director of the memorial park, people came from all over the country for the working dog memorial dedication, which took place in June 2018. This included three Korean War vets who discovered that they had served in the same unit at the same location, but during three different years. Remarkably, they had all handled the same dog.
March Field Air Museum War Dog Memorial
The March Field Air Museum, in Riverside, Calif., pays tribute to “humanity’s reach for the skies” and to the history of aviation, with more than 70 historic aircrafts and 30,000 artifacts.
In 2000, the museum added a special tribute to military war dogs. Sculptor Thomas Schomberg created the monument, which depicts a soldier holding the leash of his dog. It is surrounded by tiles that are tributes to individual dogs and their handlers. “The War Dog Memorial, as I created it, is meant to illustrate the bond between humans and their canine friends,” Schomberg said. “Most importantly, it is to illustrate the sacrifice that these two figures have made under combat circumstances.”
Two-thousand people attended the dedication of the memorial, and every year the museum hosts a War Dog Remembrance Day, which brings together veterans, retired war dog handlers, K-9 handlers, and others who want to pay tribute. Sometimes, even retired war dogs are in attendance.
Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory
Not far from New York City sits the oldest pet cemetery in the country, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory. It was founded in 1896, primarily as a place where city dwellers could bury their beloved household pets. New York City veterinarian Samuel Johnson allowed a client to bury her dog on the grounds of his estate, and by 1914, the site was officially incorporated. Today, nearly 80,000 pets have their final resting place there. Historian Mary Thurston said that monuments range in size from “a 50-ton granite mausoleum to one headstone that barely stands 6 inches tall.”
Pets of celebrities, including Diana Ross, John Barrymore, and Mariah Carey, are buried at Hartsdale. The animals aren’t limited to dogs and cats; you’ll find the graves of turtles, rabbits, goldfish, snakes, and even a lion named Goldfleck that lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York with a Hungarian princess.
Perhaps one of the most moving sites at Hartsdale is the War Dog Memorial, a 10-foot-high granite monument depicting a German Shepherd Dog with a Red Cross blanket over his back. A dented helmet and a canteen lie at his feet. Johnson, the cemetery’s founder, pitched the idea of the memorial to plot holders in 1919, as a tribute to WWI dogs. Walter Buttendorf designed the monument and Robert Caterson sculpted it. Representatives of the nations that fought in the “Great War” attended the memorial’s unveiling in 1923.
If you plan to visit one of the Smithsonian Institution‘s museums, stop and see Sgt. Stubby at the Arts and Industries Building. Called the mascot of the 102nd Infantry of the American Expeditionary Forces’ 26th Yankee Division in World War I, Stubby turned out to be so much more than that. The dog, of unknown breed, showed up at training camp one day and became so popular with the soldiers that he even trained alongside them.
When it was time to ship out, Stubby was smuggled aboard with the troops. He proved himself to be a real canine hero on the battlefield: locating soldiers lost on the field; alerting troops to a gas attack; and even capturing a German soldier, for which he earned his sergeant stripes.
Stubby returned home to a hero’s welcome — he visited the White House, met Gen. John J. Pershing, and was honored with parades. When he died in 1926, he was stuffed, mounted, and lent to the American Red Cross Museum. Today, he proudly stands, along with the medals he won for bravery, at the Smithsonian. He’s also a movie star: “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” a computer-animated film, was released in April 2018.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Toto Memorial
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, founded in 1899, is known as the final resting place of many movie stars and other industry bigwigs. One of its most endearing memorials honors a canine star, Toto, from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.” Toto’s real name was Terry, and she was a female Cairn Terrier raised on the San Fernando Valley, Calif., ranch of dog trainer Carl Spitz. She was buried on the ranch in 1945, but when the Ventura Freeway was built, the ranch — along with Toto’s grave — was bulldozed.
Several decades later, Hollywood local J.P. Myers led the effort to find a fitting place to memorialize Toto. Tyler Cassity, owner of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, donated a plot and marker and Myers started a Facebook campaign to raise money for the memorial, complete with a life-size sculpture of the little dog by artist Roman Gal.
The memorial, in a VIP location with a lake view, was dedicated in June 2011. According to Myers, Toto is not the only member of the Wizard of Oz family buried at Hollywood Forever. “Others include director Victor Fleming, actress Judy Garland, costume designer Adrian Greenberg, and cinematographer Harold Rosson.”
Brownie the Town Dog of Daytona Beach
There are dogs made famous by their appearances in movies and television, dogs honored for their bravery, and dogs that become social media celebrities thanks to their owners. Then there are dogs with no particular claim to fame, but that win the hearts of an entire town, like Brownie the Town Dog of Daytona Beach.
He was a stray that wandered into the Daytona Cab Company around 1939. Town merchants, residents, and tourists were taken by his demeanor and sweet disposition, so they contributed to his care. He even had his own bank account, established by cab company owner, Ed Budgen, and the donated funds paid for his vet bills.
When Brownie died in 1954, more than 75 people attended his funeral, and the mayor of Daytona Beach gave the eulogy. Brownie was buried in Riverfront Park, under a granite slab with the epitaph, “The Town Dog. A good dog.” Near the grave is a dog-shaped topiary. In June 2018, a bronze statue of a dog was placed next to the grave. The memorial is one of the most visited in Florida.
Owney, Mascot of the Railway Mail Service
During the late 19th century, the U.S. mail moved by train, and traveling alongside it was a scruffy terrier named Owney. The dog’s home base was the post office in Albany, N.Y., where the postmaster gave him tags and a collar to designate him as the official mail dog. Owney may well have been the most well traveled canine in history; he made his way to all 48 contiguous states. He even had a four-month tour around the world. As he traveled throughout the U.S., post offices that he visited added tags to his collar, and eventually he amassed more than 1,000 of them.
After nine years as the post office dog, Owney met a tragic end. He was shot by a U.S. marshal after he bit a mail clerk. Mail clerks around the country raised money to have Owney’s remains preserved and designated him as the mascot of the U.S. Postal Service. He “lived” on as a taxidermy specimen — tags and all — and was first displayed at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
Over the years, Owney’s remains deteriorated, but Smithsonian taxidermist Paul Rhymer restored Owney to his former glory, with the aid of some replacement parts, including a rabbit’s foot and a pig’s ear. The display was donated to the Smithsonian in 1912, and today you can see him at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. In 2011, the United States Postal Service issued an “Owney the Postal Dog” commemorative forever stamp in honor of him.
Jim the Wonder Dog
The story of Jim the Wonder Dog almost sounds too incredible to be believed. Jim, a descendent of the English Setter, was designated the least promising puppy in his litter. Bought by Sam Van Arsdale of Missouri for a bargain price, the new owner soon realized that this pup was something special. The first time Jim went into the field, he immediately found a covey of quail and stood at perfect point. His hunting abilities were so extraordinary that Outdoor Life magazine later named him “Hunting Dog of the Country.”
Jim’s talents went way beyond hunting. He obeyed complex instructions, as if he actually understood English. He even responded to instructions given in foreign languages and Morse code. Through the years, Jim was able to accurately predict the future. He foretold the winners of the 1936 World Series and seven consecutive winners of the Kentucky Derby. He could also seemingly predict the sex of unborn babies.
Jim died in 1937, and at Van Arsdale’s request was buried just outside the fence of Ridge Park Cemetery in Marshall, Mo. Jim the Wonder Dog Memorial Park was dedicated in 1999 in Marshall, and artist Andy Davis sculpted the bronze statue that stands in the center.
For more information on the memorials listed above, click the highlighted states on the map below: