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Race heats up for state historic dog designation

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jim the Wonder Dog's statue in the Jim the Wonder Dog Memorial Garden, Marshall, Mo.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News, inset contributed)
While the GOP presidential campaign captures the attention of much of the nation, here in Missouri another race is shaping up that promises to attract the attention of partisans in the race for a state honor.

State Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, recently introduced a bill that would designate Marshall's Jim the Wonder Dog as the state's "historic dog."

Two other bills, each touting the excellent qualities of an historic dog, have been filed.

Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg has introduced HB 1778, which would designate Old Drum as the state historic dog.

Old Drum was made famous by his eulogy delivered by George Vest to the Missouri Supreme Court in 1870.

Old Drum statue on the southeast corner of the current Johnson County Courthouse lawn.
(Contributed photo)
The eulogy is credited with establishing in popular culture the idea that dogs are "man's best friend." It includes the passage, "The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog ... When all other friends desert he remains."

Finally, Chrissy Sommer, R-St. Charles, has introduced HB 1813, which would recognize Seaman, the Newfoundland dog which accompanied Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition up the Missouri River in 1804-1806.

According to the bill summary, Seaman was "known for his large size, tremendous strength, sweet disposition, loyalty, and natural water rescue tendencies."

All three bills have been referred to the house Tourism and Natural Resources Committee, which currently has no hearings scheduled.

If hearings on the bills are scheduled, proponents of each dog will have an opportunity to testify, Aull said.

He also said he is aware some people think such recognitions are inconsequential.

A statue of Seaman at Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon.
(Contributed photo)
"I've gotten lots of calls," he said. Some were negative toward the bill, but most were "in good humor."

He agrees the designation of the state historic dog is not the most important matter before the legislature.

"In the grand scheme of things, that's unimportant compared to the legislation that changes people's lives," he said.

But the practice of naming state symbols is not new, nor is it time-consuming or expensive, he added. Rather, it's a way to portray the character of the state and bring attention to some of its features.

As for the investment of the legislature's resources -- an issue for some critics --the bill's only real cost was "the paper it's printed on," Aull said.

Missouri currently has 26 state symbols, from the state musical instrument -- the fiddle -- to the state insect -- the honeybee -- and the state grass -- big bluestem.

The main benefit of the designation would be in its potential to aid tourism, Aull said.

"Maybe somebody will say, 'I'd like to stop by and learn more,'" he said, adding that even if Jim the Wonder Dog does not eventually win the designation, the introduction of the bill and the attention it garnered would be a good thing. "I think it's a win-win."

Larry Arrowood of Marshall, president of Friends of Jim the Wonder Dog, said Jim's story already attracts tourists to Marshall. He said the guestbook in the Jim the Wonder Dog Memorial Garden on North Lafayette Avenue averages about 2,000 signatures each year.

That's probably a fraction of the number of visitors to the garden, he said.

People from all over the world have visited the garden to learn more about Jim's story, he said. He acknowledged that most were probably in the area on other business, but it was Jim's story that brought them to Marshall.

"Jim seems like the logical choice since he is the most famous Missouri dog," Arrowood said. "If you ask people from other states if they have heard of Jim the Wonder Dog, most will know that he is a dog from Missouri."

Arrowood and other members of his organization host an annual Wonder Dog Day at the garden in May. The fourth annual event will take place at noon Saturday, May 12.

Citizens of Warrensburg are also planning an event to celebrate Old Drum. The Old Drum Day Festival will be Saturday, April 14, at the original 1838 Courthouse Square on Main Street, the location of the famous trial of Old Drum.

State symbols:
Jim the Wonder Dog bill:
Old Drum bill:
Seaman bill:

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Good for you Ms. Sommer! Not only is your attention directed toward the welfare of the children, as should be with all legislators, but you also keep your ear to the ground, as is exemplified by the fact that you are reading, and responding here. I reckon that your chances of getting votes are better than Seaman's chances. ;)

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Wed, Mar 14, 2012, at 12:59 PM

Hey, since Jim was a hunting dog, can we get some NRA money backing us?

-- Posted by Smart Dog on Wed, Mar 14, 2012, at 12:55 PM

As state rep I think one of the aspects of my position is to get people involved in the process.

I also have the opportunity to work with students in my area and one suggestion I made to them was to think about a topic or issue that could become law.

The 4th grade students in St Charles came up with making Seaman the State historical dog. This was the perfect opportunity to show the kids how the legislative process works and that something as simple as a Historical Dog can become law. I told them that they also needed to provide me with information on why he should be considered.

Not only was Seaman an important part of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Seaman actually has 4 statues in Missouri. One in St Louis MO; one in St Charles, MO; one in Kansas City, MO; and the final one in Jefferson City, MO.

Sure this legislation is not going to make a huge difference in our State but I believe that I have given students in my area a chance to become involved in their government. So no matter if Seaman becomes State historic dog or not, I feel that I have accomplished what I wanted with these students.

I encourage you to keep in touch with your state reps no matter how small the issue. That is why we serve you.

Rep Chrissy Sommer

-- Posted by csommer on Wed, Mar 14, 2012, at 9:55 AM

outsider I also laughed out loud at your comment.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 9:57 PM

LOL Ms.Marple. I must caution you though that any perceived insult to Attorney Vest will not be taken lightly by the historically entrenched of Saline County. I think he still has kin around them thar parts. On the other hand it is morally imperative that one must occasionally speak the truth, no matter the circumstance. Drollery inferred, I applaud your courage.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 9:55 PM

Tsk tsk...but no surprise:

"A statue of Old Drum, as the deceased beast was called, stands outside the town's courtroom. Sadly for the Warrensburg Tourist Board, the Senator Vest didn't originate the phrase, but he may have read it in a US newspaper, as it appeared in print fifty years earlier in The New-York Literary Journal, Volume 4, 1821:

"The faithful dog - why should I strive

To speak his merits, while they live

In every breast, and man's best friend

Does often at his heels attend."

Looks like even Old Drum is just another Shaggy Dog Story, eh?

-- Posted by Miss Marple on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 9:27 PM

Those who are leaning toward Old Drum may want to consider that he may have been nothing more than a murderous sheep killer, the O. J. of the dog world. Yes a civil trial transpired, but criminal charges were not taken to a judge, or jury. Mr. Vest, a slick talking attorney, in the civil trial stayed away from the facts leading up to Drum's death, instead using a diverting tactic of exploiting sentimentality, i. e. the precious bond between man, and dog. At the least, there is the possibility that voting for Old Drum as state historic dog, is an affront to every sheep farmer in Missouri!

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 9:25 PM

KW there is a whole lot more tongue in cheek here than worry. Take it as light hearted humor, it might truly help you sleep better. ;)

On an almost serious note, it is my opinion that Jim is the best candidate, even though some think the concept of Jim far fetched.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 9:07 PM

In all the disastrous happenings of the world saline county is worried about a **** dog. Lord knows I will sleep better

-- Posted by KW on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 8:11 PM

Joe...tell them you've researched if further and found that Old Drum's parents were KU grads.

-- Posted by outsider on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 7:51 PM

Of course people in Marshall want Jim the Wonder Dog to be the State Dog, but why would they even consider a dog with a statue in Oregon. Seaman may have been with Lewis and Clark when they went through Missouri but who knows anything about that around here. Seaman should not even be nominated for State Dog.

-- Posted by Yepitsme on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 7:33 PM

Has a DOG PAC been established?

Seaman has no chance to become state dog. Who would honor a darned tourist as most honored anything, excepting of course "State Tourist"?

Perhaps Chrissy can be persuaded to amend her bill to nominate Seaman for just that, State Historic Tourist. He would have a lot of support for that. As for State dog he will have no chance once the birthers turn their attention to this latest travesty.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 7:23 PM

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