(Eric Crump/Democrat-News, inset contributed)
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.
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.
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.
Jim the Wonder Dog bill:
Old Drum bill: