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In Dog Years – Dr. Jim Foster

C.W. Griswold & Son Grocery Store , Clarence, Mo.
Pictured left to right are C.W. Griswold, Raymond Edmonds, Herb Cross and F.D. Griswold.The horses were Ruby and Roxie.

By Dr. Jim Foster

“Heaven goes by favor.  If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” Mark Twain

As I was doing historical research for a variety of short stories that I was writing in the year of 2023, I found a series of unique newspaper articles regarding the lives of dogs in the various towns of Shelby County, Missouri. The first story was the obituary of “Old Dan” who was of the old Spanish Pointer breed that was the early origin of what we now know as the German Shorthaired Pointer. Old Dan had been brought to the Shelby County seat known as Shelbyville in the year 1910 by J.W. Stewart and George H. Nichols, both of whom were avid hunters. Dan had the habit of wandering away from home on any given day and could not be contained. He was given to Marty Arnold who had the same issue as Dan traveled from the Arnold farm back into Shelbyville where he found a host of citizens who would feed him as he wandered between houses and businesses eventually making The Shelby County Courthouse his winter retreat in the comforts of steam heat. Old Dan became the fixture of the courthouse lobby as the official meet and greet employee until mid-November of 1922 when at twelve years of age his old stiff body riddled with arthritis gave up the effort to live. Old Dan was cremated in the courthouse furnace and his ashes spread on the courthouse lawn.

In July of 1936, an English setter named “Gene” made headlines in not only the newspapers of Shelby County, Missouri but also several newspapers nationwide. Gene had never missed a church service at The Shelbina Methodist Church where his owner, Reverend H.W. Eisenberg, gave the sermon allowing Gene to sit in behind the altar where he quietly sat and observed the congregation. After having never missed a single Sunday service for several years, Gene chose on this one Sunday in July of 1936 to rise up with the congregation and join them in singing a hymn with a very loud voice that howled above the rest of the voices creating much laughter and causing Gene to be banned from the church.

In mid-November of 1954, Paul Turnbough and Ray Weedon, employees at the Kroger Grocery Store in downtown Shelbina, befriended a stray crossbred female puppy that they found wandering around behind the store. Using an old wooden orange crate, the two men created a make-shift doghouse for their new ward that they named, “Lady.” Lady was in poor condition when found and she became the recipient of human affection as well as all the scraps that she could eat. The situation changed as a local garbage collector confiscated the orange crate not knowing it had become Lady’s home. Lady left the Kroger Store in search of a new place to sleep and found such a place in front of The Shelbina Christian Church where a Nativity Scene had been erected for the upcoming celebration of Christmas. Lady slept in the thick layer of straw amongst the figurines of Mary, Joseph, The Baby Jesus and a little lamb. The members of the church took turns correcting any fallen figurines and allowed Lady to continue to sleep there while Paul and Ray continued to feed and water her.

The citizens of Shelby County, Missouri spent the Christmas season of 1915 digging out of a snow- storm that dropped 15 inches of snow on Christmas Eve, December 24th.  J.M. Dean had fulfilled his promise to bring Santa Claus to the town the previous Saturday as he had done in previous years supplying candy treats from his grocery store along the south side of East Walnut Street in Shelbina. Dean had a special employee in Jerry, a large white bulldog that never knew a stranger as he met customers at the door and anyone on the street as he was free to go and come as he pleased. J.M. Dean had the reputation of being one of the town’s friendliest citizens and Jerry was his friendly side kick that was beloved by all those who knew him. On that snowy Christmas Day of 1915, Dr. R.P. Poage, Shelbina veterinarian, was called to the train depot in Shelbina where his skill was needed in treating the victim of an accident. Jerry the friendly bulldog had been hit by “Old Reliable” the locomotive traveling through Shelbina. Dr. Poage assessed Jerry’s condition as critically crippled with no hope of survival. Dr. Poage placed a leather cone with a screen in the end over Jerry’s nose and placed a wad of cotton over the screen. Dr. Poage opened a bottle of a sweet-smelling liquid substance known as Chloroform and poured drops of this potent anesthetic onto the cotton which Jerry breathed into his lungs. Jerry’s suffering ended and he was given a full obituary in The Shelbina Torchlight Newspaper. In 1894, the largest dog in the State of Missouri weighed 176 lbs. and resided in Shelbina where its owner stated, “This dog can lick its weight in wildcats.”

In late December of 1903, Shelbina jeweler J.I. Minteer began the process of moving his family to Chicago, Illinois and sent his son ahead on the train with a car full of their possessions including their little family dog. Upon unloading at the Chicago railroad yards, the Minteer dog went missing and within one week, the dog returned to the Minteer family home in Shelbina with sores on the pads of its feet and became national news.