With eye upraised his master’s look to scan,
The joy, the solace, and the aid of man:
The rich man’s guardian and the poor man’s friend,
The only creature faithful to the end.
If you were to stroll the atmospheric Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island, Illinois, you would likely happen upon the weathered headstones of siblings Eddie and Josie Dimick, which are seemingly guarded by a life-sized dog statue.
The children died on the same day in 1878, and their family’s descendants left Rock Island long ago. Still, strangers routinely place flowers on their headstones, photograph the family monument, and sweep away tears when they learn the story behind the arched granite epitaph and the likeness of a dog beside it that is carved out of stone.
In the autumn of 1878, a diphtheria epidemic swept through Rock Island, Illinois, a community on the banks of the Mississippi River. The brutal illness swiftly claimed the lives of many in this Midwestern town, including five-year-old Eddie and eight-year-old Josie, on October 22, 1878. It is said that they went to school together on Thursday, became ill on Friday, and died the following Tuesday evening.
More than 130 years later, the children’s tragic deaths might have been forgotten if it were not for the loyalty of their beloved Newfoundland dog. The gentle giant was reportedly so grief-stricken by the children’s deaths that he daily followed the parents’ carriage to the nearby cemetery, where he lay on the graves from dawn to dusk. The cemetery was just under a mile (1 km) from the children’s family home.
According to newspaper articles from the nineteenth-century (note: see clippings below), the animal made this daily commute for nearly two years. After the dog’s death, Eddie and Josie’s parents, Otis and Harriet Dimick, wished to bury the loyal pet besides their children’s headstones. As cemetery policy prohibited this practice, they instead commissioned a Chicago artist to sculpt a life-sized statue of the dog, complete with swirly hair and mournful eyes. This likeness was then placed beside the Dimick children’s tiny headstones.
I first learned of this poignant tale in 1988 when, at the age of eleven, I moved into the brick home that Eddie and Josie had inhabited more than a century before me. I had visions of discovered artifacts hidden beneath the creaky attic floorboards. I wanted desperately to unearth treasures in the soil of the rolling hillsides in the home’s expansive yard. Little did I know at the time, however, that the greatest pleasure would come not from antique material objects, but from researching the home’s inhabitants, something that I did with my mother. After scanning rolls of microfiche and faded pages of history books at the library, we were better able to piece together the lives of the Dimick children and their companion dog, whose story continues to touch passersby, more than a century later.
I’ve heard several heartwarming tales about loyal pets, with the Scottish Greyfriars Bobby coming to mind. Do you have any anecdotes to tell from your region, or perhaps a story about your own family’s devoted companion?
Where in the World?
- The Dimick family plot is located in the historic Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island, Illinois. Visit the cemetery’s website, and inquire at the front gate to learn where the Dimick dog grave is. Opening hours are also noted there.
- The Dimick family constructed an Italianate-style home in the countryside in 1872, and that is where Eddie and Josie lived and died. Today the home is now situated in the city at 1250 – 21st Avenue. I was lucky enough to live there between 1988 and 2001! The home is listed as a Rock Island Landmark, thanks to its architecture and the notable families who lived there through the decades. We suspect that the dog was buried somewhere on the property, and despite much research, were unfortunately never able to find out the dog’s real name.
- As my parents have now relocated to Germany, their beloved, historic home is now for sale. If you know of anyone looking for a home with a plethora of wonderful stories, please feel free to check out the listing.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.