Family Dog Mourns Children

At the Chippiannock Cemetery sits a gravesite that is sure to capture one's heart. It is the headstones belonging to two young children and a statue of the family's dog lying beside them.

In the fall of 1878 a diphtheria epidemic swept through Rock Island, Illinois and claimed many lives. On October 17 nine year old Josie, her five year old brother Eddie and the family's Newfoundland dog (who followed the children everywhere) went off to school. The following day the two children became ill from the outbreak and both died just a few days later on October 22.

After the death of the children, the grief-stricken dog came every day to the cemetery and laid next to their graves from dusk to dawn. After the dog's death, the children's parents, Otis and Harriet Dimick, wanted to bury the loyal pet next to the children. This was not permitted so instead they decided to place a life-sized statue of the dog, which was sculpted by a Chicago artist, next to them.

Though descendants of the Dimick family no longer live in Rock Island, flowers are often placed on the children's graves by strangers who learn about this heartwarming story.


Seven Honored Dogs Who Saved Lives From the Blitz Bombings

Seven dogs became famous in history as heroes for having saved many lives from ruined buildings during the German bombing campaign on British cities during WWII.

When the Germans failed to cripple Britain's air power in anticipation of a land invasion, Hitler decided to create sheer terror as his weapon of choice in hopes that the government would surrender. On September 7, 1940 the Luftwaffe (the Nazi German Air Force) began a bombing campaign against London and other British cities. The bombings, which occurred mostly at night, became known as the blitz - an abbreviation of the German word blitzkrieg meaning lightning war. The attacks continued for eight months, ending May 11, 1941. When over, more than one million people were homeless and tens of thousands were injured and killed (including many civilians), but the Luftwaffe failed at what they were hoping for. More would have died if it weren't for the following dogs:


Irma was initially a messenger dog in the war but was later retrained to become a search and rescue dog. She had a remarkable ability of finding victims buried under difficult places and even had a special bark to let her handler know if the buried person was alive or dead. On one occasion, Irma signaled with an alive bark and rescuers dug out a man who was apparently dead, but the man eventually stirred proving Irma was right. Irma and a young dog named Psyche who was being trained helped locate 233 people, 21 of whom were found alive.


Not all victims from the blitz attacks were people, many were beloved pets. Beauty belonged to Bill Barnett, a PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals - UK veterinary charity) superintendent who led a rescue squad for animals. Barnett would take Beauty with him on rescue missions to keep him company, but the dog soon wanted to join in on the search. She started to dig in the rubble and within minutes Beauty found a cat, her first of 63 animals she went on to save.


Jet was initially trained in anti-sabotage work and was later trained in search and rescue duties. He helped save over 100 people from ruined buildings. Historian Ian Kikuchi, who works at Imperial War Museum London said "Even when searching piles of the remains of factories full of dangerous chemical and poisonous smoke, Jet's incredible sense of smell was still able to detect survivors." He was not afraid to enter burning buildings, and once found an elderly woman in a building that was already considered thoroughly searched.


Rip was a stray dog after his home was bombed and was adopted by the Air Raid Warden. He was made the unit's mascot but began sniffing out casualties when taken to the bombing sites, a job he enjoyed doing. Like Beauty, he was never trained for search and rescue work but took to it instinctively. He was credited for rescuing more than 100 victims.


Before Peter was offered to the government for war service, he was always getting into trouble such as fighting with other dogs and chewing anything he could get hold of. He was trained as a rescue dog and proved to be a good one. He was credited for finding many bodies and saving six lives, including the life of a small boy. It is said Peter's speed in finding victims saved the men many hours of useless digging.

Rex and Thorn

Rex, trained as a rescue dog, saved 65 people by physically dragging them out of the rubble and leading rescuers to those he couldn't. It is said his uncanny intelligence and outstanding determination helped him find victims in burning buildings despite the intense heat, thick smoke and smouldering debris.

Thorn, who came from a distinguished line of search and rescue dogs, was fearless when finding casualties in unstable situations. Rescuers were baffled in how well he could pick up a scent, including the time he found a family trapped under a burning house, having saved all of their lives.

All seven dogs were awarded the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, in 1945 for the outstanding work they did during the German blitzkrieg attacks.


Higgins: From Shelter Dog to Beloved Benji

Higgins made history after being discovered in a shelter. He started in TV then went on to the big screen with his most famous role as the original Benji.

Higgins was born on December 12, 1957. In 1960 animal trainer Frank Inn adopted the dog from the Burbank Animal Shelter in California - shelters were the first place Inn would go to when looking for future stars. The trainer took an immediate liking to Higgins and saw a real potential for acting in him. The mixed-breed dog ended up being his biggest star.

Higgins started his career in television. He first played the part of the uncredited and nameless dog in Petticoat Junction, having appeared in 149 episodes from 1964 to 1970. Inn trained many animals and told reporters that Higgins was the smartest dog he had ever worked with. He said Higgins had an expressive face and was able to convey many emotions, and could successfully master a new routine or trick, such as yawning and sneezing on cue, every week. Higgins also appeared as a guest on Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies. In 1967 he won a PATSY (Performing Animal Television Star of the Year) award, and was featured on the cover of TV Guide.

Higgins moved on to the movies. He starred in the TV film Mooch Goes to Hollywood with Vincent Price and Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1971, and in 1974 he starred in the first Benji movie which was the #3 grossing movie of the year. This was Higgins' last role as he was getting up in age. His daughter Benjean took over the role of Benji in three movies.

When the word spread that the beloved original Benji was rescued from a shelter, the number of adoptions from the American Humane Society greatly increased. So not only did Higgins entertain us, he brought awareness to the need of helping thousands of abandoned dogs.

Higgins died on November 11, 1975, just a few weeks short of his 18th birthday, and his body was cremated. When Inn died in 2002 he had requested that Higgins' ashes be buried with him. It is said his request was not fulfilled and that his daughter has the urn containing the dog's ashes.