An abused and plain-looking mongrel became famous in history as Beautiful Joe after his story was told to help bring awareness of animal cruelty around the world.
The story of Beautiful Joe, written by Margaret Marshall Saunders, won first place in a writing contest run by the Humane Society. Saunders learned about the dog from her sister-in-law Louise Moore (named Laura Morris in the story) whose family rescued the dog. The story, written from the dog's point of view (to really grab the reader's attention), was published in 1893 and received worldwide attention. By the late 1930s, over seven million copies sold.
Joe was born in Meaford, Ontario and belonged to a man who treated his animals inhumanely. He neglected them, starved them and beaten them. Joe's brothers and sisters died horrible deaths, and his mother died of a broken heart.
"One rainy day, when we were eight weeks old, Jenkins [the bad man] followed by two or three of his ragged, dirty children, came into the stable and looked at us. Then he began to swear because we were so ugly, and said if we had been good-looking, he might have sold some of us. Mother watched him anxiously, and fearing some danger to her puppies, ran and jumped in the middle of us, and looked pleadingly up at him."
"He took one pup after another, and right there, before his children and my poor distracted mother, put an end to their lives. It was very terrible. My mother ran up and down the stable screaming with pain, and I lay weak and trembling, and expecting every instant that my turn would come next. I don't know why he spared me."
"Mother picked up all the puppies and brought them to our bed in the straw and licked them, and tried to bring them back to life, but it was of no use."
Joe's mother was never the same after that and died shortly afterwards at the age of four.
"One day she licked me gently, wagged her tail, and died."
Joe's heart was broken, and when the man kicked him he could take no more. He bit the man, who became furious. With a hatchet, he cut off the dog's ears and tail.
"...the pain all through my body was dreadful. My head seemed to be on fire, and there were sharp, darting pains up and down my backbone."
The Moore family rescued the dog and named him Beautiful Joe, not for his looks but for his character.
"...thanks to good nursing, good food, and kind words, I was almost well."
The dog's story continues with the love he found, the friends he made and the lessons he learned about life.
About her book, Saunders commented "I have had the honour of leading the old Ontario dog around the world on a chain of translations and rejoice in the report that he has become quite a propagandist for humanitarianism."
In 1994, the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society was formed to honor the life of Beautiful Joe and the achievements of Margaret Marshall Saunders. The Beautiful Joe Park was established in Meaford, where the famous dog was laid to rest, and is maintained by the Society.