Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Devoted Pets and the Cemeteries They Inhabit - Part 1

This past Sunday, May 1st marked the beginning of National Pet Week.  As a pet owner and dog-lover, I am always touched by the cemeteries with pets buried near their owners.  And the stories of their devotion, even after death.  Today I’ll share two of the cemetery legends I’ve come across.


John Heinl & Stiffy Green, Highland Lawn Cemetery, Terre Haute, Indiana


Highland Lawn Cemetery

Highland Lawn Cemetery, located in Terre Haute, Indiana, is known as the burial place for many famous people, including politicians Eugene Debs, Daniel Voorhees and inventor Theodore Hudnut.  But ask a local about Highland Lawn and they will tell you the story of Stiffy Green.

John Heinl

Terre Haute florist and businessman, John Gradl Heinl, and his bulldog, Stiffy Green, were well known in Terre Haute in the early part of the 20th century.  The two would stroll around town each day, John Heinl, pipe in hand, talking to his small companion and stopping to visit with the folks they met.  Stiffy Green, so named because of his stiff walking gait and startling greenish colored eyes, was friendly but ferociously protective of Mr. Heinl and did not allow anyone to get too close to his beloved master.

When John Heinl passed away on December 31st, 1920, Stiffy was inconsolable.  He sat by the coffin at the funeral and followed the family to the graveyard where he took up post at the mausoleum doors.  There he remained, guarding his master in death as he had guarded him in life.  Family and friends made many trips to the cemetery that winter to retrieve Stiffy and take him home, only for him to return to his master’s crypt doors. 
Heinl Mausoleum
After a few months, Stiffy refused to eat or drink.  But he continued his vigil on the mausoleum steps, regardless of the weather.  Mrs. Heinl was the one to find that Stiffy had died outside the mausoleum doors, having grieved himself to death.  In view of his unwavering love and devotion, she had him stuffed in the sitting position he had assumed for so many months on those cold mausoleum steps.   Stiffy was then placed inside the tomb, reunited at last with his master. 


Stiffy Green
But it wasn’t long before visitors began noticing that Stiffy had mysteriously moved from one side of the tomb to the other, and back.  Rumors spread that early in the morning or at twilight you could see an elderly man and his small dog walking near the Heinl crypt, the smell the rich pipe smoke in the air and a low voice talking to his devoted companion who would answer with a happy bark. 

Vigo County
Historical Society Museum
But all good things must come to an end – even in death.  Vandals would not leave the site alone, damaging doors and windows. In 1985, thugs shot out Stiffy’s right glass eye.  The family decided it was time for Stiffy to be moved and the Vigo County Historical Society Museum agreed to take him.  There, the Terre Haute Lions Club built a replica of the Heinl mausoleum. 

Today, Stiffy Green is still on guard – unless he and John are taking a pleasant evening stroll in Highland Lawn Cemetery.

Location:  Highland Lawn Cemetery, Heinl Mausoleum, Plot: Section 1, Lot 21
Vigo County Historical Society Museum – 1411 South 6th Street, Terre Haute, IN


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John Gray and Greyfriars Bobby – Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland

Greyfriars Bobby
Bobby, a Skye terrier, was the beloved and faithful companion of policeman, John “Auld Jock” Gray.  Gray lived in Edinburgh, Scotland in the mid-1800’s.  On February 15, 1858, Gray died of tuberculosis.  He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard (church yard) in Edinburgh.  Bobby was found the next morning, guarding his master’s grave.

Greyfriars Kirkyard
According to various reports of the time, Kirkyard keeper, James Brown had to run Bobby off because the churchyard was posted “No Dogs.”    But Bobby kept coming back, night after night, to sleep on his master’s grave.  Seeing such loyalty, Brown decided to make an exception for Bobby.

Bobby
Word spread throughout the community and soon town’s folk were bringing Bobby food and water, they even built a shelter for him near the grave.  But due to the high cost of a dog license, no one would claim him and take him home.  It was finally decreed that without a license, Bobby would have to be put to death as a stray.

Sir William Chambers
It was 1867 when the town council of Edinburgh met to discuss this case.  Bobby had been sleeping at the cemetery for almost ten years and had become a beloved fixture of the town.  The presiding Lord Provost of the city, Sir William Chambers, a dog-lover, arranged to pay all license fees for Bobby, indefinitely.  Bobby was then given a new collar with a brass plate, which read: 

 Greyfriars Bobby – from the Lord Provost, 1867, licensed.

Bobby died January 14, 1872 at the age of 16.  For 14 years he had loyally guarded his friend.  Now his grave lies 75 yards from his masters, just inside the gates of Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Bobby's 2-Tier Fountain

Baroness
Burdett Coutts

A year after his death, Baroness Burdett Coutts had a statue of the little dog sitting atop a water fountain, with a top level for human drinking and a bottom level for pets, erected to commemorate Bobby’s life and his deep devotion to Gray, a friendship that surpassed death.  





Sign over Pub Door 
Bobby's Bar
The statue and fountain are located in front of “Bobby’s Bar,” a pub named after Scotland's most famous dog.




In 1981, The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a red granite headstone that had been placed on Bobby’s grave by the Dog Aid Society of Scotland. The inscription reads:

Greyfriars Bobby
Headstone
Greyfriars Bobby
Died 14th January 1872
Aged 16 years
Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.

Bobby truly earned the designation of  “Scotland’s Most Faithful Dog.”

Location:  Greyfriars Kirkyard, Inside main gates, Edinburgh, Scotland

Friday, we'll take another look at 'Devoted Pets and the Cemeteries They Inhabit.'

Joy