Get out your hankies, because this is one sad story. On a lovely Sunday morning in August 1928, Eric and Alvina Matus of Capitol Heights, Maryland went on a boating trip on the Potomac. They and another couple were fishing from a skiff near Colonial Beach, Virginia when they capsized. The couple with them were rescued by nearby fishermen, but the Matuses disappeared in sixty feet of water. Days later, their bodies were recovered.
In the meantime, their four-year-old daughter, Gloria, had been left in the care of a neighbor while her parents went on their ill-fated outing. After a custody battle lasting several weeks, Gloria was sent to live with another family.
The Matus’ Scotch collie, Pal, was inconsolable when they did not return. Eric and Pal had been close companions for thirteen years until the boating accident that separated them forever. Pal guarded the Matus home from the porch and would not let anyone approach it. He refused all offers of food and occasionally let out a mournful howl. After nine days of canine agony, Pal was taken away and euthanized. Matus had stipulated in his will that if anything happened to him, the dog should be put to sleep. Somehow he knew how badly Pal would suffer, and it turned out that he was right.
Pal’s remains rest in a coffin paid for by a local humane society and buried in a lot donated by Mr. Birney, the cemetery’s owner. He also convinced a monument company to provide a beautiful polished granite gravestone. Its inscription is a memorial to Pal’s devotion to his owner and is one of the most touching I’ve found at Aspin Hill Memorial Park. The final two lines come from a poem by St. John Lucas called, “The Curate Says You Have No Soul.” It’s yet another reminder that with great love comes great sadness.
Inscription: Pal Died Aug. 15, 1928 Scotch Collie Aged 13 1/2 Years. He Preferred Death To Life Away From His Master Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Eric Matus This ever faithful barking ghost may leap to lick your phantom hand Location: Aspin Hill Memorial Park N39° 04.737 W77° 04.651
“60 Feet of Water Hampers Dragging for Drowned Pair,” The Washington Post, Aug 7, 1928, pg. 18.
“Body of Mrs. Matus Found by Ferryman,” The Washington Post, August 9, 1928, pg. 18.
“Pal, Aged Collie, to Join Master in Death Today,” The Washington Post, August 15, 1928, pg. 1.
“Pet Cemetery Holds Body of Dog Hero,” The Baltimore Sun, February 9, 1930, p. MR4.