President Lyndon Baines Johnson had three of his dogs cremated at Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery during his years at the White House. These included his most famous dogs, beagles named “Him” and “Her.” They were litter mates who were born in on June 27, 1963.
Him and Her became famous after an incident during a press conference on April 27, 1964. President Johnson lifted “Him” by the ears, causing him to yelp. An Associated Press photographer was present and the photo was published the next day in the Washington Post. 1 People across the country were outraged at what they felt was President Johnson’s abuse of his dog. The furor died down eventually, as it became obvious that the president was a devoted dog lover (although he continued to believe it was okay to lift a beagle up by its ears). 2
Sadly, Him and Her both died young. “Her” died in on November 27, 1964 when she swallowed a stone. Surgeons tried to remove it, but she died on the operating table. “Him” died on June 15, 1966 after being run over by a car on the White House grounds. After their cremations at Aspin Hill, the remains of both dogs were sent to the LBJ Ranch in Texas for burial. 3
In mid-September of this year, I was searching the online photographic collections of the Library of Congress. Ever hopeful of finding historical images of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery, I came across this shot of a grave stone for a pet named “Miss Fudge.” The title of the photograph was “Dog cemetery, Miss Logan’s dog.” It was taken around 1921.
Suspecting that this might have been taken at Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery, I checked the burial records. Sure enough, on the very first page of the oldest burial register, there was an entry for a Mrs. Logan, who buried a fox terrier there on September 15, 1920. There was even a little sketch of the grave stone in the register, which matched the one in the photograph. Continue reading Miss Fudge→
Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace were animal lovers. They owned several dogs, cats, canaries, and even a raccoon. They also received animals as gifts from other countries, which they often kept at the White House. Some, such as a black bear and wallaby, were sent to the National Zoo to be raised.
Calvin Coolidge’s favorite dog was a white collie named Rob Roy. He was prominently featured in First Lady Grace Coolidge’s official portrait, painted by Howard Chandler Christy in 1924. This painting still hangs in the White House China Room, which was decorated in a shade of red that matched her dress. Continue reading Presidential Animal Lovers Calvin and Grace Coolidge→
Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals was begun in 1920, the first year of the decade of the flapper. A flapper was a young woman who flouted convention by wearing short skirts and bobbing her hair. She was often seen in wearing a cloche hat and galoshes. Sometimes, her behavior might be considered risqué, but this was not necessarily so. At Aspin Hill Kennels, Bertha Birney named one of her female Boston terriers “Aspin Hill Flapper.” In a 1923 issue of Dog Fancier, it was reported that Aspin Hill Flapper was making quite an impression at dog shows all along the East Coast. Continue reading Aspin Hill Flapper→
Military honors for the funeral of a dog are rare, but that’s what happened in 1948, when Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s most famous sled dog was buried at Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery.
Rickey, a Labrador husky, was born in 1934 at Little America, an exploration base on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. He left the frigid continent, at the age of nine months, in the company of his owner, Lt. Comdr. Frederick Dustin (USNR). The pair made two return trips to Antarctica in 1939 and 1947. Continue reading Rickey, Admiral Byrd’s Sled Dog→
There’s a granite stone at Aspin Hill Memorial Park which marks the grave of a dog named Rags who is dubbed a “War Hero” and “1st Division Mascot WW I.” I wondered how this dog became a war hero, but I didn’t wonder for long. The tale of Rags is one of the best documented of the pet cemetery stories. Continue reading Rags, War Hero→
Here are two grave stones that have me stumped. I have been unable to find the stories behind them, despite the specific details that the pets’ owners had inscribed on their memorials. I’ll post them here in the hope that someone may know their stories and share them with me. Failing that, let us read these memorials and be heartened by the knowledge that our animal friends are capable of heroism.
I love this simple grave stone. There is no name or date on it, so I have no story to tell you. It appears to be cast concrete. Above the portrait of the Boston terrier, there is a motto, spelled out in metal letters pressed into the concrete: Lest We Forget. It’s a simple reminder of what Aspin Hill — or any cemetery — is about: the loving remembrance of those who have enriched our lives and are now gone.
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. Continue reading This Ever Faithful Barking Ghost→