The first known war dog buried at Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery was “Staff,” who fought with an unnamed American unit in World War I. He was wounded by German artillery, but French surgeons stitched him back together again. Two bullets remained embedded in his leg. His mate, “Fritzie,” also fought in the war. Staff died in 1925; Fritzie died six years later in 1931.1
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
When a monument to a pet includes the figure of a dog, it pulls at my heart just a little bit harder. These are the best of the dog statues in Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
I took this photo in May 2013, around the time I first started photographing around Aspin Hill Memorial Park. Lately, there’s been a bone between Skippy’s two paws. I’m sure he’d have loved that. Continue reading Dog Statues in Aspin Hill Memorial Park
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.