“Jim the Wonder Dog”
I’ve heard stories about “Jim, the Wonder Dog” for many years. In fact, the Herald just recently ran a series of stories, beginning back in February, highlighting the life and feats of Jim. The articles were written by Carolyn Mueller and produced by the Missouri Press Foundation. They were released to member newspapers by the Missouri Press Association and published as an eight-week series. What I did not know until this week is that the original book, published in 1942, was written by an Ava native, Clarence Dewey Mitchell. I was looking through some of our archives, searching for something else entirely, when I happened upon the article, published in the Douglas County Herald, Sept. 24, 1942. You may recall, those were war years. Young men were being called up weekly for physical examination and subsequent induction into the military – the Army unless they joined another branch. Among the articles I read where my dad received his notice to report to the courthouse on Monday, Aug. 24, 1942, for physical examination. It wasn’t long after that until he was on his way to the Philippines, New Zealand, and other places I’ve heard him speak of. Back to Jim. Following is the story that was published on the front page of the Herald in 1942. Clarence D. Mitchell of Columbia, Mo., formerly of Ava, is the author of a book, “Jim, the Wonder Dog”, which has just been published by Dorrance & Co. Subject for the novel is a Lewellen setter which became nationally known for his unusual performances. The dog was owned by Sam Van Arsdale of West Plains and Sedalia, and his work was observed locally on at least one occasion. Members of the veterinary science department of the University of Missouri, before whom the dog performed, expressed the opinion that the dog had some occult power which might not again be demonstrated in generations. Mitchell, now salesman for the Iriquois text book publishers, included in the book an “autobiography” of the life of Jim as written from letters and statements of various people who knew the dog. Citizens of Ava who have seen the dog perform will verify many of the unusual traits of the dog “Jim.” These stories seem rather far-fetched, but eyewitnesses confirmed that the dog had an unusual ability never seen before or since. In Chapter Five of the series it is explained that friends were gathered in town and the dog’s owner wanted to show how intelligent he was. “Go and show this man which car is his,” VanArsdale told Jim. The dog trotted over and placed his paw on the correct car, just as he’d done to identify particular kinds of trees in the past. “If he’s so smart,’ one man said, “let me give you the license number of my car, and let’s see if he can find it.” Sam wasn’t so sure. He didn’t know if Jim knew anything about numbers. The man wrote the numbers 19-248 on a piece of paper. Sam showed it to Jim and told him to go find it. One quick glance and Jim was off. He ran right over to the man’s car and put his paw on the plate…” It’s been said Jim was also tested, and proved his ability to decipher Morse code and foreign languages. He picked Kentucky Derby winners, World Series champions and presidents. Jim died March 18, 1937, at the age of 12 (in human years). No one could ever explain the abilities of Jim the Wonder Dog. Jim is now honored with “Jim the Wonder Dog Memorial Park” in Marshall, Mo. where his owner lived. Over the years, Jim performed for the Missouri Legislature and at the Missouri State Fair. He was recognized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not and articles about him appeared in Outdoor Life magazine. Jim is buried in Marshall’s Ridge Park Cemetery with a grave stone. Caretakers say his is the most visited grave there and is seldom without flowers and coins left on it. Just last month, Jim was designated by the Missouri Legislature and Gov. Eric Greitens as Missouri’s Wonder Dog and Old Drum was honored as Missouri’s Historical Dog.