The Life of a Wonder Dog
Jim the Wonder Dog was a Llewellyn setter born of pureblood champion field stock in Louisiana. He came into Sam VanArsdale's hands for less than half the amount of his litter mates. Jim proved to be a marvelous hunting dog, knowing where there were quail, and refusing to hunt where there were none. Mr. VanArsdale kept track of birds shot over his beloved dog and stopped counting at 5,000, a total no other dog had ever reached. Outdoor Life Magazine termed Jim "The Hunting Dog of the Country."
One hot day, Mr. VanArsdale said, "Let's go over and rest a bit under that Hickory tree." Jim went to the Hickory. Surprised by this, Mr. VanArsdale asked Jim to go to a Walnut, then a Cedar, a stump, and a tin can, and Jim did so—quickly and accurately.
Miraculously, Jim could locate a car by make, color, out-of-state plate, or license number. From a crowd, he could select the "man who sells hardware," and the one who "takes care of sick people," or the "visitor from Kansas City." He followed commands given to him in foreign languages, shorthand, and Morse Code. He even chose the winner of seven Kentucky Derbies, The World Series of baseball, and the sex of unborn babies.
Jim demonstrated his abilities at the University of Missouri for Dr. Durant, head veterinarian. He passed a command test with flying colors, and Dr. Durant could find nothing physically abnormal about the curious pup.
"The Wonder Dog"
In 1935, Jim performed at the Kemmerer Hotel in Kemmerer, Wyoming. After his successful performance, an article referring to Jim as "The Wonder Dog" was written in the Gazette of Kemmerer on Friday, August 30, 1935.
Notably, Jim also performed before the Missouri Legislature and at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. Newspaper and magazine writers came to witness Jim and were stunned. Jim’s fame spread across the United States and elsewhere, and he was eventually featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!
The site of Jim the Wonder Dog Memorial Garden, off the northwest corner of the Square, is the place once occupied by the Ruff Hotel, where Jim lived with his owner and the hotel's manager Sam VanArsdale. This is Marshall’s way of commemorating one of its most famous “citizens.”
Come enjoy the bronze statue of Jim the Wonder Dog and pat him on the nose. Visitors can also enjoy the garden any day of the week during daylight hours. There is a wonderful water garden built and maintained by the Saline County Water Garden Club as well as a waterfall and a pond with fish. The garden is full of beautiful flowers and shrubs, and there is a gazebo full of information about the garden and local attractions.
Jim the Wonder Dog is buried in Marshall’s Ridge Park Cemetery. Follow your nose to his gravestone or view on our map. Caretakers say his gravestone is the most visited and seldom without flowers and coins. Park on the south side of the cemetery office. Take a walk down the gravel path along the west side of this area. Jim the Wonder Dog is peacefully resting under the shade tree.