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The strange stone dog in the cemetery

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Bill Wundram

At any season, even in the chill days like these, there are flowers at the Rock Island Chippiannock Cemetery marker of a lifesize granite dog.

The flowers are for a giant, devoted Newfoundland, and therein is one of the stories that makes the Quad-Cities such a trove of unusual memories. The bouquets may be fresh flowers when the season is warm, but in winter they are silk or otherwise artificial.

It is unsure who places them there.

"The dog" is one of the two mostrequested marker locations in this vast "city of 22,000 dead." (The other is the replica of a totem pole at the grave of Col. George Davenport, for whom the city is named.)

"The dog is a touching story. Everyone wants to know about it," says Greg Vogele, the cemetery manager. The statue is a replica of an animal said to have died of a broken heart over the death of two children interred beside the statue.

Such stories are the sentimental stuff of legends, but crisp old newspaper clippings and continuing legends persist, and one can believe that all is truth.

Onehundred and 15 years ago, the Quad-Cities was swept by a deadly epidemic of diphtheria. It was a lung disease that particularly claimed children. Death came swiftly, felling the rich and miserably poor. It struck the children of Mr. and Mrs. O.J. Dimick with such rapidity that one day Eddie Dimick, 5, and his sister, Josie, 8, were in school, and two days later they were dead.

The Dimicks lived comfortably in a rose brick mansion on 21st Avenue. The children were always accompanied to school by their big Newfoundland dog. He would wait outside, play with them at recess, and walk them home when classes had ended. Because of his affection for the children, the Dimicks allowed the dog to walk behind the horsedrawn hearse to their burial in Chippiannock Cemetery.

For several days after burial of the children, family members visited the grave. The dog always followed. Then, curiously, the animal took up a strange habit. Every morning, he would walk to the cemetery and stretch out on the gravesite of Eddie and Josie. He would stay there until dark.

"This devotion appears true," says Mrs. Tim Bolyard. She has become historian for "the dog story" because she lives in the restored Dimick home. The dog died less than a year after the children, and was buried on the Dimick mansion acreage. The dog was said to have grieved itself to death, regularly refusing food.

The children's father, an entrepreneur of wealth, was so touched by the dog's devotion that he ordered a Chicago sculptor to create a lifesize replica of the dog to be placed over the graves of his children. Yellowed clippings and records in the hands of Kim Bolyard allude that the likeness "be first class, with the animal's head resting on its paws, a natural position." There are other notations about wanting "the noble brute" to forever watch over "the two little ones" whose image "he revered."

"From what I can learn, the dog statue was a true exhibition piece, carved from a solid piece of stone," says Kim.

One bit of the puzzle is still missing.

"We have never been able to find the dog's name," says Kim Bolyard.

She'd like to know. She'd like to put a little marker identifying the dog by name beside his statue.

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