Jim the Wonder Dog remembered as icon in Marshall
MARSHALL - What do you call a dog that can supposedly understand foreign languages, read license plates, and predict future events? You name him Jim the Wonder Dog, of course!
In 1925, Sam VanArsdale, a hotel owner from Marshall, purchased a hunting dog from a breeder in Louisiana. He named the Llewellyn Setter Jim.
According to folklore, VanArsdale realized while out hunting one day that Jim had special talents.
Jim was said to understand foreign languages without being taught. He could wander the streets and locate a car by the brand, color or license plate, people said. Some said he could identify individual people from crowds based off off of vague descriptions like, "man who sells hardware," or the "visitor from Kansas City," according to the Jim the Wonder Dog website.
Jim was known to see the future. For example, he accurately guessed the sex of unborn babies, chose the winner of the Kentucky Derby seven years in a row and accurately predicted that the Yankees would win the 1936 World Series, the website says.
Baffled by Jim's talents, VanArsdale sought a veterinary evaluation by professors at the University of Missouri and Washington University in St. Louis. They put him through a battery of tests to see if his supposed skills were a hox. But, as outlined on the website of MU's College of Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources, no explanation could be found.
Jim was featured in numerous magazines and newspapers for his inexplicable talents. He performed at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia and in front of the Missouri Legislature in Jefferson City. Once word about Jim spread, he performed all around the United States.
Jim passed away in 1937 at the age of 12. He has been featured on Ripley's Believe it or Not! and Animal Planet. Several books have been written about him, and he even has his own song.
In 2017, Senate Bill 376 was signed by Gov. Eric Greitens, officially declaring Jim as the state's Wonder Dog.
In 1999, VanArsdale's hotel - named the "Ruff Hotel" - was knocked down to build a memorial garden for Jim. Next to it lies a museum filled with photos and memorabilia about the dog.
This year, the museum and memorial garden are celebrating their 20 year anniversary.
A group of people from Marshall, called "Friends of Jim the Wonder Dog," are responsible for the garden and museum. Larry Arrowood, the president of the group, says Jim's memorial garden is a popular spot for people to visit in the summer.
“We average during the summer about 40 to 50 people a day in the museum and more than that in the garden," he said. "They come from all over - sometimes they come for other reasons, other times they come here just for Jim because they heard about Jim.”
Every year, Friends of Jim the Wonder Dog hosts a celebration in Marshall called "Wonder Dog Day." Visitors are encouraged to bring their dogs and compete in competitions including best kisser, best trick, and Jim lookalike.
Ruth Wundrack brought her dog to compete in the lookalike contest.
“Jim was always kind of a legend," she said. "Everybody kind of knew about him.”
Wundrack and her dog did not place in the competition, but she said Jim has always been a part of her life since she grew up around Marshall. Her mom even got her one of the books about Jim for her high school graduation.
A Facebook page, run by Friends of Jim the Wonder Dog, has been set up so fans can stay updated on events that the museum and memorial garden are planning in the future.