At least twice a year, I like to visit northern parts of Ontario and especially the area of Meaford, Ontario. And with each visit to Meaford I make a visit to "The Beautiful Joe Park". A park which I think every town and city should have. It doesn't have to be named this, but it's meaning should be the same... a park dedicated to the animals who touch our lives.
I was unfamiliar of the Beautiful Joe story even after learning about this park. Some friends told us about it as a nice place to visit and potential bird watching. It wasn't long after that Angie and I learned who Beautiful Joe was and how touching his story is, what this park really means. Here's a brief bit on his story...
The real Beautiful Joe was an Airedale-type dog. He was medium-sized, brown, and described as likely being part bull terrier and part fox terrier. He was also described as a mongrel, a cur, and a mutt. He was originally owned by a local Meaford man, who abused the dog to the point of near death, and even cut off his ears and tail with a hatchet.
Walter Moore, father of Louise Moore, rescued the dog in 1890 from what likely would have been a violent death.
And from this, a couple years later a book was to be made...
In 1892, Margaret Marshall Saunders (1861–1947), first learned about Beautiful Joe when she visited her brother and his wife, Louise Moore. Saunders was so touched by Joe's story that she wrote a novel-length, fictionalized, autobiographical version of it, entitled Beautiful Joe. Margaret Saunders relocated the story to a small town in Maine and changed the family's name to Morris to win a literary contest sponsored by the American Humane Education Society. The book was first published in 1893. By 1900, over 800,000 copies sold in the U.S., 40,000 in Canada and 100,000 in the United Kingdom.
The response was tremendous; both the book and its subject received worldwide attention. It was the first Canadian book in history to sell over a million copies, and by the late 1930s had sold over 7 million copies worldwide. In 1902, a sequel, Beautiful Joe's Paradise, was published.
In 1934, Saunders was granted Canada's highest civilian award at the time, Commander of the British Empire or C.B.E.
In 1963, the official Beautiful Joe Park was named in Meaford, next to the Moore house where Beautiful Joe was rehabilitated by Louise Moore. A Beautiful Joe Heritage Society was formed in 1994 to preserve Joe's legacy and ultimately establish the Moore residence as a museum.
So, that is the story of Beautiful Joe and the impact his story had on the world.
Now, about the park. Sure, it's a park, a forest, a river runs along the side of it. What's the big deal? Well, Beautiful Joe is buried here. The better part of his life was just next door and I'd like to believe he spent some happy sunny afternoons in this park just being a dog... running and playing. There are a few monuments about the park dedicated not only to Joe but to all animals. A 9-11 World Trade Centre site for the rescue dogs that were lost on that morning. How many people out there ever gave one moment of thought that not only humans died that day? So there wasn't hundreds of K-9 rescue dogs lost but the ones who did perish that day shouldn't go unnoticed.
Another section has a wall full of plaques that is slowly growing every year with those displaying a memorial of their own animal friends who have passed on. Some of the plaques stand out much more to me than others.
I raise a glass to Barbara Selkirk for having so many four legged friends in her life...
It's nice to see another great dog got a great home in the end...
I get a glowing feeling as I walk through this park. In this moment we, the people, take a step to the side for our animal friends. This is for them. It seems most who visit this park also realize that. In this moment, although I feel this all the time... animals are people too! They get the respect they so deserve for the impact they have on a person or family's life... they are family! This is not a pet cemetery. This is not a place of sadness if you choose it not to be. This is a place to remember, to re-joice our four legged friends/family members.
The final resting place of Beautiful Joe. As I said, I would like to believe he had many great days on this same piece of land he is resting in.
If you ever happen to get up in the Georgian Bay area... please make a special visit to The Beautiful Joe Park in Meaford. It's pretty much right inbetween Collingwood and Owen Sound.