Every Dog Has Its Day — and Sometimes, a Museum

Plan your travel this summer around these famous local dogs

Toto — Dorothy’s faithful companion

In a list of the world’s most famous dogs, Toto, the scrappy little Cairn terrier who started the journey to Oz by snapping at old Miss Gulch, surely tops the list. From stealing a hot dog from Professor Marvel to scratching at the Wicked Witch’s melted form, Toto steals hearts every time we see the movie.

It’s not necessary to fly in a tornado to the other side of the rainbow to create some special memories with Toto. Just zip west on I-70 to exit 328, and head north to Wamego.

Highway 99 is not a yellow brick road, just an ordinary state highway. Fans of L. Frank Baum’s masterpiece comes to Wamego because it is here in the Oz Museum that they find the world’s largest collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia.

The first weekend of October each year, the Oztober Festival usually includes a Dorothy and Toto look-alike contest along with Glenda the Good Witch roaming the streets of Wamego on the lookout for the Wicked Witch of the West. Relatives of the late L. Frank Baum usually come and read from his famous book at the Wizard of Oz Museum.

Whether you visit Wamego on Oct. 7 this year or any other time, one of the most adorable experiences is finding all the colorful little Totos around town. It’s a basic public art project as you see in many communities, but this features 18 little black dogs.

Toto can be found playing baseball, reading a book, eating a ruby slipper and enjoying a lollipop from The Lollipop Guild.

The best place to eat for Toto fans is Toto’s TacOz at 515 Lincoln Avenue in Wamego. Besides yummy street tacos and other treats, the restaurant decor is somewhere over the rainbow. All of the characters who accompanied Toto in his adventure come to life in this bright and fun setting. Toto himself is eating tacos and your favorite souvenir of this get-away: Toto’s hot sauces. They are “toto-ly ozsome.”

visitwamego.com; 785-456-7849


Old Drum – Man’s Best Friend

Dog lovers know that their pooch is “man’s best friend.” It’s a phrase we’ve heard and echoed all our lives, but did you know that the namesake of Man’s Best Friend was an old hound dog from Warrensburg?

His name was Old Drum and he was a good hunting dog. But he was accused of killing sheep and a neighbor shot him.

That was in October 1869 and Old Drum’s owner, Charles Burden, took his neighbor Leonidas Hornsby to court. The closing argument addressed the relationship between a man and his dog, including the words “The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.” 

So eloquent was that 380-word argument that not only did Old Drum’s owner win the case, but it was reprinted in newspapers across the country, thus instilling the three words “man’s best friend” into the cultural nomenclature of Western civilization.

In Warrensburg today, a statue of Old Drum graces the current Johnson County courthouse grounds, but the original courthouse still stands and is the site of the Old Drum Dog Fest each June. Often, the festival includes a reenactment of the trial.

The city has an Old Drum dog park in Cave Hollow Park on Gay Street. The city animal shelter is named for Old Drum and there’s a coffee shop named Old Drum.  

“The Trial of Old Drum” released in 2000 stars Scott Bakula, Ron Perlman and Randy Travis. It’s not quite accurate to the time period and the movie dog is a beautiful golden retriever but the message is the same.

In 2017, the Missouri legislature designated Old Drum as the state’s official historical dog.

warrensburg-mo.com; 660-262-4611

Jim – The Wonder Dog

In addition to the state’s official historical dog, Missouri also has an official wonder dog, as declared by the Missouri Legislature.

His name is Jim the Wonder Dog and he lived in Marshall. Jim was a Lewellen Setter, born in 1925. His owners were Sam and Pearl Van Arsdale who operated the Ruff Hotel in Marshall. Jim was said to be an excellent quail hunter, but he could also identify the difference between oak, hickory, elm and walnut trees.

He apparently picked the winner of the World Series and the Kentucky Derby, and he understood German, French and Spanish. He was capable of identifying colors, which is unusual because dogs are color blind. He was tested by researchers at the University of Missouri as well.

He was 12 years old when he died. He is buried at the Ridge Park Cemetery in Marshall, but adjacent to the Jim the Wonder Dog Museum is a pleasant memorial garden with interesting details about Jim’s life and talents.

Although Jim was born in March, the city of Marshall chooses a more weather-friendly day in mid-May each year to celebrate Jim’s life and impact on the community. A doggie plunge at the Marshall Aquatic Center in August raises funds for the Jim the Wonder Dog Museum.

jimthewonderdog.org; 660-886-8300

Seaman – The Explorer

Although he only passed through the Kansas City area more than 200 years ago, he was certainly the most adorable of the explorers on the Lewis and Clark Expedition along the Missouri River.

That’s Seaman, the beautiful Newfoundland who walked every step of the journey to the Pacific Ocean and back. Journals from the expedition note that Seaman helped catch squirrels and deer for the men to eat and warned the crew of approaching grizzly bears and charging buffalo.

Dozens of sculptures, murals and other art along the 3,700 mile National Historic Trail include Seaman in the image, thus underscoring his valued service in this epic journey. One sculpture is found overlooking the Missouri River in a park at 7th and Jefferson in downtown Kansas City.

“The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.” 

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