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Jim, the Wonder Dog
March 10, 1925, March 18, 1937


Jim the Wonder Dog - Memorial Park and burial place Memorial Park and Ridge Park Cemetery

From I-70, go north on HY 65. Take Business 65 through Marshall. Stay on Bus. 65/Odell Street to Yerby street, then east on Yerby. The road turns to the left at the stone and gated entrance to the cemetery. Memorial Park is one block west of the town square.)

"Jim" attained international fame with his uncanny abilities over his short lifetime of twelve years and eight days. Jim was a Llewellyn Setter, born in a kennel in Louisiana. He had been given as a gift to Mr. Van Arsdale, operator of the Ruff Hotel in Marshall.

Many articles and at least two books have been written, and are still being written, but the story below comes from a family member and is presented here for educational purposes.

Vanarsdale Family 1

By Ray VanArsdale



      The VanArsdales are of Dutch descent. They first settled in Boyle county, Kentucky, but in the early 1880s John Wesley VanArsdale and his two brothers came to Missouri, bringing their families with them. They all settled in Lafayette county, near Lexington. A few years later John W. came to Saline county, settling on a farm near Arrow Rock. He married Sarah Proctor in Kentucky and they brought their five sons with

     Gene F. married Mae Davison and they were the parents of six children, Mildred, Forest, Howard, Kenneth, John W., Earl M., and Veva. John W. was county surveyor of Saline county for a number of years. William O., the second son, married Ara Odell, a great granddaughter of Jeremiah Odell. They purchased a farm near Arrow Rock, where they lived until his death in 1944 and her death in 1963. Their two sons were John Lee, who was killed in 1931, and William Ray, who owns and operates the home place. Ray and his wife, the former Agnes Wall, have one son, John William, who is engaged in farming with his father. He and his wife Betty Hilton VanArsdale, have two sons, William Eugene and Robert Lee, and two daughters, Kristi Lynne and Lori Anne.

      This is a very short story of a man and his dog, a dog in a class by himself. Jim was truly a “wonder dog” for his performances are beyond explanation. Sam VanArsdale, his owner was as mystified by Jim’s ability as anyone and would certainly have welcomed a theory that Jim did not disprove in a short time.

      Jim was Llewellyn English setter from a line of champion field dogs. He was born in the Taylor Kennels in Louisiana, March 10, 1925. Because of a private joke he was sent as a gift to Samuel H. VanArsdale, who lived at West Plains, Mo., at that time.

     A short time later Mr. VanArsdale came to Marshall to operate the Ruff hotel, where Jim was a very important attraction. Jim was an awkward and lazy appearing pup, but grew into a most beautiful adult dog. In the late summer of 1925 he was taken to the West Plains kennels of Ira Irvine, who was a well known trainer of bird dogs.

Jim Chose Field


     At first Jim was somewhat a disappointment as he did not trouble himself if there were no birds in the area. Mr. VanArsdale soon noticed that Jim was quite eager, if the birds were there, and soon he was asking Jim “Where are we going to hunt today, here or across the road?” Jim choosing his field, always got his master a day of good shooting. He was a slow and careful worker, never frightening the birds. He was never known to chew a dead bird, which he always brought to his master, no matter who shot it. One day, while leaping over a fence, he sighted a covey, froze into a strut in mid-air and came down in a perfect point.

     You may find these stories about Jim hard to believe, but they are facts, to which many eyewitnesses will swear. Jim would never work for anyone but his master, who treated Jim as politely as he would a person.

     Jim would pick out colors a person was wearing, although authorities tell us dogs are color blind. He would go down the street a block and pick out a car by its owner, color, make, or license plate. He would pick out a variety of tree or shrub, name of a business, or the occupation or home of a stranger.

Answered Written Questions


     As Jim could not speak, a variety of answers were written on slips of paper and Jim would pick out the right slip. Mr. VanArsdale often confused the questioners by telling them to hold the slip in their hand and Jim to do what was on the paper. He always did, whether the question was in shorthand, Morse code, or a foreign language, none of which Mr. VanArsdale could read.

     One day a lady accompanied by young girls, came into the hotel. When told that two were sisters, the other a cousin, Jim went straight to the cousin. Another day Jim was asked to point to out someone whose name was the same as Detroit product. Trotting over to a lady, seated by the window, he put his paw on the arm of her chair. She laughed and said, “He’s right, My name is Ford.”

     One day Mr. VanArsdale, knowing a certain friend had a flask in his pocket and thinking to have a laugh on his friend, said to Jim: “Where is the man who has a bottle in his pocket?” Imagine Mr. VanArsdale’s surprise when Jim went to a second friend and put his paw on number two. Sure enough he had one, also.

     Jim always traveled with Mr. and Mrs. VanArsdale and stayed in the room with them. If the hotel manager objected, Jim would be asked to show where the cash register was: what you put your valuables in; where you could get a road map; where you could call a friend, or where Mr. VanArsdale could buy his cigars. No manager refused after such a demonstration.

Baffled Scientists

     Jim was examined at the University of Missouri by a group of veterinarians and scientists. They found nothing abnormal or different from other dogs. He responded to their requests given in Italian, French, German and Spanish. While the examiners were convinced that there was no subterfuge or signals, they could advance no explanation other than some occult power, never before possessed by a dog.

     Jim was taken before a Greek class and given several requests in Greek, which he successfully performed. Given another slip, Jim just looked at it and didn’t move. Mr. VanArsdale gave it to a student and asked him to translate it. The youth said, “It is only the Greek alphabet. Some doubting Thomas is convinced now, I am sure.”

     Up to now, someone has always known the answer to the requests. But these next stories will disprove the theory of mind reading.

Picked Winners Too

     In 1936, just before the World series, Jim was asked to choose the winner of the series. He correctly picked the Yankees. In the same year he chose Roosevelt to win the presidency of the United States. A young man in town, with a pet cat, Flossie, expecting a family, asked that Jim predict the results. Jim correctly predicted three males and two females.

     In Florida, at the home of Mr. VanArsdale’s niece, Jim would pick the winners of the next day’s dog races correctly, not once but many times. One day Jim was asked to pick the fastest horse in a race. He chose one, who didn’t win the race but the next week he won the Cuban Derby. Mr. VanArsdale checked and found he had asked for the fastest horse, not the winner.

Master at Fault

     Sometimes Mr. VanArsdale thought Jim had failed to respond correctly but, on checking, found himself at fault with his interpretation of the request. For seven years Jim correctly picked the winners of the Kentucky Derby. His selections were sealed in an envelope, put in a safe and not opened until the Derby was over. Mr. VanArsdale would not gamble on Jim’s predictions, nor would he give anyone information they could use.

     On a number of occasions Jim was asked to tell a mother-to-be whether to expect a girl or boy. One young woman was shocked when he chose both slips. Sure enough twins were born, a girl and a boy.

Buried at Marshall


     Jim died at Sedalia March 18, 1937, and was laid to rest in a specially built casket just outside the gate of Ridge Park cemetery at Marshall, Mo. This area has since been taken into the cemetery. A small white stone was erected over his grave by friends. It bears the simple inscription: Jim, The Wonder Dog, March 10, 1925, March 18, 1937.

     Jim was a true Southern gentleman, always quiet and gentle and dignified. He was not a trick dog, but one quick to understand and respond to the wishes of his master, whom he loved intensely. No one could explain his quality of response, his master no more than anyone else. He was just Jim to all who knew and respected him.



1 Transcribed from the History of Saline County, Ed. A. H. Or, et al., 546 pages, (Reprinted Marceline-Walsworth, CO, 1967),

Jim the Wonder Dog—Pages 142-143

THANKS to Vicki for the transcription.

Visit this website because
Jim's memory lives on in Marshall, Mo and the
"Friends of Jim"
plus black and white photos of Jim on this website

His grave site is listed in the "Find A Grave" website
There are some touching memorials here for a "Wonder Dog" who will never be forgotten.

other recent articles

The "final chapter" graphic was found on the net and the website URL unfortunately was not noted. Any objections to the use of it, it will be removed. No intentional violation is intended. used here for educational purposes only.

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