The dog symbolizes loyalty, fidelity, watchfulness and vigilance.
The most famous dog at Woodland is the one found atop the monument of Johnny Morehouse, one of the most well-known and visited monuments at Woodland.
There are more than one hundred thousand of Dayton’s finest citizens buried at Woodland Cemetery, but no tombstone or monument commands as much respect and attention as “The Boy & Dog.”
The monument, with 5 year old Johnny and his large canine friend, has been at Woodland for over 155 years. The stone is still in excellent condition. A number of years ago, a large tree nearby fell during a storm and knocked the head off the dog. It was quite an undertaking but the head was re-attached by then Woodland horticulturist, Jim Sandegren, and the monument was once again, as good as new.
For visitor attraction, perhaps the “Boy & Dog” has caused more tears and aroused more interest than any other at the cemetery. The monument, faithful in detail, shows Johnny’s top and his ball, his mouth harp and his little cap. On the base of the monument is the inscription, “In Slumber Sweet.” The monument stands about five feet high, has the dog, perhaps an Irish setter, watching over his sleeping master and Johnny’s head is gently resting against the body of his pet.
Little Johnny Morehouse lived at the SW corner of East Third and June Streets. The truth concerning the death of Johnny and his pet are not known. Two accounts have been speculated. One account speaks to how Johnny, who was five years old, had fallen into the river and the dog jumped in and saved his little master’s life by pulling him from the river. Walter W. Morehouse, a relative of the little boy, and former Director of the City Water Department, believed that the story was true, at least that he always heard it was true. The second account, whether truth or legend cannot be said, is that the boy was drowning and the dog also perished trying to save him, and that the ball, jacks, toy top and the and the mouth harp that are represented on the stone in granite, supposedly were in the boy’s pockets when he was recovered from the water. Investigators trying to trace the truth of this legend, in spite of their detailed search, have found no evidence to support either account. Friends of the family interviewed during the later 1890s say merely that the monument only symbolizes the deep love between the child and his pet. Johnny Morehouse died on August 14, 1860 at five years of age. He is located in Section 82 Lot 546.
Another story passed down is that the dog, still faithful to his master, would come to the cemetery and lay at the grave site of Johnny. Local artist and sculptor, Daniel La Dow, who is also buried at Woodland was the creator of the beautiful and peaceful monument. Many people who come to visit “The Boy & Dog” bring a gift for both Johnny and his canine friend such as small toys, pennies, candy and even biscuits for the dog.
Woodland Cemetery, founded in 1841, is one of the nation’s oldest rural garden cemeteries and a unique cultural, botanical and educational resource in the heart of Dayton, Ohio. Visit the cemetery and arboretum and take one of the many tours Woodland offers free of charge. Most of Dayton’s aviation heroes, inventors and business barons are buried at Woodland.
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum is located at 118 Woodland Avenue off of Brown Street near the University of Dayton Campus. The Woodland Office is open Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm and Saturday 8 am to 12 pm. The Cemetery and Arboretum are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. The Mausoleum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, call 937-228-3221 or visit the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum website.