Beautiful Joe and Sirius

Beautiful JoeMy name is Beautiful Joe, and I am a brown dog of medium size. I am not called Beautiful Joe because I am a beauty. Mr. Morris, the clergyman, in whose family I have lived for the last twelve years, says that he thinks I must be called Beautiful Joe for the same reason that his grandfather, down South, called a very ugly colored slave-lad Cupid, and his mother Venus.

I do not know what he means by that, but when he says it, people always look at me and smile.

In 1892, Halifax novelist Margaret Marshall Saunders travelled to the small lakeside town of Meaford, Ontario to visit her brother and his fiancée, Louise Moore.

The Moores had adopted a mistreated dog. Louise’s father had found him malnourished and bleeding, with his ears and tail chopped off, and although he looked pathetic, the Moores named him Beautiful Joe.

On her return to Halifax, Saunders heard of a contest sponsored by the American Humane Education Society. It challenged entrants to write a novel based on the 1877 bestseller Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, in which a horse recounts tales of cruelty and kindness to inspire humane treatment of horses.

Saunders wrote Joe’s story. In her manuscript, she renamed the adoptive family Morris and, following contest rules, set the tale in the United States – in the fictional town of Fairport, Me. She won.

The wonderfully successful book, entitled “Black Beauty,” came like a living voice out of the animal kingdom. But it spake for the horse, and made other books necessary; it led the way. After the ready welcome that it received, and the good it has accomplished and is doing, it follows naturally that some one should be inspired to write a book to interpret the life of a dog to the humane feeling of the world. Such a story we have in “Beautiful Joe.”

The story speaks not for the dog alone, but for the whole animal kingdom. Through it we enter the animal world, and are made to see as animals see, and to feel as animals feel.

~~ From the introduction to the Phoenix Edition

Beautiful Joe: An Autobiography appeared in 1894. By 1900, its sales stood just shy of 1 million. By 1939, it had sold 7 million copies in more than 10 languages. Around 1914, Saunders settled to Toronto and went on to write more than two dozen books. She died in 1947, at 85.

The book was out of print but, over the years, the dog’s grave had been located and a cairn built. A municipal Beautiful Joe Park had also been founded on the property once owned by the Moores.

Sirius and David LimIn 1994 – the novel’s centenary – the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society was formed, and it got the book republished. The society held dog-oriented parades and put up statues in the park. One was a sculpture of Beautiful Joe, another a police K-9 memorial.

In 2002, the society also built a memorial to Sirius, the one police dog killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. His partner, New York Port Authority officer David Lim, attended the unveiling with his superior officer.

Attached to the statue is an iron cross, forged from a fallen World Trade Center beam.

In the fall of 2007, vandals took a chisel to the memorial, in an attempt to remove the cross. They failed.

And, like Beautiful Joe, the statue has since been lovingly restored.

Beautiful Joe statue


K-9 Sirius, Badge #17 was a yellow Labrador Retriever, born in January 1997. He became an Explosive Detection Dog upon graduation from the Port Newark K-9 Center on July 15, 2000.

Sirius and his handler, Police Officer David Lim, Badge #1219, were assigned to the World Trade Center. Their duties there included searching vehicles entering the WTC Complex,
clearing unattended bags and sweeping areas for V.I.P. safety.

Toronto Star

Beautiful Joe Heritage Society

Read Beautiful Joe online

Meaford Museum

One response to “Beautiful Joe and Sirius

  1. valerie phillips

    i read this as a child in high ercall,a shropshire,england village. it had been a village school prize for my auntie lucy.i found the book in a trunk. i cried all the way through,both with misery and joy. i am 66 years now and never forgot my “beautiful joe”. i could not believe it when i found websites for Joe and that it was so,deservedly,famous. His story haunted me all my life.

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