2009-03-18 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
Search for Sensation Continues: Babylon's canine claim to fame centers around Westminster's clubhouse and flagpole- both gone over 90 years. In 1887 Sensation, the Pointer already the symbol of Westminster Kennel Club (WKC), was buried in front of the clubhouse by this flagpole bedecked with a Pointer weather vane, pointing always into the wind. How do we know? Let's take a look at the evidence:
Truly a Sensation: Whelped in England in 1874 and imported by the WKC in 1876 the renowned Pointer, Sensation, lived up to his name. He was a legend in his own time. His record, profile and progeny helped Westminster succeed and prosper as a kennel club. He retired from show exhibition in 1886 spending his retirement in comfort in the home of Robert C. Cornell, a NYC attorney and charter member of Westminster. Sensation aka Don was with Cornell in Babylon when he died at age 13 on Sunday June 4, 1887.
(For a crash course in my Babylon Westminster research, see online "Pets" Amityville Record Feb.4, 2009. It gives a background and a synopsis.)
Documenting the Death of Sensation: The excerpts below from two sportsmen's journals announce the sad dog news- "Forest & Stream" June 9, 1887 "Just as we go to press, a letter from Mr. R.C.Cornell informs us that the well-known pointer Sensation is dead. The grand old dog needs no eulogy; his public performances prove his worth…. Following is a portion of Mr. Cornell's letter: "I regret to say old Don is dead. He passed away quietly on Sunday last simply from old age. …Never shall I forget this good old dog, and I never shall have quite the same feeling for another. Themost satisfactory days I have ever had in the field have been with Don."
"The American Field" June 18, 1887 pinpoints the location and similarly states that "The death of Sensation breaks a living link of the past and present in the history of the development of the pointer in this country…Mr. Cornell's letter reads:" I regret to say old Don (Sensation) is dead. He passed away quietly on Sunday morning at the kennels in Babylon. He had weathered the hard Winter well, and I thought he would live comfortably through the Summer. He died simply from old age, and I do not think suffered at all. I shall never see a dog again that can fill his place in my regard."
Oddly "The South Side Signal" Babylon's local newspaper, which noted many other events at the WKC clubhouse and cited animal news like a pooch's alleged suicide on the train tracks, a dead raccoon, an owl shot stealing chickens, and every dog bite or attack of a rabid "brute" in the Village made no mention of Sensation's passing. Closest reference is a notation that James Mortimer, WKC Superintendent, sailed for Liverpool June 10, 1887 and would be gone for 2 months.
Flagpole Funeral: Westminster owns a distinct old photo of the white flagpole that shows a darker tripod stand. It gives a glimpse of the Pointer weather vane. This picture (not shown here) is on p. 21 of Mr. Stifel's book- The Dog Show: 125 Years of Westminster. On the back of the photo someone wrote that Sensation was buried at the foot of the flagstaff in front of the Westminster clubhouse at Babylon, Long Island with "many other Pointers that cost a mint of money were the greatest their day". Several othe r vi ntage photos exist of the clubhouse that show the flagpole on the f ront lawn. Sketchesfrom several antique journals situate it in the same position.
Will we find a dog mass grave? Nope. Last April Dr. Dan Davis, Stony Brook University geophysicist while taking ground penetrating radar readings in hopes of finding signs of the clubhouse foundation at my proposed site stressed that the 122 year old grave would be too close to Southards Pond- about 200 ft. away-and bone decomposes more quickly in the presence of groundwater.
Ewell Family Flagpole: Is this goat cart picture a close up of Sensation's tomb marker? I think so. James L. Ewell bought the 64 acre property from Westminster in 1904. I have fantastic photos borrowed from his great granddaughter. Some are marked Babylon; others remain suspiciously Babylon. Included is a pair of unmarked photos showing a boy in a cart pulled by a goat. A flagpole with a similar dark tripod is behind them, but the top is cut off so you can't see if there's a trademark Pointer weather vane. However, the trees are much like those in the background of the WKC photo mentioned above. These trees also look like fruit trees, and Ewell did have an orchard.
Furthermore in 2 other Ewell pictures dated 1910 (not shown) the same boy with the same smirk is sitting in a car filled with his relatives. The car is definitely in front of the former WKC clubhouse in Babylon. My logic may be flawed but these car photos plus the tree line lead me to believe the boy and his goat are parked directly on top of Sensation's grave.
Sensational news….but, and this is a "significant" but… the boy and goat may be the most zoomed in and newest photos of Westminster's hallowed burial plot, but without more landmarks or a panorama of Southards Pond, I can't match up the precise location, so I am back to square 1.
For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270): "Tiger Lily" in Cage 25 is a smart brindle Boxer mix. She sits with a verbal command and downs when you point to the ground. She has tiger striped markings. This comical male Corgi mix resembles a black Beagle. The shelter is located at 51 Lamar St. W. Babylon.
Cats: "Sam" & "Alec"- friendly declawed brothers in C-10; "Prince"-mackerel tabby C-9.
More Dogs: "Amelia"- white Pit; "Tyra"-Rottie mix; "Emma" purebred Rottweiler; "Sarge"- athletic Pit mix.
Mark Your Calendar: Almost Home Animal Rescue's fabulous Chinese Auction at the Smithtown Elks Lodge- Sat. March 21 from 11:30 to 4- over 160 Great Prizes including 4 VIP tickets to the John Stewart Daily Show- Call 627-3665.
Last Hope Animal Rescue Low Cost Vaccine Clinic at Cozy Pet, Deer Park Ave. N. Babylon on Sun. Mar. 29 from 12 to 3.Prices at www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org or call 669-2099.