on the banks of the picturesque Big Head River lies
the final resting place of Beautiful Joe, the hero
in Margaret Marshall Saunders book of the same name.
Beautiful Joe was an ordinary mutt that could have
made a wonderful addition to any loving family. This
was not to be the case, however, as his master was
cruel and often abused him. Then one lucky day a
local miller, William Moore saw the pathetic
looking, lop eared creature and rescued him the took
him to his home in Meaford.
Some years later in 1892, Margaret Marshall Saunders
was visiting her brother and sister-in-law (who was
William Moore's daughter) when she heard the story
of Beautiful Joe. She was so moved by the
story that she decided to write a fictionalized
version of it. Her novel Beautiful Joe was
published in 1893; by 1900 it had sold 800,000
copies in United States, 40,000 in Canada, and
100,000 in United Kingdom. By 1939 Beautiful Joe
had been translated into at least 10 languages and
had sold 7,000,000 copies.
In 1963 Beautiful Joe Park was created on 8.5 acres
of land along the Big Head River at the junction of
Edwin and Berry Streets in Meaford.
The same year the
park was designated as a historical landmark by the
Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario.
During the next 30 years, with the addition of a
pavilion and playground equipment, it developed into
a favourite area for family and group picnics as
well as some events sponsored by the town and local
In 1994 the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society was
formed with a vision to establish an international
tourist attraction and historic site. The purpose of
the park became to promote the humane treatment of
all animals, and to honour outstanding and
courageous canines and their relationship with
humans. An international memorial to working dogs
was erected, and in 2001 a memorial to police K-9
Units was added.
Then on May 11,
2002 another tribute in the form of a monument made
of two slabs of marble on a
concrete bed and shaped like the pentagon was
unveiled to honour the canine units that
participated in the search, recovery and rescue
after the tragic events of September 11. It was
dedicated by a member of the New York K-9 Unit, who
had lost his partner at the World Trade Centre.
Events at the
park now include the blessing of animals, dog shows,
K-9 demonstrations, animal clinic and general fund
raising events. There are plans in the future to
beautify the park with a new
that will include meeting, performance and
educational facilities. They also hope to build a
footbridge across the river and improve the park
Sections of the
park are organized into stations that hold 250
memorial plaques each. These attractive plaques are
sold for $150.00 each, including engraving an
installation, and are being sold to anyone who would
like a memorial to their cherished pet.
You might say the Meaford Park is 'going to the
dogs' but also to their owners, and all animal