Love Conquers All
A poignant tableau will play out soon at Mountain View Cemetery when a faithful dog again takes up his watch over the grave of his little mistress.
Bunny Williams of Falls Village has taken possession of a white marble sculpture, stolen from the grave years ago and rediscovered on the website of a New York antiques dealer. The dog was given to Williams to bring back to Canaan and is now stored on her estate. It is being donated to the nonprofit Friends of the Canaan History Center and will be restored to its rightful place in April.
The story began 141 years ago when Mary Georgianna Peet, 19, departed Canaan for a gay visit to Saratoga Springs, then a watering spot for rich and fashionable members of Victorian society. Once there, Georgie, as she was popularly known, suffered an attack of appendicitis and quickly succumbed to peritonitis.
“The shock was even greater because less than a week had elapsed since, full of joyous hopes and anticipation of pleasure, the bright, happy girl had left home for a visit to Saratoga Springs,” The Connecticut Western News reported.
When her body was returned to Canaan, her funeral cortege “was the largest seen in the vicinity for many years, stretching to one-third of a mile” from her home—a stately columned building on Church Terrace in Canaan—to the cemetery.
The daughter of George W. Peet of Canaan, and his wife, Mary Adam, Georgie was, by all accounts, a vivacious, friendly girl. The obituary speaks of the funerary flowers wilting in the noonday sun, symbolic of a life cut tragically short.
“Hereafter a little mound of earth, a cold unfeeling stone, a brief inscription thus:
will be all that will mark her resting place,” wrote editor John Rodemeyer. But Rodemeyer was wrong. The elder Peets, perhaps inspired by Georgie’s love for her own dog, purchased a sculpture of a rough-coated recumbent dog to sleep with her forever. The two slumbered together for more than 125 years until regular visitors to the cemetery were shocked to see that the dog was gone. All that was left was a depression in the ground where the dog had lain.
“All my friends had told me that I had to come to the cemetery and see the stone dog,” said renowned interior designer Bunny Williams of Falls Village. “So, when I was driving by, I would always make a loop and see that adorable dog. I found it so sweet. There are a lot of carved dogs, but not many in white marble and not with that wonderful curly hair. It was beautifully carved.”
Then one day it was gone, leaving its admirers shocked and dismayed. The theft was reported to the police but the dog proved impossible to trace.
“Years went by and then Nancy McCabe called me, hysterical, and said, ‘There’s the dog!’” Williams reported. A white marble stone sculpture had appeared on the website of HM Luther in New York City. Williams knew the dealer and approached the owner, Daniel Harrison, to tell him she believed the dog might have been stolen. Harrison, appalled, immediately removed the dog, for which he had paid $5,000, from the floor of his shop and his website. Discussion about bringing the dog back to Canaan died with the price tag. It’s return came about this year when Harrison decided to retire and donated the dog back to the town.
“My husband and I had a garden shop and traveled around a lot to other shops that sold garden ornaments,” Williams said. “There is a tremendous number of things in cemeteries—urns and carvings. There started to be a big ring of people who would go around and steal them. It was happening a lot. Usually there is no one in cemeteries so it was easy to take things and people throughout the industry got arrested for it.”
So prevalent was the problem, that dealers soon grew chary of buying anything carved from white marble. “I never would buy white marble objects, never wanted an urn with a swag on it,” she reported. “People were concerned about it and it has stopped now.”
Even with the trade in funerary art diminished, care will be taken when the dog is returned to his mistress’ grave to ensure that it cannot be stolen again. The dog will be attached to a heavy cement base that will be sunk below the earth to prevent its removal.
Williams said the dog sculpture is an oddity. “People have dog sculptures, but not out of white marble,” she said. Canaan is renowned for its white limestone, which is so hard it is sometimes referred to as white marble. Did Georgie’s bereaved father, a wealthy lawyer with a finger in many pies—including banking, politics, the Ore Mining Company of Salisbury and the Housatonic Railroad—avail himself of the talents of a local stone carver to turn a block of native stone into an image of Georgie’s beloved dog?
Poor George William Peet did not long survive his daughter. He died, age 57, in 1882, leaving an “immense fortune” to his widow and son, Francis Adam Peet. “Frank” Peet married twice and left one daughter, Jessie Irene, who disappears from the record. He died, aged 44, in 1896, There are no known direct descendants of the George W. Peet family to be present when Georgie’s dog comes home.