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Bozo

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

April 1942 may have been the only time, in Rock Island, at least, where the obituary came first, followed by a wake, and then a death.

Bozo was a stray mongrel who appeared in downtown Rock Island one day in the mid-30s. He was arrested on a vagrancy count and sent to jail for not having a city dog tag. A compassionate officer bailed him out. From then on, Bozo turned into a model citizen. He crossed streets only at corners when the light was green. He took up residence at the Senator Grill. He loved parades and rides on the Rock Island Ferry, and hated cats. He bummed candy bars from passersby but was careful to balance his diet by regular visits to the butcher shop.

Although he belonged to all of Rock Island, Bozo made two or three special friends. It was these friends who decided, when Bozo was growing blind and infirm, that he deserved a peaceful death. They decided to have the dog put to sleep on April 8th, 1942. The Rock Island Argus printed his obituary on April 6th, though his birth and early years were a bit sketchy. A casket was built to his measurements at a cost of fifteen dollars.

Bozo was to be laid to rest in the pet cemetery on Route Six east of the Moline airport. Mrs. Helen Feather of Rock Island had already bought a plot for Bozo earlier when her own dog died.

On April 7th, the Argus announced that last rites would be performed at the cemetery at two o'clock the following day. That morning, Bozo would be taken to the Rock Island Pet Hospital, given a last bath, and then put to sleep.

A few well-meaning Rock Islanders protested. "How come when a person goes blind, they give him a dog," a young boy asked, but when a dog goes blind, they kill it?" Grownups understood that it was in Bozo's best interest. "Suppose he were to get hit by a car crossing the street?" one of his friends explained.

One hundred and fifty people showed up for Bozo's funeral on Thursday, more than for any other funeral that week, setting a record that may still hold for attendance at a dog funeral.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Community
Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.