The Idle American: Keeping Watch Over the Dead


Instead of a junkyard dog, Rusty is a graveyard canine who chooses to wander around the 27,000 resting places on the 48-acre Oakland Cemetery, where dirt was first turned in 1892.

They generally give us the benefit of the doubt even when we are dead wrong, wagging their tails while licking the hands that feed them. In their way, they pledge unending devotion, no matter what.

One doesn’t have to look very far into literature or incline their ears to very many songs to hear dogs revered by the masses, but reviled by some who have no use for them.

Elvis Presley reminded some canines that they were “nothing but hound dogs,” and an expression from the lips of thoughtless people suggests that some situations “shouldn’t happen to a dog.”….


   A canine defender compared dogs with cats. “When owners say ‘sit’ to their dogs, they usually sit. Extend the same command to a cat, and the pet responds that it’ll ‘get back with us later.’”

We who admit to being dog fanciers–and the same is probably true for feline owners–feel strongly about our choices. Reasons do not have to be given from either quarter.

Truth to tell, we don’t have dogs; they have us….



Don Newbury

All this aside, dogs assist the living in many critical ways. Think about it, you never hear about “drug-sniffing cats.” And don’t expect even the most muscular cat to join a dogsled team.

Thanks to the inquiring mind of Sharon Grigsby, brilliant Dallas Morning News journalistwe learn that at least one dog assists the dead as well.

His name is Rusty, and he’s found his place in life. Instead of a junkyard dog, he’s a graveyard canine who chooses to wander around the 27,000 resting places on the 48-acre Oakland Cemetery, where dirt was first turned in 1892….


   Rusty and a pack of four other dogs wandered into the historic south Dallas cemetery some three years ago. Almost immediately, animal control personnel rounded up the animals, sans Rusty.

For more than six months, they tried repeatedly to capture Rusty, but he fell for none of their enticements. They set up video cameras and traps – not to mention his favorite treats – and nothing worked.

Finally, Rusty’s file became inactive….


   He has become a celebrity dog, says Monica Newbury (no relation). “Vets are offering free services, and visitors to the cemetery are bringing treats by the truckload,” Monica said.

She warns, however, that Rusty gets along just fine without cuddling or petting, sometimes growling so folks will keep their distance. He not only roams the premises, but also barks when anyone enters the cemetery….


   Several have offered to adopt the sixty-pound collie mix, but no dice. The doggy in the window has a price; Rusty is not for sale.

The old cemetery has fallen on hard times, and it’s hard to keep up with volunteer help.

A gift of cash or pledge to work honors Rusty and is invaluable to a storied cemetery. Interred there are numerous state representatives, eight mayors, a senator and numerous other luminaries. Many markers have names synonymous with street signs in Dallas and Highland Park….


   Others include the founding president of Dallas Power and Light (now TXU). Two recently- discovered granite markers–6-feet tall and 10-feet wide–mark resting places of persons who provided major funding for the establishment of Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.

The graves were obscured by brush and brambles back in 2019, when the cemetery board declared bankruptcy, clearing the way for a new beginning. Monica and Armando Gonzalez Jr. work par-time to organize burials, meet family needs, keep records and maintain the grounds. They urge folks to visit the cemetery, and to bring along weed-eaters when they come. (More information about volunteering or making donations can be found at

Persons helping are honoring the deceased and paying tribute to a unique service dog. Monica and Armando hope visitors will at least get sight of Rusty, working until they are, well, dog-tired….


   Dr. Newbury was a longtime university president. He has written columns of humor and inspiration since 2003, and still is an after-dinner speaker throughout Texas. Contact: 817-447-3872. Email: Facebook: Don Newbury 

Please click HERE to find Don’s inspirational and humorous memoir, Life by the Seat of the Pants, on Amazon.


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