ROLLINSFORD, N.H. (AP) — A school named to the National Register of Historic Places has an unusual feature on its grounds: the gravesite of a dog considered to be the father of the American Cocker Spaniel.
The marble block at the edge of the Rollinsford Grade School’s playground marks the remains of Obo II, who was born in the United States in 1882 and died in 1895. He was the offspring of two cocker spaniel show dogs from England. His owner, James Willey, owned part of the land now occupied by the school.
The designation by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for the nearly 80-year-old Colonial Revival school was announced Monday. The school still has its copper-roof cupola, its chalkboards’ frames and troughs and most of the original doors, woodwork and intercom system. It was the prototype of an architectural firm’s design that was used on at least 14 other schools in New Hampshire and Maine.
The school’s historic register application discusses the dog’s gravesite, which predates the school’s construction but serves as a gathering spot for schoolchildren during recess and after school, "even when this practice was discouraged by the school faculty."
It wasn’t clear how much of an influence the gravesite had on the decision-making process.
"While a dog’s grave would not normally contribute to a school’s National Register eligibility, the grave of Obo II has long been a gathering spot (and still is) for the students of the school during recess, often used as a base for tag and other games," said Peter Michaud of the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, an alumnus of the school. "Because of its association of use by the children of the school, the gravesite was listed as a contributing object."
Obo II, who had a glossy black coat, was shown at several important dog shows and won many prizes. He won a silver cup for Best Cocker Spaniel at the New Haven Kennel Club in 1884.
An article in the American Kennel Register that year refers to him as a "nice, compactly built little fellow, perhaps a trifle short in the back … His head is a little strong, but it is nicely carried; his coat is dense and flat, and his legs and feet first-class."
His offspring also became successful show dogs.