The Dog That Saved a Doctor

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The raging river was well past flood stage and the storm was already in the record books when the young Medfield doctor slipped from the banks and plunged into the white capped currents.

He was under the rapids and his lungs were filling with water when he saw, from the corner of his eyes, his faithful dog and companion, “Jack.” All he remembers was holding onto Jack for dear life and seeing the shore come closer and closer. Reaching the river bank, he was able to grab onto tree branches protruding into the water and pull himself up onto the bank with Jack still by his side. The event he never forgot; nor the fact that it was Jack, who dove into the river after him. His life had been saved by his dog.

He came to Medfield in 1886 at the age of 23 and became Medfield’s beloved doctor for 48 years until his death in 1934. His name was Doctor Arthur Mitchell. With him was his faithful pit bull, “Jack.” In Dr. Mitchell’s will, he stipulated that Jack was to be buried beside him in the family plot in Temple, Maine.

Dr. Mitchell arrived in Medfield after studying a year at Dartmouth and four years at the then Boston University Medical School. In Medfield, he purchased the estate of Mary Sewell on 505 Main St., today, the site of Medfield’s newest store, “Butterfly Tree.”  Today, Mitchell’s house on 505 Main St. is one of the most historic in town. It sits on the land originally granted to Ralph Wheelock, the “Founder of Medfield.”

The house itself was first built in 1725 for William Plimpton. It then passed through five owners until it was purchased by Dr. Mitchell. Local lore has it that Dr. Mitchell was the first one in Medfield to own an automobile. Attached to the house was an ell and a large barn. A fire in October of 1972 destroyed the barn and ell. The current brick 2-story office/ barbershop building was then constructed.

Dr. Mitchell, made his house calls, at first in his horse and buggy, with Jack always by his side.  His coachman was Alexander Beckwith who, said Dr. Mitchell, “faced with me without complaint bitter cold and cruel stormy nights for so many winters.” Beckwith was the father of William and Wesley Beckwith, who died during WWI and for whom the Medfield American Legion Post 110 is named.

Dr. Mitchell died July 24, 1934 as a resident of Medfield. He was cremated in Boston and his ashes were interred in the Mitchell Cemetery of his hometown of Temple, Maine. Just a few feet next to his grave stone is the grave stone of “Jack,”. The inscription on Jack’s stone reads: “Jack, a faithful friend and companion of Arthur Mitchell. In sunshine and in storm alike he was ever on guard.”

A painting of Jack was completed by famed local artist John A.S. Monks, on Dr. Mitchell’s request, and it hung in Dr. Mitchell’s office. In Mitchell’s will, the painting was left to his housekeeper, Mrs. Mary C. Haskell.

It was later donated to the Medfield Historical Society. For the next couple of months it will hang in the Medfield Public Library for the Medfield public to view. Also framed and placed next to the portrait of “Jack,” is Jack’s dog collar, which can also be seen in the painting.

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Our thanks to Medfield Patch writer Richard DeSorgher for contributing this piece.

5 thoughts on “The Dog That Saved a Doctor”

  1. Great story. I am going to take a ride to Medfield and see this. Pitbulls rule. Love them so much and I get so heated when I hear people say ignorant stuff about them even after I tell them story after story about heroic pits, they refuse to see the truth.

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  2. We certainly have come a long way from praising this breed to its fall from grace simply due to misinformation and unfounded hysteria. The dogs haven’t changed but the fickle humans have. But I think, the light is finally beginning to stream through the cracks entrenched in the false claims about this breed. Fortunately, sunlight (truth) is the best disinfectant against toxicity.

    I love these stories. I don’t care what breed they present. I just love to hear about the incredible bond that some canine/human partners have. Any one of us could nurture and develop this bond with our canines. The problem is, being a great companion is a two way street and although dogs have mastered their part of the relationship a long time ago we humans are still fumbling on our end and have a lot to learn. Fortunately, our canines are patiently waiting for us to “catch up.”

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  3. Jack, you were a faithful friend and a very good one at that! I have loved and rescued several Pitbulls and I can tell you they are on guard and protective to the end. I just lost a faithful friend who lived with me and protected me for 11 years. My heart is full…..it holds my precious dogs because the right place to bury them is in your heart!
    I’ll remember Jack. Thanks for this story. Sandy Hines

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