In Episode 314 Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger Visit Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, to explore the story behind a small statue of a dog named Rover. The statue commemorates a dog who waited patiently for his owner to return after heading inside the hospital many years ago.
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[DOG BARKING / PANTING]
JEFF: Awww Ray, you brought your dog Margarita with you today!
RAY: I did! I thought she could join us on our stroll through downtown Hartford, Connecticut.
JEFF: Is she a golden?
RAY: She’s a lab/Pyrenees mix.
JEFF: Got it. She’s adorable. And loyal to the end, I bet.
RAY: She’s a great dog. Very sweet. Always there to greet you when you come home.
JEFF: I’m glad you brought her. Because today we’re chasing the story of another dog over here by Hartford Hospital.
RAY: This hospital complex is huge! There are hospital buildings all around us.
JEFF: We’re heading for the main entrance on Seymour Street.
RAY: I don’t think I can go inside with my dog.
JEFF: No need. We’re staying outside today. Our destination is right over there.
RAY: Awww cute. There’s a black statue of a dog. About the size of a lab. Pretty similar in size to Margarita here.
JEFF: That’s Rover. A dog who waited outside of the hospital for his owner… forever.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger and welcome to Episode 314 of the New England Legends podcast.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast wherever you get your podcasts because we don’t want you to miss a thing. And if you’d post a review for us, we’d be most grateful. Those reviews help us rise up in a crowded sea of podcasts.
JEFF: We’ll chase this dog Rover and his story right after this quick word from our sponsor.
RAY: Okay, the life-sized dog statue is really cute. There’s no question.
JEFF: It is.
RAY: But it looks a little odd sitting out here by the window. It’s not the kind of statue you see at other hospitals. It’s not that prominent either. It’s just sitting here. Most people walking in and out of the hospital hardly seem to notice it.
JEFF: I agree. There’s not much too this little oddity, but the story behind it is profound enough that the statue exists. To find out how it got here, let’s head back to 1973 and visit the hospital.
RAY: It’s early September of 1973 here in downtown Hartford. Richard Nixon is president of the United States. “Let’s Get it On,” by Marvin Gaye is number one in music. The American economy is in tough shape. Inflation is rising, there’s a gas shortage, and people are struggling. It’s a stressful time.
JEFF: And Hartford Hospital is busy. I’m not sure how much of a factor the economy is playing on how busy the hospital is, but there’s people coming and going here today. There’s pregnant women racing in to deliver. There’s kids with broken bones and cuts needing stitches. And all kinds of people coming for tests and other illnesses.
RAY: That’s the way of hospitals.
JEFF: Check it out. There’s a man about to walk in to the hospital with his dog.
RAY: I know they don’t allow pets inside.
MAN: Wait out here, Rover. I’ll be out soon.
RAY: Wow! What a good dog. The pooch just sat down right near the door while his owner walks inside.
JEFF: An hour passes and Rover hasn’t moved from this spot. He’s lying there patiently waiting. A few passers by have patted his head, which he seems to like well enough. But the dog doesn’t move.
RAY: Oh look. His owner is coming out now.
MAN: Come on, Rover. Let’s go home.
[WOOF / PANTING FAEDS]
JEFF: That really is something. The dog sat here the whole time without a leash and didn’t move.
RAY: It’s now the second week of September. A Tuesday afternoon. Patients and visitors come and go through Hartford Hospital’s main entrance. And… look here comes that man and his dog once again.
MAN: I’ll be back soon, Rover. You stay.
JEFF: Just like last week, Rover sits quietly by the hospital door. Some people walking by pat his heads. Some kids try to get the dog to play with them, but Rover stays put like he was told. One person even tries to bribe the dog with food, but Rover is stoic.
RAY: Looks like his owner is coming back out.
MAN: Good boy, Rover! Let’s go.
RAY: This scene replays again a week later. The man comes for tests.
MAN: Stay, Rover.
RAY: Then leaves an hour or so later.
MAN: Good boy, Rover! Let’s go.
JEFF: Another week. Another visit. Rover is becoming a fixture in front of the hospital.
RAY: I’m not sure what’s wrong with Rover’s owner, but he’s been inside longer than usual.
JEFF: I hope he’s okay.
JEFF: Night falls. The dog’s owner has been inside all afternoon. He’s never taken this long. Some hospital staff members come outside and try to lure Rover away from the building, but the dog refuses to budge.
RAY: Even when rain begins to fall, Rover stays put. A hospital worker just came outside to offer the dog a bit of a sandwich. Rover takes a nibble, but then returns to his place waiting for his owner to return. All night long the dog waits. Obviously something is very wrong with his owner inside.
JEFF: It’s now the following morning. Hospital staff marvel at how loyal Rover is to his owner. The staff try to get the dog to come away from the door for food or to play with them, but Rover won’t have it. The dog lays there with a sad face waiting for his owner to return… and that brings us back to today.
JEFF: This story was told and retold so many times that Hartford Hospital decided to erect a statue to Rover. Ray, go ahead and read the plaque on the other side of the glass.
RAY: It says: Hartford Hospital’s more than 160-year history includes the story of Rover, a dog who was completely devoted to his master. The story goes that a patient who made frequent visits to the hospital for treatments would leave his dog outside to wait. No matter how long the patient was away, the dog would never budge from his post, despite encouraging words from staff members, who would attempt to pet and play with him. Rover loyally and patiently waited in front of the hospital for his master to emerge. Rover represents love, devotion and commitment. Hartford Hospital keeps this legend alive by keeping a statue of Rover at the main hospital entrance, as well as at our Education Resource Center. Rover represents our own devotion and commitment to our patients, their families, and our community.
JEFF: So basically even the sign acknowledges that we don’t know much about the facts behind the legend. There probably was a dog. What are the chances the dog’s name was Rover? And we don’t even know who the actual patient was.
RAY: But you see the statue and the sign, and you can imagine what that must have looked like at some point in the past. A dog waiting for his owner out of love and devotion.
JEFF: So this legend is almost identical to a story in Japan of Hachiko the dog. Hachiko was a Japanese Akita dog who lived from 1923 to 1935. His owner was a professor at Tokyo Imperial University who brought the dog to live with him in the city. The dog met his owner every day at Shibuya Station after work without fail. This continued until May 21, 1925 when Hachiko’s owner died of a cerebral hemorrhage at work. For the next ten years the dog went to the station every day to wait for his owner to return.
RAY: Today there’s a statue of Hachiko in Tokyo. His statue and story are a monument to loyalty and service.
JEFF: If only people could be as good as dogs, right? Rover here, even he’s just the idea of pure loyalty, is a reminder to us to be as good as we can be, especially when it comes to the care of our loved ones. Do you think your dog, Margaritta, would wait for you like that?
RAY: I’m sure she would, wouldn’t you Margaritta?
JEFF: Margaritta… come back!
RAY: And that takes us to After the Legend where we explore this week’s story a little deeper and sometimes veer off course.
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If you’d like to see some pictures of the Rover statue at Hartford Hospital, click on the link in our Episode description, or head to our Web site and click on Episode 314.
We’d like to thank Marv Anderson for lending his voice acting talents this week. Thank you to our sponsors, our patreon patrons, and our theme music is by John Judd.
Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.