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FBI Director Was Hard on Criminals, Soft on Dogs

July 18, 1990

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) _ J. Edgar Hoover was hard on criminals but mushy-soft over his dogs, say the folks at a local pet cemetery.

Seven of the late FBI director’s beloved pooches are buried under the shady oaks of Aspin Hill Memorial Park in this Washington suburb. The weathered headstone on the Hoover plot pays tribute to the memory of one canine companion named ″Spee De Bozo.″

The inscription reads: ″Our Best Friend.″

Spee De Bozo departed for doggie heaven in May 1934. A couple of months later, Hoover’s private mourning dissolved in public triumph over the news that federal agents had gunned down his nemesis, gangster John Dillinger, outside a Chicago movie theater.

Hoover was never known to have visited his dogs’ gravesite, although an FBI telephone operator whose dog was buried at Aspin Hill would check on the Hoover plot occasionally to make sure it was well-kept.

While making life difficult for bank robbers, antiwar protesters, civil rights activists, suspected subversives and personal political enemies, Hoover was disarmed by the tail-wagging entreaties of ″G-Boy″ and ″Cindy,″ his last two Cairn terriers.

″Naturally, they are spoiled,″ he once confessed. ″They boss me around.″

A few months before he died in 1972, Hoover sent a letter on FBI stationery to the pet cemetery’s owner, S. Alfred Nash. ″My dogs have brought me much pleasure, relaxation and companionship, each in his own way,″ wrote Hoover, a lifelong bachelor.

Hoover’s will included a request that Clyde Tolson, his chief deputy and trusted confidant, find a suitable home for the two terriers.

The Hoover dogs are not the only celebrities at the 70-year-old Aspin Hill cemetery, which is owned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a non-profit animal rights organization.

It is the final resting place of ″Jiggs,″ the canine mascot of the old ″Our Gang″ comedies who died in 1938, and ″Timmie,″ a cat who lived in Washington’s National Press Building and counted senators, judges and movie stars among his friends.

Timmie’s owner, the late newspaper correspondent Bascom N. Timmons, buried 129 stray animals at Aspin Hill, including 80 cats.

Most of the 35,000 to 40,000 animals interred at Aspin Hill are dogs and cats with such names as ″Darling Skippy,″ ″Our Fluffy,″ ″Tinker Bell,″ ″Lollipop,″ ″Sir Toby Belch,″ ″Queenie″ and ″Mustard - Mommie’s Baby Boy″ inscribed on their tombstones.

There also are 17 horses and hundreds of pet rabbits, monkeys, parrots, turkeys, goats, hamsters, guinea pigs, frogs, goldfish, turtles and snakes. And there are graves of 13 human beings who chose to be buried close to their pets. The ashes of one couple are interred in front of a mausoleum containing the tomb of their Boston bull terrier, Mickey.

On the grounds is a shelter for live animals and a small ″funeral home″ where former owner Nash once offered non-denominational prayers for the deceased and solace to their owners. ″A little bit of Protestant, a little bit of Jewish, a little bit of Catholic, mixed together with the religion thrown out,″ he said.

The current manager, London-born Gary Baverstock, 25, reads a simple, all- purpose eulogy as part of a funeral package that averages $400 to $600 for everything, including a small pine box lined with ruffled white taffeta.

James Thompson has been chief groundskeeper, gravedigger and mortician at Aspin Hill for the past 22 years, and he loves his job.

″Animals give you true love,″ he said, ″and I feel sorry to see people lose their pets after they’ve given so much love and caring. What hurts most is when a little child breaks down and cries. I get a little choked up myself.″