The cast members of Martin City Melodrama's production of "Jim the Wonderdog."

A Tale of Wonder – Local Melodrama tells the true story of psychic pup

“The show gives people, especially children, the power to believe in something they can’t see.”

By Kady Cramer

Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company’s 38th season will feature Jim the Wonder Dog, a multi-mutt show that tells the true story of a Marshall, Missouri dog who had a truly  talent for predicting the future. Located at 702 Blue Ridge Ext. in Grandview, the production will run from June 17 – August 6. 

Jim the Wonder Dog was a pureblood Llewellyn setter born in Louisiana. Becoming the pet of owner Sam VanArsdale, Jim proved to be a marvelous hunting dog, knowing where there were quail, and refusing to hunt where there were none. VanArsdale kept track of birds shot over his dog and stopped counting at 5,000, a total no other dog had ever reached. Outdoor Life Magazine termed Jim “The Hunting Dog of the Country.”

Jim with his owner Jim Van Arsdale.

Incredibly, Jim could locate a car when Sam called out its make or color. From a crowd, Jim could select the “man who sells hardware,” and the one who “takes care of sick people,” or the “visitor from Kansas City.” He even chose the winner of seven Kentucky Derbies, The World Series, and the sex of unborn babies. Jim even performed at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. 

Newspaper and magazine writers came to witness Jim and were stunned. An article referring to Jim as “The Wonder Dog” was written in the Gazette of Kemmerer in 1935. Jim’s fame spread across the United States and he was eventually featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

In addition to a full-length book written about the Wonder Dog, there is a museum dedicated to Jim’s adventures and accomplishments as well as a Memorial Garden that houses a bronze statue of Jim located in Marshall, Missouri.

The site of Jim the Wonder Dog Memorial Garden in Marshall, Missouri is the place once occupied by the Ruff Hotel, where Jim lived with his owner and the hotel’s manager Sam VanArsdale.

The Martin City Melodrama production will feature local senior rescue paw-formers alongside the local actors and musicians. Rod May of May Milling Company will make a guest appearance performing the trumpet. May has been playing the trumpet for over 50 years and has been in the Bonner Springs Kicks Band for almost 30. 

Melodrama Artistic Director Jeanne Beechwood met May while purchasing dog food for the theater’s senior rescue dogs. 

“The show will be very interactive, and I love the fact that two Grandview merchants can get together and join creative forces,” said Beechwood. “The show gives people, especially children, the power to believe in something they can’t see. Is that religious? Is that spiritual? Or is it flat out magic?”

The theater’s mission is to work with actors who have special needs, uniquely abled individuals, and senior rescue pubs in original theatrical projects. Reservations are required. Visit or call (913) 642-7576 for more details. Information on how to foster senior dogs will be available. 


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