Legendary dog earns spot in Natchez history

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2001

In most ways, Monty was not a remarkable dog. He was half cocker spaniel and half spitz. He entered the world as a ball of white fur and was slow to learn, finally barking when he was about 6-months-old, his owner recalls.

Caroline Benoist was a teenager when Monty came into her family in 1945. Love at first sight was mutual between the puppy and his new best friend.

In fact, the ties were so strong that Caroline found the puppy tagging along with her to Natchez High School on Homochitto Street, where Monty became a popular member of the Class of 1951.

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Caroline shared some clippings from her scrapbook on a recent trip to Natchez for her 50th high school class reunion. The story of her Monty and the school experience reminds us of a gentleness that generation enjoyed.

The dog’s activities became legend among those who knew him. He attended classes, not missing a day of school, the writer of a news item claims on the day of his graduation.

At football games, Monty – who was named for Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, a World War II British hero – pranced alongside the majorettes in front of the band and sat among the pep squad members to add his perky barks to the cheers.

When a cast from Blue Mountain College visited the high school to perform &uot;Midsummer Night’s Dream,&uot; Monty made what was described as a brief but dramatic appearance. The show stopped and the curtain was drawn after he sauntered onto the stage. The audience exploded with applause. And, of course, the show went on.

His owner indeed was his best friend, but Monty became everyone’s friend, Caroline recalls. He often chose the library as the place to be during the last period of the day. If he snoozed through the final bell, someone was sure to let him know the day had come to an end.

Ominously, Monty wandered away from home on a private journey when he was a young dog. Caroline recalls the rally from around the neighborhood to find him. A notice in the newspaper and the aid of watchful townspeople brought results. A friend of the family spied the pup on the road to Washington and picked him up for the ride home.

On Senior Day at the high school, Principal Margaret Martin – for whom the building later was named – presented a diploma to Monty.

Ever the good sport and avid participant, Monty wore his mortar board with a tassle hanging over his left ear. As was his habit, he napped through most of the ceremony, but at the appropriate time he came to attention, walked to the front of the stage and gave the principal the kind of big smile that only a friendly dog can produce.

His diploma noted Monty’s five years of perfect attendance, with no bad marks for chewing gum, no demerits for misbehaving. In fact, the diploma reads that he graduated with honors.

Best friend Caroline was to go off to Sophie Newcomb in New Orleans in the fall to begin her college career. Monty was not expected to accompany her.

As fate would have it, he died about six weeks after graduating and could not have gone anyway. A car hit and killed him as he walked about half a block from home. Thus Monty’s story ends poignantly. Nevertheless, the saga has a unique place in Natchez history.

Joan Gandy is special projects director of The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3549 or by e-mail to joan.gandy@natchezdemocrat.com.