By Amanda Young
While some people consider dogs mere pets, Atherton resident Phoebe Rowles takes to heart the expression "a dog is man's best friend."
"Jill [my dog always kept her eyes on me," Ms. Rowles said. "She was like a person: such a companion."
And more than a companion to one woman, the 15-year-old yellow Labrador retriever became a friend to Ms. Rowles' neighbors in the Lloyden Park neighborhood and to town staff who work in the nearby administrative offices, and who saw Jill on her daily walks in the area.
"Jill and I walked every day for 15 years, through the park and to the town center," Ms. Rowles said. "Some public works fellows said that if they didn't see us, they knew that they were late to work."
An incident in 2004 especially brought Jill close to Atherton residents. While Ms. Rowles attended to a sick tree in Lloyden Park, Jill managed to escape.
"The whole town searched for Jill," Ms. Rowles said. "Everybody was so concerned about her."
A woman found Jill walking around El Camino Real, and after four hours, the dog was reunited with Ms. Rowles.
On April 25, when Jill died, many in town were saddened, among them town arborist Kathy Hughes Anderson, who suggested planting a tree in Jill's memory.
"I knew that [Rowles was having a very difficult time losing her dog," Ms. Anderson said. "Your pets become like your babies."
On June 12, many who knew Jill attended a ceremonial planting of a dogwood tree at the entrance to Lloyden Park.
Steve Tyler, Atherton's public works superintendent, read a poem titled, "The dogs who have shared our lives" by Linda Barnes.
"I still have tears in my eyes when I think about Jill, but when I see the tree, there are no tears," Ms. Rowles said. "I feel so much gratitude for this little slice of heaven where there are so many caring and loving people."