AUBURN, Ala. -- The death of Musketeer, the last of 150 stray dogs that lived off the $12 million estate of an eccentric oil company heiress, has cleared the way for Auburn University to inherit the fortune.
The late Eleanor Ritchey, spinster granddaughter of Quaker State Refining Co. founder Philip John Bayer, adopted the pack of dogs -- most of them stray or unwanted -- before she died in 1968 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Except for 1,707 pairs of shoes and 1,224 boxes of stationery donated to the Salvation Army, the 58-year-old Miss Ritchey, who had never married, left her entire fortune to the dogs -- including 113,328 shares of Quaker Oil common stock, her home, numerous real estate holdings, bonds and treasury bills.
Miss Richey's will stipulated the money would go to Auburn when her last dog died or 20 years passed -- whichever came first.
Auburn officials learned Monday of the death of Musketeer, a 17-year-old stray plagued with a worm-ridden heart, runny eyes and wobbly legs.
Musketeer was the last of the pack that had been kept at a ranch in Jupiter, Fla. He had lived alone in a $26,000 concrete dog house since Miss Musketeer died last summer.
Warren Williams, 61, a $17,000-a-year caretaker for the dogs for 13 years, said Musketeer died of 'just old age.'
Williams said he fed the dog two cans of dog food a day. 'That's a lot of food, but he likes it, so I give it to him,' Williams once said. 'A person gets real old, people want to take this away and that away. Why deprive him?'
The announcement of Musketeer's death by university attorney Thomas Samford III at a meeting of the Auburn Board of Trusteesbrought smiles and laughter from the panel.
'We should declare this a school holiday,' said Trustee R.C. 'Red' Bamburg.
The fortune will be used to fund Auburn's small animal clinic, which had been receiving $900,000 a year from the interest earned by the estate.
Miss Ritchey chose Auburn on the advice of Dr. Ivan Frederickson, a semi-retired Hollywood, Fla., veterinarian who treated the dogs.