Dogs as Intimate Friends
—No one has shown a more delicate sympathy with dog nature than the author of Lorna Doone. Mr. Blackmore says of the dog in Christowell, “ The loveliest lady in the land has not such eloquent, lucid, loving eyes ; and even if she had, they would be as nothing without the tan spots over them.” That touch goes to the heart of one who, like me, has mourned a dear departed collie with just such eyes and such tan spots over them. My Colin’s eyes, eloquent of so many things, were filled, too, with a certain melancholy, the presage, perhaps, of his untimely doom ; for he was killed by an accident, in the flower of his days. My heart has been rent more than once by such bereavements, but I count it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all ; to be without a dog is a poor way of living.
It was a good while before I admitted a successor to Colin in my affections. The new dog was a pointer, dark gray and black, extremely handsome, but not especially intelligent. The look in his eyes bespoke his honest, simple nature. He was devoted to me, haunting my every step. My near neighbor had a dog, who, not being treated with much regard by the family, had turned to me for consolation, and was in the habit of visiting me frequently. Roderick Dim, — such was his name,— upon the arrival of my dog Smoke, began at once to be jealous of him as a rival. Smoke, good fellow that he was, would gladly have made friends with him, but Rod repulsed all his advances.
At last, one day when I was on the lawn engaged in throwing sticks for Smoke to bring back to me, and he was racing about in the highest spirits, Rod appeared upon the carriage drive, and stood there lookingon at the fun fill it got to be too tempting. All at once, with a short, sharp bark, he sprang forward and joined in the pell-mell dash for the stick. In that manner the ice was broken, and the two dogs became fast friends, Rod being always on hand to accompany Smoke and me on a walk. Poor Rod had a hind leg badly stiffened hy rheumatism, and could not keep up with his comrade in all his escapades ; when Smoke, in exuberance of youthful activity, bounded to the top of a stone wall, Rod could not follow suit, and sometimes would stop stock still on the path below and utter a bark most expressive of his feelings on the subject.
It is noticeable how any decent dog will respect another’s rights. Rod and Smoke often went with me to the house of some friends of mine, whose little Skye terrier strongly objected to uninvited canine visitors, and sturdily refused to allow them near the house. It was ill-natured in him, no doubt, and it seemed absurd, moreover, for such a mite of a creature to assert himself against these two big fellows, for whom be would have made not more than one mouthful apiece ; but whenever he appeared with his resolved air of no admittance upon his premises, they at once beat a retreat to a respectful distance, and awaited there my return. Yet Wiggles, if sometimes ungracious, had a tender and faithful heart, for be died of grief a fortnight after his mistress’s death. All three dumb friends of mine have gone where good dogs go, — wherever that may be, and I cannot bring myself to believe it is to utter annihilation.
Another little trait of dog nature I have observed, not unlike what might be seen in a human being. My uncle had a dog of great intelligence, but very unsociable temper ; he was indifferent to most people, and did not care if they saw it. I had learned to take as little notice of him as he did of me. One night I had occasion to rouse my uncle’s family to my assistance, long after every one was sound asleep. The dog usually slept in the house, but the night beinghot he was left to spend it in the open air. He heard some one coming, and when he recognized me he slowly followed me up the piazza steps and stood by me as I rang the bell. For a time I could not succeed in waking any one, and the dog, understanding the situation, turned to and helped me by giving a succession of barks, it was an unusual occurrence, which he could not fathom, and he hung about between the houses till he saw my uncle return to his own house. The fact that we had had some interest in common that night, and that he had rendered me a little service, seemed to have given the dog a certain bias in my favor, for after that he ceased to ignore me so completely, and let me see that he was willing, in his cool way, to be friends with me.
This dog’s name was Don Pedro, but plain Peter would have been much more suitable to a creature of such plebeian appearance. The only feature which redeemed him from insignificance was his eyes, dark and very bright, and full of a steady intelligence.
Another trait I observed in him which testified to the presence in canine nature of feelings akin to the human. After a time my uncle’s family was broken up : the head of the house died; Don’s younger master, to whom he was especially attached, left home ; one of the daughters married, and also went away ; and the dog was left in the reduced household to a much more dull and lonely life than heretofore. Did he question, in his dog mind, what had become of these former members of the family ? He missed them, without doubt ; and I was touched to find that whenever I returned on a visit to the place, whence I too had removed, the poor dog seemed really glad to see an old acquaintance reappearing ont of the blank unknown, and showed his gratification, as much as was consistent with his undemonstrative disposition, by walking round me with a gentle wagging of tail and lifting of recognizing eyes. Men and dogs prize affection according to their need of it.