Boz and Don

— Boz was the doctor’s dog; Don was the rector’s. The one, a little, yellow, shaggy, short-legged terrier, was an imp of mischief. The other, a full-blooded Newfoundland, was sedate, dignified, and well bred. Though in character so diverse, in friendship they were one. I have never seen between men a companionship more close or an attachment more sincere than that which existed between these four-footed friends.

Both had passed the years of puppyhood before they met. The acquaintance began on the day the rector came to the little village of M——, to reside next door to the doctor, who lived in the shadow of the elms of the village rectory. Up to that hour, the reserved and handsome Don had looked upon the smaller individuals of his kind with the half - contemptuous, half - pitying, and wholly careless feeling which dignity so often experiences in the presence of triviality. By what subtle law the opposing natures of Don and Boz were reconciled let philosophers decide. From the first meeting of inquiring muzzles friendship was demonstrated by a violent wagging of tails ; and until death parted them, each was the sworn bondsman of the other.

I shall never forget the scene of the introduction of Don by Boz into the doctor’s family circle, — the rapture expressed by the marvelous contortions of the little yellow body, the violent leaps, the short, sharp barks with which he showed his delight when his really noble companion was approved with friendly pats by the elders, and fond embraces by the children. It was a display of frantic joy of which only a small dog is capable. After that introduction, Don became, by virtue of his intimacy with Boz, more truly an inmate of the doctor’s house than of the rector’s.

I am quite sure that the worthy rector looked with displeasure on the intimacy of the two dogs. Nor was it surprising that he did. A childless man, to him the grave and gentle Don — and let not this be thought a reflection upon the good man — stood in some sort in the place of that which Heaven had denied to him. He had bestowed more care upon the animal than many a parent gives to his son. His careful training had met its reward. The intelligence of Don was such that it was necessary only to point out a fault in a tone of reproof to insure its future avoidance. With him, actually, to hear was to obey, and a dog of habits more in harmony with the peace and virtuous quiet of a village rectory than those of Don never existed. Was it strange, then, that the man of God should look with apprehension upon the boon companionship of the subject of so many pious labors with a little ragamuffin of a terrier, whose reputation for peace and sobriety was none too good in the neighborhood ? Alas, his fears had ample grounds. Evil communications will corrupt the good manners of dogs as well as of men. Not that Boz was evil, —I will not let that reflection lie upon the memory of the little loyal “ heart of oak,” — but in his diminutive body there was a restless and ambitious spirit which led him into adventures not always to his credit ; and in these not quite respectable demonstrations of spirit Don came in time to share, to the grief of the good rector. It is best to pass by these indiscretions. Suffice it to say that no enemy of Boz, on four feet or two, counting upon superior size to gain an advantage, was permitted by Don to do so. Nor was the devoted Don particular to inquire with whom the right in the quarrel lay. Even the rector, in his regret over Don’s lapses from virtue, was compelled to admit that there was a spirit of chivalry in the Newfoundland which apologized for his conduct.

The companionship of the dogs would have been unbroken had it not been for a sense of duty which compelled Boz to accompany the doctor on his professional rides into the country. I imagine, from the sequel of their long intimacy, that Boz must have impressed upon Don the importance of these rides, by way, perhaps, of excuse for his occasional desertions. Don used to watch his friend’s departure at such times with an approving wave of his bushy tail, but he never sought to go with him.

It was a tragedy which parted Boz and Don. One night the former accompanied a member of the doctor’s family to the railway station to meet a late train. Curiosity, proverbially fatal, especially to eats, led the terrier on an exploring trip under the cars. The little fellow was rescued alive, but cruelly mangled, — so cruelly that it became necessary to end his agonies with a bullet. The children, who had loved him and whom he had loved, sorrowfully placed his body in a box, and buried it in a little court at the rear of their home. A mound was heaped over the grave, and a stone placed at its head.

Of all this Don was ignorant. How he became aware of what had happened never will be known. The next morning he was found lying by the small grave, his handsome head resting upon his outstretched paws. Evidently he had found the spot in the night-time. All that day he lay near the mound, refusing to leave it even under the influence of hunger. Grief was never more pathetically expressed. Let philosophy say what it will about the difference between “ animal instinct ” and the operations of the human mind, I never did and I never will believe there is any difference except one of degree. I am convinced that, during that melancholy vigil, Don recalled the virtues of his dead friend just as men do under similar circumstances. I think he must have dwelt upon the pride which the terrier took in accompanying his master on his drives, and the sense of importance which he attached to the duty, so that he himself formed the resolve to do the one thing by which he could testify most clearly of the love he bore the dead. For when at last Don left the grave of Boz it was to take the place of his friend by the doctor’s carriage, and to go with the master of Boz for the first time into the country. Thenceforth, as long as the rector remained in charge of the parish, Don religiously performed the duty which Boz had laid down.

Once or twice the rector tried to break up the practice, but love was stronger than duty. As a result of these attempts, Don gave evidence for the first and only time of a spirit of deceit. Being one day in the doctor’s barn, ready to start upon a journey, Don heard the rector’s summoning whistle. Bounding over the fence, he ran to his master. The rector reproved him for leaving his home to follow the doctor, and, forbidding him to do so again, threatened to punish him if the command should be disobeyed. The next day, the rector, injunction, duty, — all were forgotten. Again, as he was about to start with the doctor, Don heard the rector’s whistle. All animation a moment before, he now hung his head and crept silently from the barn. Instead of leaping over the fence into the rector’s yard, as he had done the day before, he crawled through the doctor’s yard to the rear of the rectory barn, and, entering it by a back door, came bounding out to the rector, uttering falsehoods with every wave of his tail.

Poor lovable and loving Don ! He fell a victim, in after years and in another village, to the insensate fear of hydrophobia, and a dose of poison secretly administered by a coward. If there be a heaven for dogs, as I, with every lover of dogs, hope, I am sure that the broken intimacy with Boz was there renewed, to the everlasting joy of both.