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A True Watch-dog

[Aug. 5, 1893.]

The "dog" letter in the Spectator of July 15th is wonderfully like my
experience, some years ago, with my little red Blenheim, Frisk. She
always slept in a basket, close to the hall door. One night she dashed
up the stairs, loudly barking, ran first to my eldest sister's room,
then through a swing-door to another sister's room, barking outside each
door, then upstairs again to my room at the top of the house, where she
remained barking till I got up and opened it, when she ran in, still
barking, and waited till I was ready to go down with her. She scampered
on before me, I following close, and when we both reached the hall she
dashed still barking to the door, to show me whence her alarm had
arisen. It was the policeman turning the handle of the door from the
outside to see if it was properly closed! One night, a long time after
the first adventure, I was wakened by a quiet scratch at the door of my
room. No barking this time; but, tiresome as it was to be disturbed on a
cold night, I got up and opened the door, and was conscious in the
darkness that Frisk was standing there. "Come in, Frisk," said I. But no
movement; Frisk stood waiting. "Come in, Frisk," I repeated, somewhat
sharply. No movement, no bark! Then, being sure that something must be
wrong, I lighted a candle, and there stood Frisk outside the door, never
offering to come in. She trotted quietly down before me, not speaking a
word. When we were both through the swing-door, and at the head of the
stairs, I saw that the inner door to the hall was open, and also that
of the morning-room, from which shone a bright light. My heart went
pit-a-pat for a moment; then seeing Frisk run quietly down the stairs, I
followed her, when she calmly jumped into her basket again, and I,
venturing into the morning-room, found that my brother-in-law had left
the lamp burning by mistake--a proceeding which Frisk plainly knew was
wrong, and had therefore come upstairs to inform me, but had not thought
it necessary to disturb the rest of the household this time! She had
come straight up to my room without disturbing any one else, to tell me
of the irregularity of a light burning when every one was in bed, and
that being done, jumped into bed again, conscious of having performed
her duty.


[Aug. 12, 1893.]

I can give an instance as convincing as that of Miss Marsh-Caldwell of
the way in which a true watch-dog will measure the extent of his
duties. I lived for many years opposite a wood, in which the game at
first was preserved. I had a dog named Prin, who had begun by being a
gardener's dog, but having caught the distemper and been unskilfully
treated by his master he remained nearly blind, and was left on my hands
by the man when he quitted my service. The dog was a great coward, but
good-tempered and affectionate, and the partial loss of sight seemed to
have developed greatly the senses both of hearing and smell, so that he
was recognised as a capital watch-dog. He was promoted to the kitchen,
and would have been promoted to the drawing-room but for the
obstreperousness of his affection, which seemed to know no bounds if he
was admitted even into the hall. I slept at that time in a room over the
kitchen, fronting the road. One night I was awakened by Prin growling,
and, after a time, giving a snappish bark underneath me. I got out of
bed and throwing up the sash, listened at the window, where, after a
time, I heard slight noises, which convinced me that some one or more
persons were hiding in the shrubbery between the house and the road,
whom I supposed to be burglars. I called out, "Who's there?" without, of
course, eliciting any answer, and, after a time, I heard the click of
the further gate (there being two, one opposite my house, the other
opposite its semi-detached neighbour, and out of my sight), after which
all was quiet. But I had noticed that from the moment of my getting out
of bed Prin had not uttered a sound. The same thing happened seven or
eight times, and always in the same way, Prin growling or barking till
he heard me get out of bed, and then holding his tongue, as feeling that
he had fulfilled his duty in warning his master, and that all
responsibility now devolved upon me. The secret of the matter I
discovered to be that poachers, with no burglarious intentions towards
me, used the shrubbery as a hiding-place before getting over the
opposite paling into the wood.

One other instance of Prin's sagacity I will also mention. I had a black
cat, with white breast, named Toffy, between whom and Prin there was
peace, though not affection. There was also another black cat, with
white breast, that prowled about, an outlaw cat, who made free with my
chickens when he could! It was a bitter winter, and the snow had lain
already for days on the ground. I was walking one Sunday morning in my
garden, Prin being out with me. He quitted me to go under a laurel-hedge
bounding a shrubbery, and presently began barking loudly. I went towards
him, and saw a white-breasted cat sitting stretched under the laurels,
with front paws doubled under him, which I took to be Toffy asleep. I
scolded Prin for disturbing Toffy, and he stopped barking, but remained
on the spot whilst I continued my walk. Presently--say two or three
minutes after--I heard him barking still more loudly than before, and so
persistently that I returned to the spot. Noticing that the cat had
never moved through all the noise, I crept up under the bushes, and
found that it was not Toffy asleep, but the outlaw cat, dead--evidently
of cold. Thus my poor purblind watch-dog had--(1) barked to draw my
attention to what appeared to him an unusual phenomenon; (2), held his
tongue in deference to my (supposed) superior wisdom, when I told him he
was making a mistake; (3), not being, however, satisfied in his mind,
remained to investigate till he was convinced he had not been mistaken;
(4), called my attention to the facts still more instantly till I was
satisfied of them for myself. Could homo sapiens have done more?

J. M. L.

[Aug. 12, 1893.]

I am reminded by the anecdote related in the Spectator of July 15th,
"A Canine Guardian," of the sagacity of a favourite Scotch terrier which
was displayed some years ago. I was dressing one morning, and my
bedroom-door was ajar. Standing at my dressing-table, I was surprised to
see Fan come up to me, frisking about, and looking eagerly into my face,
whether from pleasure or not I could not tell. I spoke to and stroked
her, but she was in no way soothed, and she ran out of the room
evidently much excited. In she came again, more earnestly trying to tell
me what she wanted, rushing up to me and again to the door, plainly
begging me to follow her, which I did, into the next room, where
breakfast was laid. I at once saw what she had easily felt was out of
order--the kettle was boiling over, and the water pouring from the spout
had drenched the hearth. Hence her discomfort, and her effort to tell me
of the disaster. Having brought me on the scene, she seemed perfectly

C. A. T.

[Aug. 12, 1893.]

Not long ago I was passing a barn-yard in this place, and stood to look
over the gate at a pretty half-grown lamb standing alone outside the
barn. But the sight of me so enraged a fierce, shaggy grey dog tied up
to his kennel between the lamb and me, that he barked himself nearly
into fits, showing all his teeth, and straining so furiously at his
chain as to make me quite nervous lest it should give way. In the
meantime, I struck such terror into the heart of the lamb that it fled
across the yard to place itself under the protection of the dog, and
stood close by his side, whilst he barked and danced with fury. As I
drew a little nearer, the lamb backed right into the kennel, and when,
after I had made a circuit in order to watch the further movements of
this strange pair of friends from behind a tree, I saw their two faces
cautiously looking out together, cheek-by-jowl, whilst the dog's anger
was being reduced to subsiding splutters of resentment. He was not a
collie, but a very large sort of poodle.

C. S.

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