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An Australian Dog-story

[May 11, 1895.]

Seeing the great interest which many of your readers take in the study
of canine character and intelligence, I think perhaps the following
incident is worth recording. Whilst walking with a lady friend along
Studley Park Road, Kew (a residential suburb of Melbourne), on a very
quiet afternoon some time ago, we were surprised by a large St. Bernard
dog, which came up to us and deliberately pawed my leg several times.
Our perplexity at his extraordinary behaviour was perhaps not unmixed
with a little misgiving, for he was an animal of formidable size and
strength; but as he gave evident signs of satisfaction at our noticing
him, and proceeded to trot on in front--at intervals looking round to
make sure we were following--we became interested. When we had followed
him about forty yards, he stopped before a door in a high garden wall,
and, looking round anxiously to see that we were noticing, reached up
his paw in the direction of the latch. On stretching forth my hand to
unfasten the door, his extreme pleasure was exhibited in a most
unmistakable manner; but when he saw me try in vain to open it, he
became quiet, and looked at me with an expression so manifestly anxious
that I could no more have left the poor animal thus than I could have
left a helpless little child in a similar position. With eager attention
and expectancy he listened while I knocked, and when at last some one
was heard coming down the garden path, he bounded about with every sign
of unlimited joy.

Now here was one of the so-called "brutes," which, failing to get in at
a certain door, cast about for a way out of the difficulty, and seeing
us some distance down the road (we were the only persons in sight at the
time), he had come to us, attracted our attention, taken us to the door,
and told us he wanted it opened. We both agreed that the animal had all
through shown a play of emotion and intelligence comparable to that of
a human being; and, indeed, we felt so much akin to the noble creature
that we have both, since then, been very loath to class dogs as
"inferior animals."


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