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Two Anecdotes Of Dogs

[Feb. 2, 1895.]

Having derived much pleasure from reading the frequent natural history
notes which from time to time appear in the Spectator, I venture to
send you two instances of what seems to me the working of the canine
mind under quite different circumstances. The first refers to an
incident which happened a great many years ago. It was this. One day,
when a lad, I was walking with my father accompanied by a strong,
smooth-haired retriever called Turk. We were joined by the bailiff of
the farm, and in the course of our walk Turk suddenly discovered the
presence of a rabbit concealed in what in Scotland is called a
"dry-stane dyke." After a little trouble in removing some stones, poor
bunny was caught and slaughtered, being handed to the bailiff, who put
it in his coat pocket. Shortly afterwards we separated, the bailiff
going to his home in one direction, and we to ours in an opposite one.
Before we reached home we noticed that Turk was no longer with us, at
which we were rather surprised, as he was a very faithful follower. Some
time after we got home, perhaps an hour, I chanced to see a strange
object on the public road which puzzled me as to what it was. It raised
a cloud of dust as it came along, which partly obscured the vision. What
was my surprise when I found it was Turk dragging a man's
shooting-jacket, which proved to be the bailiff's, with the rabbit still
in the pocket. We afterwards learnt that the dog, to the surprise of the
bailiff, quietly followed him home, and lay down near him. Presently the
man took off his coat, and laid it on a chair. Instantly Turk pounced
upon it, and dashed to the door with it in his mouth. He was pursued,
but in vain, and succeeded in dragging the coat from the one house to
the other, a distance of one mile and three-fourths. It was evident the
dog had a strong sense of the rights of property. He believed the rabbit
belonged to his master, so he set himself to recover what he thought
stolen goods.

The other anecdote refers to quite a recent date, and the only interest
it has, is that it shows how perfectly a dog can exhibit facial
expression, and also read at a glance the slightest indications of
feeling in the human face. I had a well-broken Irish setter, which was
perfectly free of hare or rabbit as to chasing, but he was a sad rascal
for all that. I also had at the time a rough Scotch terrier, and the two
dogs were great chums. The moment they got the chance they were off
together on a rabbit-hunt. Like idiots, they would spend hours in vainly
trying to dig rabbits out of their burrows. One day as I was returning
home I met the pair in the avenue. They were the very picture of
happiness. At first they did not see me, and came joyously on at a trot.
The instant they observed me they came to a full stop, some forty yards
off. The setter gently wagged his tail, and looked at me with an
expression of anxious inquiry. Taking heart, he slowly advanced to
within about thirty yards, and then came the varying play of feature
which so interested me. He was in great doubt as to whether I had
guessed what tricks he had been up to; but as I made no sign, he was
gradually looking more comfortable and gaining confidence. Suddenly I
noticed a patch of mud above his nose, and I must have unconsciously
shown him I had made a discovery of some kind, for that instant he
turned tail and bolted home at the utmost speed of which he was capable.
Without uttering a single word, or making a single gesture, the dog and
man understood each other perfectly. It was the language of faces.


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