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.



R. SCOT SKIRVING.





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