A Conscience-stricken Dog
[Feb. 1, 1879.]
You have frequently published letters containing stories bearing on the
question of the moral nature and the future of the lower animals. I
venture to send you some facts about a dog, narrated to me by a lady,
whose name and address I enclose for your own satisfaction, and at my
request written down by her as follows--
"A young fox-terrier, about eight months old, took a grea
fancy to a
small brush, of Indian workmanship, lying on the drawing-room table. It
had been punished more than once for jumping on the table and taking it.
On one occasion, the little dog was left alone in the room accidentally.
On my return, it jumped to greet me as usual, and I said, 'Have you been
a good little dog while you have been left alone?' Immediately it put
its tail between its legs and slunk off into an adjoining room, and
brought back the little brush in its mouth from where it had hidden it.
"I was much struck with what appeared to me a remarkable instance of a
dog possessing a conscience, and a few months afterwards, finding it
again alone in the room, I asked the same question, while patting it. At
once I saw it had been up to some mischief, for with the same look of
shame it walked slowly to one of the windows, where it lay down, with
its nose pointing to a letter bitten and torn into shreds. On a third
occasion, it showed me where it had strewn a number of little tickets
about the floor, for doing which it had been reproved previously. I
cannot account for these facts, except by supposing the dog must have a
The conduct of this dog seems to me, sir, to exhibit something different
from fear of punishment, viz., a sense of shame, a remorse, a desire to
confess his fault, and even to expiate it by punishment, in order to
feel the guilt no longer. He rather sought punishment, than feared it.