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 t
e 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.