Purchasing Dogs

[May 26, 1877.]

Some time ago I sent you my recollections of a dog who knew a halfpenny

from a penny, and who could count up as far as two (see page 56). I have

been able to obtain authentic information of a dog whose mental powers

were still more advanced, and who, in his day, besides being celebrated

for his abilities, was of substantial benefit to a charitable

institution in his town. The dog I refer t
was a little white

fox-terrier, Prin by name, who lived at the Lion Hotel, at

Kidderminster, for three or four years; but now, alas! he is dead, and

nothing remains of him but his head in a glass case.

I had heard of this dog some months ago, but on Saturday last, having to

make a visit to Kidderminster, I went to see him. The facts I give about

him are based on the statements of Mr. Lloyd, his master, and they are

fully substantiated by the evidence of many others. I have before me a

statement of the proceeds of "Dog Prin's box, Lion Hotel; subscriptions

to the Infirmary." The contributions began in September, 1874, and ended

on April 25th, 1876, and during that period the sum of L13 14s. 6d. was

contributed through Prin's instrumentality.

He began by displaying a fancy for playing with coins, not unusual

amongst terriers, and he advanced to a discovery that he could exchange

the coins for biscuits. He learnt that for a halfpenny he could get two

biscuits, and for a penny, three; and, having become able to distinguish

between the two coins, it was found impossible to cheat him. If he had

contributed a penny, he would not leave the bar till he had had his

third biscuit; and if there was nobody to attend to his wants, he kept

the coin in his mouth till he could be served. Indeed, it was this

persistence which ultimately caused poor Prin's death, for there is

every reason to fear that he fell a victim to copper-poisoning.

By a little training he was taught to place the coins, after he had got

the biscuits, upon the top of a small box fixed on the wall, and they

were dropped for him through a slot. He never objected to part with them

in this way, and having received the quid pro quo, he gave complete

evidence of his appreciation of the honourable understanding which is so

absolutely necessary for all commercial transactions.

An authenticated case like this is of extreme value, for just as the

elementary stages of any science or discovery are the most difficult and

the slowest in accomplishment, so are the primary stages of all mental

processes. To find the preliminary steps of the evolution of mathematics

and commerce in a dog is therefore a very important observation, and

everything bearing on these early phases of intellect should be

carefully recorded.


[Feb. 10, 1877.]

The Spectator is always so kind to animals that I venture to send you

the following story of a dog's sagacity, which may be depended upon as

absolutely true:--

During the meeting of the British Association at Glasgow, a friend of

mine had occasion to go one day from that place to Greenock on business.

Hearing, on his arrival, that the person he wished to see was out, but

expected shortly to return home, he determined to take a stroll about

the town, to which he was a stranger. In the course of his walk he

turned into a baker's shop and bought a bun. As he stood at the door of

the shop eating his bun, a large dog came up to him and begged for a

share, which he got, and seemed to enjoy, coming back for piece after

piece. "Does the dog belong to you?" my friend asked of the shop-woman.

"No," she answered, "but he spends most of his time here, and begs

halfpennies from the people who pass." "Halfpennies! What good can they

be to him?" "Oh, he knows very well what to do with them; he comes into

the shop and buys cakes."

This seemed rather a remarkable instance of cleverness even for the

cleverest of animals, so, by way of testing its reality, my friend went

out of the shop into the street, where he was immediately accosted by

the dog, who begged for something with all the eloquence of which a

dog is capable. He offered him a halfpenny, and was rather surprised to

see him accept it readily, and walk, with the air of a regular customer,

into the shop, where he put his forepaws on the counter, and held out

the halfpenny towards the attendant. The young woman produced a bun, but

that did not suit the dog, and he held his money fast. "Ah," she said,

"I know what he wants," and took down from a shelf a plate of

shortbread. This was right; the dog paid his halfpenny, took his

shortbread, and ate it with decorous satisfaction. When he had quite

finished he left the shop, and my friend, much amused, followed him, and

when he again begged found another halfpenny for him, and saw the whole

process gone through a second time.

This dog clearly had learned by some means the use of money, and not

merely that it would buy something to eat, but that it would buy

several things, among which he could exercise a right of choice. What is

perhaps most remarkable is that his proceedings were entirely

independent, and for his own benefit, not that of any teacher or master.

A. L. W.

[Feb. 17, 1877.]

When a student at Edinburgh, I enjoyed the friendship of a brown

retriever, who belonged to a fishmonger in Lothion Street, and who was

certainly the cleverest dog I have ever met with. He was a cleverer dog

than the one described by "A. L. W." because he knew the relative value

of certain coins. In the morning he was generally to be seen seated on

the step of the fishmonger's shop-door, waiting for some of his many

friends to give him a copper. When he had got one, he trotted away to a

baker's shop a few doors off, and dropped the coin on the counter. If I

remember rightly (it is twelve or fifteen years ago), his weakness was

"soda scones." If he dropped a halfpenny on the counter he was

contented with one scone, but if he had given a penny he expected two,

and would wait for the second, after he had eaten the first, until he

got it. That he knew exactly when he was entitled to one scone only, and

when he ought to get two, is certain, for I tried him often.


[Feb. 17, 1877.]

In the Spectator of the 10th inst. a correspondent describes the

purchase of cakes by a clever dog at Greenock. I should like to be

allowed to help preserve the memory of a most worthy dog-friend of my

youth, well remembered by many now living who knew Greenwich Hospital

some thirty or five-and-thirty years ago.

At that time there lived there a dog-pensioner called Hardy, a large

brown Irish retriever. He was so named by Sir Thomas Hardy, when

Governor (Nelson's Hardy), who at the same time constituted him a

pensioner, at the rate of one penny per diem, for that he had one day

saved a life from drowning just opposite the hospital. Till that time

he was a poor stranger and vagrant dog--friendless. But thenceforward he

lived in the hospital, and spent his pension himself at the butcher's

shop, as he did also many another coin given to him by numerous friends.

Many is the halfpenny which, as a child, I gave Hardy, that I might see

him buy his own meat--which he did with judgment, and a due regard to

value. When a penny was given to him, he would, on arriving at the

shop, place it on the counter and rest his nose or paw upon it until he

received two halfpennyworths, nor would any persuasion induce him to

give up the coin for the usual smaller allowance. I was a young child at

the time, but I had a great veneration for Hardy, and remember him well,

but lest my juvenile memory might have been in fault, I have, before

writing this letter, compared my recollections with those of my elders,

who, as grown people, knew Hardy for many years, and confirm all the

above facts. There, indeed, was the right dog in the right place. Peace

to his shade!

J. D. C.

[Feb. 7, 1885.]

Have you room for one more dog story, which resembles one lately

reported in a French journal? A few years since I was sitting inside the

door of a shop to escape from the rain while waiting for a trap to take

me to the railway station in the old Etruscan city of Ferentino.

Presently an ill-bred dog of the pointer kind came and sat down in front

of me, looking up in my face, and wagging his tail to attract my

attention. "What does that dog want?" I asked of a bystander. "Signore,"

he answered, "he wants you to give him a soldo to go and buy you a cigar

with." I gave the dog the coin, and he presently returned, bringing a

cigar, which he held crossways in his mouth until I took it from him.

Sent again and again, he brought me three or four more cigars from the

tobacco-shop. At length the dog's demeanour changed, and he gave vent to

his impatience by two or three low whines. "What does he want now?" I

asked. "He wants you to give him two soldi to go to the baker's and buy

bread for himself." I gave him a two-soldo piece, and in a few minutes

the dog returned with a small loaf of bread, which he laid at my feet,

at the same time gazing wistfully in my face. "He won't take it until

you give him leave," said another bystander. I gave the requisite

permission, and the dear animal seized the loaf and disappeared with it

in his mouth, and did not again make his appearance before I left the

city. "He always does like this," said the standers-by, "whenever he

sees a stranger in Ferentino."