Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Dog's Love, Devotion and Usefulness by George Frederick Pardon 1877


About Dogs in General by George Frederick Pardon 1877

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But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his master's own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone—.Byron.

THE world all over, wherever man dwells, there we are certain to find the Dog. No creature is so much at home under all varieties of circumstance; not one so entirely the companion, friend, and servant of mankind. Other animals submit to man, and perform the tasks he exacts. They eat from his hand; they rest under his roof; they become acquainted with his yoice, and subject to bis commands; but so soon as their hunger is satisfied and their strength recruited, they appear to forget their benefactor. The Dog, however, follows us to our home, enters into our sports and pleasures, and shows his love for us in a thousand sagacious and pleasing ways. His service is voluntary, and is performed without hope of reward. Other animals regard man as their natural enemy; but the Dog seems to turn to him as if by a law of its nature, as his natural protector and friend. He is the most sagacious of brutes, and ranks next to man in intelligence and the power of thinking for himself. The elephant and the horse may be taught to perform various amusing tricks, and in a short time learn to know the voices of their keepers; the monkey and the cat, and even the stolid sheep and the obstinate pig, have been instructed to perform various offices for their masters; many kinds of birds have been taught to speak, to come when they are called, and to display many wonderful signs of sagacity with correct obedience; but to the Dog alone belongs that affectionate sympathy for those with whom it lives that has peculiarly distinguished it in all ages and countries.

Nor is the affection which the Dog bears to its master always the result of kind treatment and abundant food. He forgets the cruel blow in the first caress that follows it; he shares with equal devotedness in our abundance and in our poverty; he loves us while living and mourns for us when we die—many instances being known of the faithful dog pining to death on the grave of his master. Sir Walter Scott beautifully describes an instance of the devotion of the dog to his dead master. A young man lost his life by falling from a precipice of Helvellyn, and was not heard of for three months. At last chance led some shepherds to the spot where they discovered his remains guarded by his faithful dog, now worn, with grief and long watching, almost to a skeleton:—

"Dark green was the spot, 'mid the brown mountain heather
Where the pilgrim of nature lay stretched in decay,
Like the corpse of an outcast abandoned to weather,
Till the mountain winds wasted the tenantless clay.
Not yet quite deserted, though lonely extended,
For, faithful in death, his mute favourite attended,
The much-loved remains of her master defended,
And chased the hill-fox and the raven away.
How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber?
When the wind waved his garments how oft didst thou start?
How many long days and long weeks didst thou number,
Ere he faded before thee, the friend of thy heart?"

The first animal mentioned in Scripture is the sheep; but probably the Dog was soon also known to Abel, "the keeper of sheep." And, as the rearing of flocks and herds was nearly the whole business of men in the earlier ages of the world, it seems most likely that the training of the Dog, the natural guardian of the sheep, should speedily follow. And that such was the case we have the evidence of the patriarch Job, who speaks of the "Dogs of his flock." Henceforth the Dog is found in all parts of the world; everywhere the companion of man, and the guardian of his property. See, says the poet Burns, how the Dog worships his master; "with what reverence he crouches at his feet—with what reverence he looks up to him—with what delight he fawns upon him, and with what cheerful alacrity he obeys him."

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Numerous other instances of the love and sagacity of the Dog might be drawn from the writings of eminent authors; for the present one or two will be sufficient. "To his master," says Buffon, "the Dog flies with alacrity, and submissively lays at his feet all his courage, strength, and talent. He has all the ardour of friendship, and fidelity, and constancy in his affections that man can have. Neither interest nor desire of revenge can corrupt him, and he has no fear but that of displeasing. He is all zeal and obedience. He speedily forgets ill-usage, or only recollects it to make returning attachment the stronger. He licks the hand that causes him pain, and subdues his anger by submission. The training of the Dog seems to have been the first art invented by man, and the fruit of that art was the conquest and peaceable possession of the earth."

Thus, as the guardian of the flocks from wolves and other dangerous enemies, the careful and faithful watcher over the person and property of his master, a useful beast of draught and burden, a scavenger for the streets, and a willing and obedient servant, the Dog is found in all parts of the world.

But there is one other characteristic of this noble animal—that of a preserver of human life. Mr. Youatt tells us that he had seen a Newfoundland Dog which on five distinct occasions saved the lives of men and children from drowning; and I have myself the honour of an acquaintance with a noble fellow of the same breed who has saved no fewer than four children and two men from watery graves. Of such facts, and of the usefulness of the Dogs of St. Bernard in their peculiar offices of mercy and humanity, we shall, however, have something more to say by and by.

"Though," says a recent writer, "the Dog is so universal and common, he does, nevertheless, from a combination of causes in his habits, present volumes of the most interesting study to every admirer of nature's wonders. His social disposition, unlike that of most other animals, is more directed to human society than towards that of his own species. In the intimacy of this association he stands alone, even surpassing in every way that of the domestic cat. His knowledge of his master or his friends is thorough, ready, and decisive; while his attachment is sincere, firm, and enduring. He remembers a caress or a kindness, and forgets an injury from his friends. He is quick to perceive the approach of a stranger, and his watchfulness and suspicion are instantly awakened. His fidelity is so stable that no vicissitude or circumstance ever shakes it. He will risk his life to save that of his protector, and die rather than relinquish his post of duty. He is capable of intense emotion, for it has happened that the unexpected joy of meeting a long-absent friend has burst his very heart asunder, and he has expired at the feet of a former and indulgent master. All these are qualities peculiar to himself, and distinguish him above any other family of animals. Yet how often do we see this amiable creature ill-used by ignorant and cruel men or boys. Sometimes he is unmercifully beaten because he is a brute, and cannot understand all that is expressed in the commands given to him, and sometimes he is required to suffer much through the capricious and irrational temper of his owner." [Marvels and Mysteries of Instinct by G. Garratt]

The Dog is remarkable for one physical property of exquisite delicacy, and that lies in the fineness of his olfactory nerve, by which he scents his game with unerring certainty. Nevertheless some birds of prey exhibit a power of scent more astonishing than his, because it is even more refined. But the Dog has some mental endowments that perplex the philosopher infinitely more than that wonderful sense of smell we have just named; for they are such that make him appear to live, as expressed by Professor Harwood, "in the doubtful confines of the material and spiritual worlds."

His mental qualifications, whatever called, are such as to enable him to perceive quickly and to learn aptly. Hence he can be trained to perform incredible feats. The smuggler has taught him the art of carrying on his contraband trade, both by land and water; the thief has taught him to purloin from a shop any parcel previously pointed out; and the sheep-stealer has been successful in training him to find and bring to him from a large flock, the very sheep he himself had selected in the Dog's presence. Many extraordinary facts and curious anecdotes have been recorded as instances of the Dog's mental ability.

We are inclined to exercise strong faith in the general principle, that in proportion to the physical matter of the brain, such is the degree of intelligence displayed by it. The Dog genus affords us an exemplification. The Greyhound and the Balldog have but small development of brain: for though the head of the latter is large, the capacity of the cranium is small, while the forehead of the former is flattened, and accompanied with an elongated snout, which is generally considered the symbol of stupidity. The intelligence of these Dogs is limited, for neither are capable of profiting much either from experience or education. Yet, if some accounts that are given of coursing be true, the Greyhound can derive benefit from experience; for it is said that when an old and young Dog are running together, the inexperienced hound instinctively follows the hare in every turn and winding, while the old courser sometimes takes the way the crow flies, anticipating the hare in her habit of doubling, and thus depriving puss of the advantage she otherwise would gain by making a sudden turn.

Than the Dog a more perfect type of obedience and affectionate subservience cannot be conceived. Each individual Dog acknowledges a master, and follows him only, making his interest its own. If, on the other hand, we consider the species, we find in it every variety of size, shape, intelligence, and disposition; always in accordance with the duties and services suited to its conformation. This diversity is almost as complete in the different kinds of Dogs as in the men and women of different races and nations—graceful in the Greyhound, majestic in the Staghound, bold and firm in the Mastiff, fierce in the Bulldog, affectionate in the Spaniel, playful in the Terrier; but in each and every case docile, faithful, and true to its master and his family: sagacious beyond all other brutes of the field, and, as compared with them, displaying a capacity for device and contrivance in unexpected circumstances and situations which nearly approaches reason.

Dedicated to my best friend: Teddy Schmitz. I miss you buddy.

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