Thursday, June 23, 2016

19th Century Stories of Dogs in Church

Stories of Dogs in Church

Dedicated to my best friend, Teddy. See his memorial video at

1888 Story: During a recent journey in Canada, I met with a striking instance of reason in a dog. I was staying at the Mohawk Indian Institution, Brantford, Ontario. The Rev. R. Ashton, superintendent of the school, is also incumbent of the neighbouring Mohawk Church (the oldest Protestant church in Canada). Mr. Ashton is very fond of animals, and has many pets. One of these, a black-and-tan terrier, always accompanies the ninety Indian children to church on Sunday morning. He goes to the altar-rails, and lies down facing the congregation. When they rise to sing, he rises; and when they sit, he lies down. One day, shortly before my visit, a stranger-clergyman was preaching, and the sermon was longer than usual. The dog grew tired and restless, and at last a thought occurred to him, upon[Pg 18] which he at once acted. He had observed that one of the elder Indian boys was accustomed to hand round a plate for alms, after which the service at once concluded. He evidently thought that if he could persuade this boy to take up the collection, the sermon must naturally end. He ran down to the back seat occupied by the boy, seated himself in the aisle, and gazed steadfastly in the boy's face. Finding that no notice was taken, he sat up and "begged" persistently for some time, to Mr. Ashton's great amusement. Finally, as this also failed, the dog put his nose under the lad's knee, and tried with all his strength to force him out of his place, continuing this at intervals till the sermon was concluded.

Did not this prove a distinct power of consecutive reasoning?


From Anecdotes of Dogs by Edward Jesse 1858

Story: A poodle dog belonging to a gentleman in Cheshire was in the habit of not only going to church, but of remaining quietly in the pew during service, whether his master was there or not. One Sunday the dam at the head of a lake in that neighbourhood gave way, so that the whole road was inundated. The congregation, in consequence, consisted of a very few, who came from some cottages close by, but nobody attended from the great house. The clergyman informed the lady, that whilst reading the Psalms he saw his friend, the poodle, come slowly up the aisle dripping with wet, having swam above a quarter of a mile to get to church. He went into the usual pew, and remained quietly there to the end of the service.


It is a curious fact that dogs can count time. I had, when a boy, a favourite terrier, which always went with me to church. My mother, thinking that he attracted too much of my attention, ordered the servant to fasten him up every Sunday morning. He did so once or twice, but never afterwards. Trim concealed himself every Sunday morning, and either met me as I entered the church, or I found him under my seat in the pew. Mr. Southey, in his "Omniana," informs us that he knew of a dog, which was brought up by a Catholic and afterwards sold to a Protestant, but still he refused to eat anything on a Friday.


In my younger days I had a favourite dog, which always accompanied me to church. My mother, seeing that he attracted too much of my attention, ordered the servant to shut him every Sunday morning. This was done once, but never afterwards; for he concealed himself early every Sunday morning, and I was sure to find him either under my seat at church, or else at the church-door. That dogs clearly distinguish the return of Sunday cannot be doubted.

Also...The Rev. Leonard Jenyns, in his "Observations in Natural History," records the following.—

"A lady, living in the neighbourhood of my own village, had some years back a favourite Scotch terrier, which always accompanied her in her rides, and was also in the habit of following the carriage to church every Sunday morning. One summer day the lady and her family were from home several weeks, the dog being left behind. The latter, however, continued to come to church by itself for several Sundays in succession, galloping off from the house at the accustomed hour, so as to arrive at the time of service commencing. After waiting in the churchyard a short time, it was seen to return home quiet and dispirited. The distance from the house to the church is three miles, and beyond that at which the ringing of the bells could be ordinarily heard. This was probably an instance of the force of habit, assisted by some association of recollections connected with the movements of the household on that particular day of the week."

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