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Dandy: A Story of a Dog


He was of mixed breed, and was supposed to have a strain of Dandy
Dinmont blood which gave him his name. A big ungainly animal with a
rough shaggy coat of blue-grey hair and white on his neck and clumsy
paws. He looked like a Sussex sheep-dog with legs reduced to half their
proper length. He was, when I first knew him, getting old and
increasingly deaf and dim of sight, otherwise in the best of health and
spirits, or at all events very good-tempered.

Until I knew Dandy I had always supposed that the story of Ludlam's dog
was pure invention, and I daresay that is the general opinion about it;
but Dandy made me reconsider the subject, and eventually I came to
believe that Ludlam's dog did exist once upon a time, centuries ago
perhaps, and that if he had been the laziest dog in the world Dandy was
not far behind him in that respect. It is true he did not lean his head
against a wall to bark; he exhibited his laziness in other ways. He
barked often, though never at strangers; he welcomed every visitor,
even the tax-collector, with tail-waggings and a smile. He spent a good
deal of his time in the large kitchen, where he had a sofa to sleep on,
and when the two cats of the house wanted an hour's rest they would
coil themselves up on Dandy's broad shaggy side, preferring that bed to
cushion or rug. They were like a warm blanket over him, and it was a
sort of mutual benefit society. After an hour's sleep Dandy would go
out for a short constitutional as far as the neighbouring thoroughfare,
where he would blunder against people, wag his tail to everybody, and
then come back. He had six or eight or more outings each day, and,
owing to doors and gates being closed and to his lazy disposition, he
had much trouble in getting out and in. First he would sit down in the
hall and bark, bark, bark, until some one would come to open the door
for him, whereupon he would slowly waddle down the garden path, and if
he found the gate closed he would again sit down and start barking. And
the bark, bark would go on until some one came to let him out. But if
after he had barked about twenty or thirty times no one came, he would
deliberately open the gate himself, which he could do perfectly well,
and let himself out. In twenty minutes or so he would be back at the
gate and barking for admission once more, and finally, if no one paid
any attention, letting himself in.

Dandy always had something to eat at mealtimes, but he too liked a
snack between meals once or twice a day. The dog-biscuits were kept in
an open box on the lower dresser shelf, so that he could get one
"whenever he felt so disposed," but he didn't like the trouble this
arrangement gave him, so he would sit down and start barking, and as he
had a bark which was both deep and loud, after it had been repeated a
dozen times at intervals of five seconds, any person who happened to be
in or near the kitchen was glad to give him his biscuit for the sake of
peace and quietness. If no one gave it him, he would then take it out
himself and eat it.

Now it came to pass that during the last year of the war dog-biscuits,
like many other articles of food for man and beast, grew scarce, and
were finally not to be had at all. At all events, that was what
happened in Dandy's town of Penzance. He missed his biscuits greatly
and often reminded us of it by barking; then, lest we should think he
was barking about something else, he would go and sniff and paw at the
empty box. He perhaps thought it was pure forgetfulness on the part of
those of the house who went every morning to do the marketing and had
fallen into the habit of returning without any dog-biscuits in the
basket. One day during that last winter of scarcity and anxiety I went
to the kitchen and found the floor strewn all over with the fragments
of Dandy's biscuit-box. Dandy himself had done it; he had dragged the
box from its place out into the middle of the floor, and then
deliberately set himself to bite and tear it into small pieces and
scatter them about. He was caught at it just as he was finishing the
job, and the kindly person who surprised him in the act suggested that
the reason of his breaking up the box in that way that he got something
of the biscuit flavour by biting the pieces. My own theory was that as
the box was there to hold biscuits and now held none, he had come to
regard it as useless--as having lost its function, so to speak--also
that its presence there was an insult to his intelligence, a constant
temptation to make a fool of himself by visiting it half a dozen times
a day only to find it empty as usual. Better, then, to get rid of it
altogether, and no doubt when he did it he put a little temper into the
business!

Dandy, from the time I first knew him, was strictly teetotal, but in
former and distant days he had been rather fond of his glass. If a
person held up a glass of beer before him, I was told, he wagged his
tail in joyful anticipation, and a little beer was always given him at
mealtime. Then he had an experience, which, after a little hesitation,
I have thought it best to relate, as it is perhaps the most curious
incident in Dandy's somewhat uneventful life.

One day Dandy, who after the manner of his kind, had attached himself
to the person who was always willing to take him out for a stroll,
followed his friend to a neighbouring public-house, where the said
friend had to discuss some business matter with the landlord. They went
into the taproom, and Dandy, finding that the business was going to be
a rather long affair, settled himself down to have a nap. Now it
chanced that a barrel of beer which had just been broached had a leaky
tap, and the landlord had set a basin on the floor to catch the waste.
Dandy, waking from his nap and hearing the trickling sound, got up, and
going to the basin quenched his thirst, after which he resumed his nap.
By-and-by he woke again and had a second drink, and altogether he woke
and had a drink five or six times; then, the business being concluded,
they went out together, but no sooner were they in the fresh air than
Dandy began to exhibit signs of inebriation. He swerved from side to
side, colliding with the passers-by, and finally fell off the pavement
into the swift stream of water which at that point runs in the gutter
at one side of the street. Getting out of the water, he started again,
trying to keep close to the wall to save himself from another ducking.
People looked curiously at him, and by-and-by they began to ask what
the matter was. "Is your dog going to have a fit--or what is it?" they
asked. Dandy's friend said he didn't know; something was the matter no
doubt, and he would take him home as quickly as possible and see to it.

When they finally got to the house Dandy staggered to his sofa, and
succeeded in climbing on to it and, throwing himself on his cushion,
went fast asleep, and slept on without a break until the following
morning. Then he rose quite refreshed and appeared to have forgotten
all about it; but that day when at dinner-time some one said "Dandy"
and held up a glass of beer, instead of wagging his tail as usual he
dropped it between his legs and turned away in evident disgust. And
from that time onward he would never touch it with his tongue, and it
was plain that when they tried to tempt him, setting beer before him
and smilingly inviting him to drink, he knew they were mocking him, and
before turning away he would emit a low growl and show his teeth. It
was the one thing that put him out and would make him angry with his
friends and life companions.

I should not have related this incident if Dandy had been alive. But he
is no longer with us. He was old--half-way between fifteen and sixteen:
it seemed as though he had waited to see the end of the war, since no
sooner was the armistice proclaimed than he began to decline rapidly.
Gone deaf and blind, he still insisted on taking several
constitutionals every day, and would bark as usual at the gate, and if
no one came to let him out or admit him, he would open it for himself
as before. This went on till January, 1919, when some of the boys he
knew were coming back to Penzance and to the house. Then he established
himself on his sofa, and we knew that his end was near, for there he
would sleep all day and all night, declining food. It is customary in
this country to chloroform a dog and give him a dose of strychnine to
"put him out of his misery." But it was not necessary in this case, as
he was not in misery; not a groan did he ever emit, waking or sleeping;
and if you put a hand on him he would look up and wag his tail just to
let you know that it was well with him. And in his sleep he passed
away--a perfect case of euthanasia--and was buried in the large garden
near the second apple-tree.

W. H. Hudson