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Any Stick Will Do To Beat A Dog
by [?]

Reader, possibly on one of your country walks you have come upon a man with his back against a hedge, tormented by a fiend in the likeness of a dog. You yourself, of course, are not a coward. You possess that cornerstone of virtue, a love for animals. If at your heels a dog sniffs and growls, you humor his mistake, you flick him off and proceed with unbroken serenity. It is scarcely an interlude to your speculation on the market. Or if you work upon a sonnet and are in the vein, your thoughts, despite the beast, run unbroken to a rhyme. But pity this other whose heart is less stoutly wrapped! He has gone forth on a holiday to take the country air, to thrust himself into the freer wind, to poke with his stick for such signs of Spring as may be hiding in the winter’s leaves. Having been grinding in an office he flings himself on the great round world. He has come out to smell the earth. Or maybe he seeks a hilltop for a view of the fields that lie below patched in many colors, as though nature had been sewing at her garments and had mended the cloth from her bag of scraps.

On such a journey this fellow is travelling when, at a turn of the road, he hears the sound of barking. As yet there is no dog in sight. He pauses. He listens. How shall one know whether the sound comes up a wrathful gullet or whether the dog bays at him impersonally, as at the distant moon? Or maybe he vents himself upon a stubborn cow. Surely it is not an idle tune he practices. He holds a victim in his mind. There is sour venom on his churlish tooth. Is it best to go roundabout, or forward with such a nice compound of innocence, boldness and modesty as shall satisfy the beast? If one engross oneself on something that lies to the lee of danger, it allays suspicion. Or if one absorb oneself upon the flora–a primrose on the river’s brim–it shows him clear and stainless. The stupidest dog should see that so close a student can have no evil in him. Perhaps it would be better to throw away one’s stick lest it make a show of violence. Or it may be concealed along the outer leg. Ministers of Grace defend us, what an excitement in the barnyard! Has virtue no reward? Shall innocence perish off the earth? Not one dog, but many, come running out. There has gone a rumor about the barn that there is a stranger to be eaten, and it’s likely–if they keep their clamor–there will be a bone for each. Note how the valor oozes from the man of peace! Observe his sidling gait, his skirts pulled close, his hollowed back, his head bent across his shoulder, his startled eye! Watch him mince his steps, lest a lingering heel be nipped! Listen to him try the foremost dog with names, to gull him to a belief that they have met before in happier circumstances! He appeals mutely to the farmhouse that a recall be sounded. The windows are tightly curtained. The heavens are comfortless.

You remember the fellow in the play who would have loved war had they not digged villainous saltpetre from the harmless earth. The countryside, too, in my opinion, would be more peaceful of a summer afternoon were it not overrun with dogs. Let me be plain! I myself like dogs–sleepy dogs blinking in the firelight, friendly dogs with wagging tails, young dogs in their first puppyhood with their teeth scarce sprouted, whose jaws have not yet burgeoned into danger, and old dogs, too, who sun themselves and give forth hollow, toothless, reassuring sounds. When a dog assumes the cozy habits of the cat without laying off his nobler nature, he is my friend. A dog of vegetarian aspect pleases me. Let him bear a mild eye as though he were nourished on the softer foods! I would wish every dog to have a full complement of tail. It’s the sure barometer of his warm regard. There’s no art to find his mind’s construction in the face. And I would have him with not too much curiosity. It’s a quality that brings him too often to the gate. It makes him prone to sniff when one sits upon a visit. Nor do I like dogs addicted to sudden excitement. Lethargy becomes them better. Let them be without the Gallic graces! In general, I like a dog to whom I have been properly introduced, with an exchange of credentials. While the dog is by, let his master take my hand and address me in softest tones, to cement the understanding! At bench-shows I love the beasts, although I keep to the middle of the aisle. The streets are all the safer when so many of the creatures are kept within.