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On Children And Dogs
by [?]

Our little dog was even more cunning than ourselves. He was never permitted, on any plea, to lie before the fire. “It enlarged his liver,” his master said. Now this decree is a great deprivation to dogs. They like warmth and comfort just as much as we do; indeed, they love the fire to such an extent that if all the terrors of Hades were put before them, they would by no means have a salutary effect. The dogs would try to be as naughty as possible in the hopes of getting there.

But this particular little animal was made of most obstinate materials, and had no intention of being baulked; so directly we knelt down for prayers, he scrambled from under the table, and stretched his full length before the fire. He knew he would not be spoken to until we had finished, and felt quite safe until we all joined in the Lord’s Prayer at the end, when he would immediately decamp, and thus escape any scolding for his disobedience. It was more especially clever of him because we all joined in the Confession as well, but he never took any notice of that, and always put off his departure until the last minute.

We had this dog twelve years altogether, and a sad night it was, indeed, when he had a fit and died. The breakfast-table next morning presented a most distressing spectacle. We were all positively swimming in tears. The whole family was upset at his death; and when, later on in the day, he was wrapped up in a fish basket and buried in the garden, next door to a favorite rabbit–on whose grave a cabbage had been planted, most unkindly reminding him of the sweets of life he had left behind–we all lifted up our voices and wept again.

I often wonder if we shall meet our faithful dumb friends hereafter! Sages say no; but I cannot believe they are so entirely blotted out, and like to think they have some happy sugary existence somewhere, and that we shall see them again some day.

Dogs are very human after all; they have a great many of our virtues and nearly all our vices. I expect it is this that endears them to us, for “One touch of nature makes all the world kin.” They are just as contradictory, as disappointing, as ourselves. Why will they always show off to such bad advantage? After spending weeks in teaching them, and fortunes on pieces of sugar, why, before an audience, will they insist on ringing the bell when they are told to shut the door? and when you ask them to sit up and beg, why do they die for the Queen?

A little while ago we used to have grand steeplechases with our dogs. We put up fences and water jumps, all of which–with the aid of sugar again–they were able to master in time. I think they used to get quite excited themselves at last. Our old gardener, who used to watch the races with great interest, told me once that he “‘ad seen one of the little dawgs a’jumpin’ backwards and forwards over that ‘ere bit of wood (the highest and most perilous jump), and a’practisin’ by hisself!” He was a very clever “little dawg,” but I don’t think he ever reached such a pitch of intelligence as to practice “by hisself.”

We had to fill up the fences down to the ground, or, to save themselves the trouble of getting over, they would run under or scramble through in some extraordinary fashion, which in the end took much the most time and pains. Humanity again! Lazy people always take the most trouble!

When I was a little girl I had every morning to learn and repeat to my governess three verses from a French Bible. I thought I had hit upon an easy way of getting over this, and of reducing the quantity I had to commit to memory; so I chose the cxxxvi. Psalm, in which you will find, if you care to look it up (I have just had to do the same to find out the number, not being by any means a living concordance to the Psalms!)–you will find that half of each verse is composed of the words, “For His mercy endureth for ever.” Ingenuity wasted! Trouble increased! Not one whit the better off was I. Until that Psalm was finished I had to learn six verses instead of three. I retired anything but satisfied, and heartily wishing I had left that Psalm alone. It was very mean of my governess all the same. She should better have appreciated the craftiness of her pupil. But, poor things, they have to be very sharp and always on the look-out, or the children will take them in; they will not let any opportunity escape them, and, indeed, I pity anyone who has the care of these unraveled Sphinxes, these uncut Gordian knots.