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Domestic Despots
by [?]

Those who walk through the well-to-do quarters of our city, and glance, perhaps a little enviously as they pass, toward the cheerful firesides, do not reflect that in almost every one of these apparently happy homes a pitiless tyrant reigns, a misshapen monster without bowels of compassion or thought beyond its own greedy appetites, who sits like Sinbad’s awful burden on the necks of tender women and distracted men. Sometimes this incubus takes the form of a pug, sometimes of a poodle, or simply a bastard cur admitted to the family bosom in a moment of unreflecting pity; size and pedigree are of no importance; the result is always the same. Once Caliban is installed in his stronghold, peace and independence desert that roof.

We read daily of fathers tyrannizing over trembling families, of stepmothers and unnatural children turning what might be happy homes into amateur Infernos, and sigh, as we think of martyrdoms endured by overworked animals.

It is cheering to know that societies have been formed for the protection of dumb brutes and helpless children. Will no attempt be made to alleviate this other form of suffering, which has apparently escaped the eye of the reformer?

The animal kingdom is divided-like all Gaul-into three divisions: wild beasts, that are obliged to hustle for themselves; laboring and producing animals, for which man provides because they are useful to him-and dogs! Of all created things on our globe the canine race have the softest “snap.” The more one thinks about this curious exception in their favor the more unaccountable it appears. We neglect such wild things as we do not slaughter, and exact toil from domesticated animals in return for their keep. Dogs alone, shirking all cares and labor, live in idle comfort at man’s expense.

When that painful family jar broke up the little garden party in Eden and forced our first parents to work or hunt for a living, the original Dog (equally disgusted with either alternative) hit on the luminous idea of posing as the champion of the disgraced couple, and attached himself to Adam and Eve; not that he approved of their conduct, but simply because he foresaw that if he made himself companionable and cosy he would be asked to stay to dinner.

From that day to the present, with the exception of occasionally watching sheep and houses-a lazy occupation at the best-and a little light carting in Belgium (dogs were given up as turn-spits centuries ago, because they performed that duty badly), no canine has raised a paw to do an honest day’s work, neither has any member of the genus been known voluntarily to perform a useful act.

How then-one asks one’s self in a wonder-did the myth originate that Dog was the friend of Man? Like a multitude of other fallacies taught to innocent children, this folly must be unlearned later. Friend of man, indeed! Why, the “Little Brothers of the Rich” are guileless philanthropists in comparison with most canines, and unworthy to be named in the same breath with them. Dogs discovered centuries ago that to live in luxury, it was only necessary to assume an exaggerated affection for some wealthy mortal, and have since proved themselves past masters in a difficult art in which few men succeed. The number of human beings who manage to live on their friends is small, whereas the veriest mongrel cur contrives to enjoy food and lodging at some dupe’s expense.

Facts such as these, however, have not over-thrown the great dog myth. One can hardly open a child’s book without coming across some tale of canine intelligence and devotion. My tender youth was saddened by the story of one disinterested dog that refused to leave his master’s grave and was found frozen at his post on a bleak winter’s morning. With the experience of years in pet dogs I now suspect that, instead of acting in this theatrical fashion, that pup trotted home from the funeral with the most prosperous and simple-minded couple in the neighborhood, and after a substantial meal went to sleep by the fire. He must have been a clever dog to get so much free advertisement, so probably strolled out to his master’s grave the next noon, when people were about to hear him, and howled a little to keep up appearances.