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That enterprising savage who first domesticated the pig has a good deal to answer for. I do not say that the moral training of the pig was a distinct evil, for it undoubtedly saved many aged and respectable persons from serious inconvenience. The more practical members of the primitive tribes were wont to club the patriarchs whom they regarded as having lived long enough; and an exaggerated spirit of economy led the sons of the forest to eat their venerable relatives. The domestication of the noble animal which is the symbol of Irish prosperity caused a remarkable change in primitive public opinion. The gratified savage, conscious of possessing pigs, no longer cast the anxious eye of the epicure upon his grandmother. Thus a disagreeable habit and a disagreeable tradition were abolished, and one more step was made in the direction of universal kindliness. But, while we are in some measure grateful to the first pig-tamer, we do not feel quite so sure about the first person who inveigled the cat into captivity. Mark that I do not speak of the “slavery” of the cat–for who ever knew a cat to do anything against its will? If you whistle for a dog, he comes with servile gestures, and almost overdoes his obedience; but, if a cat has got into a comfortable place, you may whistle for that cat until you are spent, and it will go on regarding you with a lordly blink of independence. No; decidedly the cat is not a slave. Of course I must be logical, and therefore I allow, under reasonable reservations, that a boot-jack, used as a projectile, will make a cat stir; and I have known a large garden-syringe cause a most picturesque exodus in the case of some eloquent and thoughtful cats that were holding a conference in a garden at midnight. Still I must carefully point out the fact that the boot-jack will not induce the cat to travel in any given direction for your convenience; you throw the missile, and you must wait in suspense until you know whether your cat will vanish with a wild plunge through the roof of your conservatory or bound with unwonted smartness into your favourite William pear tree. The syringe is scarcely more trustworthy in its action than the boot-jack; the parting remarks of six drenched cats are spirited and harmonious; but the animals depart to different quarters of the universe, and your hydraulic measure, so far from bringing order out of chaos, merely evokes a wailing chaos out of comparative order. These discursive observations aim at showing that a cat has a haughty spirit of independence which centuries of partial submission to the suzerainty of man have not eradicated. I do not want to censure the ancient personage who made friends with the creature which is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever to many estimable people–I reserve my judgment. Some otherwise calm and moral men regard the cat in such a light that they would go and jump on the tomb of the primeval tamer; others would erect monuments to him; so perhaps it is better that we do not know whose memory we should revere–or anathematise–the processes are reversible, according to our dispositions. Man is the paragon of animals; the cat is the paradox of animals. You cannot reason about the creature; you can only make sure that it has every quality likely to secure success in the struggle for existence; and it is well to be careful how you state your opinions in promiscuous company, for the fanatic cat-lover is only a little less wildly ferocious than the fanatical cat-hater.

Cats and pigs appear to have been the first creatures to earn the protective affection of man; but, ah, what a cohort of brutes and birds have followed! The dog is an excellent, noble, lovable animal; but the pet-dog! Alas! I seem to hear one vast sigh of genuine anguish as this Essay travels round the earth from China to Peru. I can understand the artfulness of that wily savage who first persuaded the wolf-like animal of the Asiatic plains to help him in the chase; I understand the statesmanship of the Thibetan shepherd who first made a wolf turn traitor to the lupine race. But who first invented the pet-dog? This impassioned question I ask with thoughts that are a very great deal too deep for tears. Consider what the existence of the pet-dog means. You visit an estimable lady, and you are greeted, almost in the hall, by a poodle, who waltzes around your legs and makes an oration like an obstructionist when the Irish Estimates are before the House. You feel that you are pale, but you summon up all your reserves of base hypocrisy and remark, “Poor fellow! Poo-poo-poo-ole fellow!” You really mean, “I should like to tomahawk you, and scalp you afterwards!”–but this sentiment you ignobly retain in your own bosom. You lift one leg in an apologetic way, and poodle instantly dashes at you with all the vehemence of a charge of his compatriots the Cuirassiers. You shut your eyes and wait for the shedding of blood; but the torturer has all the malignant subtlety of an Apache Indian, and he tantalizes you. Presently the lady of the house appears, and, finding that you are beleaguered by an ubiquitous foe, she says sweetly, “Pray do not mind Moumou; his fun gets the better of him. Go away, naughty Moumou! Did Mr. Blank frighten him then–the darling?” Fun! A pleasing sort of fun! If the rescuer had seen that dog’s sanguinary rushes, she would not talk about fun. When you reach the drawing-room, there is a pug seated on an ottoman. He looks like a peculiarly truculent bull-dog that has been brought up on a lowering diet of gin-and-water, and you gain an exaggerated idea of his savagery as he uplifts his sooty muzzle. He barks with indignation, as if he thought you had come for his mistress’s will, and intended to cut him off with a Spratt’s biscuit. Of course he comes to smell round your ankles, and equally of course you put on a sickly smile, and take up an attitude as though you had sat down on the wrong side of a harrow. Your conversation is strained and feeble; you fail to demonstrate your affection; and, when a fussy King Charles comes up and fairly shrieks injurious remarks at you, the sense of humiliation and desertion is too severe, and you depart. Of course your hostess never attempts to control her satellites–they are quiet with her; and, even if one of them sampled the leg of a guest with a view to further business, she would be secretly pleased at such a proof of exclusive affection. We suppose that people must have something to be fond of; but why should any one be fond of a pug that is too unwieldy to move faster than a hedgehog? His face is, to say the least, not celestial–whatever his nose may be; he cannot catch a rat; he cannot swim; he cannot retrieve; he can do nothing, and his insolence to strangers eclipses the best performances of the finest and tallest Belgravian flunkeys. He is alive, and in his youth he may doubtless have been comic and engaging; but in his obese, waddling, ill-conditioned old age he is such an atrocity that one wishes a wandering Chinaman might pick him up and use him instantly after the sensible thrifty fashion of the great nation.