Reformers and philanthropists should always keep dogs, in order that the spontaneous element may not wholly die out of them. Their tendency is to regard the human race as a problem, and particular persons as "cases" to be dealt with, not according to one's impulses, but according to certain rules approved of by good authority, and supposed to be consistent with sound economic principles. To my old friend , who once liked me for myself, without asking why, I have long ceased to be an individual, and am now simply an item of humanity to whom he owes such duty as my particular wants or vices would seem to indicate. But if he had a dog, he could not regard him in that impersonal way, or worry about the dog's morals; he would simply take pleasure in his society, and love him for what he was, without considering what he might have been.
I know and honor one philanthropist who, in middle life or thereabout, became for the first time the possessor of a dog; and thenceforth there was disclosed in him a genuine vein of sentiment and affection which many years of doing good and virtuous living had failed to eradicate. Often had I heard of his civic deeds and of his well-directed charities, but my heart never quite warmed toward him, until I learned that, with spectacles on nose and comb in hand, he had spent three laborious hours in painfully going over his spaniel, and eliminating those parasitic guests which sometimes infest the coat of the cleanest and most aristocratic dog. I am not ashamed to say that I have a confidence in his wisdom now which I did not have before, knowing that his head will never be allowed to tyrannize over his heart. His name should be recorded here, were it not that his modesty might be offended by the act. (Three letters would suffice to print it).
In speaking of the dog as a kind of missionary in the household, I mean, it need hardly be said, something more than the mere ownership of the animal. It will not suffice to pay a large sum for a dog of fashionable breed, to equip him with a cosdy collar, and then to relegate him to the stable or the kitchen. He should be one of the family, living on equal terms with the others, and their constant companion. The dog's life is short at the best, and every moment of it will be needed for his development. It is wonderful how year by year the household pet grows in intelligence, how many words he learns the meaning of, how quick he becomes in interpreting the look, the tone of voice, the mood, of the person whom he loves. He is old at ten or eleven, and seldom lives beyond thirteen or fourteen. If he lived to be fifty, he would know so much that we should be uneasy, perhaps terrified, in his presence.
A certain amount of discipline is necessary for a dog. If left to his own devices, he is apt to become somewhat dissipated, to spend his evenings out, to scatter among many the affection which should be reserved for a few.
But, on the other hand, a dog may easily receive too much discipline: he becomes like the child of a despotic father. A dog perfectly trained from the martinet point of view,— one who never "jumps up" on you, never lays an entreating paw on your arm, never gets into a chair, nor enters the drawing-room, — such a dog is a sad sight to one who really knows and loves the animal. It is against his nature to be so repressed. Over-careful housewives, and persons who are burdened with costly surroundings, talk of injury to carpets and other furniture if the dog has a right of entry everywhere in the house. But what is furniture for ? Is it for display, is it a guaranty of the wealth of the owners, or is it for use? Blessed are they whose furniture is so inexpensive or so shabby that children and dogs are not excluded from its sacred precincts. Perhaps the happiest household to which I ever had the honor of being admitted was one where it was sometimes a little difficult to find a comfortable vacant chair: the dogs always took the arm-chairs. Alas, where are those hospitable chairs now? Where are the dogs that used to sit up in them, and wink and yawn, and give their paws in humorous embarrassment ? "'The drawing-room was made for dogs, and not dogs for the drawing-room,' would be Lady Barnes's thesis, did she formulate it." It was this same Lady Barnes (Rhoda Broughton's) who once said, "'I have no belief in Eliza, the housemaid I leave in charge here. When last I came down from London the dogs were so unnaturally good that I felt sure she bullied them. I spoke very seriously to her, and this time, I am glad to say, they are as disobedient as ever, and have done even more mischief than when I am at home.' And she laughs with a delicate relish of her own folly".
Of all writers of fiction, by the way, is there any whose dogs quite equal those of Rhoda Broughton ? Even the beloved author of "Rab and His Friends," even Sir Walter himself, with his immortal Dandie Dinmonts, has not, it seems to me, given us such lifelike and homelike pictures of dogs as those which occur in her novels. They seem to be there, not of set purpose, but as if dogs were such an essential part of her own existence that they crept into her books almost without her knowing it. No room in her novels is complete without a dog or two; and every remark that she makes about them has the quality of a caress. Even in a tragic moment, the heroine cannot help observing, that "Mink is lying on his small hairy side in a sun-patch, with his little paws crossed like a dying saint's." "Mr. Brown," that dear, faithful mongrel, is forever associated with the unfortunate Joan; and Brenda's "wouff " will go resounding down the halls of time so long as novels are read.
Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is willingness to permit them to make a camping-ground of the bed. There is no other place in the world that suits the dog quite so well. On the bed he is safe from being stepped upon; he is out of the way of drafts; he occupies a commanding position from which to survey what goes on in the world; and, above all, the surface is soft and yielding to his outstretched limbs. No mere man can ever be so comfortable as a dog looks.