Some persons object to having a dog on the bed at night; and it must be admitted that he lies a little heavily on one's limbs; but why be so base as to prefer comfort to companionship! To wake up in the dark night, and put your hand on that warm soft body, to feel the beating of that faithful heart, is not this better than undisturbed sloth? The best night's rest I ever had was once when a cocker spaniel puppy, who had just recovered from stomach-ache [dose one to two soda-mints], and was a little frightened by the strange experience, curled up on my shoulder like a fur tippet, gently pushed his cold, soft nose into my neck, and there slept sweetly and soundly until morning.
Companionship with his master is the dog's remedy for every ill, and only an extreme case will justify sending him away or boarding him out. To put a dog in a hospital, unless there is some surgical or other like necessity for doing so, is an act of doubtful kindness. Many and many a dog has died from homesickness If he is ill, keep him warm and quiet, give him such simple remedies as you would give to a child, pour beef tea or malted milk down his throat, or even a little whiskey, if he is weak from want of food; and let him live or die, as did our fathers and our fathers' dogs,at home.
Many dogs are sensitive to an excessive degree, so sensitive indeed that any correction of them, beyond such as can be conveyed by a word, amounts to positive cruelty. A dog of that kind may easily be thrown by harsh treatment into a state of nervous disorder, and will be really unable to do what is required of him. In that state he often presents an appearance of obstinacy, whereas in fact he is suffering from a sort of nervous atrophy or paralysis, closely resembling that of a "balky" horse.
This nervous temperament makes the dog susceptible to misery in many forms, but the worst evil that can befall him is to be lost. The very words "lost dog" call up such pictures of canine misery as can never be forgotten by those who have witnessed them. I have seen a lost dog, lame, emaciated, wounded, footsore, hungry, and thirsty, and yet suffering so intensely from fear, and loneliness, and despair, from the mere sense of being lost, as to be absolutely unconscious of his bodily condition. The mental agony was so much greater that it swallowed up the physical pain. A little Boston terrier, lost in a large city for two or three days, became so wrecked in his nervous system that no amount of care or petting could restore him to equanimity, and it was found necessary to kill him. Oh, reader, pass not by the lost dog! Succor him if you can; preserve him from what is worse than death. It is easy to recognize him by the look Of nervous terror in his eye, by his drooping tail, by his uncertain movements.
There is a remorseful experience of my own, of which I should be glad to unburden myself to the reader. It once became my duty to kill a dog afflicted with some incurable disease. Instead of doing it myself, as I should have done, I took him to a place where lost dogs are received, and where those for whom no home can be found are mercifully destroyed. There, instead of myself leading him to the death chamber, as, again, I should have done, I handed him over to the executioner. The dog was an abnormally nervous and timid one; and as he was dragged most unwillingly away, he turned around, as nearly as he could, and cast back at me a look of horror, of fear, of agonized appeal, a look that has haunted me for years. Whether he had any inkling of what was in store for him, I do not know, but it is highly probable that he had. Dogs and other animals are wonderful mind-readers. I have known three cases in which some discussion about the necessity of killing an old dog, held in his presence, was quickly followed by the sudden, unaccountable disappearance of the animal; and no tidings of him could ever be obtained, although the greatest pains were taken to obtain them. Horses are inferior only to dogs in this capacity. Often, especially in the case of vicious or half-broken horses, an intention will flash from the mind of the horse to the mind of the rider or driver, and vice versa, without the slightest indication being given by horse or man. Men who ride race-horses have told me that a sudden conviction in their own minds, in the course of a race, that they could not win, has passed immediately to the horse, and caused him to slacken his speed, although they had not ceased to urge him. It is notorious in the trotting world that faint-hearted and pessimistic drivers often lose races which they ought to win.
As to remarkable stories about this or that animal, perhaps it might be said that they are probably true when they illustrate the animal's perceptive abilities, and are probably false when they depend upon his power to originate. There appeared lately an account of a race between loons in the wild state: how the loons got together and arranged the preliminaries (whether they made books on the event or adopted the pool system of betting was not stated), how the race was run, or rather flown, amid intense loon excitement, and how the victor was greeted with screams of applause!
Some power of origination animals, and dogs especially, certainly have. There is the familiar trick that dogs play, when one, to get a bone away from another, rushes off a little space, gives the bark which signifies the presence of an intruder, then comes back and quietly runs away with the bone which the other dog, in his curiosity to see who is coming, has impulsively dropped. This is an example not only of reasoning, but of origination.
In general, however, when dogs surprise us, as they frequently do, it is by the delicacy and acuteness of their perceptive powers. How unerringly do they distinguish between different classes of persons, as, for example, between the members of the family and the servants; and again, between the servants and the friends of the household! Unquestionably the dog has three sets of manners for these three classes of persons. He will take liberties in the kitchen that he would never dream of taking in the dining-room. We have known our cook to fly in terror from the kitchen because Figaro, a masterful cocker spaniel, threatened to bite her if she did not give him a piece of meat forthwith. Figaro reasoned that the cook was partly his cook, and that he had a right to bully her if he could.