Scott would have been the man to consult about the best kind of dog to make a companion of, but Scott is gone. I have kept a good many sorts myself, from deerhounds stately as Maida, down to the toy terrier I could smuggle into a coat-pocket when I went travelling abroad. I found by the way, he was always considered an acquisition to the party when he came up to breathe like an otter and insisted on crawling on to my lap. But my personal fancy is for terriers, and specially for Aberdeen terriers. I seldom go for a walk without having two or three trotting at my heels—though indeed " trotting at my heels " is another poetic license, for unless when walking through pheasant coverts or over ground swarming with rabbits, they are here, there, and everywhere—for the general characteristic of the terrier is restless activity, and his great charm is his irrepressible curiosity. His ears, or at least one of them, is always cocked ; nothing, above or below, escapes his notice ; and I have one old dog who diverted the attention of a village school-treat by following with wrapt attention the flight of a calico balloon. It was a puzzle altogether beyond his experience, and when he shook his head after trying vainly to solve the problem, I never saw a dog look more disgusted.
A queer contradiction in the terrier with his restless activity is his economising of the work that must be done. He is always going to and fro, changing from the gallop to the trot, but whenever he comes to a cross-road or a side field-path there he waits, as if he were a convict on the treadmill, who won't take an unnecessary step. And, like other dogs of good breed, he has an extraordinary knowledge of the lie of a country. I don't much believe in the wonderful stories of dogs who have travelled in dog-boxes from Land's End to John o' Groat's, finding their way straight home again like homing pigeons. As I once heard the editor of Punch remark, if they were worth stealing they would certainly be picked up on the road. But if the youngest dog is missing in course of a walk anywhere near his home, you may be pretty sure he will turn up all right, barring thieves or accidents. Yet, till he does turn up, you can never be altogether easy. It is a fair presumption that he is in mischief, and may have got into grief. He may have been caught in a trap, or shot by a zealous game watcher when scraping at a rabbit burrow, or in his excitement he may have burrowed into the bowels of the earth and got wedged between stones or buried in a landslip. The weakness of lively young dogs for poaching is a constant sense of anxiety. When there is a pair of them knocking about in company they are perpetually in scrapes. I live where small coverts and straggling woods come up to a thick coppice at the bottom of the garden. There is a tangled bit of paddock, and the dogs stroll off innocently enough on their own property, jumping among the tufts of grass and pretending to be hunting field-mice. They know as well as I do the boundaries they are forbidden to pass. But suddenly something comes as an excuse or an irresistible temptation for breaking bounds. A rabbit starts from under a bramble and scuttles for the hedge, or a pair of partridges in the mating season skim the grass with a whirr. Then the dogs are off and away, yelping ceaselessly in shrill discord, and when you may see them again is a question.
In my opinion Sunday is the special day on which they craftily and deliberately get into mischief. On the other six days they see you in tweeds or homespun, and are hopeful of something turning up in their line. On Sunday they know the meaning of the church bells. They assume a suitable and Sabbatical demeanour, but it is sulky rather than solemn. They see you come forth in a top hat with an umbrella, and the umbrella is a sure sign, for they know you never carry one under other circumstances. They seldom try to follow, though a puppy may sneak behind at a safe distance ; but the moment you are out of sight they are planning diversion, and off they go for a long day in the woods. It is well for my peace of mind that I am friends with the surrounding keepers, otherwise the thought of wire snares and rabbit traps would disturb my devotions. I am not much afraid of the dogs being shot, for my dark terriers are " kenspeckle," as they say in Scotland, that is, there is no mistaking them. But the keepers make a good thing of catching the culprits and bringing them back. When they come home of their own accord, fagged and muddy, self-convicted by the briars and thorns on their coats, they are like the truant boy who has had his fling, and knows he has let himself in for well-merited punishment.
Conscience was silent in the excitement of the chase, but now it is very much alive. Instead of fawning and jumping up on you, they will not meet your eye, and sneak into the back regions, even when half-dying of hunger.
You must train up a dog in the way he should go, and what you must chiefly impress upon him is obedience and self-control. But gentle methods are the best, except with impracticable animals you had better get rid of, and everything may be done by kindness. When you are teaching the dog, it is good training for yourself, and sometimes patience is sorely tried. A dog-call always hangs at my button-hole, but I never carry a dog-whip, and though I sometimes lay the stick lightly over a dog's back, it is only by way of hint as to what might possibly happen. Only once did I actually chastise a dog severely, and he was the greatest favourite I have ever had. Once when I returned home after a few weeks' absence, I found he had become an incorrigible poacher, or rather hunter, for there was nothing of the sneak about his proceedings, and he never realised he was doing wrong. Servants had taken him out for walks in the woods, and were quite content to bring him home safe, waiting patiently until he had done amusing himself with the game. Taking the same walks myself, I found that my friend gave me the slip ; then I heard him, as the old writers say, making the welkin ring, as he followed hot-foot on a burning scent. His cheery cry might have been heard over half a parish as pheasants rose rocketing over the trees, and hares came hopping out of the thickets. How the keepers' attention had not been directed to his vagaries, I don't know. Mild remonstrances, stern reproofs, sharp pulling of the ears were of no avail ; the young scamp seemed incorrigible. One day, when he was running his usual ring, I heard him coming straight for me, full cry. To eclipse myself behind a big oak was, as the story writers say, the work of a moment. By, within a couple of yards, came a hare with ears laid back, and half a minute afterwards was followed by Master Charlie, pumped and half-blown, but still with breath enough to bark. He literally jumped into my arms, and you never saw a dog so taken aback. He was as much surprised when sharp and unaccustomed chastisement followed close on the sin. For once the rod was not spared, and from that hour he became a reformed character. By the way, when he sobered down with old age, he became a pretty regular churchgoer. He knew the signs of the Sabbath as well as any of his friends, and when he heard the bells he would slip away from the others to lie in wait. When I went by on the first occasion, he must have followed at a respectful distance, for I never saw him till service was over. Having tried it on successfully once, I never discouraged him in a practice so praiseworthy, for he gave no sort of trouble. I have been in Highland churches where the collies were regular members of the congregation ; they followed the hill shepherds over miles of moor and moss, curling themselves up at their masters' feet. Generally they snored peacefully through the service, but sometimes one would waken up from a nightmare, make a snap at his neighbour, and then there would be trouble. There would be a free-tight in the passages, when the hair was flying and the shepherds flourishing their sticks, for they were shy of trusting their hands among the sharp-toothed combatants. Then the dogs would be kicked out, the doors closed upon them, and the minister, not unaccustomed to such scenes, would recommence his sermon, where he had been interrupted. But Charlie never came farther than the porch; there he would sit out the longest service with exemplary patience, in the hope of being taken afterwards for a quiet stroll.