I HAVE the loveliest little black-and-tan
collie. His name is Ruairaidh, or Roderic; and I brought him from the wild
Hebrides, where, as a puppy, he was wont to scamper over moor and machair,
and along the sands and wrack-covered shore at the ebbing of the tide. I
cannot adequately describe him to you, for he is far too beautiful to be
described. To enjoy him to the fullest you must really see him, and play
Although Ruairaidh is only about two years of age, he
is a splendid sailor. He and I have experienced several minor sea voyages
together; and he can stand the stormy Minch better than most human beings,
who are obliged to cross it regularly.
But the real point about Ruairaidh is that he is so
very much nicer than most of the people with whom one comes in contact. To
begin with, he is guileless and bears no malice, and is in no way subject
to moodiness. I cannot tell you how happy he is: he is by far the happiest
dog in Edinburgh, where he lives at present. And, when I see and read of
other creatures being ill-used, at least I have the consolation of knowing
that there is one dog that has never received a blow or a kick.
In the meantime it is our misfortune to be separated
from one another; and it does seem a pity that we should spend so many of
these summer days apart, when we might be roaming about together, or
paying calls. (Ruairaidh simply loves paying calls!) But they say that
absence makes the heart grow fonder; and I know that each time we meet he
pours over me all the love he has stored away in his little heart until my
When I am in town, Ruairaidh and I go everywhere
together, except to church. Indeed I seldom visit where I find that he is
not welcome too; and I never give people the opportunity twice of asking
me inside, and leaving Ruairaidh sitting without on a cold, wet doorstep.
But most of my friends love him; and invitations to tea-parties are often
tendered to him in the first instance, for he is always the centre of
attraction and admiration in a drawing-room. Ruairaidh frequents all kinds
of public offices with me; and where I find it impossible to take him
inside (unless he is expressly invited), he sits motionlessly at the door
until I come out again. The point about him is that he is thoroughly
reliable, as all well-trained dogs ought to be. I know that, if I should
ask him to sit still in a certain place until my return, he will not have
moved an inch, even though I may have been absent for a couple of hours.
Ruairaidh and I have been twice in a picture-house. He
simply loves the ‘pictures,’ and becomes very enthusiastic about them,
especially when a chase or a fracas is being depicted. In fact it
sometimes requires all my strength to keep him under control when
something exciting is being shown, for he tries so hard to reach the
Both Ruairaidh and I are crazy for the water; and we
often go swimming together. When near the sea with him I have the greatest
difficulty in restraining him from rushing into it. You see, he too is a
Hebridean by birth; and the sea fascinates him, for it is in his blood. He
is also a splendid athlete. For example, he can clear an obstacle five
feet in height with the greatest ease and without turning a hair. Then we
frequently have cross-country runs together.
At the same time he is very domesticated, and will
carry brushes and brooms and other household utensils from one room to
another if requested to do so. He is also an expert carpet lifter.
We can send him for things, too, by merely naming the
objects required—e.g., a basket, boots, slippers (he knows the difference
between the latter two), a newspaper, his collar, a walking-stick, or even
bicycle clips. As a matter of fact, incredible as it may sound, he goes
regularly to the butcher’s shop, unaccompanied and carrying a basket with
a note inside it. The butcher puts in the basket what is asked for, and
places on the top Ruairaidh’s daily bone. The dog then returns with the
laden basket, holding the handle between his teeth. Then, almost every
morning he goes to the greengrocer for vegetables, and often returns with
the weekly newspapers in addition.
Ruairaidh is a bi-linguist. Of course, when in Rome we
do our best to speak as the Romans do; but to one another we endeavour to
speak Gaelic. Ruairaidh is an excellent Gaelic scholar, far better for his
age than his master is; and indeed he knows that language better than he
knows English! He was accustomed to no other tongue in Lewis; and we speak
it on every occasion when we are alone, or when we do not wish others to
understand what we are saying.
Ruairaidh has lovely glossy ears, a pair of white
spats, a sleeky black coat, and dear little brown eyes. But he has
something else—something behind those eyes. I suppose it must be his
spirit, or his soul. Whatever it is, it is that which fascinates me
most—this little personality of his. And the more I think of him, the more
I am convinced that the premises of the philosophic distinction between
reason, or intelligence, and instinct is in many respects quite erroneous.
Those who have never loved an animal can have no
earthly idea what it means to lose one.
All children should be brought up with at least one pet
about them, whether it be a dog, or a cat, or a rabbit, or even a pigeon.
I was fortunate in having had them all around me, when I was a child. Boys
and girls should be taught to respect their pets; and children who exhibit
early signs of cruelty and brutality should be swiftly dealt with.
One day Ruairaidh and I must needs part. In the natural
course of events he will leave me, and take his little personality from
me. I cannot bear to think of this parting; but, when it does come, it
will be in peace; and I shall be left with the satisfaction of knowing
that at least he understood me, and that I understood him.