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Rab and his Friends
Plea for a Dog Home


EDINBURGH, December 8, 1862.

Sir., — I am rejoiced to find Mr. William Chambers has taken up this matter. There is no fear of failure if Glenormiston sets himself to organize a home for our destitute four-footed fellow-creatures, from whom we get so much of the best enjoyment, affection, and help. It need not be an expensive institution, — if the value of the overplus of good eating that, from our silly over-indulgence, makes our town dogs short-lived, lazy, mangy, and on a rare and enlivening occasion mad, were represented by money, all the homeless, starving dogs of the city would be warmed and fed, and their dumb miseries turned into food and gladness. When we see our Peppers, and Dicks, and Muffs, and Nellys, and Dandies, and who knows how many other cordial little ruffians with the shortest and spiciest of names, on the rug, warm and cozy, — pursuing in their dreams that imaginary cat, — let us think of their wretched brethren or sisters without food, without shelter, without a master or a bone. It only needs a beginning, this new ragged school and home, where the religious element happily is absent, and Dr. Guthrie may go halves with me in paying for the keep of a rescued cur. There is no town where there are so many thoroughbred house-dogs. I could produce from my own dog acquaintance no end of first-class Dandie Dinmonts and Skyes; and there is no town where there is more family enjoyment from dogs, — from Paterfamilias down to the baby whose fingers are poked with impunity into eyes as fierce and fell as Dirk Hatteraick's or Meg Merrilies's.

Many years ago, I got a proof of the unseen, and, therefore, unhelped miseries of the homeless dog. I was walking down Duke Street, when I felt myself gently nipped in the leg, — I turned, and there was a ragged little terrier crouching and abasing himself utterly, as if asking pardon for what he had done. He then stood up on end and begged as only these coaxing little ruffians can. Being in a hurry, I curtly praised his performance with "Good dog! " clapped his dirty sides, and, turning round, made down the hill; when presently the same nip, perhaps a little nippier, — the same scene, only more intense, the same begging and urgent motioning of his short, shaggy paws. "There 's meaning in this," said I to myself, and looked at him keenly and differently. He seemed to twig at once, and, with a shrill cry, was off much faster than I could. He stopped every now and then to see that I followed, and, by way of putting off the time and urging me, got up on the aforesaid portion of his body, and, when I came up, was off again. This continued till, after going through sundry streets and by-lanes, we came to a gate, under which my short-legged friend disappeared. Of course I couldn't follow him. This astonished him greatly. He came out to me, and as much as said, "Why the don't you come in?" I tried to open it, but in vain. My friend vanished and was silent. I was leaving in despair and disgust, when I heard his muffled, ecstatic yelp far off round the end of the wall, and there he was, wild with excitement. I followed and came to a place where, with a somewhat burglarious ingenuity, I got myself squeezed into a deserted coachyard, lying all rude and waste. My peremptory small friend went under a shed, and disappeared in a twinkling through the window of an old coach-body, which had long ago parted from its wheels and become sedentary. I remember the arms of the Fife family were on its panel; and, I dare say, this chariot, with its C springs, had figured in 1822 at the King's visit, when all Scotland was somewhat Fifeish. I looked in, and there was a pointer bitch with a litter of five pups; the mother, like a ghost, wild with maternity and hunger; her raging, yelling brood tearing away at her dry dugs. I never saw a more affecting or more miserable scene than that family inside the coach. The poor bewildered mother, I found, had been lost by some sportsman returning South, and must have slunk away there into that deserted place, when her pangs (for she has her pangs as well as a duchess) came, and there, in that forlorn retreat, had she been with them, rushing out to grab any chance garbage, running back fiercely to them, — this going on day after day, night after night. What the relief was when we got her well fed and cared for, - and her children filled and silent, all cuddling about her asleep, and she asleep too, — awaking up to assure herself that this was all true, and that there they were, all the five, each as plump as a plum, —

"All too happy in the treasure,
Of her own exceeding pleasure," --

what this is in kind, and all the greater in amount as many outnumber one, may be the relief, the happiness, the charity experienced and exercised in a homely, well-regulated Dog Home. Nipper — for he was a waif — I took home that night, and gave him his name. He lived a merry life with me, showed much pluck and zeal in the killing of rats, and incontinently slew a cat which had - unnatural brute, unlike his friend — deserted her kittens, and was howling offensively inside his kennel. He died, aged sixteen, healthy, lean, and happy to the last. As for Perdita and her pups, they brought large prices, the late Andrew Buchanan, of Coltbridge, an excellent authority and man — the honestest dog-dealer I ever knew— having discovered that their blood and her culture were of the best.


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