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Behold the Hebrides
My Hebridean Collie

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 with him.

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 return.

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 screen.

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.


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