JOHN BRUCE COWAN
AS A SAINT on earth Mugsy was not a success. It follows as a matter of course with no desire to whittle the theology of the thing to an extreme point —that if there is a heaven for good little dogs the chances are he will not be “among those present.” When one recalls his misdemeanors in the flesh it is more than reasonable to suppose before golden gates swing open, and bones (doubtless the accepted musical instrument in a canine paradise) are presented for a stainless life, there would be of necessity a long period of some such state as purgatory. That would go hard with our old dog, for patience was not his cardinal virtue.
Eternal bliss that had to be purchased at such a cost would not seem worth the price.
If unswerving affection and the staunchest loyalty do not qualify a dog for a seat among the saints of his class, it is greatly to be feared he may ultimately hereafter find himself in another—and perhaps more populous—circle. There being no certainty about the matter, we can only hope for the best for an old friend.
Mugsy was a wire-haired fox tterrier of patrician lineage.
He was no snob, however, and had no class prejudices like some of the canine aristocracy.
He had brains, and natural, human instincts, an affectionate disposition, and a wayward, devil-may-care streak in his make-up, the blending of which made a composite that occasioned much joy—and quite as much sorrow. That “Catch,” his mother, had all the points of a first-class show dog, a lengthy string of prizes, and altogether a large, much sought-after and noble family, did not interfere with this particular son’s enjoyment of life. On the contrary he seemed to glory in his democratic ideas of life and ungyved freedom.
Mugsy, therefore, came by some of his waywardness naturally enough. His mother was a patrician, yet she was no roman-nosed prude. She, too, could unbend and chase cats with keen relish, especially in druggists’ back shops where a thousand bottles were sometimes scattered in the wake of a wild hunt.
“Hindu,” sire of Mugsy, was a gentleman by nature. He had unmistakably all the earmarks of good breeding —a quiet dignity, noble appearance, easy manners, extreme good nature and a faculty for making readily the right type of friends.
A S SOMETIMES happens in the best families, however, the son this story is about was not a perfect specimen, in physique, in temper, or in morals. His primary defects were a coat a bit too soft and hind legs a bit too long for a prize-winning wire-haired fox terrier. Of his temper and his morals more later.
Truly he was no saint. When an irate chicken owner traced him to his lair and in our apologetic presence pointed an accusing finger at his woolly head and wrathfully exclaimed: “There’s the dog did it—killed one of my chickens, he did: durn his hide!” Then we said emphatically he was a little sinner. Mugsy, with the trait attributed to criminals, generally stayed to hear the accusation. He would look meekly innocent at his angry traducer, or perhaps dart a scornful glance at him, meaning unmistakably: “Well, didn’t the fool hen deserve her fate? She fussed so, it made me hot. I hate fussy hens!” In either case he shrugged his shoulders and walked haughtily—but most circumspectly— from an uncongenial atmosphere. He did that effectively; quite as effectively as the job he had made of killing the late-lamented chicken. He might make a bold or a dignified get-away, but he had no delusions about his fate. He knew he had committed the unpardonable sin and that in due course punishment would be meted out to him in full measure.
ASIMILAR scene, with tears instead of dire threats, would be enacted when a cat had bit the dust and left an aching void in some feminine heart. Mugsy had little sympathy with tears and feminine hearts, and a cat more or less in his young life meant nothing: there were plenty other cats. It was no worry of his to make explanations and pay the bills. To have angry words and perhaps a kick directed at him was a bit embarrassing, but he shrewdly suspected we did not love cats, and a period of calculated absence and a judicious approach soon righted matters. He knew— never a dog better—when the storm signals were lowered. In spite of his worst deviltry he was such a vital, affectionate little beggar, and would push his snout so insinuatingly on one’s knee, he could not be resisted for long.
When the police appeared on the scene—fortunately that did not occur often and^was an event—to inform us a complaint had been lodged that Mugsy and an Airedale friend called “Patch” had played tag on a new-born lawn and we would have to keep him tied up; or that he had chased pheasants out of season, or had, when calling on lady friends, sung serenades unmelodious and weird at unearthly hours and disturbed the slumbers of law-abiding but unsympathetic citizens—the same penalty of incarceration being attached for each offence,—
Mugsy, with an uncanny sense of impending trouble, was on hand to hear the verdict. He invariably followed the blue-coat up the front steps and stood nonchalantly near while the door-bell was rung. After sentence had been pronounced he would yawn, stretch guardedly (his eye peeled for any untoward movement) and with a bored look would curl up and go to sleep at the law-guardian’s feet. He knew perfectly well that until after investigation and the establishing of his unmistakable
guilt he was safe from manhandling.
HIS view of these matters dcubtless was that a young, soft, springy lawn was an ideal place for gay young dogs to romp and it was unjust and heartless to restrain legitimate sport. In the back of his woolly noodle the idea had probably lodged also there was neither sense nor reason in denying a chap the joy of stalking pheasants; for what more innocent sport, what carried a greater thrill, than to spring suddenly and see those splendid birds rise noisily and to hear the music and whirr of strong wings as they sealed away like airships. And—he probably argued—are not naturalists and great minds in biology, perhaps without exception, apologists for healthy young animals calling on their lady friends and serenading, in shrill tenor or quavering baritone, “when the year is in the spring.” “The master instinct” John Burroughs calls this tend¿ ency. So why should I—he may have reasoned further— be different, and why should people complain and policemen interfere when it is “the one divine event Toward which the whole creation moves.”
OUR dog had no fear he would be tied up and kept in. Dogs—some dogs—have the uncanny sense of knowing their master’s mind. Mugsy knew, I am positive, we would prefer to have the owner of a lawn “just coming along nicely” wreak vengeance on him, than that we should be com-: pelled to break his spirit and ruin his temper and digestion by making him live on the end of a leash. He knew with us his life would be either untrammelled freedom or a quick, quiet route to eternity. The little beggar took full advantage of the knowledge.
From his earliest days Mugsy manifested a disposition to do as he jolly well plealed. I® many respects he was a law unto himself. When he wanted to bark, he barked. When he wanted to race a motor car, he raced it. When he wanted tojjo on a spree, or chase a chicken—one of thé feathered sort, —or roll, that was what he did. AH' the scolding, or training or threats that were applied availed notläng. He would stand at a safe distance, the very devil in frie eye, his tail wagging vigorously, a challenge in his whole attitude, and say; “Catch me if you can!” I know, too, he had a sense of humor.
It often seemed as though he had a certain, and perhaps natural, amount of energy to work off, and until he was exhausted he was triumphantly defiant.
Why keep such a dog? the unsympathetic will ask. These traits of cussedness were, strangely enough, part of his charm. Though wayward, he was amazingly quick to get an essential idea. The majority of things he persisted in doing were not destructive, but were in reality harmless.
About the garden—our garden, I amend—a scolding for an offence seemed enough; Mugsy did not repeat that particular offence. These experimental crimes against the sanctities of the garden were committed for the most part in his puppy days. I recall one occasion when I caught him and his boon companion, the Airedale, Patch, busy mutilating a small Irish yew tree that grew at the front gate. With joy unbounded one would worry off a branch and back away shaking it in his teeth, while the other advanced to the slaughter., They were as keen on destruction as a couple of youngsters dissecting Grandad’s watch. The fun was fast and furious. So intent were they on the sport they were unprepared for the punishment that descended like an avalanche. Mugsy had a distaste for yew trees from that time.
Even as a puppy Mugsy had resourcefulness in looking after himself. When two months old he was
missing for an afternoon and night. Many good dogs had mysteriously disappeared about that time and we concluded the chances of recovering him were slight. While sitting at breakfast next morning, however, there was a patter on the back steps, his woolly head was thrust cautiously in at the open door, and he frisked in immensely pleased with himself. Where he had spent the night we never learned.
Mugsy was stolen once but his recovery was easily accomplished. His abductor was known to have “found” dogs before—and to have returned them to grateful owners for a stipulated sum!
About this stage of his career we amused ourselves frequently in the evening, while Mugsy was supposedly dozing peacefully in the kitchèn; remarking in an undertone, “Shall we go for a walk?” to see him scramble from his box and run to the front door to wait for the promised tramp.
It was a mystery in his tender years when, a considerable distance from the street, Mugsy could apparently distinguish, from all who passed the house, the footsteps of Hindus and Chinamen. Many could pass and not draw a sound from him, but if he growled, almost certainly a Chink or a Hindu was going by. WTe could account for this in no way than that he had learned to distinguish the shuffle of the Chinese serving class, or the deliberate step of most Hindus. Strong as many of the latter are, it was hardly believable he could smell them at a distance of fifty feet.
When about a year old Mugsy displayed a marked indication of the terrier’s natural jealousy.. Before we had any children a little girl had come to stay with us for a few days. She arrived about bedtime and was put to sleep shortly afterwards. Mugsy had poked about trying to get the drift of unusual happenings, alert to challenge any show of affection, and evidently not any too well pleased with the turn of events. The following morning when I left my bedroom a sad-eyed dog met me, limping painfully, a forepaw held in the air, and a woeful expression that said plainly: “I’m in a very bad way, you’ll have to be mighty good to me!” I examined the paw he held aloof so carefully but could find nothing the matter with it; when I touched it though he whined and looked piteously at me. I was concerned. Until I had breakfast and got away to business he limped about the house, evidently in great pain. No sooner had I got out of sight than he ran down the steps without difficulty and sported gleefully on the lawn, seemingly much pleased at the joke he had played in his appeal for sympathy.
IN RECALLING his seven al'-too-short years of life many things that amused, embarrassed or interested us stand out distinctly. Those were strenuous years.
Very early in his career Mugsy followed us to church. No meek and lowly attitude of “waiting patiently about till Mary did appear” was in his make-up. He had instead an insatiable curiosity, and chose his own time to satisfy it. When everything was quiet, the sermon was launched and the ushers dozed peacefully at their posts, Mugsy sauntered in, wandered leisurely up the aisle, across the front of the church under the minister’s pose, down another aisle, sniffing at protruding petticoats or silk stockings or rubbing casually against spotless trouser legs, drawing wrathful glances from some, a smile or a snigger from others, continuing an unhurried inspection, while his unfortunate owners sat petrified and horror-stricken, and as innocent-looking as a guilty conscience and sense of responsibility would permit. What his next act of desecration would be Wé could only surmise. We prayed fervently he would fail to locate us.
There was silent but unbounded joy When an usher wákened, grabbed him and escorted him unceremoniously to the door.
MUGSY got the habit and liked going to church. On one occasion he got into the choir loft. He Was well known in the community and ordinarily popular. On this particular morning he had been rolling and did not smell exactly like a bed tff violets after a June shower, consequently his admirers took a sudden and violent dislike to him. The choir leader poked at him surreptitiously with a polished shoe. Mugsy was not accustomed to such treatment and looked wrathfully at his disturber, moved a few inches further off. and remained at his post until the bitter end of an unusually lengthy service.
After being ejected on various occasions, sometimes quietly, sometimes forcibly, Mugsy finally got the idea he was not permitted the same freedom and indulgence at church that he was permitted at home. He gradually acquired the habit of halting at the door and waiting patiently, with a numerous company of friends, until our reappearance.
It will long remain a disturbed memory how, in a tense moment during the solemn communion service in a Presbyterian church, Mugsy lifted up his voice in strident tones outside, and our little boy startled and doubtless shocked the congregation by shouting in a commanding voice: “Mudsy! Mudsy! Stop that!” A scathing lecture on the sanctity of some things was forcibly delivered to that dog afterwards.
MUGSY turned up unexpectedly and without invitation at a political meeting once. With the same desire for the spotlight that budding orators manifest, he chose as point of vantage a prominent position on the platform—this time at the feet of the speaker, who happened to be a lady of political prominence. With cocked ear and quizzical expression he looked up into her face plainly saying: “What’s all this about? Well, I’m here. You may proceed.” His sudden appearance and his expression created a roar of laughter—as trivial incidents at such meetings frequently will. With ready wit the speaker leaned to pat him, smiled and good-naturedly observed he was surely an intelligent dog to be interested in politics as expounded by her side. What might have been an embarrassing situation, culminating in the ejection of a too-curious dog, was turned into a good joke. Mugsy knew he was the centre of attraction and wagged his tail in glee. He remained till the end of the meeting and perhaps benefited quite as much by the arguments advanced as did those who were present from the other political camp.
The person who has never known the keen sport of a long tramp with a good dog is indeed a fit subject “for treasons, strategems and spoils.” There has been missed what Mrs. Carlyle, in her incomparable letters, used to call “a good joy.” There is nothing to beat swinging along at a smart clip on a country road, in a spacious park, or in a bit of bush, with a good dog as companion.
His interest and energy are amazing. The mind that doesn’t respond and, consciously or unconsciously, put greater vigor into the step, following to some extent the ramifications of the dog, has a stolid mind and little love for animals.
A/ÍANY a tramp we had with Mugsy. In the seven years of his eventful and none too angelic life we walked hundreds of miles further than would have been walked had he not been along. There was general benefit. He was a tonic. It was something vastly important that took him far from home on Sunday when a walk was due. That was the day for tramps, therefore to be kept sacred. Sometimes he returned from these walks tired and happy and in the good books. Sometimes when out he disgraced himself and on arrival at the home gate remained at a respectful distance until called in the right tone of voice. Either way these Sunday wralks were but mildly exciting when he was not along.
Last summer we camped in the British Columbia mountains. During the month there Mugsy watched the cabin door every minute we were within to be certain of not missing a tramp, a swim, or jaunt of any sort. I believe that was the greatest time of his life. One day, particularly well remembered, we climbed the Grey Tusk, elevation 6700 feet. What sport he had! He nosed into every nook and cranny along the trail, drank from every mountain stream, ran the length of every prostrate log, scampered with glee on the hardpacked snow on the upper reaches, and—best sport of all—made the acquaintance of “whistlers” (groundhogs). These rotund, agile, noisy little animals led him a merry chase. It was a stiff climb and the day was hot. When we reached the summit and sank down gladly for rest and lunch, Mugsy waded to the middle of an icecold mountain stream and flopped. Only his head projected. The gleam of satisfaction in his eye denoted his satisfaction with the bath. The distance he travelled that day was prodigious. The moment supper was finished that evening he crawled under a bed (he usually slept on the bear-skin in the middle of the cabin floor. I suppose he changed berths to avoid possibility of disturbance) and, excepting a moan or two, we heard nothing from him until morning. It took him sometime to straighten out his muscles when he crawled forth'.
FF MUGSY was captured for his every-so-often bath and found he could not escape he endured it patiently enough—all except the final ducking; but arouse his suspicions that a bath was imminent and he was off like a flash. If the day was a Sunday or a holiday and a tramp was due later, he would lie at a vantage point across the street until all was ready and the possibility of bathing remote, but no coaxing or persuasion would induce him to approach sooner.
That Mugsy did not meet death beneath the wheels of a motor-car was a miracle. Perhaps it was inability or want of patience to train him, but we never succeeded in breaking him of the habit of chasing cars. I am certain it was from sheer superabundance of energy he did it and not because he had any desire todo them injury. A motof-car would race past at great speed. Instantly a white flash, with curved back, was hot on its trail. When he got abreast of the demon, he gave one or two staccato barks, seemed satisfied, and trotted back with triumph in his eye and an eloquent tail. He hacj many narrow escapes, but evidently bore a charmed life. Once when he was nipped lie limped painfully to the sidewalk, kept very quiet for many days, and it was a long time before he essayed to again show a burst of speed when an enemy rushed by.
Mugsy met his death gamely. A huge pointer—an enemy of long standing-had him at a disadvantage as to strength and weight. After the fight he reached home unaided. His wounds were too severe, however, the month was August, and next day his white-tipped black tail flicked the old welcome for the last time.
So constantly had Mugsy been with us, and so strong was the force of habit, that for days after he passed out we heard his feet pattering up the back steps and we turned
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unconsciously to speak to him. Even yet his spirit haunts the place that knew him.
His old pal Patch recently departed for other shores to join him. Such is life—and death.
Mugsy’s progeny is a numerous company. We knew his failings only too well! His works (many of them, some with the same old Adam) live after him. We have a son now—a chip off the old block. Mugsy will never be dead so long as Mugsy Junior lives.
We laid our old companion away sorrowfully. We can never forget him. A fugitive newspaper clipping, “The Little Dog Angel”—author unknown: yet bless his pen!—expresses a sentiment that is ours:
High up in the courts of heaven today A little dog angel waits.
With the other angels he will not play, But he sits alone at the gates; “For I know that my master will come,” says he,
“And when he comes he will call for me.”
And his master far on the earth below, As he sits in his easy chair, Forgets sometimes, and he whistles low For the dog that is not there.
And the little dog angel cocks his ears, And dreams that his master’s call he hears.
And I know when at length his master waits
Outside in the dark and cold,
For the hand of death to ope the gates That lead to those courts of gold, The little dog angel’s eager bark Will comfort his soul in the shivering dark.