I'm only an alley pup, see! But here's my story. Maybe you'd like to crash society too. I'm telling you —it's a dog's life, no foolin'
HERE’S the setup: About nine months ago I finally found My Guy, and I'm going to tell you about it. I’m no Black Beauty or Beautiful Joe. Some of my people have been plenty mixed up down along the line, but there’s nothing like that in our family. But I notice there’s plenty animals breaking into print these days, and they're not all la-de-da’s either, so I'm telling this thing in my own way and you might as well know it now. I’m just a yellowish wire-haired sort of dog without any clear record of my date, weight, pedigree or place of birth, and I’ve spent most of my life in alleys.
I'd always known My Guy would have to show up some time. There had to lx* an answer to the sort of thing I carried around in my chest, understand? I’d seen some of it before, in certain guys, here and there—spotty though, not enough to go for in a big way. I've been around. I know. And believe you me, I knew it when I saw the real thing.
One day I spotted a big car coming down our street, and I watched till it pulled up to the curb and stopped. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was lying in our basement doorway keeping a sharp eye on things, ’cause this guy 1 was living with then, was drunk as usual. He was an old pedlar, see, and we had little enough between us—in the joint or otherwise, what 1 mean!—so I wasn’t taking any chances on the young hoods of the neighborhood shaking down the place. So most of my time I spent that way, standing watch while he slept. So 1 spotted this big car, like I say, ’way down the street—some crate to be dawdling along in a district like ours. A tall guy with a swell coat of tan got out of it and stood on the curb looking up at the windows. Hunting for a number, he thought, but I knew better. You can call me Phyllis if you like, but I tell you I went all of a flutter just at the sight of him. He was the one. Even before I slipped out on the sidewalk and give his ankle the once-over, I knew. After that . . .
Most ot you people don’t use your noses any more than the law allows, and no wonder, half dead with monoxide and nicotine like you are. What I mean, it wouldn't take any nose at all to spot a regular guy like Hugh Coniston. anyhow. The scent of him, to a connoisseur’s nose like mine, was all on the right side. Not a fear or a doubt in the recipe. It smacked of all kinds of things—of hunting, of fishing, tennis and cold showers, of a guy you'd naturally know would have a rackful of fine pipes, all of them kept polished clean and sweet as I keep my set of old bones. There was
that lean, firm, outdoor look to his face, if you know what I mean—and this ain’t any sorority talk either.
‘That’s my meat.” I said to myself. “This is the guy that’s got what it takes.” I spotted him right like that.
He didn’t even see me till I made him stumble over me. He put down a hand then, like a real one. “Hi,” he said. “Hi there, fellow,” and he looked down again and grinned. At my whiskers, I guess. He didn’t know about us yet, but he was feeling something.
I shagged him close as a seam-squirrel, pressing my shoulder against his strong leg when he stopped, like a fellow that’s done in might rest against a tree, looking up into the shelter and strength of his face. I put a paw on his fixit while a fellow in the dtx>r of a rooming house told him the bird lie was looking for was a heel and a cardsharp and had gone away owing him as much as he owed My Guy.
1 Ie went back to the car and I tried to finagle my way in. He pointed me down the street and gave me a shove. “Go on, Whiskers, go back home,” he said, and slid under the wheel. I cut after him and tried for the running board.
That pedlar? I owed him nothing; the guy was in the red to me. I’d just met him on the city dump grounds, see, and he’d let me tail around after him, understand, and I d condescended to put up with him because his joint was a shelter in stormy weather. But I’d boarded in the alley. I íe never even put a name to me.
Well, I chased that car two blocks. Then I saw the guy had me. He pulled up again and tried to drive me back with a cuff across the bean. I tell you I went clean slap-happy
at the feel of that hand. I rolled over on my back, my paws in the air, and said in my way: If you’ll just take me on trial, I’ll treat you better than any other dog on earth. Whatever you do will be oke with me. You’ll find me a friend and a slave that will follow wherever you go, and every night I’ll sleep by your bed and protect you from those Things of the Dark that only a dog knows about. We’re like that about each other already, can’t you see it?
He was getting it, but he naturally thought I belonged to somebody. He hopped in the car and did his best to shake me. “This is the pay-off,” I said to myself. “It’s him or nothing.” And I ran, like I’d never run before, even chasing that tomcat that put the scar on my nose. Right out in the middle of the street, too. I had to keep that car in sight.
I did. too, for six blocks, then it began to draw slowly away. It was like some cord in my chest or something was attached to that car, spinning out and spinning out till it almost broke. I tell you a yellow dog like me only gets one chance in a lifetime with real people like My Guy, and if he don’t make contact then, it’s curtains.
I was pretty near done. I turned on all I had left and stretched out close to the ground. It didn’t matter to me if I was run down or not. Three cars actually grazed me, but not a one of them fazed me. Then that roadster came gunning out of a side street. I leaped as high as I could, the brakes ground, but it caught me and spun me fifteen feet across the pavement with a broken front leg. But that was the break I needed. I might say it was the break of my life. My Guy had seen. He was turning, coming back.
IN TWO seconds a big crowd had gathered around. My Guy came shouldering through. “He’s my dog. I thought he was in the car. He must have jumped out,” he says, smart like a fox, ’cause a cop had come up and I hadn’t collar or license. He lifted me carefully into the back seat, and I knew I'd won. I could go soft as they make ’em right here, but that’s past history now.
We stopped first at the Small Animal Hospital where I used to clean up on the sissies that came out the front door wearing ribbons and flannel coats. I can see there’s some
good in a joint like that now; they patched me up in about twenty minutes. Then we stopped at the license office and he blows me to my first number. Boy, was I set up? For two years I d been ducking down alleys every time I saw a cop or a dog wagon.
We drove home then and had chuck—excuse me, dejooner—and what do you think it was? A pound of real steak, the kind that somebody has already gone and chewed up fine for you; no gristly scraps, mind you. and not a bone in it. Afterward I had to go through the formalities of being introduced to the family.
I’ll tell you about that house. It was the nuts. It wasn’t a home to My Guy, it was a dog house; I could see that from the start. It was about the size of a hotel, surrounded by grounds and gardens as big as a cemetery and darn near as lively. A place that big has to have a name, the same as a prison. The name of that place was Dunesk. It didn’t belong to My Guy, it belonged to some uncle, a Scotsman named A. R. something-or-other, but A. R. was the only part of it they ever used. This guy was older than Methuselah, according to the tattle that went the rounds, and worth about a million, and he was so poorly he spent his time in Bermuda. Everybody was expecting him to kick off most any day, but the old boy was fooling them all, keeping his nose red and the Campbells coming clear on into the late nineties.
The family consisted of Hugh Coniston’s father-in-law, his mother-in-law, his sister-in-law, his young daughter Kay, and his wife, who had distemper—I mean, who was always sick—you’ll meet her soon. Like all My Guy’s real possessions, she was the clear goods, real people underneath, but you’d never have thought so from just looking at her. She was spoiled from running with that-pack of relatives, see?
It took my nose to tell me about her, but I liked her from the start. I’ll say this for myself, if I do say so, one thing I ain’t, I ain’t a toady. I don’t only like the guy that belongs to me; I could of liked that whole outfit if there’d been anything to go on. But another thing I ain’t, I ain’t a hypocrite, and you got to be around women like that. As soon as you act natural they yell, “Horrors, what a little beast!” So nobody in that house liked me except My Guy himself.
You’d maybe think I ought to have been contented as a pug on a rug in that soft spot. I pretty near ate myself to death there for awhile, besides all the extra stuff I buried in the rose garden to dig up later. But we dogs of my line, we wire-hair, black-and-tan Airedales and—well, never mind what else—we need life, noise, rats and rabbits, action to stir the blood. And that place was a graveyard.
My Guy’s wife would of liked me if she’d seen more of me, but she only heard about me and the things I did wrong the first couple weeks; how I had fleas, how I brought mud into the drawing-room, and how I fought A. R. and dug a hole in the front lawn to cool myself in.
A. R.? Not the old boy with the million, but a pedigreed Scotch cairn, the only other dog that lived at the big house. You’ll meet him in a minute or two. It was My Guy that named him A. R., and all you had to do was look at the portrait of the old boy over the mantel and then at A. R. and you’d like to split your vest laughing. They had the same grey whiskers, the same long face and the same eye like an ugly spider’s, but nobody else could see the joke.
Scotch? I never saw a guy play ’em closer to the vest than that cairn. He was in the pennies there; he had stashes of meat and tones buried atout the place, and he had a weak stomach like all his kind, but do you think he’d let me polish a tooth on one of them tones? He had crust for his size though, I got to give him that.
He didn't want any competition on the place and he told me so straight out. I had the bulge on him, two-three inches at least, as he hadn’t no more legs than a friction engine, so I figured to bluff him down easy. But that dog had no idea of his real size, and there wasn’t a shellfish in his whole make-up.
“If ye ha’ any sense, mon, ye’ll clear out o’ here,” he says to me the first day I was around on my bad leg, and he bristles right up under my chin. “Ye dinna belong here an’ ye’d find it out soon enough if the McGillicuddy returned.” “Oh, yeah?” I says. “I s’pose your say-so makes any never-mind to me,” and I laughed in his face.
“Hoot mon. Talk English if ye canna talk Scotch,” says he. “Ye’re not wanted here, an’ ye'll thank me later for tellin’ ye.”
“I'll thank you for keeping a civil growl in your head.” I says, getting riled. “You wouldn't talk that way if I had the use of my four legs. Why, there’s scars on me that I got from cleaning up on dogs twice your size.’
“An’ I wunna mind givin’ ye another one,” says he, bristling so close that his danged old whiskers tickled my nose.
“Maybe you’d like to make something of this right now,” I says. I didn’t want to fight very bad. Still and all I wasn't going to let him shut me up. “Why don’t you make a pass at me?” I says. “I got three g;x>d legs, and 1 never saw the day yet I wouldn’t give you a free bite and still mop up with you.”
Well, I never figured he’d dast to do it, but dog my cats, if he wasn't onto my neck before I got through growling. He was so danged quick and low-slung like on them short legs of his, a fellow couldn’t rightly guard against him, and I won’t conceal it, my neck is pretty sore yet sometimes, where he got a hold on it.
Now I’m not making excuses, but for what I call my selfrespect I ought to explain that I’ve been used to fighting sort of short-haired dogs that you can get a reasonable hold onto while you’re sparring around. And that cairn, besides being low-slung like he was, had the dangedest coat of hair I ever fouled a tooth in. Running onto a dog like that, that's really nothing but hair, like a mop, throws a fellow off his style. What I mean is, I spent a lot of valuable time just chewing on hair, while all the time he was working on me with his teeth, and it wasn’t until Bates, the butler - you’ll see more of him, the lug—stuck a broom in between us, that I got in under his hair, and 1 guess I'd just naturally have tore him apart then if they hadn’t of drug him away when they did. It was just as well, 1 guess, ’cause where's the percentage in chewing up the only other dog that lives on the place? But the dangedest part of it all was that the servants that came running out to pry us apart, seemed to think that I was the one that got licked, and A. R. thought so too. So I was the fall guy all round, getting the whole blame for that fight.
CO TI 1ERE was a fine kettle of borscht right at the start,
and it’s a job to figure a decent fish out of it. Bates, the butler, who hated dogs, and me in particular—I could smell it on him, though he didn’t dast to admit it— said he had seen me start the whole thing by a vicious leap at A. R.’s throat. And it only took that much to get the womenfolks to hating me all along the line.
“The miserable little fyste!” said the sister-in-law. “Whatever Hugh brought him home for is beyond me."
I’ve been called plenty names in my time, but never that. I don’t know yet just what it means, but I’ll bet by the look on her face it’s plenty nasty.
'I’he old mother-in-law made sounds like a hen every time I passed her. She didn’t trust me, and it was the same at my end; I gave that old scissor-bill plenty air, plenty air.
The daughter, Kay, was the right sort, but she had no say-so. Sometimes when we were alone she would roll me over and laugh with a look of almost canine intelligence on her face. More than once I’d catch such a look of understanding in her eye that I almost expected her to speak.
My Guy, understand, was away all day, so I led a dog’s life around that hen roost in a way. I tried to get out the first two weeks, but the joint’s airtight, surrounded by a grilled iron fence sunk deep in concrete. So the only kick I got in the
daytime was the pipe dreams I had in my sleep, about being out chasing cats and rabbits, and growling at a lot of old women like that mother-in-law till they craw-fished the way they ought to.
From five o’clock on, though, everything was swell, waiting down by the gate for the moment My Guy turned into the driveway. There was always that second or two, after I saw him coming, that I couldn’t move tail or toe, ’cause the kick in it all was just too much for me. Then he’d whistle and I’d run, stretched out low as I could to show him the way I felt atout it. cutting l;x>se with yelps that sounded like pain. From that time on he never got out of my sight till he hit the hay.
After dinner he and I took the air together. He got a leather leash and he played me on it for ten or fifteen minutes like a fisherman plays a salmon. Then he’d slip it off and let me write my own ticket.
Man oh man, what a neighborhood that was! Sandringham, they called it. All the dogs there were overbred and inbred till they’d jump over a horse at the drop of a dime. Bench show specimens, they called those pushovers, but it wasn’t half what I’d have called them.
There was a greyhound that lived next door to us that was three times my size but thin as a ixistage stamp. I took his number the first night and made him crawl from the street into his driveway and say Lucie, before I drew in my lip. And I cooled off a collie, a foxhound and a pair of white Spitz that lived down in the next block, till they didn’t dare make use of their own hedges. Besides these there were a lot of things they called dogs in that district that a fellow wouldn’t be seen growling at two Pekingese, a French poodle, a family of pugs, a Boston bull with a face like a catfish, and something with long hair and ribbons on it called a Dandy Dinmont about the puciest thing ever wired for sound.
But there was one torpedo in that end of town that I wouldn’t have tangled with for the pick of the district—as pure bred as any of them. too. I le was a black chow with a pan like a pig, all wrapped up in fur like a broken arm. He don’t do nothing, don’t say nothing, just dares me to cross over into his district, north of Loma Drive. As far as I’m concerned that North Side racket’s his for keeps; I ain’t mixing it none with Orientals.
Of course, the news of my fights in the neighborhood got home to the big house by grapevine, and it didn't do me any good with the family. Sn;x)ty neighbors got to bring in tattle about me, with a lot of good advice about the mistake it was to keep anything but a purebred, long-haired lap dog about the place. So every night the women of the house would talk to My Guy atout getting rid of me for the good of the family name.
DY THIS time 1 had the situation in that household all adder! up, and 1 expect I ’ll have to explain to you atout that. I don't suppose any of you people would credit such a thing as seeing words, smelling thoughts and feeling nasty states of mind with your whiskers. I don't want to brag any, but a goto live-wire nose like mine alone, can deduce more from a given situation than most of you gentle readers can get out of twenty-eight pages of close-type description, with fingerprints thrown in. Of course. I got some of the dope out of A. R., too, who’d been about the place for six years.
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These people were in over their depth in that neighborhood, see? They’d just been allowed to live in this ritzy joint of old A. R.’s, understand, and they’re doing their best to make the right impression along the avenue, till the old boy dies and leaves them the works; but it’s no dice. Even the servants ain’t really their servants, see, but old A. R.’s servants. So they act half sneery and half fawny round the house, not knowing quite which side their bread is going to be buttered on, and the feel around the joint is enough to make your hair crawl at times. They’re all ashamed of me. so when one of them snooty neighbors happens to call in the afternoon, which ain’t often, they’d shunt me out the back way like the family leper. When it comes to that sort of stuff you can include me out.
Well, it was just my luck that on one of those afternoons I had to go and get that funny feeling in my jaws. You can never tell just when that feeling’s going to hit you, but when it does, you’ve got to start chewing on something right away. A bone, a stick of wood, an old rubber ball—even grass will do sometimes, but you got to have something. These neighbors hang around for over an hour, see, and there I was shut up in that back bedroom with that danged feeling running through my teeth. So I tried out a fountain pen that laid on the writing desk, first, and it was sort of rubbery and helped for a minute. Then I had a go at the bottom of the curtains, and it was there I mugged the game. I chewed off some pieces and swallowed one or two, but they were tough going, and pretty soon I parked them on the carpet.
So after a while the housekeeper came in, and you’d ought to have heard her song
and dance. She went for me with the broom and raised Ned.
When My Guy came home that night the women are all ganged up ready to crack down on him. The sister-in-law held out the fountain pen and called it the Last Straw; the old scissor-bill pointed to the curtains and called them the Bitter Limit, and I agreed with her there. They had My Guy on the carpet pretty near all the evening. When he put me to bed that night, he took my head in his hand and stroked my ears a long time while he talked to me in our way.
‘‘Good lord, kid,” he said. “You’ve certainly done it now. This looks like the end. I guess you’ll have to go. But first you and I are taking a hunting trip together. Next week’s vacation time, so that’s something, eh, fellow?”
I knew my number was up, all right. I could tell by the nasty grin on Bates’ pan. And the grin A. R. gave me out at the kennel. “Ye wunna leave by yourself,” he had the bile to tell me, “happen now ye’ll leave in a crate.”
All the next day they kept me chained up in the back yard. But the day after that the setup was swell. My Guy didn’t go to town
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at all. I watched while he lugged a lot of cases and packages and books and fishing rods out of the house to the big car, where he packed and repacked them just the opposite from the way them females advised him to, which is the right way, of course. Then the car purred, and he and I squeezed into what was left of the driver's seat.
YY TELL, for two weeks after that life W ran along just the way it ought to run for a regular dog and his Guy. We were alone, just the two of us, away up in those woods and mountains, see, without any women to bother us inside of thirty miles, understand? We hunted and fished and knocked about in those woods all day. And 1 brought in all the birds My Guy shot, I watched while he fished, and in between times I chased everything I saw in those woods. I guess My Guy was pretty proud when he thought how lucky he was to belong to a regular dog like me. He deserved a break like that, too, after living with that pack of women. And the nights, they were almost better than the days; sleeping on a bed of blankets laid over pine branches, my head on his knee, and the round red eye of the fire watching us through the dark.
It looked like it was going to go on that way for keeps. I couldn’t see why it shouldn’t. A guy would be a pushover to go back and stick his head in that cat-trap at Dunesk. and so would a dog. I said as much to My Guy every day, and maybe you think he didn’t understand. We frisked each other’s thoughts without words out there, and we were just dizzy glad all day long.
But all too quick it came to an end. I came in one morning to find him packing all the stuff again. He was mum and so was I—remembering the pay-off ahead.
We’re having some lunch down below in a big camp where there’s a gas station, when a fellow comes up to us with a yellow envelope. My Guy read what was inside and all of a sudden he starts laughing. He
laughed and roared till he was weak. Then he laid down in some ferns and rolled and whooped. I laughed too, and jumped all over him to get in on the big idea, and he sat up and pulled my ears till I yelled and we laughed some more.
All I knew then was that the worry I’d brought with me to the mountains was gone somehow—my whiskers told me that much. But it wasn’t till we got back to Dunesk that I found out what was really in that telegram.
The old uncle down in Bermuda had died while we were away, see? And it’s your turn now for a laugh off me when I tell you who's down in his will for the bulk of the estate.
A. R. Junior!
No kidding. That snooty little hunk of whiskers is named in black and white in the will as the only thing the Old Boy had liked or trusted in his last days. So he’d left him three quarters of his estate, including Dunesk and the servants that went with it, whose duty it was to keep A. R. contented and happy to the end of his days, under the supervision of the executors. And them female relatives were just handed a little hush money and invited to take a powder. What a laugh! I even laughed with Bates over that one.
YY TELL . . . it just goes to show.
YV Me and My Guy and the wife and daughter went to a little place out in the country—a swell spot where we’d belonged all the time, where there’s no iron fences and the dogs are real Flesh-And-Blood Characters. What I mean! We’ve been happy here ever since, even the Mrs., who turned out to be real people as soon as she got that idea of climbing the old social ladder out of her head.
Sometimes out here I get to thinking of A. R.—the little twerp ! Master of Dunesk, they call him now. If I ever get on the ash heap again, I’m going to hunt the guy up. If he had a cool million or two and no family to think of, he’d maybe share one of his old bones with me. Maybe. I wouldn’t bank on it.