A Puppy's First Lessons
( Originally Published Ealry 1900's )
DOGS? Well, I should say there were dogs: dogs of every size, of every shape, and of every color; dogs of high degree, and dogs of low degree ; dogs who looked like " Dignity and Impudence " in that famous picture by Sir Edwin Landseer, which you will all see one day if you have not seen it yet; dogs who were shaggy, and dogs who were smooth ; dogs who were very sleepy, and dogs who were very wide-awake; dogs who were so tiny and so sleek that you would long to cuddle them in your arms, and dogs so big and so bear like that you would be afraid they would hug you to death.
In fact, never before had so many dogs of such different kinds been seen together under one roof.
And what do you think this roof was under which all these dogs were gathered together?
It was a glass roof, and there were glass walls to support it, and there were the flags of all the nations of the world, palm-trees, and tropical plants of all kinds growing in tubs, and there were light brown shades to keep out the hot sun, and hundreds and hundreds of well dressed men and women and boys and girls walking about and enjoying the sight and the pleasant air in this great glass house.
And where do you think this wonderful house of glass could have been?
It was at a place called Sydenham, near London, in England, and the name of this wonderful glass house was " The Crystal Palace."
But how came all these dogs there? you may well ask.
The answer is easy: it was the first Great International Dog Show that was ever held either in England or America, or anywhere else ; and there were two very wonderful things about it; the first wonderful thing was, of course, the large number of different kinds of dogs,—dogs from every nation where dogs are found, all happily housed together; and the next wonderful thing was the creat crowd of people who went to see them. The Queen of England herself was there, and all the young princes and princesses, and all the great ladies and gentlemen of the land, as well as thousands of ordinary people, many of whom went to see Royalty as much as to see the dogs.
Of course, every one who has a dog, and loves his or her dog, thinks it is the very best dog in the world. But, for the first time, prizes were to be given to the owners of those dogs which were considered to be the best by men to whom the dogs did not belong at all, independent judges, they were called.
But there was another thing quite as interesting as the dogs, the Royalties, the judges, and the great crowd, — and that was the visits which the owners of the dogs made to their pets every day, and the joy with which their dear dog friends received them. Their barks of delight made a perfect Babel of noise, which even the music of the fine military band or of the great organ, which played at intervals throughout the day, could not drown.
For you must know that, if you send your dog to a dog show in the hope that he will win a prize, he must leave you for all the time the show is open. He must live in a house all by himself. He must have a number put outside of his house, and the visitors can only find out his name and his pedigree and the name of his owner by referring to his number in a catalogue. He must be fed by strangers, for his owner cannot be with him all the time, and so you can understand how joyfully he welcomes the visits of his master or mistress.
So every day and all day long for a whole week were affectionate greetings and joyful barking, and of course the dogs who had won the prizes had the most visitors every day and all day long. These dogs had blue ribbons around their necks, and their names and ages, and the names of their fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers and their great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers which is what we call their pedigree were printed on cards and hung in front of their houses.
Now, one of the dogs was called Duchess, and she was a terrier, and she was the winner of the first prize at this famous dog show. She had a very long and very distinguished pedigree; all her " points," as they say, were perfect, that is, she was just the right height, just the right length, just the right color, her temper and her manners were of the best, and she was the champion dog of the first Great International Dog Show.
The Duchess became the grandmother of one of the heroes of this story. She had a daughter named Vic-Vic belonged to Mr. John and Vic had a son named Crib.
When he was born, he was a great curiosity. He was such a funny little object that this saved him from being drowned with his brothers and sisters. Mr. John said : " We'll keep this little chap, and see how he'll turn out." So Crib was allowed to live, to Vic's great delight, and she made a very good mother. She gave him plenty of food, washed him often, kept his hair nice and smooth when he was a very little puppy, and, as soon as he was old enough, lost no opportunity of teaching him all that she knew. Vic was a very good ratter; and, knowing that this is one of the most important qualifications of a terrier, she made a point of training Crib, and he soon learned to smell out and hunt a rat.
One piece of advice which Vic gave to her son, she made a point of repeating day after day, because she found that at first she did not make him do exactly as she wished. This was, " Never give in to another dog, however big he may be."
Now, one day, when Vic had been saying this over and over again to Crib, there came upon the lawn a large black retriever. Crib, wishing to show how brave he was, went up to the stranger and gave him a pinch in the leg, and then made a noise at him, which he called barking, jumping from side to side, and making his voice as loud as ever he could. The big black dog took no notice of this at first, simply wagging his tail in an amiable manner; but, when he felt a second pinch, it was too much for him to endure, so he put down his long black nose and turned little Crib upside down in a minute. When Crib came to himself, and saw the big black dog standing over him, he put down his tail and scampered away to his mother. Vic, of course, was looking on, hoping her son would distinguish himself; but, as soon as she saw him run away, she sent the black dog off like a shot, and then scolded Crib until he felt quite ashamed of himself.
" I never should have thought it of you, Crib, never ! " said Vic, looking so very angry. " To run away like a coward after all I have said to you ! "
" Oh, mother, I thought that black dog was going to bite me ! " said Crib, hanging his head and trembling.
" You would have deserved it if he had bitten you," said Vic, severely. " Why did you bite his leg? "
Because I wanted him to go away," said Crib.
" I dare say you did," replied his mother; but you should have remembered that he was doing no harm; and it is folly to rouse the anger of a dog ten times as large as yourself. Little dogs should not be rude to large ones; and young dogs ought not to be impertinent to old ones."
" I was trying to do as you told me," said Crib, gloomily.
" Then you misunderstood what I meant. I said, ` Never give in to a dog,' meaning that, if a dog attacked you, you should fight him as long as you could stand, whether he was large or small. But I don't wish you to be the first to make a quarrel."
" I hope I shall not see that black dog again," said Crib.
" Why? " asked Vic.
" Because he will laugh at me," answered Crib.
Never mind if he does; you are sure to be laughed at if you do foolish things," said Vic. " When you see him again, don't go rudely up to him ; but don't run away on any account."
" Well, I'll try, mother," said Crib; but it is very hard."
" That may be true," answered and young dogs will make mistakes. Your grandmother used to say that if a young dog did a foolish thing twice, he would never grow up to be worth anything. I should be grieved if you did not grow up a brave dog, Crib."
Here the conversation was brought to an end by Mr. John, who took Crib up and put him on his shoulder. Crib knew that he was quite safe, so he sat still until Mr. John put him down again. Then Mr. John brought a ball, and played with Crib, to his great delight. Sometimes he pretended to throw the ball, all the while keeping it in his hand, and Crib would scamper away after nothing. But after a. time he learned this trick, and would not be cheated any longer. All the while Vic sat watching, pleased to see her little son enjoy the fun.
" Cats," said Vic to Crib," are constantly interfering with our comfort. We should be a great deal happier if there were no cats in the world; they are the greatest possible nuisance. I recommend you to have nothing to do with them."
Vic was panting for breath as she made this remark, having just chased an ill-tempered cat called Fluffy all around the stable-yard, and at last made her take refuge on a high wall, where she sat in safety, growling and glaring savagely. The cause of Vic's quarrel with Fluffy was that she would hide behind the flower-pots in the greenhouse, and sometimes, when Vie went into the greenhouse with Mr. John, while he smoked his pipe after luncheon, Fluffy would spring out from her hiding-place and give Vic a severe scratching before she knew what was coming. This made Vie very angry; she said it was so mean to hide, and take a dog unawares.
So she determined to give Fluffy a lesson; and they had a great fight in the greenhouse, upsetting some flower-pots. Then Fluffy ran away, Vic following. But, as Vic was rather fat, Fluffy had the best of it, getting upon the wall. Then Vic found her son Crib, and immediately began to tell him what very disagreeable animals cats were, advising him to have nothing at all to do with them.
" But, mother," said Crib, I know a cat that is not disagreeable at all; he is very kind to me, and we have lots of fun together."
" Very well, my dear; I dare say you think you know much better than your mother, but perhaps you will find out one day that cats have claws, and use them." And Vie looked as if she were one of the wisest of dogs, and made herself quite tall.
" Oh, I don't mean to say that all cats are nice! " said Crib;" but I do think Ben is, and he can catch mice even better than you can."
Upon hearing this, Vic gave Crib a tap, and told him not to be impertinent. So Crib said no more on the subject, but trotted away, and, finding a piece of dirty rope, he seized it and galloped around and around the lawn with it until he was tired. Then he saw some birds in a tree, which, when he barked at them, flew to another, and kept him running about and barking for a long time.
Crib, when he was little, had scarcely any nose at all to speak of; what he had was black, and might be called a snub nose. His head was like a little round ball, with long, soft hair, very like sable fur, sticking out all over it ; indeed, when he was lying curled up asleep on Miss Polly's lap, he looked like a little sable muff. Up to this time he had belonged to Mr. John; but Miss Polly, Mr. John's sister, being very anxious to have a dog of her own, begged her brother to give Crib to her, and Mr. John very kindly did so.
At this time Crib used to do all he could to make his mother play with him; but Vic, pretending to be getting old, said " her romping days were over," and preferred a comfortable nap on the lawn in the sunshine, to running about with her son. So Crib would try to console himself by snapping at the flies; and if by chance he caught one, he was much astonished, and nearly choked. At last he would creep away and look for Ben the cat, and then the two would have some fine sport. Ben was a beautiful cat; he was gray, and striped like a tiger. He and Crib were the greatest of friends, in spite of Vic's warning. When they played, they used to scamper after each other, and seize each other around the neck with their soft paws (for Ben never put out his claws to Crib), and roll over and over.
Then Ben would try to catch Crib's tail, which he had just learned to wag, and Crib would make a noise, which he called barking; and then they would roll over together again, enjoying the fun very much, until Vic, having wakened from her sleep, came to see what the noise was all about. She became a little more reconciled after a time to Crib's games with Ben, when she saw no harm came of it, and that it gave her little son so much pleasure; but she never altered her opinion about cats in general, and never would make a friend of one herself.
Sometimes, when Crib wanted him, Ben was busy catching mice in the hay-loft; and then, nothing that Crib could say or do would induce Ben to leave his mouse-hole. He used to say, " Duty first, and pleasure afterward," for Ben was a very wise cat. So Crib was obliged at such times to try and amuse himself. In order to do so, he would look about for a plaything, and would take anything —a rubber shoe belonging to one of the servants, a strap out of the harness-room, a strawberry basket from the potting-shed; and once he took one of Miss Jenny's lace collars, which was put out on the grass to bleach. He amused himself by tearing the collar into little pieces not larger than a quarter, which he spread all about the lawn, so that, when Vic came and saw what had happened, she told Crib he would get a whipping. Miss Jenny was very angry, and threatened all sorts of punishments ; but Miss Polly told her she ought not to have left the collar within reach of so young a puppy. Crib was under the sofa trembling, while this conversation was going on; and he only dared to come out when he heard Miss Jenny say she would forgive him, as this was the first time he had done such a wicked thing.
But Miss Jenny could not let the occasion pass without trying to make Crib understand that he must not tear any more lace collars. So she made him follow her into the garden, and, when they reached the place where the shreds of her collar were lying scattered about, Miss Jenny knelt down on the grass and pointed them out to Crib. Crib's ears and tail were drooping in the most abject fashion, because he saw by the expression of Miss Jenny's face, and heard by the tone of her voice, how annoyed she was. He tried to look in another direction, but Miss Jenny would make him turn his head toward the bits of lace.
" Oh, Crib ! you naughty, tiresome, little mischief ! " she cried; " look what you have done ! Will you promise never, never to do so any more? "
Then Crib, hearing Miss Jenny's voice, soften, crawled up her dress as she knelt, and licked her hands, and tried to put his little nose up to her face; and his eyes looked so sorry that Miss Jenny kissed the top of his soft little head, and told him to "run away and be a good doggie for evermore." So Crib ran away as fast as he could to his mother, who told him he might consider himself a lucky dog to be let off so easily.
Gertrude Sellon's books, though originally written in England, have always had great popularity with American children. She wrote during the Nineteenth Century.