Friday, April 8, 2011

Canine Ties

'...Home by water to dinner, and with my father, wife, and Ashwell, after dinner, by water towards Woolwich, and in our way I bethought myself that we had left our poor little dog that followed us out of doors at the waterside, and God knows whether he be not lost, which did not only strike my wife into a great passion but I must confess myself also; more than was becoming me. We immediately returned, I taking another boat and with my father went to Woolwich, while they went back to find the dog. I took my father on board the King’s pleasure boat and down to Woolwich, and walked to Greenwich thence and turning into the park to show my father the steps up the hill, we found my wife, her woman, and dog attending us, which made us all merry again, and so took boats, they to Deptford and so by land to Half-way house, I into the King’s yard and overlook them there, and eat and drank with them, and saw a company of seamen play drolly at our pence, and so home by water...'

Samuel Pepys spends much of his April 8, in the year 1663, searching for a lost pet (from Pepys' Diary). Certainly, dog lover Walter Scott could relate to the Pepys family's concern. Scott employs a similar concern, though from the dog's point of view, in this scene from "Ivanhoe":

'In the present instance, the apprehension of impending evil was inspired by no less respectable a prophet than a large lean black dog, which, sitting upright, howled most piteously as the foremost riders left the gate, and presently afterwards, barking wildly, and jumping to and fro, seemed bent upon attaching itself to the party.

" I like not that music, father Cedric," said Athelstane; for by this title of respect he was accustomed to address him.
" Nor I either, uncle," said Wamba; " I greatly fear we shall have to pay the piper."


" In my mind," said Athelstane, upon whose memory the Abbot's good ale (for Burton was already famous for that genial liquor) had made a favourable impression— " in my mind we had better turn back, and abide with the Abbot until the afternoon. It is unlucky to travel where your path is crossed by a monk, a hare, or a howling dog, until you have eaten your next meal.


" Away !" said Cedric, impatiently ; " the day is already too short for our journey. For the dog, I know it to be the cur of the runaway slave Gurth, a useless fugitive like its master."


So saying, and rising at the same time in his stirrups, impatient at the interruption of his journey, he launched his javelin at poor Fang-—for Fangs it was, who, having traced his master thus far upon his stolen expedition, had here lost him, and was now, in his uncouth way, rejoicing at his reappearance. The javelin inflicted a wound upon the animal's shoulder, and narrowly missed pinning him to the earth; and Fangs fled howling from the presence of the enraged thane. Gurth's heart swelled within him for he felt this meditated slaughter of his faithful adherent in a degree much deeper than the harsh treatment he had himself received. Having in vain attempted to raise his hand to his eyes, he said to Wamba, who, seeing his master's ill humour, had prudently retreated to the rear, " I pray thee, do me the kindness to wipe my eyes with the skirt of thy mantle; the dust offends me, and these bonds will not let me help myself one way or another."...'

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