Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Business of Pleasure, by Edmund Yates, 1879 - Chapter 23 - Pincher Astray

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CHAPTER XXIII. 

PINCHER ASTRAY.

HE was not handsome - at least in the common acceptation of the term. He had a speckly muzzle, and a hanging jowl, and rather watery eyes, and short crop ears. His legs were horribly bowed, and his tail curled over his back like the end of a figure of nine. He was a morose beast, and of most uncertain temper. He would rush out to a stranger at the gate with every demonstration of welcome, would leap up and bark round him, and then would run behind and bite him in the calves. He was the terror of the tradespeople; he loathed the butcher; he had a deadly hatred for the fishmonger's boy and, when I complained to the post-office of the non-receipt in due course of a letter from my aunt's legal adviser advising me to repair at once to the old lady's death-bed (owing to which non-receipt I was cut out of my aunt's will) I was answered that the savage character of my dog - a circumstance with which the department could not interfere - prevented the letter-carrier from the due performance of his functions after nightfall. Still I loved Pincher - still I love him! What though my trousers-ends were frayed into hanging strips by his teeth what though my slippers are a mass of chewed pulp what though he has tousled all the corners of the manuscript of my work on Logarithms - shall I reproach him now that he is lost to me? Never!
    [-250-] I saw him last, three mornings ago, leisurely straying round the garden with the strap of the baby's shoe hanging out of his mouth, and with a knowing wag of his tail, as much as to show me how he was enjoying himself. I remonstrated with him on the shoe question, and he seemed somewhat touched for a moment but suddenly catching sight of a predatory cat on the wall, he galloped off without further parley. I watched the cat scuttle up a tree; I heard Pincher growling angrily at its base; the noise of the milkman's boots scrunching the gravel attracted his attention. He darted off and was lost to me for ever. There was a fiendish grin on the housemaid's face when she announced to me that Pincher wasn't nowhere to be found. Visions of henceforth unworried stocking-heels, unsnapped-at ankles, rose before that damsel's mind as she broke the news ; and she smiled as she said they'd looked everywheres, they had, and nothin' wasn't to be seen. I was not crushed by the intelligence. I knew my dog's extensive visiting-list, and thought that, finding he had overstayed his time, he had probably accepted the friendly hospitality of half a kennel, and was then engaged in baying the moon, and conducing to the sleeplessness of a neighbourhood unaccustomed to his vocal powers. But, as I lay in bed in the morning, I missed the various little dramas - the principal characters played by Pincher and the tradespeople - of which I had long been the silent audience. The butcher's boy - a fierce and beefy youth, who openly defied the dog, and waved him off with hurlings of his basket and threatenings of his feet, accompanied by growls of "Git out, yer beast "- now entered silently the baker's apprentice, a mild and fariaceous lad - who proffered to Pincher the raspings of black loaves, and usually endeavoured to propitiate his enemy by addressing him as "Poor fellow!" - now entered silently; the fishmonger - who generally made one wild scuttle from the garden-gate to the kitchen-entrance, and upon whose [-251-] track Pincher usually hung as the wolves hung upon Mazeppa's - now walked slowly up the path, and whistled. Then I knew that Pincher was gone indeed!
    I engaged the services of an unintelligible crier, and had a description of my dog bellowed round the neighbourhood. I brought the printing art into play, to portray Pincher's various attributes, and all the palings and posts within the circle of two miles burst out with an eruption of placards, of which the words "Lost" and "Dog" were, without the aid of a powerful microscope, the only legible portion. I concocted an advertisement for The Times newspaper. I patiently waited the result of these various schemes. They had results, I allow. I received at least twenty letters from sympathising persons, who stated that in the event of not recovering my lost favourite, they were in a position to provide another in his place. I suppose that on the evening of the day on which The Times issued the advertisement, at least five-and-twenty pairs of boots had printed themselves off on my my dining-room drugget, which being red in colour and fluffy in texture, is singularly capable of retaining a clear impression. The boots, in every instance, belonged to short-haired stably gentlemen in large white overcoats, from the inner pockets of which they produced specimens of dogs - ugly and morose indeed, but none of them my Pincher.
    I need not say that my intimate friends came out nobly under these circumstances. Jephson, who wore check trousers of a vivid pattern which had always aroused Pincher's ire, thanked fortune that "the infernal beast was got rid of somehow." Pooley, who, labouning under a belief that all dogs were intended for swimmers, had once tried to throw Pincher into the Hampstead ponds, and had haul his hand bitten to the bone for his pains, hoped that "the brute had been made into sausages." Blinkhorn, who was of a facetious turn, was sure that Pincher had been sewn [-252-] up in the skin of some deceased dog of fabulous beauty, and sold by a man in Regent Street to some old dowager. Hallmarke was the only one who gave me the least consolation. "Perhaps he's been picked up by some benevolent person," he said, " and sent to the Home. Go to the Home and see." "The Home? what Home?" I asked. " For lost dogs, at Holloway. Go and see if he's, there."
    On further sifting this somewhat vague information. I found that there was a place where lost and starving dogs found in the street were temporarily received and cared for ; and that this place was open to the visits of the public. I determined to repair thither at once. It is a good thing for the dogs that they are sent to the Home, for assuredly they would never find their own intricate way there. On being landed from the Favourite omnibus, I made several inquiries, and at last found myself in Hollingsworth Street a pleasant locality, which would have been pleasanter had there been less mud and more pavement.
    I looked around, but saw no sign of dogginess. At last I succeeded in fixing a red-faced matron who was cuffing her offspring, and of her I inquired, as civilly as might be, if she knew where the Dogs' Home was situated? Following this lady's directions, I crossed the road, and found found myself at the gates, when a sharp little lad, so soon as he heard my business, ushered me into the Home.
    A big yard, at the opposite end of which I see a block of kennels, with a wirework fenced show-place outside, very like that appropriated to the monkeys at the Zoological Gardens. In this a crowd of dogs, who no sooner see the boy accompanying me than they set up a tremendous howling. Not a painful yelping, nothing suggestive of hunger or physical suffering ; but simply that under-toned howl which means, "Take me out and give me a run." Dogs of all common kinds here, but nothing very valuable. Mongrel, puppy, and whelp, and curs of low degree. Big dogs, half-[-253-]mastiff, half-sheepdog, bastard Scotch and English terriers, in all instances with a cross of wrong blood in them ; one or two that ought to have been beagles, but seemed to have gone to the bad ; several lurchers looking as if they ought to have had a poacher's heels to follow, and a grand gathering of the genuine English cur: that cheery, dissipated, dishonest scoundrel, who betrays his villany in the shiftiness of his eye, and the limpness of his tail : who is so often lame, and so perpetually taking furtive snatches of sleep in doorways a citizen of the world, and yet a single-hearted brute, who will follow anyone for miles on the strength of a kind word, and who, when kicked off, turns round philosophically and awaits some better fortune.
    Comfortably housed are all these dogs, with plenty to eat and drink, and a large open space where they are periodically turned out for exercise. I asked whether the neighbours did not raise strong objections to the proximity of the Home ? I was told that at first all kinds of legal persecutions were threatened, but that as time passed, the ill feeling died away, and now no complaints were made. The dogs, who are invariably rescued from starvation, are so worn out on first reaching their new abode, that they invariably sleep for many hours as soon as they have taken food, and, on recovering, seem already accustomed to their quarters, and consequently indisposed to whine. All the dogs of any standing look plump and well fed; but there are two or three new-comers with lacklustre eyes and very painful anatomical developments. I carefully scrutinised them all. There were about eighty. Alas, Pincher was not among them. He might come in, the boy said; there was many pleacemen bringin' in what they'd found in the night my dog might come in yet; hadn't I better see the lady and talk to her? I found "the lady" was the originator of the Home, living closely adjacent ; and from her I obtained all the particulars of her amiable hobby.
    [-254-] The Home for host and starving dogs has now been in existence more than three years. Tue establishment was started by the present honorary secretary : a lady who had for some time been in the habit of collecting such starving animals as she found in her own neighbourhood, and paying a person a weekly sum for their keep. After explaining her plan in the columns of one of the daily newspapers, she received warm assistance, and the co-operation of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals having been obtained, the Home entered upon its present extended sphere of usefulness, and boasts a large number of annual subscribers. Its object will be gathered from the following

RULES AND REGULATIONS.

1. Any dog found and brought to the Home, if applied for by the owner, will be given up to its master upon payment of the expenses of its keep.
2. Any dogs lost by Subscribers and brought to the Home will be given up free of all expense.
3. Any dog brought to the Home, not identified and claimed within fourteen clays from the time of its admission, will, by order of the Committee, be sold to pay expenses, or be otherwise disposed of.
4. To prevent dog-stealing, no reward will be given to persons bringing dogs to the Home. The Committee would hope that, to persons of ordinary humanity, the consciousness of having performed a merciful action would be sufficient recompense.
5. Accommodation is now made for the reception of dogs belonging to Ladies or Gentlemen who may wish to have care taken of them during their absence from home.
    Ladies and Gentlemen finding lost or starving dogs in the street, at a distance from their own residences, are recommended to arrange with some poor person, for a specified remuneration, to convey them either to the "Home" itself or to a receiving-house. The money should on no account be given to the bearer of the dog beforehand, or only on production of a certificate in this form

TEMPORARY HOME FOR LOST AND STARVING DOGS

The Bearer has brought ________________ dog to the Home.

_________ Keeper.

Date

It is scarcely necessary to say that when the scheme was first mooted it shared the fate of many other good schemes, amid received violent opposition. People who would have left the wounded traveller and passed by on the other side, declaimed loudly against showing humanity to dogs, while human creatures were starving ; and some humorists pleasantly asked whether there was to be a home for lost and starving elephants. The Home has survived even these sarcasms, amid unpretendingly does good; it is not very important in its benevolence, butt as no sparrow falls to the ground without an all-wise super vision, it may be granted that the charity which provides food and shelter for a starving dog is worthy of approbation. The place does good in its sphere. To do some good in any sphere is much better than to do none.
    Pincher returned: not from the Home for Lost Dogs, he knew better than so far to jeopardise his social standing. He returned with a ruffled coat, a torn ear, a fierceness of eye which bespoke recent trouble. I afterwards learned that he had been a principal in a combat held in the adjoining parish, where he acquitted himself with a certain amount of honour, and was pinning his adversary, when a rustic person from a farm broke in upon the ring and kicked both the combatants out of it. This ignominy was more than Pincher could bear; he flung himself upon the rustic's leg, and brought him to the ground: then fled, and remained hidden in a wood until hunger compelled him to come home. We have interchanged no communication since, but regard each other with sulky dignity. I perceive that he intends to remain obdurate until I make the first advances.