One can hardly visit the main page of any social networking site without being bombarded by the accomplishments of an adorable pet, but pride in one’s animal friends stretches far beyond the digital age.
At the end of the nineteenth century, John Strachey, editor of England’s oldest continuously publishing weekly magazine The Spectator, was bombarded with stories about the dogs of his subscribers. Between 1870 and 1895, The Spectator received so many letters regaling the editors with the ingenuity, loyalty, and human empathy of terriers, collies, and sheepdogs it became necessary to compile the best tales into a standalone volume, and so in 1895 the magazine released Dog Stories from the Spectator: Being Anecdotes Of The Intelligence, Reasoning Power, Affection And Sympathy Of Dogs, Selected From The Correspondence Columns Of The Spectator.
Here, we present four hopefully true tales of dogs who count and spend money, practice religion, atone for their misbehavior, and discriminate against chimney sweeps:
The dog I refer to was a little white fox-terrier, Prin by name, who lived at the Lion Hotel. He began by displaying a fancy for playing with coins, not unusual amongst terriers, and he advanced to a discovery that he could exchange the coins for biscuits. He learned that for a halfpenny he could get two biscuits, and for a penny three; and, having become able to distinguish between the two coins, it was found impossible to cheat him. If he had contributed a penny, he would not leave the bar till he had had his third biscuit; and if there was nobody to attend to his wants, he kept the coin in his mouth till he could be served. Indeed, it was this persistence which ultimately caused poor Prin’s death, for there is every reason to fear that he fell a victim to copper-poisoning.
-Lawson Tait, May 26, 1877
Well, in Shrewsbury a certain family had a dog of a religious turn of mind, who regularly attended the family prayers. When the bell rang for morning and evening prayer, the dog invariably accompanied the household into the room where prayers were said. Of course, each member of the family would kneel down, leaning upon a chair wand with the head bowed down, supported by the hands and arms. The dog would copy this example exactly. He would sit upon his hind-legs, and in that way copy the kneeling of the family. Then, in order to copy the arms resting on the chair and the head in the hands, the dog would put his forelegs on the chair and his head down between them. He would remain in this attitude until prayers were over, and then, when the family rose, he would also rise, and perhaps leave the room with some members of the household.
-Ludovicus, Oct. 26, 1893
A young fox-terrier, about eight months old, took a great fancy to a small brush, of Indian workmanship, lying on the drawing-room table. It had been punished more than once for jumping on the table and taking it. On one occasion, the little dog was left alone in the room accidentally. On my return, it jumped to greet me as usual, and I said, ‘Have you been a good little dog while you have been left alone?’ Immediately it put its tail between its legs and slunk off into an adjoining room, and brought back the little brush in its mouth from where it had hidden it. I was much struck with what appeared to me a remarkable instance of a dog possessing a conscience, and a few months afterwards, finding it again alone in the room, I asked the same question, while patting it. At once I saw it had been up to some mischief, for with the same look of shame it walked slowly to one of the windows, where it lay down, with its nose pointing to a letter bitten and torn into shreds. On a third occasion, it showed me where it had strewn a number of little tickets about the floor, for doing which it had been reproved previously. I cannot account for these facts, except by supposing the dog must have a conscince.
-Mrs. Hill, Feb.1, 1879
Your correspondent, W.H. O’Shea, has found several dogs “coulour-blind”. If black is a colour, I can give several instances in which a black retriever dog of mine was certainly not “colour-blind.” He had the greatest antipathy to sweeps and coalheavers, and would fly at them if not fastened up or carefully watched. He would even bark at a passing hearse! In all other respects, he was the best-tempered dog in the world, and I can only imagine that when very young he must have been ill-used by either a sweep o a coalheaver.
-C.R.T., Jan. 12, 1884
One of Us, by John Jeremiah Sullivan
"I can still hear people, guests and relatives, talking about how smart the dog was. “Smarter than some people I know!"
1946 / London
J.R. Ackerley Arranges a Marriage
"The dog had had a lonely and frustrated life hitherto; now she should have a full one."
2012 / New York City
Burkhard Bilger Patrols With the K-9 Unit
"A good dog is a natural supersoldier: strong yet acrobatic, fierce yet obedient. It can leap higher than most men and run twice as fast."
Ever wonder just how many books go into a single issue of Lapham's Quarterly? Follow along using this complete syllabus, which assembles all the fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and plays that produced this issue's readings. As always, we encourage you to read wider, deeper and at your leisure.
The Ancient World
The Zhuangzi, by Zhuangzi
Metamorphoses, by Ovid
Fables, by Aesop
Parallel Lives, by Plutarch
The Golden Ass, by Lucius Apuleius
The Georgics, by Virgil
On the Nature of Animals, by Aelian
The Medieval World: 480-1400
The Once and Future King, by T.H. White
Piers Plowman, by William Langland
The Book of Contemplation, by Usama ibn Munqidh
Yvain, Or, The Knight of the Lion, by Chrétien de Troyes
The Renaissance: 1400-1600
An Apology for Raymond Sebond, by Michel de Montaigne
The 18th Century
Natural History, Georges-Louis Leclerc
Travels to the Equinoctical Regions of Africa, by Alexander von Humboldt
An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, by Jeremy Bentham
In the summer of 1952, Charles Mingus and his wife moved to 1592 3rd Avenue, a $70 a month, one-room apartment with a kitchenette on top of the noisy El train. Soon after, Mingus found a black-and-white cat outside a club and christened him "Nightlife." The cramped quarters of the apartment left little room for a litter box, so Mingus did what any busy jazz musician would do: he toilet-trained his cat.
From the "Charles Mingus' Cat-Toilet Training Program," a pamphlet which featured a picture of Nightlife the cat perched handsomely on the edge of a toilet:
1. First, you must train your cat to use a home-made cardboard litter box, if you have not already done so. (If your box does not have a one-piece bottom, add a cardboard that fits inside, so you have a false bottom that is smooth and strong. This way the box will not become soggy and fall out at the bottom. The grocery store will have extra flat cardboards which you can cut down to fit exactly inside your box.)
Be sure to use torn up newspaper, not kitty litter. Stop using kitty litter. (When the time comes you cannot put sand in a toilet.)
Once your cat is trained to use a cardboard box, start moving the box around the room, towards the bathroom. If the box is in a corner, move it a few feet from the corner, but not very noticeably. If you move it too far, he may go to the bathroom in the original corner. Do it gradually. You've got to get him thinking. Then he will gradually follow the box as you move it to the bathroom. (Important: if you already have it there, move it out of the bathroom, around, and then back. He has to learn to follow it. If it is too close to the toilet, to begin with, he will not follow it up onto the toilet seat when you move it there.) A cat will look for his box. He smells it.
2.Now, as you move the box, also start cutting the brim of the box down, so the sides get lower. Do this gradually.
Finally, you reach the bathroom and, eventually, the toilet itself. Then, one day, prepare to put the box on top of the toilet. At each corner of the box, cut a little slash. You can run string around the box, through these slashes, and tie the box down to the toilet so it will not fall off. Your cat will see it there and jump up to the box, which is now sitting on top of the toilet (with the sides cut down to only an inch or so.)
Don't bug the cat now, don't rush him, because you might throw him off. Just let him relax and go there for awhile-maybe a week or two. Meanwhile, put less and less newspaper inside the box.
3.One day, cut a small hole in the very center of his box, less than an apple-about the size of a plum-and leave some paper in the box around the hole. Right away he will start aiming for the hole and possibly even try to make it bigger. Leave the paper for awhile to absorb the waste. When he jumps up he will not be afraid of the hole because he expects it. At this point you will realize that you have won. The most difficult part is over.
From now on, it is just a matter of time. In fact, once when I was cleaning the box and had removed it from the toilet, my cat jumped up anyway and almost fell in. To avoid this, have a temporary flat cardboard ready with a little hole, and slide it under the toilet lid so he can use it while you are cleaning, in case he wants to come and go, and so he will not fall in and be scared off completely. You might add some newspaper up there too, while you are cleaning, in case your cat is not as smart as Nightlife was.
4. Now cut the box down completely until there is no brim left. Put the flat cardboard, which is left, under the lid of the toilet seat, and pray. Leave a little newspaper, still. He will rake it into the hole anyway, after he goes to the bathroom. Eventually, you can simply get rid of the cardboard altogether. You will see when he has got his balance properly.
Don't be surprised if you hear the toilet flush in the middle of the night. A cat can learn how to do it, spurred on by his instinct to cover up. His main thing is to cover up. If he hits the flush knob accidentally and sees that it cleans the bowl inside, he may remember and do it intentionally.
Also, be sure to turn the toilet paper roll around so that it won't roll down easily if the cat paws it. The cat is apt to roll it into the toilet, again with the intention of covering up- the way he would if there were still kitty litter.
It took me about three or four weeks to toilet train my cat, Nightlife. Most of the time is spent moving the box very gradually to the bathroom. Do it very slowly and don't confuse him. And, remember, once the box is on the toilet, leave it a week or even two. The main thing to remember is not to rush or confuse him.
(Ed: Thanks to Jacqui Shine for the tip!)May 14, 2013