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Friends in Fur and Feathers

The Home for Lost and Starving Dogs


DON CARLOS, the biggest and handsomest of black retrievers, lies on the rug fast asleep. The silken fringes of his tail and his coat lie raven-black upon the crimson rug. A very beautiful doggie, who allows little fingers to bury themselves in those soft waves of hair, pull that magnificent tail, and even open his eyelids gently, now and then, " to see whether he is very fast asleep." The owner of the little fingers may do anything he likes, except ride upon Don's back; that the Don resents, feeling his backbone not strong enough for the saddle.

The gentlest of dogs, where he loves and trusts, and the fiercest where he distrusts. He knows, as dogs do, all about picking and stealing being as wrong as it can be. He showed it, when he hunted down and caught a thief with all the hens from the home hen-roost in a sack on his back. The Don did it all out of his own head, in the dawn of a summer morning. He hunted the thief down the road by the scent, upset him when he came up with him, pulled him down by his collar, and held him there, with his great jaws at his throat, growling like a tiger all the time, till help came. That is some time ago, and he has been looked upon in the light of a hero and XXX detective ever since.

The Don is asleep just now, and apparently fighting his battles over again. He gives a muffled growl now and then, and two or three impatient, quick whimpers at the end of the growls. Perhaps he fancies he is catching that thief over again, and getting away, down the road after him, at the top of his speed, for there is a twitch in all his four legs, as if he thought he was racing at a great pace, and stretching those long legs in a fast gallop. Some one says, " Don is dreaming." Yes, so he is. He is doing that same mysterious nothing in which so much of our time, too, is spent. He is making up a story in his sleep. He is remembering, and hoping, and fearing, and threatening in his way, or what do all those growls and whimpers mean ? They represent all the incidents of a doggie-drama, about which the Don is " making-believe " in his own brain.

He is thinking in his sleep. Half the people in the world will coolly say, "Dogs don't think." Don's dreams belie them. His mind (however much or little he may have of that rare commodity, I can't say), but his mind is going on working though he is asleep, in that wonderful story-telling process which we call our dreams. We don't know a bit what you are, great black doggie. All is dumb-show between us, unless when you learn to understand a few words of our language, for we cannot learn yours. We shall never know the exact meaning of a single bow-wow, and as to what stuff your dreams are made of, it is hopeless to think of it; we cannot see, and you cannot tell us. All we know really of our dogs is, that amongst all the creatures they only are our never-failing friends and servants of their own free will and choice:

" The rich man's guardian, and the poor man's friend,
The only creature faithful to the end."

They will work for us, and die for us, and, after we are dead, lie on our graves for months, or even years. They have done so. So are we not bound to treat them well and kindly, better than all other creatures, for the love and service they give us so gladly ?

So have begun to think lately some kind people in London where dogs' misery, like human misery, reaches its worst limits. But the dogs have not been drinking nasty spirits, or spending their bread-money on tobacco, or doing everything they ought not to, like most of those poor masters of theirs. The dogs' troubles are never their own fault. And yet there they are by hundreds, in those endless streets of huge London, starving and without shelter, till their misery ends by their dying in some lonely corner into which they have crept. You can hardly go down a great street in London without seeing one or more of these miserable creatures. Sometimes it is a curled-up mass of dirty fur on the mat by a shop door, so still that it might be dead, but for a convulsive shiver now and then. It is generally a mere mass of skin and bone, and lies there trying to sleep away its hunger and misery. Speak to it, and it looks up with so wistful and imploring a look, that you cannot bear to leave it without doing anything for it. And yet, what can be done ? You cannot adopt every cur-casual tramper-dog you come across. A short time ago, it would have been very hard to know what to do; but, thanks to those kind people I .have alluded to, there really is now something to be done. The homeless and starving dogs have got a place to go to, if they only knew it, where they will be taken in and " done for," as lodging-house people say, if only some one would please to put them in the way of getting there.

All you have got to do, to do a very kind act, is to put the poor dog, when you have found him, in the charge of some human casual, whom you will be sure to find within ten yards of the spot, giving him the address of the nearest depot, where he is to take the dog, and from which he will bring back a printed form, filled up with the date of the dog's coming. A shilling left in the hands of any one in a shop on the spot, to be claimed on showing the receipt for the dog, will insure its getting there, and, perhaps, be a kindness to the bearer.

No one, who has ever watched a dog following his master in a crowded street, would wonder at the numbers of these poor woe-begone creatures. Once separated from his master by a crowd of people, he can hardly pick up the scent of the foot again on a dry pavement. He tries back, gets shuffled about, and more and more bewildered, but never gives up while he has strength to run, until he is driven by hunger to try and pick up scraps of food in the dust-heaps and gutters, and lie for shelter, as days and weeks go on, under the roofing or rain-pipe, dirty and forlorn, to be chased out at early day—to be stoned, and to half break his poor dog's heart that day, and in a day or two after to lay him down to die at last, with a dream of happy home.

I am afraid many a poor dog gets turned out of doors because his people are tired of him, or the tax time is coming. Many and many a dog whom you see about the streets looking lost would tell you " it is no use his going home," if you could ask him. It is more cruel than killing him. But now the dogs have a refuge at last in their extremity. The Home for Starving and Homeless Dogs is a bona fide fact. They have a president, vice-president, hon. secretary, and a committee, and a long array of subscribers. Ten thousand dogs have been rescued through these means from this forlorn street-life. Six years ago an old lady took pity on the poor dogs in her own remote neighbourhood of Islington, and began putting a few by in a stable, and now it has grown to all this. Last year three thousand were taken in at the Home; about one-half are claimed by their own masters, then the rest have a long chance given them of finding new masters; any one may come and choose a dog upon giving a small present to the Home, and after the dog has been there a fortnight, and there seems no more hope of his own master coming for him. Still, there always remains a certain residue, " who won't go off," like some young ladies. Well, then, after a long, long time, and much patience and perseverance in looking for masters, and when, as is generally the case with these unfortunates, they are very useless and ugly curs, who never will find masters, then, I am afraid, they have to take prussic acid, and their poor little troubles are over, without a moment's fear or pain.

Nothing else could be done, for the poor creatures accumulated faster than the funds; and, after all, not many come to this fate, for most of the dogs, even if they have lost their owners past finding again, get set up in life with new ones. The Institution is, in fact, becoming quite a dogs' register office. The keeper, who is very well fitted for his place, and very kind to his charge, knows so well the different qualifications of his proteges, that he nearly always picks out the right dog for the right person, according to the list of requirements given him; and the committee have often the pleasure of hearing that Touzer, or Grip, or Vixen, give great satisfaction in their new places. Of course, when they were lost, they left their names behind them; but the keeper seems to have a stock of appellations which he uses up amongst the dogs, and to which they seem to agree to answer at once. We asked if those experts, the dog-stealers, did not avail themselves of the chance of getting valuable dogs by coming to claim fictitious lost dogs; but the keeper seemed to think no dog-stealer could possibly escape his penetration, and he takes care to give no dog up to any one until he sees by its manner it knows him; he can tell in a moment from a dog's way of greeting a person. Sometimes a dog going to his or her new master bears this little printed petition tied to his collar:

" The Petition of the Poor Dog to his new Master or Mistress upon his Removal from the Home.

" ' Pray have a little patience with me. There are so many of us shut up together here that the keeper has no opportunity to teach us habits of cleanliness. I am quite willing to learn, and am quite capable of being taught. All that is necessary is, that you should take a little pains with me, and kindly bear with me until I have acquired such habits as you wish. I will then be your best and most faithful friend.'

" Advice.

" When a dog goes to a new home, care should be taken to prevent his escape until he becomes used to it.

" A dog must not be expected to act as a guardian until he has learnt to distinguish all the members of the family from strangers, and to feel that his master's home is his own; he will then, no doubt, when occasion requires, be ready to defend both his master and his home."

The poor dogs, as well as their keeper, are very pleased to see visitors. The Home is set up in rather desolate and distant regions, somewhere beyond Islington—Hollingworth Street, St. James' Road, Holloway, will find them. Very hard to find were those green doors which we had heard of as the entrance to their abode; at last we saw them, and when the doors were opened the dogs began to bark, and there was no doubt of where we were. Big dogs and little dogs all barking in chorus in the shrillest of trebles and the growliest of basses, till they brought out their keeper to see what was the matter. Their premises consist of a small green paddock- sort of place, and a row of stables, which have been fitted up, one as the keeper's house, and the rest as kennels, partitioned off into divisions, with bars and wire, till they looked like big meat-safes. The first we entered was full of most aristocratic-looking animals, dogs who must have come in with the Conquest, if there is any truth in a pedigree. There were some few sporting dogs; two magnificent fine-coloured retrievers amongst others, and a shaggy, grim Russian, were very fine. But at the end of the long stable, in a meat-safe to himself, lay at full length a superb St. Bernard (Lion by name). All the dogs but the St. Bernard, who looked " quite above that sort of thing," jumped at the bars, whined, and begged and barked for notice, pushing their paws through, saying, as plainly as words could say, " Oh, do take me out!" But Lion never stirred from his melancholy attitude. It was not for a dog like him to be shut up in a meat-safe! He lay still, his head flat down on the ground between his outstretched forepaws (a dog's way always when he is in trouble) till his keeper spoke to him. Then he got up and stood the most splendid big dog that any one ever saw, finer far than any of his relations still at the monastery. His coat was a rich tawny brown, of many soft shades; he had the beautiful expressive eyes of his race. One longed to get him away from that Islington stable, and send him back to the Alps, to carry a bottle round his neck, and save babies on his back in the snow, like his forefathers did.

I wondered if his dreams brought him back icy peak, and glacier, and avalanche, and whether he remembered that chalet nursery, which St. Bernard puppies have all of their own, and where, no doubt, poor Lion lived many a day as a shaggy puppy, with his great St. Bernard mamma. He looked very amiable, but too unhappy to care to notice anything much. A captive in a cage! What would he have given to stretch those splendid limbs in a gallop over his Alpine snows, as I saw his father and mother and brothers and cousins doing not long ago, by the Convent Tarn ! or if that could not be, a run of ten miles now and then by the side of his master's horse over the green, turfy sides of English country lanes would have done poor Lion good, and got him out of his tragical mood: for it was wretched to be cramped up like a wild beast in a barred cage, with casuals for company, and no relief but a turn out in a little grass- plot place, where such a big beast as he could never have got up a canter. Pondering over Lion's fate, we began to wonder how he ever got lost, or any of the other large valuable dogs, of which there seemed to be so many; then it turned out that, according to the keeper, "these 'ere were not the lost dogs, these 'ere were the boarders." They were all parlour-boarders, paying three shillings a week for big dogs, two shillings for middling-sized dogs, and so on in a descending scale to very little dogs. They all belonged to masters who were out of town, or could not keep them at home, and who sent them here, en pension. They looked well fed, and very clean, and had more clean straw in their beds than a Welsh cottager would get in a year. They ought, I suppose, to have been very happy; but they were not. Plenty of straw and plenty to eat (bed and board) are not, therefore, even all that a dog wants to make his happiness.

They care for other things besides eating and sleeping, apparently, discontented dogs! They looked as if they would give their beds and dinners to the winds if they could only get out, and get to their masters.

Many of them had a curiously-puzzled look, as they gazed up wistfully at their visitors, as much as to say, " I wonder if I know you, if I ever saw you before ; and can any one tell me what in the world I am here for?—oh, do take me out!" and then with a frantic sniff through the bars the black noses would come through, as well as the paws, as the dogs got desperate on the subject, and saw their visitors were not thinking of taking them home. One longed to take the whole pack,—terriers, talbots, retrievers, and that grand Lion himself,—out there and then for a walk, trusting to their honour to all come back again; but it was not to be done, and time was going; so after patting as many heads as possible, we walked to Lion's den, and said good-bye affectionately and respectfully to him. The last we saw of him was, that he was looking benignant, but very melancholy, as be dropped sleepily and sadly on to his straw, with a deep doggie sigh:

" He cometh not, he said;.
I am a-weary, a-weary, I would that I were dead."

Perhaps some day his master will come and take him " out of that."

After leaving the boarders to compose their ruffled spirits as they best could, we went into the next stable, which was full of the tramps. These were the poor foundlings for whom this kind work is done—the " homeless and starving dogs " who own the committee and the honorary secretary, and keep the keeper and the whole establishment going, out of the subscriptions kind people give them. There must have been at least sixty, not all in one stable, but divided into different lots by the wire partitions in two or three buildings, and classified according to size apparently; according to breed would have been hopeless, they were such a dreadfully " scratch pack." There were many well-bred dogs amongst them, whose going astray had probably caused grief in Belgravia, and for whom, in the course of a day or two, coroneted carriages would call, or, at all events, Jeames himself would come; but these dogs with pedigrees were the exception. There were some two or three dozen of poor little fellows, whom their best friends could call nothing but curs. There was a large pen of very clamorous little dogs, not one of which you could have pronounced terrier, poodle, pug, or beagle, or any other known variety in particular. They were anything and everything, and all with an unaccountable dash of turnspit about the legs; but they were furiously affectionate, as such little mongrels are apt to be. They yelped and whined, in pitiable little trebles, for notice, and cried and whined over a possible pat on the head, which it was very difficult to give them through the bars. A poor, scrubby little crew, and yet they had all probably been somebody's darlings. One silky old Pomeranian, who sat by herself in a corner, had surely been a drawing-room darling in her day. She was a nice, gentle, affectionate-looking old dog; her mistress was dead, we heard afterwards, and I suppose she was tarned out of doors by somebody. She had evidently been a pretty dog, and I dare say was a charming, frisky, white snowball in her youth; but, like other old beauties, it was her lot to sit faded and dull, apart in a corner, while the world went on without her. Poor old thing, she was a tramp in a poor-house now, and obliged to put up with the company she got there. No doubt, in her day, she had looked down from carriage-windows at poor little beggar-curs scratching at scraps in the gutter, and looked at them with the nonchalance inevitable from that point of view; but let us hope she did not scorn them, only pity them, kindly but carelessly, as is the wont of those to whom sorrow, and hunger, and toil, and trouble have never come. But she has had them all since, poor little beggar, by the look of her.

However, the keeper pitied his old lady-casual, and seemed very kind to her; and the end of her story was, that a new lady-mistress took a fancy to her, so she has gone back to her drawing-room life, and will die in the purple after all. There was a little, red, smooth-haired terrier, whom the keeper spoke to as " Fan," as if she was an especial pet. If dogs ever do that wonderful manoeuvre of "jumping out of their skins " with delight, Fan tried it. Never was there anything more pretty than her wild delight at his notice. She was a little agile creature, with beautiful brown eyes. She had shown her affection for the keeper by coming back as soon as she had a chance from three different homes which had been found for her; and the next day, he said, they were going to send her away again. She is pretty nearly sure to be back again before this. Three or four years ago she was found starving in the streets, and brought into the Home, and very soon afterwards she presented it with some pretty little terrier puppies; so, after all that, having had her children born and brought up there, no wonder Fan cannot believe it is not her real own home, and chooses to come back to it from everywhere. There are traditions in the Home of a famous Lurcher, who—in the early days of the refuge, when there was no exercise ground, when the dogs had to take their walks abroad—constituted himself whip to the pack. All out of his own head he took to helping the keeper to hold his pack together, like a shepherd-dog with sheep. He, too, went to a master, who took a fancy to him for a house-dog.

If people are not very particular about pedigree, which really does not much matter in a house-dog, and want to have a good choice of them, they could not do better than go to the Home and adopt a casual. They can call him a terrier or a bull-dog, or whatever their consciences will allow them. One of the latter dogs, a real bull-dogue, was brought in not long ago by two boys, who had seen him run over in the street, and who had borrowed a barrow, in which they had carefully placed him, and wheeled him, by turns, all the way to the Home. He was dreadfully injured, but, with all the pluck of a bull-dog, he never moaned or whimpered in his pain ; the injuries were internal; be lay very quiet, and died that night. Poor injured animals are constantly being brought in by people who have found them in the streets. All get their bones and bruises attended to, and in time get set on their legs again, unless their state is very bad indeed—then prussic acid ends their sufferings. Mange also condemns them to take that dose, for it would run through the place in a very short time.

Two poor little casuals had just been brought in. They lay curled up, all skin and bone, sleeping off their troubles, as they generally do for two days and nights at a stretch, when they come in in that state. Very often they are too weak to get up on the plank bed, and have to be lifted on. Sometimes their feet are bleeding and cut, from having run, perhaps for days, searching for their lost masters. Constantly they have been hurt and ill-treated by the savage little Arabs, to whom a scared, runaway dog would seem a grand object for fun. They would, I dare say, "show good sport," in sporting language—that is, run as long as life and limb held together, and not die too soon, which is a great crime in a hunted fox or hare, and, I dare say, would be in a dog too. A policeman once said that these poor Pariah dogs sometimes had evidently come to him and kept near him, he believed, for protection from their natural enemies, the street boys. How that may be, I don't know; perhaps the policeman had a kind heart and a vivid imagination; but to allow the police to do something for the dogs besides knocking them on the head in hot weather would seem really rather desirable. Is it too much to hope that some future day it may be Policeman X's duty not to knock the dog on the head in mid- summer, or to leave him to be starved, and hunted, and frozen to death in winter, but just to take him up ? To take him up as a vagrant: he would come under the meaning of the Act. He has no home and no dinner—a true canine casual. Not a beggar and impostor, though. He has not got a reserve of cat's-meat under the water-pipe; he is nearly sure to be as poor as he looks, and can't let down his limping leg at night, as the tramps are said to do when they go home to savoury suppers, where they pull off their bandages, and throw away their crutches, and, I suppose, sing the songs out of the " Beggar's Opera." In that good time coming, when the policeman has taken up the dog found lost and. astray, he will probably have depots to take them to, like those now organized on a small scale by the society, where the owners of lost dogs can have a chance of finding them again. And if it should ever also be made penal to detain dogs lost and strayed, without communicating with the police, the dog-stealers might find their business less profitable and more dangerous than it now is. Not that they will ever become extinct as a profession, as long as they can get from two to ten pounds every time they steal a Skye terrier, and levy a black mail, like Highland caterans, afterwards, not to steal him again. But if it could only become police duty to cast an eye to the dogs now and then, the thieves would soon find themselves rather baffled in their tactics, and perhaps there would be less hydrophobia than we have heard of lately.

I suppose the thieves pick up all the Skye terriers. There was not one in the Home; and yet, according to the second column of the Times, they are always being lost. But, then, those who know say, that in that tragic column nothing is what it seems. The terriers always come after the true lovers, but the experts say they (the lovers) are all burglars, and " Charlie to Julia. .. .. Ever thine," means something about crowbars and centre-bits. Perhaps it does. Still, I do believe in true love for all that, and as in this column, " Nothing is, but all things seem," perhaps the terriers are the true lovers; and Shock, who was lost last week, is " Charlie," and Fido, who will be found next week, " Julia,' and they are telling true love-tales in cipher, while the public and the papers, and papas and mammas, think it is all two terriers found and lost. Still, Skye terriers are lost sometimes, and always will be, as long as it is de regle for the poor little fellows to have a mat of hair hanging over their noses, to prevent them seeing out of their eyes.

The committee publish their report each year, with its list of subscribers. Prince Lucien Bonaparte is amongst them, and many a noble and well-known name besides. In the. signatures of some of the subscribers, one catches a glimpse now and then of sentiment, and of a lost pet at the same time, for there is many a few shillings given, evidently for love of some dead companion. " Poor Touzer " sends five shillings: he sounds a clumsy, honest, butcher-like dog, or his name belies him. " In memoriam of poor Lion, a favourite New- foundland," one pound is given. " In memoriam of Little Trot," six shillings. These are all evidently dead darlings. "Bijou., the Blenheim," who sends ten shillings, we hope still sleeps upon his silken cushions. "Poor little Tiny" sends two shillings, evidently a legacy. " Turpy, a dear old Dog," we cannot be clear about whether he lives or dies. Then comes three shillings from "Three fat, happy Cats;" what could they have to do with it, and why did that " old Tom cat," in the next page, send half-a-crown? Shall we ever know—did any one ever know ? Perhaps it is that mysterious cipher again. But whether the shillings and half-crowns come from dead dogs, fat cats, or real live princes, the Home is very glad to get them. They want help very much to have more depots where poor wretched dogs can be received. They have only three at present, and besides, they are in debt too. There is a mortgage on that grass plot of three hundred pounds. For the dogs, thanks to a large legacy, have been buying their own premises lately; but they had not quite money enough for it. Please help the poor dogs! Think what Dash or Tiny's feelings would be if they had lost you, and were homeless and starving; pity the hundreds who are now astray, and send a small subscription now and then to that famous institution, the " Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs."

NOTE.—Subscriptions received by Mr. Colam, Secretary to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at his office, 12 Pall Mall, London, S.W. A donation of five pounds constitutes a life governor, and. the yearly subscription of five shillings and upwards an annual governor of the Institution.

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