Three Elephant Power and Other Stories
The Dog -- as a Sportsman
The sheep-dog and the cattle-dog are the workmen of the animal kingdom; sporting and
fighting dogs are the professionals and artists.
A house-dog or a working-dog will only work for his master; a professional or artistic
dog will work for anybody, so long as he is treated like an artist. A man going away for a
week's shooting can borrow a dog, and the dog will work for him loyally, just as a good
musician will do his best, though the conductor is strange to him, and the other members
of the band are not up to the mark. The musician's art is sacred to him, and that is the case
with the dog -- Art before everything.
It is a grand sight to see a really good setter or pointer working up to a bird, occasionally
glancing over his shoulder to see if the man with the gun has not lost himself. He throws
his whole soul into his work, questing carefully over the cold scent, feathering eagerly
when the bird is close, and at last drawing up like a statue. Not Paganini himself ever lost
himself in his art more thoroughly than does humble Spot or Ponto. It is not amusement
and not a mere duty to him; it is a sacred gift, which he is bound to exercise.
A pointer in need of amusement will play with another dog -- the pair pretending to fight,
and so on, but when there is work to be done, the dog is lost in the artist. How crestfallen
he looks if by any chance he blunders on to a bird without pointing it! A fiddler who has
played a wrong note in a solo is the only creature who can look quite so discomfited.
Humanity, instead of going to the ant for wisdom, should certainly go to the dog.
Sporting dogs are like other artists, in that they are apt to get careless of everything
except their vocation. They are similarly quite unreliable in their affections. They are not
good watch dogs, and take little interest in chasing cats. They look on a little dog that
catches rats much as a great musician looks on a cricketer -- it's clever, but it isn't Art.
Hunting and fighting dogs are the gladiators of the animal world. A fox-hound or a
kangaroo-dog is always of the same opinion as Mr. Jorrocks: -- "All time is wasted what
isn't spent in 'untin'."
A greyhound will start out in the morning with three lame legs, but as soon as he sees a
hare start he MUST go. He utterly forgets his sorrows in the excitement, just as a rowing-
man, all over boils and blisters, will pull a desperate race without feeling any pain. Such
dogs are not easily excited by anything but a chase, and a burglar might come and rob the
house and murder the inmates without arousing any excitement among them. Guarding a
house is "not their pidgin" as the Chinese say. That is one great reason for the success of
the dog at whatever branch of his tribe's work he goes in for -- he is so thorough. Dogs
who are forced to combine half-a-dozen professions never make a success at anything.
One dog one billet is their motto.