Three Elephant Power and Other Stories HTML version
The dog is a member of society who likes to have his day's work, and who does it more
conscientiously than most human beings. A dog always looks as if he ought to have a
pipe in his mouth and a black bag for his lunch, and then he would go quite happily to
office every day.
A dog without work is like a man without work, a nuisance to himself and everybody
else. People who live about town, and keep a dog to give the children hydatids and to
keep the neighbours awake at night, imagine that the animal is fulfilling his destiny. All
town dogs, fancy dogs, show dogs, lap-dogs, and other dogs with no work to do, should
be abolished; it is only in the country that a dog has any justification for his existence.
The old theory that animals have only instinct, not reason, to guide them, is knocked
endways by the dog. A dog can reason as well as a human being on some subjects, and
better on others, and the best reasoning dog of all is the sheep-dog. The sheep-dog is a
professional artist with a pride in his business. Watch any drover's dogs bringing sheep
into the yards. How thoroughly they feel their responsibility, and how very annoyed they
get if a stray dog with no occupation wants them to stop and fool about! They snap at him
and hurry off, as much as to say: "You go about your idleness. Don't you see this is my
Sheep-dogs are followers of Thomas Carlyle. They hold that the only happiness for a dog
in this life is to find his work and to do it. The idle, `dilettante', non-working, aristocratic
dog they have no use for.
The training of a sheep-dog for his profession begins at a very early age. The first thing is
to take him out with his mother and let him see her working. He blunders lightheartedly,
frisking along in front of the horse, and his owner tries to ride over him, and generally
succeeds. It is amusing to see how that knocks all the gas out of a puppy, and with what a
humble air he falls to the rear and glues himself to the horse's heels, scarcely daring to
look to the right or to the left, for fear of committing some other breach of etiquette.
He has had his first lesson -- to keep behind the horse until he is wanted. Then he watches
the old slut work, and is allowed to go with her round the sheep; and if he shows any
disposition to get out of hand and frolic about, the old lady will bite him sharply to
prevent his interfering with her work.
By degrees, slowly, like any other professional, he learns his business. He learns to bring
sheep after a horse simply at a wave of the hand; to force the mob up to a gate where they
can be counted or drafted; to follow the scent of lost sheep, and to drive sheep through a
town without any master, one dog going on ahead to block the sheep from turning off
into by-streets while the other drives them on from the rear.