This section of the book is from the "Stories of Animal Sagacity" book, by William Henry Giles Kingston.
I will begin with some anecdotes which I am myself able to authenticate.
Foremost must stand the noble Rosswell, who belonged to some connections of mine. He was of great size—a giant of the canine race—of a brown and white colour, one of his parents having seen the light in the frozen regions of Greenland, among the Esquimaux.
Rosswell, though a great favourite, being too large to be fed in the house, had his breakfast, consisting of porridge, in a large wooden bowl with a handle, sent out to him every morning, and placed close to a circular shrubbery before the house. Directly it arrived, he would cautiously put his nose to the bowl, and if, as was generally the case, the contents were too hot for his taste, he would take it up by the handle and walk with it round the shrubbery at a dignified pace, putting it down again at the same spot. He would then try the porridge once more, and if it were still too hot he would again take up the bowl and walk round and round as before, till he was satisfied that the superabundant caloric had been dissipated, when, putting it down, he would leisurely partake of his meal.
Everything he did was in the same methodical, civilised fashion. One of the ladies of the family had dropped a valuable bracelet during a walk. In the evening Rosswell entered the house and proceeded straight up to her with his mouth firmly closed. “What have you got there?” she asked, when he at once opened his huge mouth and revealed the missing bracelet.
The same lady was fond of birds, and had several young ones brought to her from time to time to tame. Rosswell must have observed this. One day he appeared again with his mouth closed, and came up to her. On opening his jaws, which he allowed her to do, what was her surprise to see within them a little bird, perfectly unhurt! After this he very frequently brought her birds in his mouth, which he had caught without in any way injuring them.
He had another strange fancy. It was to catch hedgehogs; but, instead of killing them, he invariably brought them into the house and placed them before the kitchen fire—supposing, apparently, that they enjoyed its warmth.
With two of the ladies of the family he was a great favourite, and used to romp with them to his heart’s content. The youngest, however, being of a timid disposition, could never get over a certain amount of terror with which his first appearance had inspired her.
At length Rosswell disappeared. Although inquiries were everywhere made for him he could not be found. It was suspected that he had been stolen, with the connivance of one of the domestics, who owed him a grudge. Weeks passed away, and all hope of recovering Rosswell had been abandoned, when one day he rushed into the house, looking lean and gaunt, with a broken piece of rope hanging to his neck, showing that he had been kept “in durance vile,” and had only just broken his bonds. The two elder sisters he greeted with the most exuberant marks of affection, leaping up and trying to lick their faces; but directly the youngest appeared he slowly crept forward, lay down at her feet, wagging his tail, and glancing up at her countenance with an unmistakably gentle look.
Rosswell, not without provocation, had taken a dislike to a little dog belonging to Captain —; and at last, having been annoyed beyond endurance, he gave the small cur a bite which sent it yelping away. Captain — was passing at the time, and, angry at the treatment his dog had received, declared that he would shoot Rosswell if it ever happened again. Knowing that Captain — would certainly fulfil his threat, the elder lady, who was of determined character, and instigated by regard for Rosswell, called the dog to her, and began belabouring him with a stout stick, pronouncing the name of the little dog all the time. Rosswell received the castigation with the utmost humility; and from that day forward avoided the little dog, never retaliating when annoyed, and hanging down his head when its name was mentioned.
Rosswell had a remarkable liking for sugar-plums, and would at all times prefer a handful to a piece of meat. If, however, a pile of them were placed between his paws, and he was told that they were for baby, he would not touch them, but watch with wagging tail while the little fellow picked them up. He might probably have objected had any one else attempted to take them away.
Gallant Rosswell!—he fell a victim at length to the wicked hatred of his old enemy the cook, who mixed poison with his food, which destroyed his life.
Rosswell’s mistresses mourned for him, as I daresay you will; but they did not seek to punish the wicked woman as she deserved.
What a noble fellow he was, how submissive under castigation, how gentle when he saw that his boisterous behaviour frightened his youngest mistress, how obedient to command, how strict in the performance of his duty! And what self-restraint did he exercise! Think of him with baby’s sugar-plums between his paws—not one would he touch.
My reader, let me ask you one question: Are you as firm in resisting temptation as was gallant Rosswell? He acted rightly through instinct; but you have the power to discern between good and evil, aided by the counsels of your kind friends. Do not shame the teaching of your parents by acting in any manner unworthy of yourself.
Tyrol, the Dog which rang the Bell.
I have told you of several cats which rang bells. Another connection of mine, living in the Highlands, had a dog called Tyrol. He had been taught to do all sorts of things. Among others, to fetch his master’s slippers at bed-time; and when told that fresh peat was required for the fire, away he would go to the peat-basket and bring piece after piece, till a sufficient quantity had been piled up.
He had also learned to pull the bell-rope to summon the servant. This he could easily accomplish at his own home, where the rope was sufficiently long for him to reach; but on one occasion he accompanied his master on a visit to a friend’s house, where he was desired to exhibit his various accomplishments. When told to ring the bell, he made several attempts in vain. The end of the rope was too high up for him to reach. At length, what was the surprise of all present to see him seize a chair by the leg, and pull it up to the wall, when, jumping up, he gave the rope a hearty tug, evidently very much to his own satisfaction.
You will generally find that, difficult as a task may seem, if you seek for the right means you may accomplish it. Drag the chair up to the bell-rope which you cannot otherwise reach.