This section is from the book "All About Dogs - A Book For Doggy People", by Charles Henry Lane. Also available from Amazon: All About Dogs: A Book For Doggy People.
I have generally found persons, whether doggy or not, interested in anecdotes about dogs, particularly those displaying their intelligence, fidelity and courage. Some of the following are within my own knowledge, all are related as being believed to be true. I have selected those I fancied might be interesting out of a great many I have collected, but some of them may have appeared elsewhere.
We were telling of the extraordinary ways dogs will find their way home, alone, when a farmer in my district named Churchill said, "Yes, you see that Sheep dog," pointing to a large merle, rather old-fashioned type of Collie, called by his master "Ben," "Well," he said, "I was down at my daughter's in the lower part of Somersetshire, and had taken Ben there with me, by rail, and while we were all in the garden in the evening, I went into the house for something or other, and Ben missed me. He at once jumped the fence and set off on the return journey just as darkness was coming on, but he could not have wasted much time about it, as my servants told me he was back at my farm, more than forty miles distant, very early the next morning, and they kept looking out for me, as we were generally not far away from each other. I had that dog from a puppy, and I knew he had never seen that road before, it was dark soon after he started, yet he must have travelled at the rate of five or six miles an hour all the way, and at a time when there would be few people or conveyances about to help him".
I had a very similar experience with a dog of another breed. I had been travelling in the island of Skye, and bought from a game-keeper at a romantic looking village called Uig, a young dog, which he called a Short-Haired Skye Terrier, but which was, really, what is now known as a Scottish, or Aberdeen Terrier, called by the Gaelic name of "Fraochen," which I believe means heather, and was very appropriate in his case, for he was just that sort of brindle grizzled colour, that if he was in the heather (as I noticed many times while he was with me,) you could hardly distinguish him from it.
After going about with us to various places, I brought him to my mother's house at Clifton in Gloucestershire, where I was making a short stay, and the following day I went out for a drive over the Durdham Downs, through Westbury, Henbury, etc., to a village, about ten or twelve miles from Clifton, and (as I have since thought very foolishly,) I allowed, "Fraochen," to follow the trap, and several times during the journey, there I noticed him running by the side, or in front, but when we had accomplished the journey and were about to return by a different route, I missed him, and it then struck me, what a fool I had been, to take out a young dog, not only along a strange road, but in a country which he had never before seen, and quite a contrast to his native home in Skye. I of course gave him up as lost, which I much regretted, as his cool, independent manner and quaint, jaunty air had greatly endeared him to me, during the time we had been acquainted. However, when I returned to Clifton, I had to pass one place, near where some of the houses of the Clifton college masters now stand, where four roads meet, by one of which I must come to reach my mother's house. On the space in the centre, and commanding a view of these four, sat "Fraochen," waiting our approach.
How he managed to get over the ten or twelve miles of quite unknown country, (as I found that he, like ourselves, came back by a different route from the one we went by,) I do not know, but I asked several travellers we met, if they had noticed a dog coming towards them along the road, and most of them answered they did, and that he was "running like steam," or he "wasn't wasting much time about it," etc.
He lived with me until his death from old age, many years afterwards but was quite a character in many ways. One of his peculiarities was, if he was out with my wife, with whom he was a prime favourite, without me, he considered her under his special protection, no matter how many or how large any of the other dogs out at same time might be, and if he was on, ever so far in front, and he met any rough-looking or suspicious character of the tramp species, he would immediately return and walk close to my wife's side, so as to come between her and the objectionable person, and continue that position so long as he was anywhere near.
We were talking of the speed of Greyhounds, which has been said to be equal to that of the fleetest horse, and a singular circumstance which occurred at Doncaster, in Yorkshire, sometime since, proved that it was not much inferior. A mare cantering over the Doncaster course, her competitor having been withdrawn, was joined by a Greyhound bitch, when she had proceeded about a mile, she seemed determined to race with the mare, which the jockey on the latter humoured, and gradually increased his pace, until at the distance, they put themselves at their full speed. The mare beat her antagonist only by a short head.
The race horse is perhaps from his superior strength and length of stride, generally able to outrun the Greyhound on level ground, but the latter would have the pull over him in a hilly country, or over ground at all rough or uneven.
The Greyhound is said to be deficient in attachment to his master and in general intelligence. There is some truth in the imputation, but he has, in fact, far less even than the hound, the opportunity of forming individual attachments and no other exercise of the mind is required of him, than to follow the game which starts up before him and catch it, if he can. If, however, he is closely watched, he will be found to have all the intellect his situation requires.
In illustration of this, I remember reading in a very old doggy book, an account of two greyhounds said to be as arrant thieves as ever lived. They would now and then steal into the cooking house, belonging to the kennels, lift up the boiler lid with their noses or paws, and if any portion of the joints or pieces of meat rose above the water, suddenly seize them and before there was time for them to suffer much from the heat, fling it out on the stone floor and eat it at their leisure, when it had grown cold. In order to prevent this, the top of the boiler was secured by an iron rod, passing under its handle and tied to the handle of the boiler on each side; and not many days passed before they found out they could gnaw the cords around it, displace the rod and fish out the meat as before. Small chains were then substituted for the cords and the meat was cooked in safety for nearly a week, when they found that by rearing on their hind legs and applying their united strength towards the upper part of the boiler, they could lift it off the fire and roll it on the floor, so getting at the soup or broth, although the meat was not in their reach.