The tragedies of the Arctic wastes are many, and would be more but for the faithful dogs; the list of canine heroes is long, and would be much longer were all of their brave deeds recorded. They have never, like some of whom we read, attended an "Acadamie pour Chiens," and acquired, with a diploma, such unnatural refinements and useless accomplishments as are displayed by "dogs in society." If invited to attend a luncheon of chicken a la Maryland, served on a decorated table, with Fifi and Bijou as fellow guests, they would not only demolish the chicken in short order, but also the decorations, and possibly Fifi and Bijou as well - classing them with cats and other legitimate prey.
There is no downy cushion before the blazing fire, no chosen corner of the limousine, no tooth brush or manicure set for the work dog of the North; yet they are probably happier than their kin of the governess and college education. They have no time for ennui - there are duties to be done, and it is rare indeed to find a sled dog who does not take pride in his task, show delight at the sight of his harness, and eagerly welcome the preparations for a good long mush.
Perhaps one of the most striking features of the races is the pleasure that the dogs manifest not only in the preliminary training, but in the contest itself. One frequently sees a team of dogs, old in the knowledge of racing, perfectly familiar with the hardships before them, waiting for the signal to leave, and so eager to be off, that three or four men are barely able to restrain them till the dip of the flag starts them on their dash to the Arctic. So, too, it is not unusual for a Mail Team, becoming impatient of the delay in unloading the mail, to run away after having carried a thousand pounds of mail for a distance of two or three hundred miles.
In summer when the dogs are not being used they often spend the time about mining camps where they are fed; or if in town they select one or more houses to which they make daily visits at meal hours if they find the inmates hospitably inclined. In many districts the dogs are virtually turned out to forage for themselves, when the wild strain in them asserts itself to an astonishing degree; but this is not true of Nome where dogs are held in high esteem, and where they are given the proper care at all seasons. And each year when the last boat of the summer sails from Nome, there is a long list of dog passengers. To a fancier they would seem undoubtedly a collection not worth their transportation; to my Lady of the Lap Dog they would cause shudders of disgust; there would be no place at the Bench Show for such as these. They are without pedigree, or beauty perhaps - mongrels if you will - but one never knows what a wealth of fidelity may be hidden beneath a rough exterior. Many a story that touches the heart may be extracted from the prospector going outside accompanied by some favorite dog who has shared his solitude and his hardships; who has helped to bear his burdens, and who is now to enjoy with him what they have earned together.
Perhaps that blind old huskie has guided his bewildered driver along the right trail to safety, true to the instincts of the wild, when the whirling snow and icy sleet cut like stinging whip lashes into the face and eyes, making sight impossible.
Perhaps this ragged, ungroomed malamute with his wolf head and his human heart, dragged himself with patient, bleeding feet, half starved and nearly frozen, to some remote camp with the warning that his unconscious master, caught unprepared in a sudden storm, needed help.
Perhaps - but after all, each tale is only another variation of the same theme: dog's loyalty to man. And as pampered pets, <5r as valued assistants, in society or out of it, this loyalty justifies the attention and regard they receive. It is the one thing all dogs have in common, and whether in their veins runs the blue blood of generations of prize winners, or the humble strain of some obscure street waif, it is to You, and not to what you possess, not for what you can offer him, that the dog gives his steadfast allegiance.
Sometimes when life has gone wrong with you,
And the world seems a dreary place,
Has your dog ever silently crept to your feet,
His yearning eyes turned to your face -
Has he made you feel that he understands,
And all that he asks of you
Is to share your lot, be it good or ill,
With a chance to be loyal and true?
Are you branded a failure? He does not know -
A sinner? He does not care -
You're Master to him - that's all that counts -
A word, and his day is fair.
Your birth and your station are nothing to him;
A Palace and Hut are the same;
And his love is yours in honor and peace,
As it's yours through disaster and shame.
Though others forget you and pass you by,
He is ever your Faithful Friend, -
Ready to give you the best that is his,
Unselfishly, unto the End.
Esther Birdsall Darling.