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Chapter 6 Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders

When I came to the Morrises, I knew nothing about the proper way of bringing up a puppy. I once heard of a little boy whose sister beat him so much that he said he was brought up by hand; so I think as Jenkins kicked me so much, I may say that I was brought up by foot.

Shortly after my arrival in my new home, I had a chance of seeing how one should bring up a little puppy.

One day I was sitting beside Miss Laura in the parlor, when the door opened and Jack came in. One of his hands was laid over the other, and he said to his sister, “Guess what I've got here.”

“A bird,” she said.


“A rat.”


“A mouse.”

“No a pup.”

“Oh, Jack,” she said, reprovingly; for she thought he was telling a story.

He opened his hands and there lay the tiniest morsel of a fox terrier puppy that I ever saw. He was white, with black and tan markings. His body was pure white, his tail black, with a dash of tan; his ears black, and his face evenly marked with black and tan. We could not tell the color of his eyes, as they were not open. Later on, they turned out to be a pretty brown. His nose was pale pink, and when he got older, it became jet black.

“Why, Jack!” exclaimed Miss Laura, “his eyes aren't open; why did you take him from his mother?”

“She's dead,” said Jack. “Poisoned left her pups to run about the yard for a little exercise. Some brute had thrown over a piece of poisoned meat, and she ate it. Four of the pups died. This is the only one left. Mr. Robinson says his man doesn't understand raising pups without their mothers, and as he is going away, he wants us to have it, for we always had such luck in nursing sick animals.”

Mr. Robinson I knew was a friend of the Morrises and a gentleman who was fond of fancy stock, and imported a great deal of it from England. If this puppy came from him, it was sure to be good one.

Miss Laura took the tiny creature, and went upstairs very thoughtfully. I followed her, and watched her get a little basket and line it with cotton wool. She put the puppy in it and looked at him. Though it was midsummer and the house seemed very warm to me, the little creature was shivering, and making a low murmuring noise. She pulled the wool all over him and put the window down, and set his basket in the sun.

Then she went to the kitchen and got some warm milk. She dipped her finger in it, and offered it to the puppy, but he went nosing about it in a stupid way, and wouldn't touch it. “Too young,” Miss Laura said. She got a little piece of muslin, put some bread in it, tied a string round it, and dipped it in the milk. When she put this to the puppy's mouth, he sucked it greedily. He acted as if he was starving, but Miss Laura only let him have a little.

Every few hours for the rest of the day, she gave him some more milk, and I heard the boys say that for many nights she got up once or twice and heated milk over a lamp for him. One night the milk got cold before he took it, and he swelled up and became so ill that Miss Laura had to rouse her mother and get some hot water to plunge him in. That made him well again, and no one seemed to think it was a great deal of trouble to take for a creature that was nothing but a dog.

He fully repaid them for all his care, for he turned out to be one of the prettiest and most lovable dogs that I ever saw. They called him Billy, and the two events of his early life were the opening of his eyes and the swallowing of his muslin rag. The rag did not seem to hurt him, but Miss Laura said that, as he had got so strong and greedy, he must learn to eat like other dogs.

He was very amusing when he was a puppy. He was full of tricks, and he crept about in a mischievous way when one did not know he was near. He was a very small puppy and used to climb inside Miss Laura's Jersey sleeve up to her shoulder when he was six weeks old. One day, when the whole family was in the parlor, Mr. Morris suddenly flung aside his newspaper, and began jumping up and down. Mrs. Morris was very much alarmed, and cried out, “My dear William what is the matter?”

“There's a rat up my leg,” he said, shaking it violently. Just then little Billy fell out on the floor and lay on his back looking up at Mr. Morris with a surprised face. He had felt cold and thought it would be warm inside Mr. Morris' trouser's leg.

However, Billy never did any real mischief, thanks to Miss Laura's training. She began to punish him just as soon as he began to tear and worry things. The first thing he attacked was Mr. Morris' felt hat. The wind blew it down the hall one day, and Billy came along and began to try it with his teeth. I dare say it felt good to them, for a puppy is very like a baby and loves something to bite.

Miss Laura found him, and he rolled his eyes at her quite innocently, not knowing that he was doing wrong. She took the hat away, and pointing from it to him, said, “Bad Billy!” Then she gave him two or three slaps with a bootlace. She never struck a little dog with her hand or a stick. She said clubs were for big dogs and switches for little dogs, if one had to use them. The best way was to scold them, for a good dog feels a severe scolding as much as a whipping.

Billy was very much ashamed of himself. Nothing would induce him even to look at a hat again. But he thought it was no harm to worry other things. He attacked one thing after another, the rugs on the floor, curtains, anything flying or fluttering, and Miss Laura patiently scolded him for each one, till at last it dawned upon him that he must not worry anything but a bone. Then he got to be a very good dog.

There was one thing that Miss Laura was very particular about, and that was to have him fed regularly. We both got three meals a day. We were never allowed to go into the dining room, and while the family was at the table, we lay in the hall outside and watched what was going on.

Dogs take a great interest in what any one gets to eat. It was quite exciting to see the Morrises' passing each other different dishes, and to smell the nice, hot food. Billy often wished that he could get up on the table. He said that he would make things fly. When he was growing, he hardly ever got enough to eat. I used to tell him that he would kill himself if he could eat all he wanted to.

As soon as meals were over, Billy and I scampered after Miss Laura to the kitchen. We each had our own plate for food. Mary the cook often laughed at Miss Laura, because she would not let her dogs “dish” together. Miss Laura said that if she did, the larger one would get more than his share, and the little one would starve.

It was quite a sight to see Billy eat. He spread his legs apart to steady himself, and gobbled at his food like a duck. When he finished he always looked up for more, and Miss Laura would shake her head and say: “No, Billy: better longing than loathing. I believe that a great many little dogs are killed by overfeeding.”

I often heard the Morrises speak of the foolish way in which some people stuffed their pets with food, and either kill them by it or keep them in continual ill health. A case occurred in our neighborhood while Billy was a puppy. Some people, called Dobson, who lived only a few doors from the Morrises, had a fine bay mare and a little colt called Sam. They were very proud of this colt, and Mr. Dobson had promised it to his son James. One day Mr. Dobson asked Mr. Morris to come in and see the colt, and I went, too. I watched Mr. Morris while he examined it. It was a pretty little creature, and I did not wonder that they thought so much of it.

When Mr. Morris went home his wife asked him what he thought of it.

“I think,” he said, “that it won't live long.”

“Why, papa!” exclaimed Jack, who overheard the remark, “it is as fat as a seal.”

“It would have a better chance for its life if it were lean and scrawny,” said Mr. Morris. “They are over-feeding it, and I told Mr. Dobson so; but he wasn't inclined to believe me.”

Now, Mr. Morris had been brought up in the country, and knew a great deal about animals, so I was inclined to think he was right. And sure enough, in a few days, we heard that the colt was dead.

Poor James Dobson felt very badly. A number of the neighbors' boys went into see him, and there he stood gazing at the dead colt, and looking as if he wanted to cry. Jack was there and I was at his heels, and though he said nothing for a time, I knew he was angry with the Dobsons for sacrificing the colt's life. Presently he said, “You won't need to have that colt stuffed now he's dead, Dobson.”

“What do you mean? Why do you say that?” asked the boy, peevishly.

“Because you stuffed him while he was alive,” said Jack, saucily.

Then we had to run for all we were worth, for the Dobson boy was after us, and as he was a big fellow he would have whipped Jack soundly.

I must not forget to say that Billy was washed regularly once a week with nice-smelling soaps and once a month with strong-smelling, disagreeable, carbolic soap. He had his own towels and wash cloths, and after being rubbed and scrubbed, he was rolled in a blanket and put by the fire to dry. Miss Laura said that a little dog that has been petted and kept in the house, and has become tender, should never be washed and allowed to run about with a wet coat, unless the weather was very warm, for he would be sure to take cold.

Jim and I were more hardy than Billy, and we took our baths in the sea. Every few days the boys took us down to the shore and we went swimming with them.

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