Table of content

Chapter 36 Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders

About a week after Billy left us, the Morris family, much to its surprise, became the owner of a new dog.

He walked into the house one cold, wintry afternoon and lay calmly down by the fire. He was a brindled bull-terrier, and he had on a silver-plated collar with “Dandy” engraved on it. He lay all the evening by the fire, and when any of the family spoke to him, he wagged his tail, and looked pleased. I growled a little at him at first, but he never cared a bit, and just dozed off to sleep, so I soon stopped.

He was such a well-bred dog, that the Morrises were afraid that some one had lost him. They made some inquiries the next day, and found that he belonged to a New York gentleman who had come to Fairport in the summer in a yacht. This dog did not like the yacht. He came ashore in a boat whenever he got a chance, and if he could not come in a boat, he would swim. He was a tramp, his master said, and he wouldn't stay long in any place. The Morrises were so amused with his impudence, that they did not send him away, but said every day, “Surely he will be gone to-morrow.”

However, Mr. Dandy had gotten into comfortable quarters, and he had no intention of changing them, for a while at least. Then he was very handsome, and had such a pleasant way with him, that the family could not help liking him. I never cared for him. He fawned on the Morrises, and pretended he loved them, and afterward turned around and laughed and sneered at them in a way that made me very angry. I used to lecture him sometimes, and growl about him to Jim, but Jim always said, “Let him alone. You can't do him any good. He was born bad. His mother wasn't good. He tells me that she had a bad name among all the dogs in her neighborhood. She was a thief and a runaway.” Though he provoked me so often, yet I could not help laughing at some of his stories, they were so funny.

We were lying out in the sun, on the platform at the back of the house, one day, and he had been more than usually provoking, so I got up to leave him. He put himself in my way, however, and said, coaxingly, “Don't be cross, old fellow. I'll tell you some stories to amuse you, old boy. What shall they be about?”

“I think the story of your life would be about as interesting as anything you could make up,” I said, dryly.

“All right, fact or fiction, whichever you like. Here's a fact, plain and unvarnished. Born and bred in New York. Swell stable. Swell coachman. Swell master. Jewelled fingers of ladies poking at me, first thing I remember. First painful experience being sent to vet. to have ears cut.”

“What's a vet.?” I said.

“A veterinary animal doctor. Vet. didn't cut ears enough. Master sent me back. Cut ears again. Summer time, and flies bad. Ears got sore and festered, flies very attentive. Coachman set little boy to brush flies off, but he'd run out in yard and leave me. Flies awful. Thought they'd eat me up, or else I'd shake out brains trying to get rid of them. Mother should have stayed home and licked my ears, but was cruising about neighborhood. Finally coachman put me in dark place; powdered ears, and they got well.”

“Why didn't they cut your tail, too?” I said, looking at his long, slim tail, which was like a sewer rat's.

“'Twasn't the fashion, Mr. Wayback; a bull-terrier's ears are clipped to keep them from getting torn while fighting.”

“You're not a fighting dog,” I said.

“Not I. Too much trouble. I believe in taking things easy.”

“I should think you did,” I said, scornfully. “You never put yourself out for any one, I notice; but, speaking of cropping ears, what do you think of it?”

“Well,” he said, with a sly glance at my head, “it isn't a pleasant operation; but one might well be out of the world as out of the fashion. I don't care, now my ears are done.”

“But,” I said, “think of the poor dogs that will come after you.”

“What difference does that make to me?” he said. “I'll be dead and out of the way. Men can cut off their ears, and tails, and legs, too, if they want to.”

“Dandy,” I said, angrily, “you're the most selfish dog that I ever saw.”

“Don't excite yourself,” he said, coolly. “Let me get on with my story. When I was a few months old, I began to find the stable yard narrow and wondered what there was outside of it. I discovered a hole in the garden wall, and used to sneak out nights. Oh, what fun it was. I got to know a lot of street dogs, and we had gay times, barking under people's windows and making them mad, and getting into back yards and chasing cats. We used to kill a cat nearly every night. Policeman would chase us, and we would run and run till the water just ran off our tongues, and we hadn't a bit of breath left. Then I'd go home and sleep all day, and go out again the next night. When I was about a year old, I began to stay out days as well as nights. They couldn't keep me home. Then I ran away for three months. I got with an old lady on Fifth Avenue, who was very fond of dogs. She had four white poodles, and her servants used to wash them, and tie up their hair with blue ribbons, and she used to take them for drives in her phaeton in the park, and they wore gold and silver collars. The biggest poodle wore a ruby in his collar worth five hundred dollars. I went driving, too, and sometimes we met my master. He often smiled, and shook his head at me. I heard him tell the coachman one day that I was a little blackguard, and he was to let me come and go as I liked.”

“If they had whipped you soundly,” I said, “it might have made a good dog of you.”

“I'm good enough now,” said Dandy, airily. “The young ladies who drove with my master used to say that it was priggish and tiresome to be too good. To go on with my story: I stayed with Mrs. Judge Tibbett till I got sick of her fussy ways She made a simpleton of herself over those poodles. Each one had a high chair at the table, and a plate, and they always sat in these chairs and had meals with her, and the servants all called them Master Bijou, and Master Tot, and Miss Tiny, and Miss Fluff. One day they tried to make me sit in a chair, and I got cross and bit Mrs. Tibbett, and she beat me cruelly, and her servants stoned me away from the house.”

“Speaking about fools, Dandy,” I said, “if it is polite to call a lady one, I should say that that lady was one. Dogs shouldn't be put out of their place. Why didn't she have some poor children at her table, and in her carriage, and let the dogs run behind?”

“Easy to see you don't know New York,” said Dandy, with a laugh. “Poor children don't live with rich, old ladies. Mrs. Tibbett hated children, anyway. Then dogs like poodles would get lost in the mud, or killed in the crowd if they ran behind a carriage. Only knowing dogs like me can make their way about.” I rather doubted this speech; but I said nothing, and he went on patronizingly: “However, Joe, thou hast reason, as the French say. Mrs. Judge Tibbett didn't give her dogs exercise enough. Their claws were as long as Chinamen's nails, and the hair grew over their pads, and they had red eyes and were always sick, and she had to dose them with medicine, and call them her poor, little, 'weeny-teeny sicky-wicky doggies.' Bah! I got disgusted with her. When I left her, I ran away to her niece's, Miss Ball's. She was a sensible young lady, and she used to scold her aunt for the way in which she brought up her dogs. She was almost too sensible, for her pug and I were rubbed and scrubbed within an inch of our lives, and had to go for such long walks that I got thoroughly sick of them. A woman, whom the servants called Trotsey, came every morning, and took the pug and me by our chains, and sometimes another dog or two, and took us for long tramps in quiet streets. That was Trotsey's business, to walk dogs, and Miss Ball got a great many fashionable young ladies who could not exercise their dogs, to let Trotsey have them, and they said that it made a great difference in the health and appearance of their pets. Trotsey got fifteen cents an hour for a dog. Goodness, what appetites those walks gave us, and didn't we make the dog biscuits disappear? But it was a slow life at Miss Ball's. We only saw her for a little while every day. She slept till noon. After lunch she played with us for a little while in the greenhouse, then she was off driving or visiting, and in the evening she always had company, or went to a dance, or to the theatre. I soon made up my mind that I'd run away. I jumped out of a window one fine morning, and ran home. I stayed there for a long time. My mother had been run over by a cart and killed, and I wasn't sorry. My master never bothered his head about me, and I could do as I liked. One day when I was having a walk, and meeting a lot of dogs that I knew, a little boy came behind me, and before I could tell what he was doing, he had snatched me up, and was running off with me. I couldn't bite him, for he had stuffed some of his rags in my mouth. He took me to a tenement house, in a part of the city that I had never been in before. He belonged to a very poor family. My faith, weren't they badly off six children, and a mother, and father, all living in two tiny rooms. Scarcely a bit of meat did I smell while I was there. I hated their bread and molasses, and the place smelled so badly that I thought I should choke.

“They kept me shut up in their dirty rooms for several days; and the brat of a boy that caught me slept with his arm around me at night. The weather was hot and sometimes we couldn't sleep, and they had to go up on the roof. After a while, they chained me up in a filthy yard at the back of the house, and there I thought I should go mad. I would have liked to bite them all to death, if I had dared. It's awful to be chained, especially for a dog like me that loves his freedom. The flies worried me, and the noises distracted me, and my flesh would fairly creep from getting no exercise. I was there nearly a month, while they were waiting for a reward to be offered. But none came; and one day, the boy's father, who was a street peddler, took me by my chain and led me about the streets till he sold me. A gentleman got me for his little boy, but I didn't like the look of him, so I sprang up and bit his hand, and he dropped the chain, and I dodged boys and policemen and finally got home more dead than alive, and looking like a skeleton. I had a good time for several weeks, and then I began to get restless and was off again. But I'm getting tired; I want to go to sleep.”

“You're not very polite,” I said, “to offer to tell a story, and then go to sleep before you finish it.”

“Look out for number one, my boy,” said Dandy, with a yawn; “for if you don't, no one else will,” and he shut his eyes and was fast asleep in a few minutes.

I sat and looked at him. What a handsome, good-natured, worthless dog he was. A few days later, he told me the rest of his history. After a great many wanderings, he happened home one day just as his master's yacht was going to sail, and they chained him up till they went on board, so that he could be an amusement on the passage to Fairport.

It was in November that Dandy came to us, and he stayed all winter. He made fun of the Morrises all the time, and said they had a dull, poky, old house, and he only stayed because Miss Laura was nursing him. He had a little sore on his back that she soon found out was mange. Her father said it was a bad disease for dogs to have, and Dandy had better be shot; but she begged so hard for his life, and said she would cure him in a few weeks that she was allowed to keep him. Dandy wasn't capable of getting really angry, but he was as disturbed about having this disease as he could be about anything. He said that he had got it from a little, mangy dog, that he had played with a few weeks before. He was only with the dog a little while, and didn't think he would take it, but it seemed he knew what an easy thing it was to get.

Until he got well he was separated from us. Miss Laura kept him up in the loft with the rabbits, where we could not go; and the boys ran him around the garden for exercise. She tried all kinds of cures for him, and I heard her say that although it was a skin disease, his blood must be purified. She gave him some of the pills that she made out of sulphur and butter for Jim, and Billy, and me, to keep our coats silky and smooth. When they didn't cure him, she gave him a few drops of arsenic every day, and washed the sore, and, indeed his whole body, with tobacco water or carbolic soap. It was the tobacco water that cured him.

Miss Laura always put on gloves when she went near him, and used a brush to wash him, for if a person takes mange from a dog, they may lose their hair and their eyelashes. But if they are careful, no harm comes from nursing a mangy dog, and I have never known of any one taking the disease.

After a time, Dandy's sore healed, and he was set free. He was right glad, he said, for he had got heartily sick of the rabbits. He used to bark at them and make them angry, and they would run around the loft, stamping their hind feet at him, in the funny way that rabbits do. I think they disliked him as much as he disliked them. Jim and I did not get the mange. Dandy was not a strong dog, and I think his irregular way of living made him take diseases readily. He would stuff himself when he was hungry, and he always wanted rich food. If he couldn't get what he wanted at the Morrises', he went out and stole, or visited the dumps at the back of the town.

When he did get ill, he was more stupid about doctoring himself than any dog that I have ever seen. He never seemed to know when to eat grass or herbs, or a little earth, that would have kept him in good condition. A dog should never be without grass. When Dandy got ill he just suffered till he got well again, and never tried to cure himself of his small troubles. Some dogs even know enough to amputate their limbs. Jim told me a very interesting story of a dog the Morrises once had, called Gyp, whose leg became paralyzed by a kick from a horse. He knew the leg was dead, and gnawed it off nearly to the shoulder, and though he was very sick for a time, yet in the end he got well.

To return to Dandy. I knew he was only waiting for the spring to leave us, and I was not sorry. The first fine day he was off, and during the rest of the spring and summer we occasionally met him running about the town with a set of fast dogs. One day I stopped and asked him how he concealed himself in such a quiet place as Fairport, and he said he was dying to get back to New York, and was hoping that his master's yacht would come and take him away.

Poor Dandy never left Fairport. After all, he was not such a bad dog. There was nothing really vicious about him, and I hate to speak of his end. His master's yacht did not come, and soon the summer was over, and the winter was coming, and no one wanted Dandy, for he had such a bad name. He got hungry and cold, and one day sprang upon a little girl, to take away a piece of bread and butter that she was eating. He did not see the large house-dog on the door sill, and before he could get away, the dog had seized him, and bitten and shaken him till he was nearly dead. When the dog threw him aside, he crawled to the Morrises, and Miss Laura bandaged his wounds, and made him a bed in the stable.

One Sunday morning she washed and fed him very tenderly, for she knew he could not live much longer. He was so weak that he could scarcely eat the food that she put in his mouth, so she let him lick some milk from her finger. As she was going to church, I could not go with her, but I ran down the lane and watched her out of sight. When I came back, Dandy was gone. I looked till I found him. He had crawled into the darkest corner of the stable to die, and though he was suffering very much, he never uttered a sound. I sat by him and thought of his master in New York. If he had brought Dandy up properly he might not now be here in his silent death agony. A young pup should be trained just as a child is, and punished when he goes wrong. Dandy began badly, and not being checked in his evil ways, had come so this. Poor Dandy! Poor, handsome dog of a rich master! He opened his dull eyes, gave me one last glance, then, with a convulsive shudder, his torn limbs were still. He would never suffer any more.

When Miss Laura came home, she cried bitterly to know that he was dead. The boys took him away from her, and made him a grave in the corner of the garden.

Table of content