Jesse

Edward Jesse, Anecdotes of Dogs (London: George Bell & Sons, 1884), reprinted in Poodle Review, May/June 1998, pp. 148-160.

"'With all the graces of his fatherland;
With well-cut coat, and ever ready hand --
See--the French Poodle sports his life away;
Obedient, wise, affectionate, and gay.
'
--Chronicles of Animals

"These dogs, like all others, possess many amiable qualities, and are remarkable for the facility with which they learn several amusing tricks, and for their extraordinary sagacity. This latter quality has frequently made them a great source of profit to their masters, so that it may be said of them, 'c'est encore une des plus profitables manières d'être chien que existent.' A proof of this is related by M. Blaze in his history of the dog [Elzéar Blaze, Histoire du chien chez tous les peuples du monde, etc. (Paris: 1843), pp. vii 460], and was recorded by myself many years before his work appeared.

"A shoe-black on the Pont Neuf at Paris had a Poodle dog, whose sagacity brought no small profit to his master. If the dog saw a person with well-polished boots go across the bridge, he contrived to dirty them, by having first rolled himself in the mud of the Seine. His master was then employed to clean them. An English gentleman, who had suffered more than once from the annoyance of having his boots dirtied by a dog, was at last induced to watch his proceedings, and thus detected the tricks he was playing for his master's benefit. He was so much pleased with the animal's sagacity, that he purchased him at a high price and conveyed him to London. On arriving there, he was confined to the house till he appeared perfectly satisfied with his new master and his new situation. He at last, however, contribed to escape, and made his way back to Paris, where he rejoined his old master, and resumed his former occupation. I was at Paris some years ago, where this anecdote was related to me, and it is now published in the records of the French Institute.

"Perhaps the most remarkable instance known of what are called 'Learned Dogs,' is that of two Poodles, which were trained at Milan, and exhibited at Paris in the spring of 1830. The account of them is given by a lady, whose veracity is not doubtful, and who herself saw their performance. 'The elder, named Fido,' says she, 'is white, with some black patches on his head and back; and the younger, who is called Bianco, is also white, but with red spots. Fido is a grave and serious personage, walks with dignity round the circle assembled to see him, and appears much absorbed in reflection. Bianco is young and giddy, but full of talent when he chooses to apply it. Owing to his more sedate disposition, however, Fido is called upon to act the principal part of the exhibition. A word is dictated to him from the Greek, Latin, Italian, German, French, or English language, and selected from a vocabulary where 50 words in each tongue are inscribed, and which all together make 300 different combinations. An alphabet is placed before Fido, and from it he takes the letters which compose the given word, and lays them in proper order at the feet of his master. On one occasion he was told to spell the word Heaven, and he quickly placed the letters till he came to the second e; he stood for a instant as if puzzled, but in a moment after he took the e out of the first syllable, and put it into the second. His attainments on orthography, however, are not so surprising as those in arithmetic. He practices the four rules with extraordinary facility, arranges the double ciphers as he did the double vowels in the word Heaven, and rarely makes an error. When such does occur, his more thoughtless companion is called in to rectify it, which he invariably does with the greatest quickness; but as he had rather play than work, and pulls Fido by the ears to make him as idle as himself, he is quickly dismissed. One day, the steady Fido spelt the word Jupiter with a b instead of a p; Bianco was summoned to his aid, who, after contemplating the work, pushed out the b with his nose, and seizing a p between his teeth, put it into the vacancy. Fido is remarkable to the modest firmness with which he insists upon his correctness when he feels convinced of it himself; for a lady having struck a repeating watch in his ear, he selected an eight for the hour, and a six for the three-quarters. the company present, and his master, called out to him that he was wrong. He reviewed his numbers and stood still. His master insisted, and he again examined his ciphers; after which he went quietly, but not in the least abashed, into the middle of the carpet, and looked at his audience. The watch was then sounded again, and it was found to have struck two at every quarter; and Fido received the plaudints which followed with as gentle a demeanour as he had borne the accusation of error.

"'One occupation seems to bring the giddy Bianco to the gravity of the elder savant; and when the spectators are tired of arithmetic and orthography, the two dogs either sit down to écarté, or become the antagonists of one of the company. They ask for, or refuse cards, as their hands require, with a most important look; they cut at the proper times, and never mistake one suit for another. they have recourse to their ciphers to mark their points; and on one occasion Bianco having won, he selected his number, and on being asked what were the gains of his adversary, he immeciately took an O between his teeth, and showed it to the querist; and both seemeed to know all the terms of the game as thoroughly as the most experienced card-players. All this passes without the slightest visible or audible sign between the Poodles and their master; the spectators are placed within three steps of the carpet on which the performance goes foward; people have gone for the sole purpose of watching the master; everybody visits them, and yet no one has hitherto found out the mode of communication established between them and their owner. Whatever this communication may be, it does not deduct from the wonderful intelligence of these animals; for there must be a multiplicity of signs, not only to be understood with eyes and ears, but to be separated from each other in their minds, or to be combined one with another, for the various trials in which they are exercised.

"'I have seen learned pigs and ponies, and can, after these spectacles, readily imagine how the extraordinary sagacity of a dog may be brought to a knowledge of the orthography of 300 words; but I must confess myself puzzled by the acquirements of these Poodles in arithmetic, which must depend upon the will of the spectator, who proposes the numbers; but that which is most surprising of all is the skill with which they play écarté. The gravity and attention with which they carry on their game is almost ludicrous; and the satisfaction of Bianco when he marks his points is perfectly evident.'

"Nor is this a solitary instance of the extraprdinary sagicity of the Poodle. A lady of my acquaintance had one for many years, who was her constant companion both in the house and in her walks. When, however, either from business or indisposition, her mistress did not take her usual walk on Wimbledon Common, the dog, by jumping on a table, took down the maid-servant's bonnet, and held it in her mouth till she accompanied the animal to the Common.

"A friend of mind had a Poodle dog who was not very obedient to his call when he was taken out to run in the fields. A small whip was therefore purchased, and the dog one day was chastised with it. The whip was placed on a table in the hall of the house, and the next morning it could not be found. It was soon afterwards discovered in the coal-cellar. The dog was a second time punished with it, and again the whip was missed. It was afterwards discovered that the dog had attempted to hide the instrument by which pain had been inflicted on him. There certainly appears a strong approach to reason in this proceeding of the dog. CAUSE and EFFECT seem to have been associated in his mind, if his mode of proceeding may be called an effort of it.

"In Messrs. Chambers' brochure of amusing anecdotes of dogs we find the following:

"An aged gentleman has mentioned to us that, about 50 years ago, a Frenchman brought to London from 80 to 100 dogs, chiefly Poodles, the remainder spaniels, but nearly all of the same size, and of the smaller kind. On the education of these animals their proprietor had bestowed an immense deal of pains. From puppyhood upwards they had been taught to walk on their hind-legs, and maintain their footing with surprising ease in that unnatural position. They had likewise been drilled into the best possible behaviour towards each other; no snarling, barking, or indecorous conduct took place when they were assembled in company. But what was most surprising of all, they were able to perform in various theatrical pieces of the character of pantomimes, representing various transactions in heroic and familiar life, with wonderful fidelity. The object of their proprietor was, of course, to make money by their performances, which the public were accordingly invited to witness in one of the minor theatres.

"Amongst their histrionic performances was the representation of a seige. On the rising of the curtain there appeared three ranges of ramparts, one above the other, having salient angles and a moat, like a regularly-constructed fortification. In the centre of the fortress arose a tower, on which a flag was flying, while in the distance behind appeared the buildings and steeples of a town. The ramparts were guarded by soldiers in uniform, each armed with a musket or sword of an appropriate size. All these were dogs, and their duty was to defend the walls from an attacking party, consisting also of dogs, whose movements now commenced the operations of the siege. In the foreground of the stage were some rude buildings and irregular surfaces, from among which there issued a reconnoitring party; the chief, habited as an officer of rank, with great circumspection surveyed the fortification; and his sedate movements, and his consultations with the troops that accompanied him, implied that an attack was determined upon, but these consultations did not pass unobserved by the defenders of the garrison. The party was noticed by a sentinel and fired upon; and this seemed to be the signal to call every man to his post at the embrasures.

"Shortly after, the troops advanced to the escalade; but to cross the moat, and get to the bottom of the walls, it was necessary to bring up some species of pontoon, and, accordingly, several soldiers were seen engaged in pushing before them wicker-work scaffoldings, which moved on castors, towards the fortifications. The drums beat to arms, and the bustle of warfare opened in earnest. Smoke was poured out in volleys from the shot-holes; the besieging forces pushed forward in masses, regardless of the fire; the moat was filled with the crowd; and amid much confusion and scrambling, scaling-ladders were raised against the walls. Then was the grand tug of war. The leaders of the folorn hope who first ascended were opposed with great gallantry by the defenders; and this was, perhaps, the most interesting part of the exhibition. The chief of the assailants did wonders; he was seen now here, now there, animating his men, and was twice hurled, with ladders and followers, from the second gradation of ramparts: but he was invulnerable, and seemed to receive an accession of courage on every fresh repulse. The rattle of the miniature cannon, the roll of the drums, the sound of the trumpets, and the heroism of the actors on both sides, imparted an idea of reality to the scene.

"After numerous hairbreadth escapes, the chief surmounted the third line of fortifications, followed by his troops; the enemy's standard was hurled down, and the British flag hoisted in its place; the ramparts were manned by the conquerers; and the smoke cleared away, to the tune of 'God save the King.'

"It is impossible to convey a just idea of this performance, which altogether reflected great credit on its contriver, as also on the abilities of each individual dog. We must conclude that the firing from the embrasures, and some other parts of the méchanique, were effected by human agency; but the actions of the dogs were clearly their own, and showed what could be effected with animals by dint of patient culture.

"Another species of these canine theatricals was quite a contrast to the bustle of the siege. The scene was an assembly-room on the sides and further end of which seats were placed; while a music-gallery, and a profusion of chandeliers, gave a richness and truth to the general effect. Livery-servants were in attendance on a few of the company, who entered and took their seats. Frequent knockings now occurred at the door, followed by the entrance of parties attired in the fashion of the period. These were, of course, the same individuals who had recently been in the deadly breach; but now all was tranquililty, elegance and ease. Parties were formally introduced to each other with an appearance of the greatest decorum. The dogs intended to represent ladies were dressed in silks, gauzes, laces and gay ribbons. Some wore artificial flowers, with flowing ringlets; others wore the powdered and pomatumed head-dress, with caps and lappets, in ludicrious contrast to the features of the animals. The animals which represented gentlemen were jucidiously equipped; some as youthful and others as aged beaux, regulated by their degrees of proficiency, since those most youthfully dressed were most attentive to the ladies. The frequent bow and return of curtsey produced great mirth in the audience. On a sudden the master of the ceremonies appeared; he wore a superb court-dress, and his manners were in agreement with his costume. To some of the gentlemen he gave merely a look of recognition; to the ladies he was generally attentive; to some he projected his paw familiarly, to others he bowed with respect; and introduced one to another with an air of elegance that delighted the spectators.

"As the performance advanced the interest increased. The music was soon interrupted by a loud knocking, which announced the arrival of some important visitor. Several livery servants entered, and then a sedan-chair was borne in by appropriately dressed dogs, they removed the poles, raised the head, and opened the door of the sedan; forth came a lady, splendidly attired in spangled satin and jewels, and her head decorated with a plume of ostrich feathers! She made a great impression, and appeared as if conscious of her superior attraction; meanwhile the chair was removed, the master of the ceremonies, in his court-dress, was in readiness to receive the élégante, and the bow and curtsey were admirably interchanged. The band now struck up an air of the kind to which ball-room companies are accustomed to promenade, and the company immediately quitted their seats and began to walk ceremonioiusly in pairs round the room. Three of the ladies placed thair arms under those of their attendant gentlemen. On seats being resumed, the master of the ceremonies and the lady who came in the sedan-chair arose; he led her to the centre of the room; Foote's minuet struck up; the pair commenced the movements with an attention to time; they performed the crossings and turnings, the advancings, retreatings, and obeisances, during which there was a perfect silence, and they concluded amid thunders of applause. What ultimately became of the ingenious manager with his company, our informant never heard.

"The following anecdotes prove the strong affection and perserverance of the Poodle. The late Duke of Argyll had a favorite dog of this description, who was his constant companion. This dog, on the occasion of one of the Duke's journeys to Inveraray Castle, was, by some accident or mistake, left behind in London. On missing his master, the faithful animal set off in search of him, and made his way into Scotland, and was found early one morning at the gate of the castle. The anecdote is related by the family, and a picture shown of the dog. [We attempted to locate the picture, and received this note (21 April 1997) from Alastair Campbell, Chief Executive, Clan Campbell, Inveraray Castle: "...the Duke of Argyll's Poodle....may have existed at one time but does so no longer as far as the collection here is concerned, and the Duke has no knowledge of it." The story is re-told by Lydia Hopkins, in The Complete Poodle 3rd edition (NY: Howell, 1962), p. 285, along with others told here by Jesse, by which we may assume he was her source in the first instance.]

"A poor German artist, who was studying at Rome, had a Poodle dog, who used to accompany him, when his funds wold allow it, to an ordinary frequented by other students. Here the dog got scraps enough to support him. His master, not being able to keep up the expense, discontinued his visits to the ordinary. The dog fared badly in consequence, and at last his master returned to his friends in Germany, leaving the dog behind him. The poor animal slept at the top of the stairs leading to his master's room, but watched in the day time at the door of the ordinary, and when he saw his former acquaintances crowding in, he followed at their heels, and thus gaining admittance was fed till his owner came back to resume his studies.

"A gentleman possessed a Poodle dog and a terrier, between whom a great affection existed. When the terrier was shut up, as was sometimes the case, the Poodle always hid such bones or meat as he could procure, and afterwards brought the terrier to the spot where they were concealed. He was constantly watched, and observed to do this act of kindness.

"The sagacity of the Poodle is strongly shown by the following fact. Mr. B., who was constantly in the habit of making tours on the Continent, was always accompanied by a Poodle dog. In one of his journeys he was seated at a table d'hôte next to a person whose conversation he found so agreeable, that a sort of intimacy sprung up between them. The dog, however, for the first time he had ever done so to any one, showed a dislike to the stranger, and so much so, that Mr. B. could not help remarking it. In the course of his tour he again fell in with the stranger, when the intimacy was renewed, and Mr. B. offered him a seat in his carriage as they were both going the same way. No sooner, however, had the stranger entered the carriage, than the dog showed an increased dislike of him, which continued during the course of the journey. At night they slept at a small inn, in a wild and somewhat unfrequented country, and on separating in the evneing to go to their respective beds, the Poodle evinced the greatest anger, and was with difficulty restrained from attacking the stranger. In the middle of the night Mr. B. was awoke by a noise in his room, and there was light enough for him to perceive that his dog had seized his traveling companion, who, upon being threatened, confessed that he had entered the room for the purpose of endeavouring to purloin Mr. B.'s money, of which he was aware that he possessed a considerable quantity. This is not a solitary instance of an instinctive faculty which enables dogs to discriminate, by showing a strong dislike, the characters of particular individuals.

"A friend has sent me the following account of a Poodle he once had:

"'Many years ago I had a Poodle who was an excellent retriever. He was a middle-sized, active dog, a first-rate water-man, with a nose so particularly sensitive that no object, however minute, could escape its "delicate investigation." Philip was the hardiest animal in the world--no sea would prevent him for carrying a dead bird through the boiling breakers, and I have seen him follow and secure a wounded mallard, although in the attempt his legs sere painfully scarified in breaking through a field of ice scarcely the thickness of a crown-piece. Philip, though of French extraction, had decidely Irish partialities. He delighted in a glass of grog; and no matter with what labour and constancy he had returned from retrieving, he still enjoyed a glass of punch. When he had drunk it, he was in high glee, running round and round to try and catch his own tail, and even then allowing the cat to approach him, which he was by no means disposed to do at other times.'

"When my daughter was in Germany, she sent me the following interesting anecdote of a Poodle. the accuracy of which she had an opportunity of ascertaining.

"An inhabitant of Dresden had a Poodle that he was fond of, and had always treated kindly. For some reason or another he gave her to a friend of his, a countryman in Possenderf, who lived three leagues from Dresden. This person, who well knew the great attachment of the dog to her former master, took care to keep her tied up, and would not let her leave the house till he thought she had forgotten him. During this time the Poodle had young ones, three in number, which she nourished with great affection, and appeared to bestow upon them her whole attention, and to have entirely given up her former uneasiness at her new abode. From this cirumstance her owner thought she had fogotten her old master, and therefore no longer kept her a close prisoner. Very soon, however, the Poodle was missing, and also the three young ones, and nothing was heard of her for several days. One morning his friend came to hm from Dresden, and informed him that the preceding evening the Poodle had come to his house with one of the puppies in her mouth, and that another had been found dead on the road to Possenderf. It appeared that the dog had started in the night, carrying the puppies (who were not able to walk) one after the other, a certain distance on the road to Dresden, with the evident intention of conveying them all to her much-loved home and master. The third puppy was never found, and is supposed to have been carried of by some wild animal or bird, while the poor mother was in advance with the others. The dead one had apparently perished from cold.

"The late Dr. Chisholm of Canterbury had a remarkable Poodle, which a correspondent informs me he has often seen. On one occasion he was told, for the first time, by way of trial, to fetch his master's slipper. He went up-stairs, and brought down one only. He was then told, "You have brought one only, go and fetch the other;" and the other was brought. The next evening the dog was again told to bring the slippers. he went up-stairs, put one slipper within the other, and brought both down. This dog appeard to understand much of our language. When dining with Dr. Chisholm and others, his intelligence was put to the proof by my correspondent. Some one would hide an article, open the door, and bring in the dog, saying, 'Find so-and-so." The Poodle used to look up steadily in the face of the speaker, until he was told whether the article was hid high or low; he would then search either on the ground, or on the chairs and furniture, and bring the article, never taking any notice of any other thing that was lying about. He would, upon being ordered, go up-stairs and bring down snuff-box, stick, pocket-handkerchief, or anything, understanding as readily what was said to him as if spoken to a servant.

"Another Poodle would go through the agonies of dying in a very systematic manner. When he was ordered to die, he would tumble over on one side, and then stretch himself out, and move his hind legs in such a way as expressed that he was in great pain, first slowly and afterwards very quickly. After a few convulsive throbs, incidated by putting his head and whole body in motion, he would stretch out all his limbs and cease to move, lying on his back with his legs turned upwards, as if he had expred. In this situation he remained motionless until he had his master's commands to get up.

"The following anecdote was communicated to the Rev. Mr. Jenyns by Mrs. Grosvenor, of Richmond, Surrey:

"A Poodle dog belonging to a gentleman in Cheshire was in the habit of not oinly going to church, but of remaining quietly in the pew during service, whether his master was there or not. One Sunday the dam at the head of a lake in that neighbourhood gave way, so that the whole road was inundated. The congregation, in consequence, consisted of a very few, who come from some cottages close by, but nobody attended from the great house. The clergyman informed the lady, that whilst reading the Psalms he saw his friend, the Poodle, come slowly up the aisle dripping with wet, having swam above a quarter of a mile to get to church. He went into the usual pew, and remained quietly there to the end of the service.

"The Marquess of Worcester (the late Duke of Beaufort), who served in the Peninsular war, had a Poodle which was taken from the grave of his master, a French officer, who fell at the battle of Salamanca, and was buried on the spot. the dog had remained on the grave until he was nearly starved, and even then was removed with difficulty; so faithful are these animals in protecting the remains of those they loved.

"A Poodle dog followed his master, a French officer, to the wars; the latter ws soon afterwards killed at the battle of Castella, in Valencia, when his comrades endeavoured to carry the dog with them in their retreat; but the faithful animal refused to leave the corpse, and they left him. A military maurader, in going over the field of battle, discovering the cross of the legion of honour on the dead officer's breast, attempted to capture it, but the Poodle instantly seized him by the throat, and would have ended his career had not a comrade run the honest canine through the body.

"Mr. Blaine, in his Account of dogs, says that, 'strange as it may apear, it is not less true, that a Poodle dog actually scaled the high buildings of my residence in Wells Street, Oxford Street, proceeded along several roofs of houses, and made his way down by progressive but very considerable leaps into distant premises; from whence, by watching and strategem, he gained the street, and returned him in order to join his mistress, for whose sake he had encountered these great risks.'

"I am always glad to have an opportunity of acknowledging the kindness of my correspondents, and now do so to the clergyman who very kindly sent me the following anecdote, which I give in his own words:

"'I have a distinct remembrance of Froll or Frolic, a dog belonging to an aged relation, once the property of her deceased only son, which animal, in his earlier days, doubtless gave evidence that his name was not given him unadvisedly but during the yearly visits of myself to that kind and indulgent person, I can remember nothing but a rather small though fat unwieldy Poodle, whose curly, glossy coat (preserved after his death), long yellow ears, and black nose, the rest of his body being perfectly white, betokened that he had been a beauty in his time. Froll was still a prodigious favorite with his mistress, although I confess my feelings towards him were rather those of fear than any other, for to touch him was quite sufficient to evoke a growl, or perchance a snap, from the pet of a dozen years or more. A cross, snappish fellow he was at best, and well he knew the length of Trusty the house-dog's chain, which less favoured quadruped was never let loose by day, from a well-grounded fear that he might, if allowed, resent, by summary punishment, the constant insults he was doomed to submit to from this most petted and presumptuous myrmidon of the drawing-room.

"'With all this, although time and over-feeding had soured his temper, Froll still retained much of, if not all, his former intelligence (a trait so peculiar to his species), declared by many long-past but still vaunted proofs of his being a wonder in his way. One of his peculiarities was a fondness for apples--not indeed all apples, but those which grew on a particular tree, called "Froll's tree," and no others; this tree was, by the way, the best in the garden, and the small, sweet, delicate fruit therefrom (my reminiscence is distinct on this point) were carefully preserved for this canine favorite. Nothing would entice him to eat any other sort of apple. And in the season he would constantly urge his mistress into the garden by repeated barking, and other unmistakable symptoms. His daily meals, too, of which I think there were three regular ones, were events in themselves, the careful attention to which tended perhaps to relieve the monotony of a country life; they are indeed not speedily to be forgotten by those who witnessed them. He could take food from no one but his mistress or her maid, which latter person was his chief purveyor, who had been an inmate of the house contemporary with himself, or I believe long before; but this feeding was generally a task of great trouble, such coaxing and humouring on the one hand, such growling and snarling on the other, has been perhaps seldom heard. At length, after much beseeching on the part of the maid, and a few words of entreaty from the mistress, he would condescend to eat; but never, I believe, without some symptoms of discontent, how savory soever the morsel, submitting so that as a favour which is generally snatched at and devoured with so much gusto and avidity by most others of his tribe.

"'I should not have entered into these peculiarities, which are scarcely evidence of any intelligence beyond that of other dogs, were it not that the circumstances attending his death were really extraordinary, the more so when the character of the dog is considered; and as we have so often heard of a presentiment of that great change being strongly imprinted on human minds, so there were not wanting some of the then imates of the house, who attributed his unwonted behaviour on the eve of his death to the same cause.

"'The dog slept constantly in his mistress's bedroom, but, contrary to custom on the night in question, he pertinaciously refused to remain there. My brother and myself, who were then little boys, were, to our great surprise, aroused in the course of the night by an unwonted scratching at the door of our apartment, which we immediately opened, and, to our equal delight and wonder, were saluted by Froll's jumping up and licking our hands and faces -- certainly he never appeared in better health and spirits in his life. Whether he did this to atone for his fomer uncourteous behaviour towards us, or was urged by some unaccountable feeling of amiability as well as restlessness, I cannot say, but certain it is his gentler faculties were that night for once aroused, for this unaccustomed compliment I can safely affirm we never personally received at any fomer period of our acquianance. After a time he left us, charmed at experiencing these new and flattering demonstrations; which joy was, alas! doomed to be sadly and speedily extinguished. When the morning came, the distressed countenance of the servant who called us, pertended some evil tidings, which was quickly followed by the unexpected intelligence of the dmeise of poor Froll. We hastily accompanied the servant into the coachman's sleeping apartment, and there, under the bed, lay the poor dog. It had pleased him to go there to die, having previously aroused every individual in the house during the night by scratching at their several chambers one after another and saluting them in the same amiable manner he had my brother and myself.

"'This anecdote could be well authenticated by most of the persons then in the house, who are still alive.'"

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