From Brer Rabbit's ruse, to save himself from death, I picked up a lesson which has served me many a time in later life; but most of all in dog training.
You will remember that Brer Fox was for slaying his captive in the most painful fashion possible, to slake the cravings of lifelong enmity. Brer Rabbit broke in on his captor's vicious cogitations by imploring Brer Fox weepingly to dispose of him by any atrocious method he might decide on, so long as he did not throw Brer Rabbit into a brier patch. Immersion in a brier patch, Brer Rabbit gave him to understand, was the one thing the victim dreaded and loathed above all other fates. Its torments were far more hideous than were those of drowning or of burning to death.
Craftily Brer Fox grinned. His silly prisoner had solved the problem of the most horrible form of death by entreating blabbily to be spared from it. In an access of triumphant malice, Brer Fox flung Brer Rabbit into the very center of the most tangled and impenetrable brier patch he could find. Calling back mockingly that he had been born and bred in a brier patch, and that it was home to him, Brer Rabbit loped away in safety.
For decades that trick has stuck in the back of my mind. I have
found use for several variations of it. One was when I wrote to a
thick-headed and merrily vindictive office boss, in my newspaper days,
saying I had heard I was slated for a newly vacant editorial job, and begging
him right eloquently not to kill my whole journalistic career by sidetracking
me in such a dead-and-alive berth. As a matter of fact, I had not
been thought of by any of the bosses for the job. But a week afterward
I was assigned to it. For ten years I had been scheming and working
for that very position.
A skilled veterinary worked over him for an hour, setting the two breaks and then casing the leg in a plaster cast and wrapping the cast in a bandage. The pain of the bone-setting must have been terrific. But Bobby made no sign of it. He lay steadfastly looking up at me during the operation. Every now and then he would wag his tail in reassurance, or he would push his unhurt forepaw and try to shake hands with me. He was a plucky chap, was Bobby.
For another six weeks he wore that cast. Then it was broken off by the vet and replaced by a tight bandage. In another month the bandage was removed. The broken foreleg was as well as ever, but Bobby didn't know it.
Meanwhile I had been away. One Friday morning in April I came home to Sunnybank. On the following night a rather important dog show was to be held at Rutherford. I had entered Bobby and three other Sunnybank collies for the show. But when Bobby came galloping up to greet me on our arrival I saw he was running on three legs. His left forepaw dangled useless in the air.
Now there was a quandary. A lame dog cannot enter a show, and Bobby was spectacularly lame. For nearly three months his left forefoot had not touched the ground. To the best of his knowledge he was still powerless to walk on it.
I examined the leg with such scant skill as I had. To me it seemed
wholly sound. Then I called up the vet. He told me the two
fractures had knit satisfactorily and that the dog was as well as ever.
I knew Bobby was not lame. The vet knew it. But Bobby didn't
know it, and unless I could convince Bobby, then good-by to any chance
of showing him at Rutherford on Saturday night.
I went into executive session with myself, carrying along the treasured memory of Brer Rabbit's ruse. Then I called Bobby to me. It was his left foreleg that had been broken, as you will remember. I wrapped a tight and enormous bandage around his right foreleg.
Bobby, for months, had associated bandages on a leg with incapacity to walk on that leg. He remembered that he could not put his left forefoot to the ground, and the new bandage told him he could not put his right foot there. Helplessly he lay down. I called him over to me. He struggled to get up. Then he started across to where I stood. His gait, for a few steps, was ludicrously like a kangaroo's. He was trying vainly to keep both forefeet in the air.
It was an impossibility to do this. So he put down the once-injured left foot, seeming to feel that the bandaged leg must be more important to hold up. To his manifest surprise, he found he could bear his weight, painlessly and with entire ease, on the erst-fractured leg. So he walked on it without flinching, and held up only the bandaged limb.
I kept the bandage on his right leg all day. By the next morning I took it off. Gingerly Bobby tried his weight on the supposedly hurt right foot, then on his left.
That night when I took him into the show ring at Rutherford he walked as foursquare as any dog in the exhibition, and so acquitted himself as to win two blue ribbons, besides annexing the purple-and-white ribbon as reserve winner to his glorious and unbeaten sire, Bruce. But for my trick with the bandage, he might have gone lame to the end of his days - merely because he believed he was lame.
By the way, there was one result of his accident that remained with him until his death - namely, a crazy hate for motor cars. Always he would fly at them, foaming at the mouth and roaring with fury, madly bent on avenging his early mishap - this with all cars except our own. In the Sunnybank motor cars he loved to ride, all day and every day. He and Wolf were our car dogs after the death of Bruce had left a place on the back seat vacant for Bobby.
Speaking of Wolf, he was fiery in color and in temper. No human, save only the mistress and myself and Sunnybank's superintendent, might pat him with safety; at least, no adult. With furious slash and throat lunge he would resent well-meant efforts of any outsider to touch him. There was but one form of exception to this savagery. Any little child might maul or tease or manhandle him with safety.
Wolf was offish with most of the other dogs as with humans. For
years he refused fiercely to make friends with Bruce. Then came a
Brer Rabbit incident which made the two dogs staunch comrades. I
tell of this to illustrate my point, although I had no active hand in it.
Two of the big house cats, Peter Grim and Juliet, were hunting field mice in the orchard. From birth both of them had been Wolf's chums and constant playmates. They did not like the other dogs. Bruce saw them hunting in the long grass. Playfully he gave chase. The cats behaved as if by some prearranged signal. As Bruce bore down upon them they did not run away. Instead, they leaped one to each side as he was almost upon them. Then, as his headlong charge carried him between them, they turned simultaneously and sprang at his head. I yelled and ran down to the orchard to save Bruce from gouged eyes and a wrecked face. But I was too far away to be of use.
Just then, apparently out of nowhere, Wolf flashed onto the scene. I thought he was going to join his feline friends in their onslaught upon the dog he disliked. I was mistaken. Traveling at express train speed, he assailed Peter Grim and Juliet at the instant they launched themselves on the unprepared Bruce. Without checking his dash, he swept them both along in front of him, giving them no time to halt or to dodge. Keeping them at top speed, he drove the two spitting and snarling cats ahead of him up the lawn, and thence under the veranda of the house. For some obscure reason he had rescued a dog he did not like and thus had offended mortally two cats that were his dear pals.
To the end of their days, neither Peter Grim nor Juliet would associate with Wolf again. But to the end of their days, thenceforward, Wolf and Bruce were inseparable friends. They fought each other's battles, rode side by side in the motor cars, shared the fur rug in front of the library fire on winter nights.
By succoring an enemy Wolf had become that enemy's chum. Dogs are amazingly human in their mental reactions, aren't they?
Sunnybank Gray Dawn, our giant collie, also fell victim to a phase of the Brer Rabbit treatment. From babyhood Dawn was a house dog. This means, among other things, that he would as soon steal food from a table or chair, under ordinary conditions, as an archbishop would pocket his host's silver hairbrushes. Yet once atavistic nature overcame lifelong training.
Dawn's adored golden-brown mate had a family of pudgy collie puppies. I don't believe Dawn had the faintest realization that they were his own children. Paternity, in domestic dogs, is an unknown sense. But there can be no doubt he knew they belonged to his loved mate, and that as such they were under his special care.
As soon as the puppies were old enough to leave the brood nest and go to live in the main puppy yard, Dawn used to spend the better part of every day sitting on the far side of the yard's wire fence, staring at them and at their fluffy little mother. Here is where the atavism came in - the ancestral instinct to forage for mate and children:
Dawn went on the theory that the puppies were starving to death. So he would hunt around until he found a past-worthy bone or a gnawed dog biscuit. This dainty he would shove clumsily into the puppy yard through the wide wire meshes.
As the puppies were as fat as butter balls, and as their feed dishes of bread and milk and beaten eggs were renewed five times a day, they were in no instant peril of starvation. Indeed, they looked upon the nude and unlovely old bones and the fragments of stale dog biscuit with no interest at all when Dawn pushed these provision so eagerly through the wire to them.
Dawn seemed to decide that his offerings were rejected because they were not palatable. So he ranged farther afield in his foraging, and thereby he broke the law. Into the kitchen he stalked, with no attempt at concealment, and picked up from a table a new-baked loaf of bread.
This he tried vainly to push through the yard wire. Failing, he
ripped it to pieces - yet they say dogs cannot reason - and shoved the
morsels through to the hypothetically starving brood. They ignored
it. Next he went back to the kitchen and swaggeringly stole a steak,
which he pressed as uselessly against the wires.
Now when a house dog begins to steal food the habit must be stopped with great suddenness and severity, if he is not to become a worthless food thief for the rest of his llife. The steak was rescued and I took it to my study, where I subjected it to a thorough rubbing with red pepper and then dipped in into oil of mustard, after which I put it on a table in the areaway. I had not scolded Dawn for stealing the steak. Indeed, it was one of the maids, and not I, who had retrieved it as Dawn was trying to push ii into the yard. So the dog had not been punished for his theft.
An hour later he discovered the luscious meat on the area table and seized upon it for his young. Before he had traveled halfway to the puppy yard he dropped the fiery steak and plunged his burning eyes and nostrils and mouth into the nearest horse trough.
For an hour thereafter he went around with watery eyes and with mouth agape.
His lesson was learned. Stolen food, he discovered, is agonizingly dangerous to fool with. But he was not content merely to learn. The urge was upon him to impart. Accordingly, from the time the puppies were allowed to run at large around the dooryard and lawn, their big gray sire constituted himself their mentor in matters of honesty. Spurred on by his own dire experience, he would rush frantically at any of them that ventured to nose the dog-food bags in the outer areaway, chasing the culprit from the possible danger, and inculcating sharp lessons in nonthievery.
It was the same when one or another of the pups would sniff at a box of candy left on a porch hammock or would venture near the veranda table that was set for afternoon tea. One experience with the possibilities of agony contained in stolen provender made the big dog a worriedly earnest teacher of honesty to the young.
My Champion Sunnybank Sigurdson underwent a like form of left-handed training. The great young collie has but one genuine fear. The sound of an electric gong, or, indeed, of any harsh-toned bell, fills him with instant terror.
In his youth Sigurdson was addicted to nightly conversations with the moon. He would sit on the platform of his yard and bark at it discursively, almost argumentatively, for an hour at a time. It was not a clangorous bark, but fraught with fretfully philosophical dialectics. The collie took evident pleasure in voicing thus his ideas on whatsoever theme he may have been discussing with himself.
But it was not conducive to sleep. Also it incited dogs in the
surrounding kennel yards to noisy reply. The habit had to be broken.
I could not get up ten times a night and shout to him from my bedroom window
to be quiet. So I hit on a silencer scheme. I had an electric
gong rigged up in his yard, on the side of his kennel house. The
button was in my bedroom within easy reach. When Sigurdson began
his oration to the moon I would press the gong button. Immediately
from the kennel house behind him would issue a disonant metallic roar -
the one sound he hated and feared. The barking would cease with astonishing
suddenness and the collie would dive beneath his kennel, lying there shivering,
all thoughts of an hour-long barking fit forgotten in his horror of the
But the bell ringing did not have the same stilling effect on the lesser collies whose kennel yards abutted on Sigurdson's. Indeed, it sent them into multiple paroxysms of barking. It resulted in a brazen-throated clamor, tenfold worse than had been Sigurdson's argumentative solo.
I noticed that after the first few times this wholesale barking ceased almost as suddenly as it had begun. Trying the gong once by daylight, I saw the cause. Sigurdson evidently had learned to associate the bell with barking. At first note of it, as I watched, he slunk under his house. Then, as the dogs in surrounding yards took up the racket, he issued forth, rushing in hot anger at one after another of them, not barking, but snarling in venomous rebuke. Had he barked, it would only have swelled their own chorus to emulation. But his ferocious snarl and his air of wrathful menace silenced them one by one. He was playing my game for me in enforcing quiet.
Incidentally the sound of the gong filled him with such genuine terror that after a few nights I left off using it to hush the kennel outbursts. Fright is perhaps the most acute anguish known to man or beast. I do not like to inflict it on creatures that are helplessly dependant on me. Probably that is a slushy frame of mind for a grown man to confess to. I don't try to defend it. Only - well, I stopped ringing the kennel gong, that's all.
Sigurdson's sister, Sunnybank Fair Ellen, is one of the most pathetic little figures I have met in my many years' wanderings through dogdom. She is the daughter of Champion Sunnybank Sigurd, more widely known as Treve. In every way she is a championship-type show collie - at least, in every way but one. She is blind. Always she has been blind. When she was a baby, there were haws - membranes - over her sightless eyes. As soon as she was old enough to stand the mild ordeal I had a skilled vet remove these. It was of no use. The eyes themselves were without vision.
My first impulse was to put Fair Ellen out of her trouble by a bullet through the brain. I do not believe in chloroforming dogs. Often they come to their senses underground - too late. It is more merciful to shoot than to smother. Yes, I decided to put the poor little thing out of her trouble. Then, studying her, I found she had no trouble to be put out of.
Never had she seen. Thus, she did not miss her sight. She had no knowledge that she was different from the other puppies she romped with. She was splendidly healthy and happy and playful. She got as much out of life as any dog I have seen. So I let her live, and for more than five years she has continued to live, gay, resourceful, humorously eccentric, in her own pathetic way. If ever life shall grow unhappy for her I shall have her shot. Until then she lives a happy little exclusive life of her own.
She is the only grown Sunnybank dog that does not have to obey on the jump. So far as we humans are concerned she need not obey at all. She can do whatever makes her happiest. One cannot discipline a blind dog, nor so much as speak sharply to her.
I have had two or three good offers for Fair Ellen, for her puppies are of high quality in every way. But a buyer might perhaps lose patience with her sometimes, and she might not be as happy elsewhere as she is with us. So she stays on at Sunnybank. This attitude of mine, as in the case of the gong, may indicate mental slushiness for all I know or care.
It was unexpectedly easy to train Fair Ellen, from earliest puppyhood. Though she was not coerced into obeying, yet she was naturally obedient to the few of us with whom she came into daily contact. Then I began the task of teaching her to find her way about. At first that was not easy. Clownishly she ran into every kind of obstacle, colliding with trees and rocks and other dogs. But presently the training grew far easier, this through some odd instinct of Ellen's rather than through any cleverness of mine. I think it was the lack of eyes that gave so much greater acuteness to her other senses. Also, this same lack developed in her an almost mystic sense of the nearness of objects.
For instance, I have seen her run at top speed toward a wall or door, and as if pulled to a halt by an invisible leash, come to a standstill with her nose not six inches away from the obstacle. Again and again this has happened. It is the same when she is running alongside the house or the stables or the kennel yards. Almost invariably she can gauge her direction so as to keep from colliding with them.
It was a little harder to teach her to go on long forest walks with me. But gradually she learned to trot precisely in my footsteps, moving by scent, and thus traversing safely the most winding forest trails or hillside paths. She walks with me in that way sometimes for several miles, always with her nostrils bent earthward and always throwing her forefeet farther forward at every step than do the other dogs.
That odd gait has become habitual to her. It is not awkward. Sometimes it is hardly noticeable. But it keeps her feet in front of her nose at each motion. Thus if her toe chances to touch against a stone or a bush or fence rail, she stops in her tracks before her head and body can come into contact with the obstruction.
In going over unfamiliar ground I have even seen her halt like this when her sensitive foot touched a mullein stalk or a smaller weed. She takes no chances. Also, her head is turned slightly to one side, as if for better listening. Her sightless eyes are wide open, thick-clouded with gray film, yet with a quizzically half-humorous expression.
In moving over familiar territory she abandons caution and gallops at top speed. When I say "familiar territory" I mean the driveways or the sweep of lawn or hillside where she has learned by experience the locality of every tree and bowlder. At such times she runs fearlessly and fast, especially when she is chasing pigeons.
Pigeon chasing is one of her joys. Guided by the winnowing of
the birds' wings, her marvelous hearing enables her to follow in straight
line, for perhaps a hundred yards, their flight to and from the stable
cots. If they shift their course she shifts with them. Of course
when they fly noiselessly or very high she is not able to get their direction.
But she can hear their wings when humans cannot.
Here is another and more uncanny manifestation of her superacute hearing:
Often we humans cannot tell from which direction a distant thunderclap comes when an electric storm is drawing near. But Ellen always knows. On sound of the reverberation, near or half inaudible in the distance, she wheels to face the noise, tossing her head and barking challengingly to it. Always she faces directly toward the spot whence, soon after, the storm appears. I have seen her do this innumerable times. Thunderstorms seem to give here a gay thrill, though they frighten many collies.
Taking advantage of that direction-gauging trait, I taught her long ago to come up to me from a distance by clapping my hands sharply together or by striking a stick loudly against a tin pan. The uncouth or vibrant racket brings her to its source at full center.
Especially is the handclap of use when Fair Ellen goes swimming. The average collie is not a water dog and prefers wading in the shallows to launching forth on a regular swim. Ellen is different in this, as in most ways. Eagerly she finds her way to the lake at the foot of the lawn and swims out far.
But in the water, of course, her uncanny senses of smell and of touch are useless to her. Aimlessly she swims, pausing every few rods for the sound of the handclap that will tell her the direction of the shore she has quitted.
Then, when she is ready to come back to land, my next handclap guides her unerringly to the precise spot on the bank where I happen to be standing.
She has figured out strangely tortuous lanes whereon to travel when she nears anything or any number of things against which she might collide. If I stand beside her kennel yard and call to her to come and be put up, she does not approach me in a straight line, but along an imaginary path which has perhaps six or seven twists and turns.
This used to puzzle me, until one day I saw her run against a wheelbarrow which one of the men had left in the open patch of fairway between the house and her kennel. That was three years ago. Never since then does she come to that spot without making a careful detour around the imaginary barrow.
Her twisting course, along all familiar bits of ground, is due to her effort to skirt some box or rake or other obstruction which at some times she has struck against. She has preternatural memory for such things and for the precise spot in which once they were.
I have spoken of her incredibly keen hearing. Here is another example of it:
In the right-hand pocket of my khaki coat I carry a few animal crackers as titbits for the dogs, this not merely as a treat for them but to train them for the sharp alertness called for in the show ring. I have taught them to know that a motion of my hand toward that pocket means the gift of an animal cracker.
Accordingly when I am showing one of them in the judging ring, I have only to put my right hand into my coat pocket to bring him to swift and avid attention, his ears up and his whole body and expression brightly expectant. More than once have I won a blue ribbon for one of my collies on the strength of the impression made upon the judge by this tensely alert pose and expression, induced by the straying of my hand toward the treasure pocket and the hint of a gift implied by the gesture.
This is but one of a score of Brer Rabbit ways whereby I have tried to take practical advantage of either abnormal or racial traits of my dogs. From puppyhood every Sunnybank collie knows the meaning of that hand-to-pocket gesture, and through his eagerness for a titbit he is training himself unconsciously to shine in the ring at some long-future dog show.
Ellen naturally never has been to a dog show and is not eligible to
such honors. The wise rules of the American Kennel Club debar from
the ring a blind dog, even as a lame dog is barred. Yet when bits
of animal crackers are handed out, always Ellen has her share - considerably
more than her share.
The slipping of a hand into a coat pocket is not attended by any appreciable noise. Yet before she was a year old Fair Ellen had learned to listen for it and to interpret it. Immediately her ears would go up and her blind eyes would peer toward the almost imperceptibly rustled pocket. Ever she does this when I reach for an animal cracker. She pushes her way through the circle of collies that surround me and places her forepaws on my hip, balancing herself there, rampant, nosing for the morsel of food.
Let me qualify that. Sometimes - perhaps half the time - the groping forepaws miss me entirely, and she drops to the ground again, only to gauge the distance and the direction afresh and to rise in air once more.
It is the same in her romps with the other dogs. She jumps at them with exploratorily waving paws, missing her mark almost as often as she finds it, but trying over and over again to locate by scent and sound the exact position of her playfellow.
For some reason best known to themselves, the Sunnybank collies treat Ellen with a gentleness wholly different from their boisterous rough play with one another. Mildly, almost tenderly, they romp with her when she challenges them to such sport. They do not upset her or roll her over in the course of the game, as they do with one another. I don't try to explain this peculiar gentleness. But it exists.
Also, when several misses in her playful jumps at them happen to fray her temper and she flies blindly toward her playmate in a momentary flurry of rage, the other dog does not fight back, but stands patiently until the blind anger gust shall have run its course.
Yes, this sounds fishy, I know. Yet it chances to be not only true but readily proved. Innumerable times it has occurred. Perhaps the other dogs are puzzled by her difference from them and therefore handle her gently. I prefer to think they do it for the same reason that the average collie will not attack a very small dog of other breed, or a sprawling puppy. Collies, as a rule, have a rather well-defined spirit of chivalry in such matters, as almost any collie breeder can testify.
I think it is that impulse of forbearance toward the weak which makes
the Sunnybank collies so tolerant of Ellen's little flashes of annoyance
and of her clumsy efforts at romping.
As she grows older Ellen is developing a morbid sensitiveness that may in time grow into chronic unhappiness. She will be out for a walk with me, and will be barking and romping joyously with the other dogs when inadvertently she will run into a tree trunk or rock side or bristly bush. Instead of taking the mishap merrily, as of yore, she shrinks back, head and tail adroop. Heedless of the other collies' invitations to play, she slinks crestfallen back to her yard and hides in her kennel house, moping miserably there for hours. It is the same when one of the dogs unintentionally jostles against her in the course of a run. At once the run is over, so far as Ellen is concerned. Back home she goes, the picture of shamed misery.
This same sensitiveness is beginning to show itself, too, in her manner toward guests at Sunnybank. Once she would trot welcomingly forward when a guest or party of guests came near her yard, and would stand there, wagging her plumed tail, waiting to be patted and made much of. Sometimes, still, she does this. But as a rule nowadays the scent or the step of a stranger sends her grimly back into the safety of her kennel house, whence no coaxings can draw her forth until the outlander has departed.
With us of the Sunnybank household she is as always she has been - gayly affectionate and playful, and ever inventing pitiful little games into which she tries to lure us. She has wondrously coaxing and wheedling and alluring ways at such times.
When the lodge gates are closed at the entrance to Sunnybank, Ellen has the night-and-day run of the whole place. But when the gates are open she must be kept in her yard. For at the first sound of a car turning into the driveway, a furlong above the house, she gallops forth, straight up the drive, to challenge the unseen intruder.
Being blind, she cannot get out of the way of the approaching car, though every inch of the driveway itself is familiar ground to her. More than once brakes have been slapped on recklessly and gears stripped and cars ditched as visitors or tradesmen sought to avoid the golden-yellow collie that charged so valorously and so sightlessly at them.
It is a queer trait and pleasant to notice - this instinctive gentleness of dogs and of humans alike toward the afflicted little blind collie. It is interesting, too, to see how her blindness has taught Ellen a wholesome lesson in patience as well as in a score of other qualities.
Once I went for a long tramp through the woods with a dozen of the Sunnybank collies, including Fair Ellen. I chose, from habit, trails she could follow, instead of going directly across country, through copses and thickets. But that was all I did for her. My mind was on a story whose details I was trying to work out. So I paid no conscious heed to my twelve riotously disreputable companions.
I came home by a circuitous route that led me into the Sunnybank woods through a gateway among the trees. This gate is kept locked. Still mulling dazedly over the story I was trying to whip into shape, I unlocked the gate and whistled to the dogs. Through the opening they surged after me. Then, seeing no stragglers, I shut and relocked the gate and continued my way homeward.
Three hours later my superintendent came to me and asked if I had seen Fair Ellen anywhere. It was feeding time and she could not be found. As she never strays an inch off Sunnybank's boundaries, unless with the mistress or myself, I could not imagine what had become of her. The men hunted for her everywhere around the grounds, calling her name and searching every haunt of hers.
In another hour an idea came to me. I went back through the twilit woods to the gate I had locked behind me. There, on its far side, stood Ellen. Patiently she was standing there, her nose between the wire meshes, as I came in sight. When I was still a hundred yards away she caught my tread and went into ecstasies of joyful excitement.
Somehow she had fallen behind during our walk. Following us by scent, she had come to the locked gate. She could go no farther. So for the better part of four hours she had stood there in monumental patience, relying on her human god to reopen the gate he had shut.
Being blind and in semi-unfamiliar surroundings, she did not make the silly mistake of trying to find her way home by a roundabout route, and thus of getting herself irretrievably lost.
Instead, she did the only sane thing - she waited. Few dogs would have had the calm common sense and patient endurance to do that.
I have spoken of her puppies. She is a perfect mother, caring
for her unseen babies with tenderly wise solicitude. She is as savage
as a tiger toward any dog that happens to stray near the brood nest where
they are lying.
When at last each successive brood is old enough to leave her and is graduated to one of the puppy yards, she becomes afflicted with Gray Dawn's former monomania that they are starving to death. Accordingly, for hours a day she scours the lawn and flower borders, sniffing for buried bones. These she exhumes and carries by circuitous routes to shove them in through the wire meshing. Failing, she lays them close to the fence and goes off to hunt for more.
On a single afternoon, I have found no fewer than eighteen bones, in varying stages of undesirableness, arranged raggedly against the outer wires of the puppy-yard fence, where Fair Ellen had deposited them to stave off starvation from her overfed babies.
Though Ellen has never yet been spoken sharply to or forced to obey, yet as a rule she is as obedient as any dog I have, and she was as willing to learn the very few things I have taught her.
It has been mightily interesting to teach her, through scent and through sound and by dint of the lightest finger touch. Her lifelong misfortune has enabled her to absorb several kinds of instruction - as my handclapping signal and the faint sound of my hand slipping into my pocket, and the like - along lines that would have meant less than nothing to a normal dog.
Had I had the wit and the time to train her - and had I not disliked the idea of adding to her hard luck by making her do anything she didn't want to - I almost believe I could have turned Fair Ellen into a canine Helen Keller.
But it is better to be happy than talented, especially if one be a blind little collie. So I have let her live as she wanted to live, and she has enjoyed every day of her five dark years. What better is there in life, for dog or for human?
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