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“These are the tales the Dogs tell, when the fires burn high and the wind is from the North.” — Clifford Simak, City
The conclusion to the 1957 movie, Old Yeller, has to be among the two or three most heart-rending scenes ever filmed. If you remember the story, Old Yeller, the beloved family dog, fights off a rabid wolf who is attacking the youngest son of the family. During the fight, Old Yeller is badly wounded.
Old Yeller (a yellow Labrador mix) develops rabies from the fight and turns into a snarling, dangerous animal. The scene of the boy killing his beloved dog is so powerful that people remember it for decades after they’ve seen the film. I just went back and viewed that scene, and it’s just as I remembered it. I didn’t cry this time. Big boys don’t cry.
Who was a good dog? Why, Old Yeller was a good dog, just like all those other dogs who perfected their craft in Hollywood: the Astas, Totos, Rin Tin Tins, Sandys, Benjis, and Lassies.
I believe that my dog Bob, like Old Yeller, will protect me if I ever need a buffer between me and a mortal threat.
Alexander Pope, the 18th-century satirist, owned a dog named Bounce, a pet so beloved that Pope had his portrait painted with Bounce. (In the portrait, Bounce is sitting at Pope’s feet, looking up into his master’s face as he reads a book.)
As a Catholic in hyper-Protestant England, Pope was not allowed to practice his religion; neither could he attend public school or live within ten miles of London. But Pope didn’t need to belong to a despised religion to make enemies. Pope made enemies by the dozens all by himself. That’s because Pope was an eager and deft satirist, probably the best England has ever produced, and he struck back against anyone or anything that he thought needed “correction.” He wasn’t called the Wasp of Twittenham for nothing.
One time Pope gave a puppy, wearing a collar with a hidden message, to the Prince of Wales. Evidently, the Prince kept his pets at Kew Gardens, a botanical greenhouse and outdoor park where royalty — and of course the fops and courtiers who attended them — liked to hang out. Pope hoped that a bootlicking courtier, seeing the dog’s collar, would bend over and read this little piece of doggeral that Pope had engraved on the pooch’s collar: “I’m His Highness’ dog at Kew. Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?” Now that’s satire with a bite.
As a result of that kind of biting satire on fops, toadies, critics, backbiters, and scribblers (Pope’s term for bad writers), Pope had enough enemies to fill the ranks of a small battalion. One night Pope was set upon while out walking and beaten badly. (It wasn’t hard to beat up Pope. He was a little man, 4’ 6”, and a hunchback with a curvature of the spine.)
After that attack, Pope never left his home without a brace of pistols and his beloved Bounce, his very large Great Dane. (Bounce was once heard to say to one of Pope’s enemies, “Come at the little man, sir, and you’ll have to pry my teeth out of your tuchus.” At least that’s what Bounce would have said if he had a larger brain, a human-like voice cavity, and a knowledge of Yiddish expressions.)
Was Bounce a good dog? Of course, he was.
Islam has had a long and complicated history with dogs. A popular Hadith (sayings of Muhammad) says that angels won’t enter your home if you have a dog. In traditional Islam, the dog is one of the ritually unclean animals.
Hugh Fitzgerald, the author of Islam Has a Problem with Dogs, describes a young Muslim girl standing over a litter of puppies, and suddenly kicking one as hard as she could. When asked why she did that, the girl says blankly, “But it’s unclean.” Later, Fitzgerald describes a Muslim chopping to death a litter of puppies, one by one, with a spade’s edge.
According to Fitzgerald, the US stopped sending bomb-sniffing dogs to Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab nations after a number of the dogs died from neglect and mistreatment, including starvation.
I don’t mean to pick on Muslims. The Chinese slaughter roughly 15 million dogs a year for consumption. I’ve seen a video of a dog being blowtorched alive in the annual Dog Meat Festival in China (Yes, there is such a thing.) At this same festival, I’ve read, some of the dogs are bludgeoned to death, and some are thrown alive into boiling water to remove their skins.
So were dogs who were mistreated, starved, and tortured by Muslims and Chinese good dogs? Of course, they were good dogs. They just didn’t have anyone to bend over, look into their eyes, and rub their necks while asking, “Who’s a good dog?” The human who bent over had a club in his hand.
And those are the tales the Dogs tell, when the fires burn high and the wind is from the North.
To relieve you of any stress you may be feeling now after reading of mistreated dogs (after clicking on those videos, I’m feeling a lot), I’m offering up photos of two cute dogs who are treated well. First, here’s Boo, a Pomeranian who holds the title of the World’s Cutest Dog.
And of course, you knew I’d be posting a picture of Bob in a post about dogs. Here’s Bob in his fanciest winter outfit.