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    Ch. 20: Some Sheep Dogs

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    Chapter 20
    Previous Chapter
    Breaking a sheep-dog--The shepherd buys a pup--His training--He
    refuses to work--He chases a swallow and is put to death--The
    shepherd's remorse--Bob, the sheep-dog--How he was bitten by an
    adder--Period of the dog's receptivity--Tramp, the sheep-dog--Roaming
    lost about the country--A rage of hunger--Sheep-killing dogs--Dogs
    running wild--Anecdotes--A Russian sheep-dog--Caleb parts with Tramp

    To Caleb the proper training of a dog was a matter of the very first
    importance. A man, he considered, must have not only a fair amount of
    intelligence, but also experience, and an even temper, and a little
    sympathy as well, to sum up the animal in hand--its special aptitudes,
    its limitations, its disposition, and that something in addition, which
    he called a "kink," and would probably have described as its
    idiosyncrasy if he had known the word. There was as much individual
    difference among dogs as there is in boys; but if the breed was right,
    and you went the right way about it, you could hardly fail to get a good
    servant. If a dog was not properly broken, if its trainer had not made
    the most of it, he was not a "good shepherd": he lacked the
    intelligence--"understanding" was his word--or else the knowledge or
    patience or persistence to do his part. It was, however, possible for
    the best shepherd to make mistakes, and one of the greatest to be made,
    which was not uncommon, was to embark on the long and laborious business
    of training an animal of mixed blood--a sheep-dog with a taint of
    terrier, retriever, or some other unsuitable breed in him. In discussing
    this subject with other shepherds I generally found that those who were
    in perfect agreement with Caleb on this point were men who were somewhat
    like him in character, and who regarded their work with the sheep as so
    important that it must be done thoroughly in every detail and in the
    best way. One of the best shepherds I know, who is sixty years old and
    has been on the same downland sheep-farm all his life, assures me that
    he has never had and never would have a dog which was trained by
    another. But the shepherd of the ordinary kind says that he doesn't care
    much about the animal's parentage, or that he doesn't trouble to inquire
    into its pedigree: he breaks the animal, and finds that he does pretty
    well, even when he has some strange blood in him; finally, that all dogs
    have faults and you must put up with them. Caleb would say of such a man
    that he was not a "good shepherd." One of his saddest memories was of a
    dog which he bought and broke without having made the necessary
    inquiries about its parentage.

    It happened that a shepherd of the village, who had taken a place at a
    distant farm, was anxious to dispose of a litter of pups before leaving,
    and he asked Caleb to have one. Caleb refused. "My dog's old, I know,"
    he said, "but I don't want a pup now and I won't have 'n."

    A day or two later the man came back and said he had kept one of the
    best of the five for him--he had got rid of all the others. "You can't
    do better," he persisted. "No," said Caleb, "what I said I say again. I
    won't have 'n, I've no money to buy a dog."

    "Never mind about money," said the other. "You've got a bell I like the
    sound of; give he to me and take the pup." And so the exchange was made,
    a copper bell for a nice black pup with a white collar; its mother,
    Bawcombe knew, was a good sheep-dog, but about the other parent he made
    no inquiries.

    On receiving the pup he was told that its name was Tory, and he did not
    change it. It was always difficult, he explained, to find a name for a
    dog--a name, that is to say, which anyone would say was a proper name
    for a dog and not a foolish name. One could think of a good many proper
    names--Jack and Watch, and so on--but in each case one would remember
    some dog which had been called by that name, and it seemed to belong to
    that particular well-remembered dog and to no other, and so in the end
    because of this difficulty he allowed the name to remain.

    The dog had not cost him much to buy, but as it was only a few weeks old
    he had to keep it at his own cost for fully six months before beginning
    the business of breaking it, which would take from three to six months
    longer. A dog cannot be put to work before he is quite half a year old
    unless he is exceptionally vigorous. Sheep are timid creatures, but not
    unintelligent, and they can distinguish between the seasoned old
    sheep-dog, whose furious onset and bite they fear, and the raw young
    recruit as easily as the rook can distinguish between the man with a gun
    and the man of straw with a broomstick under his arm. They will turn
    upon and attack the young dog, and chase him away with his tail between
    his legs. He will also work too furiously for his strength and then
    collapse, with the result that he will make a cowardly sheep-dog, or, as
    the shepherds say, "brokenhearted."

    Another thing. He must be made to work at first with an old sheep-dog,
    for though he has the impulse to fly about and do something, he does not
    know what to do and does not understand his master's gestures and
    commands. He must have an object-lesson, he must see the motion and hear
    the word and mark how the old dog flies to this or that point and what
    he does. The word of command or the gesture thus becomes associated in
    his mind with a particular action on his part. But he must not be given
    too many object-lessons or he will lose more than he will gain--a
    something which might almost be described as a sense of individual
    responsibility. That is to say, responsibility to the human master who
    delegates his power to him. Instead of taking his power directly from
    the man he takes it from the dog, and this becomes a fixed habit so
    quickly that many shepherds say that if you give more than from three to
    six lessons of this kind to a young dog you will spoil him. He will need
    the mastership of the other dog, and will thereafter always be at a loss
    and work in an uncertain way.

    A timid or unwilling young dog is often coupled with the old dog two or
    three times, but this method has its dangers too, as it may be too much
    for the young dog's strength, and give him that "broken-heart" from
    which he will never recover; he will never be a good sheep-dog.

    To return to Tory. In due time he was trained and proved quick to learn
    and willing to work, so that before long he began to be useful and was
    much wanted with the sheep, as the old dog was rapidly growing stiffer
    on his legs and harder of hearing.

    One day the lambs were put into a field which was half clover and half
    rape, and it was necessary to keep them on the clover. This the young
    dog could not or would not understand; again and again he allowed the
    lambs to go to the rape, which so angered Caleb that he threw his crook
    at him. Tory turned and gave him a look, then came very quietly and
    placed himself behind his master. From that moment he refused to obey,
    and Bawcombe, after exhausting all his arts of persuasion, gave it up
    and did as well as he could without his assistance.

    That evening after folding-time he by chance met a shepherd he was well
    acquainted with and told him of the trouble he was in over Tory.

    "You tie him up for a week," said the shepherd, "and treat him well till
    he forgets all about it, and he'll be the same as he was before you
    offended him. He's just like old Tom--he's got his father's temper."

    "What's that you say?" exclaimed Bawcombe. "Be you saying that Tory's
    old Tom's son? I'd never have taken him if I'd known that. Tom's not
    pure-bred--he's got retriever's blood."

    "Well, 'tis known, and I could have told 'ee, if thee'd asked me," said
    the shepherd. "But you do just as I tell 'ee, and it'll be all right
    with the dog."

    Tory was accordingly tied up at home and treated well and spoken kindly
    to and patted on the head, so that there would be no unpleasantness
    between master and servant, and if he was an intelligent animal he would
    know that the crook had been thrown not to hurt but merely to express
    disapproval of his naughtiness.

    Then came a busy day for the shepherd, when the lambs were trimmed
    before being taken to the Wilton sheep-fair. There was Bawcombe, his
    boy, the decrepit old dog, and Tory to do the work, but when the time
    came to start Tory refused to do anything.

    When sent to turn the lambs he walked off to a distance of about twenty
    yards, sat down and looked at his master. Caleb hoped he would come
    round presently when he saw them all at work, and so they did the best
    they could without him for a time; but the old dog was stiffer and
    harder of hearing than ever, and as they could not get on properly Caleb
    went at intervals to Tory and tried to coax him to give them his help;
    and every time he was spoken to he would get up and come to his master,
    then when ordered to do something he would walk off to the spot where he
    had chosen to be and calmly sit down once more and look at them. Caleb
    was becoming more and more incensed, but he would not show it to the
    dog; he still hoped against hope; and then a curious thing happened. A
    swallow came skimming along close to the earth and passed within a yard
    of Tory, when up jumped the dog and gave chase, darting across the field
    with such speed that he kept very near the bird until it rose and passed
    over the hedge at the farther side. The joyous chase over Tory came back
    to his old place, and sitting on his haunches began watching them again
    struggling with the lambs. It was more than the shepherd could stand; he
    went deliberately up to the dog, and taking him by the straw collar
    still on his neck drew him quietly away to the hedge-side and bound him
    to a bush, then getting a stout stick he came back and gave him one blow
    on the head. So great was the blow that the dog made not the slightest
    sound: he fell; his body quivered a moment and his legs stretched
    out--he was quite dead. Bawcombe then plucked an armful of bracken and
    threw it over his body to cover it, and going back to the hurdles sent
    the boy home, then spreading his cloak at the hedge-side, laid himself
    down on it and covered his head.

    An hour later the fanner appeared on the scene. "What are you doing
    here, shepherd?" he demanded in surprise. "Not trimming the lambs!"

    Bawcombe, raising himself on his elbow, replied that he was not trimming
    the lambs--that he would trim no lambs that day.

    "Oh, but we must get on with the trimming!" cried the farmer.

    Bawcombe returned that the dog had put him out, and now the dog was
    dead--he had killed him in his anger, and he would trim no more lambs
    that day. He had said it and would keep to what he had said.

    Then the farmer got angry and said that the dog had a very good nose and
    would have been useful to him to take rabbits.

    "Master," said the other, "I got he when he were a pup and broke 'n to
    help me with the sheep and not to catch rabbits; and now I've killed 'n
    and he'll catch no rabbits."

    The farmer knew his man, and swallowing his anger walked off without
    another word.

    Later on in the day he was severely blamed by a shepherd friend who said
    that he could easily have sold the dog to one of the drovers, who were
    always anxious to pick up a dog in their village, and he would have had
    the money to repay him for his trouble; to which Bawcombe returned, "If
    he wouldn't work for I that broke 'n he wouldn't work for another. But
    I'll never again break a dog that isn't pure-bred."

    But though he justified himself he had suffered remorse for what he had
    done; not only at the time, when he covered the dead dog up with bracken
    and refused to work any more that day, but the feeling had persisted all
    his life, and he could not relate the incident without showing it very
    plainly. He bitterly blamed himself for having taken the pup and for
    spending long months in training him without having first taken pains to
    inform himself that there was no bad blood in him. And although the dog
    was perhaps unfit to live he had finally killed him in anger. If it had
    not been for that sudden impetuous chase after a swallow he would have
    borne with him and considered afterwards what was to be done; but that
    dash after the bird was more than he could stand; for it looked as if
    Tory had done it purposely, in something of a mocking spirit, to exhibit
    his wonderful activity and speed to his master, sweating there at his
    task, and make him see what he had lost in offending him.

    The shepherd gave another instance of a mistake he once made which
    caused him a good deal of pain. It was the case of a dog named Bob which
    he owned when a young man. He was an exceptionally small dog, but his
    quick intelligence made up for lack of strength, and he was of a very
    lively disposition, so that he was a good companion to a shepherd as
    well as a good servant.

    One summer day at noon Caleb was going to his flock in the fields,
    walking by a hedge, when he noticed Bob sniffing suspiciously at the
    roots of an old holly-tree growing on the bank. It was a low but very
    old tree with a thick trunk, rotten and hollow inside, the cavity being
    hidden with the brushwood growing up from the roots. As he came abreast
    of the tree, Bob looked up and emitted a low whine, that sound which
    says so much when used by a dog to his master and which his master does
    not always rightly understand. At all events he did not do so in this
    case. It was August and the shooting had begun, and Caleb jumped to the
    conclusion that a wounded bird had crept into the hollow tree to hide,
    and so to Bob's whine, which expressed fear and asked what he was to do,
    the shepherd answered, "Get him." Bob dashed in, but quickly recoiled,
    whining in a piteous way, and began rubbing his face on his legs.
    Bawcombe in alarm jumped down and peered into the hollow trunk and heard
    a slight rustling of dead leaves, but saw nothing. His dog had been
    bitten by an adder, and he at once returned to the village, bitterly
    blaming himself for the mistake he had made and greatly fearing that he
    would lose his dog. Arrived at the village his mother at once went off
    to the down to inform Isaac of the trouble and ask him what they were to
    do. Caleb had to wait some time, as none of the villagers who gathered
    round could suggest a remedy, and in the meantime Bob continued rubbing
    his cheek against his foreleg, twitching and whining with pain; and
    before long the face and head began to swell on one side, the swelling
    extending to the nape and downwards to the throat. Presently Isaac
    himself, full of concern, arrived on the scene, having left his wife in
    charge of the flock, and at the same time a man from a neighbouring
    village came riding by and joined the group. The horseman got off and
    assisted Caleb in holding the dog while Isaac made a number of incisions
    with his knife in the swollen place and let out some blood, after which
    they rubbed the wounds and all the swollen part with an oil used for the
    purpose. The composition of this oil was a secret: it was made by a man
    in one of the downland villages and sold at eighteenpence a small
    bottle; Isaac was a believer in its efficacy, and always kept a bottle
    hidden away somewhere in his cottage.

    Bob recovered in a few days, but the hair fell out from all the part
    which had been swollen, and he was a curious-looking dog with half his
    face and head naked until he got his fresh coat, when it grew again. He
    was as good and active a dog as ever, and lived to a good old age, but
    one result of the poison he never got over: his bark had changed from a
    sharp ringing sound to a low and hoarse one. "He always barked," said
    the shepherd, "like a dog with a sore throat."

    To go back to the subject of training a dog. Once you make a beginning
    it must be carried through to a finish. You take him at the age of six
    months, and the education must be fairly complete when he is a year old.
    He is then lively, impressionable, exceedingly adaptive; his
    intelligence at that period is most like man's; but it would be a
    mistake to think that it will continue so--that to what he learns now in
    this wonderful half-year, other things may be added by and by as
    opportunity arises. At a year he has practically got to the end of his
    capacity to learn. He has lost his human-like receptivity, but what he
    has been taught will remain with him for the rest of his life. We can
    hardly say that he remembers it; it is more like what is called
    "inherited memory" or "lapsed intelligence."

    All this is very important to a shepherd, and explains the reason an old
    head-shepherd had for saying to me that he had never had, and never
    would have, a dog he had not trained himself. No two men follow
    precisely the same method in training, and a dog transferred from his
    trainer to another man is always a little at a loss; method, voice,
    gestures, personality, are all different; his new master must study him
    and in a way adapt himself to the dog. The dog is still more at a loss
    when transferred from one kind of country to another where the sheep are
    worked in a different manner, and one instance Caleb gave me of this is
    worth relating. It was, I thought, one of his best dog stories.

    His dogs as a rule were bought as pups; occasionally he had had to get a
    dog already trained, a painful necessity to a shepherd, seeing that the
    pound or two it costs--the price of an ordinary animal--is a big sum of
    money to him. And once in his life he got an old trained sheep-dog for
    nothing. He was young then, and acting as under-shepherd in his native
    village, when the report came one day that a great circus and menagerie
    which had been exhibiting in the west was on its way to Salisbury, and
    would be coming past the village about six o'clock on the following
    morning. The turnpike was a little over a mile away, and thither Caleb
    went with half a dozen other young men of the village at about five
    o'clock to see the show pass, and sat on a gate beside a wood to wait
    its coming. In due time the long procession of horses and mounted men
    and women, and gorgeous vans containing lions and tigers and other
    strange beasts, came by, affording them great admiration and delight.
    When it had gone on and the last van had disappeared at the turning of
    the road, they got down from the gate and were about to set out on their
    way back when a big, shaggy sheepdog came out of the wood and running to
    the road began looking up and down in a bewildered way. They had no
    doubt that he belonged to the circus and had turned aside to hunt a
    rabbit in the wood; then, thinking the animal would understand them,
    they shouted to it and waved their arms in the direction the procession
    had gone. But the dog became frightened, and turning fled back into
    cover, and they saw no more of it.

    Two or three days later it was rumoured that a strange dog had been seen
    in the neighbourhood of Winterbourne Bishop, in the fields; and women
    and children going to or coming from outlying cottages and farms had
    encountered it, sometimes appearing suddenly out of the furze-bushes and
    staring wildly at them; or they would meet him in some deep lane between
    hedges, and after standing still a moment eyeing them he would turn and
    fly in terror from their strange faces. Shepherds began to be alarmed
    for the safety of their sheep, and there was a good deal of excitement
    and talk about the strange dog. Two or three days later Caleb
    encountered it. He was returning from his flock at the side of a large
    grass field where four or five women were occupied cutting the thistles,
    and the dog, which he immediately recognized as the one he had seen at
    the turnpike, was following one of the women about. She was greatly
    alarmed, and called to him, "Come here, Caleb, for goodness' sake, and
    drive this big dog away! He do look so desprit, I'm afeared of he."

    "Don't you be feared," he shouted back. "He won't hurt 'ee; he's
    starving--don't you see his bones sticking out? He's asking to be fed."
    Then going a little nearer he called to her to take hold of the dog by
    the neck and keep him while he approached. He feared that the dog on
    seeing him coming would rush away. After a little while she called the
    dog, but when he went to her she shrank away from him and called out,
    "No, I daren't touch he--he'll tear my hand off. I never see'd such a
    desprit-looking beast!"

    "'Tis hunger," repeated Caleb, and then very slowly and cautiously he
    approached, the dog all the time eyeing him suspiciously, ready to rush
    away on the slightest alarm. And while approaching him he began to speak
    gently to him, then coming to a stand stooped and patting his legs
    called the dog to him. Presently he came, sinking his body lower as he
    advanced and at last crawling, and when he arrived at the shepherd's
    feet he turned himself over on his back--that eloquent action which a
    dog uses when humbling himself before and imploring mercy from one
    mightier than himself, man or dog.

    Caleb stooped, and after patting the dog gripped him firmly by the neck
    and pulled him up, while with his free hand he undid his leather belt to
    turn it into a dog's collar and leash; then, the end of the strap in his
    hand, he said "Come," and started home with the dog at his side. Arrived
    at the cottage he got a bucket and mixed as much meal as would make two
    good feeds, the dog all the time watching him with his muscles twitching
    and the water running from his mouth. The meal well mixed he emptied it
    out on the turf, and what followed, he said, was an amazing thing to
    see: the dog hurled himself down on the food and started devouring it as
    if the mass of meal had been some living savage creature he had captured
    and was frenziedly tearing to pieces. He turned round and round,
    floundering on the earth, uttering strange noises like half-choking
    growls and screams while gobbling down the meal; then when he had
    devoured it all he began tearing up and swallowing the turf for the sake
    of the little wet meal still adhering to it.

    Such rage of hunger Caleb had never seen, and it was painful to him to
    think of what the dog had endured during those days when it had been
    roaming foodless about the neighbourhood. Yet it was among sheep all the
    time--scores of flocks left folded by night at a distance from the
    village; one would have imagined that the old wolf and wild-dog instinct
    would have come to life in such circumstances, but the instinct was to
    all appearance dead.

    My belief is that the pure-bred sheep-dog is indeed the last dog to
    revert to a state of nature; and that when sheep-killing by night is
    traced to a sheep-dog, the animal has a bad strain in him, of retriever,
    or cur, or "rabbit-dog," as the shepherds call all terriers. When I was
    a boy on the pampas sheep-killing dogs were common enough, and they were
    always curs, or the common dog of the country, a smooth-haired animal
    about the size of a coach-dog, red, or black, or white. I recall one
    instance of sheep-killing being traced to our own dogs--we had about six
    or eight just then. A native neighbour, a few miles away, caught them at
    it one morning; they escaped him in spite of his good horse, with lasso
    and bolas also, but his sharp eyes saw them pretty well in the dim
    light, and by and by he identified them, and my father had to pay him
    for about thirty slain and badly injured sheep; after which a gallows
    was erected and our guardians ignominiously hanged. Here we shoot dogs;
    in some countries the old custom of hanging them, which is perhaps less
    painful, is still followed.

    To go back to our story. From that time the stray dog was Caleb's
    obedient and affectionate slave, always watching his face and every
    gesture, and starting up at his slightest word in readiness to do his
    bidding. When put with the flock he turned out to be a useful sheep-dog,
    but unfortunately he had not been trained on the Wiltshire Downs. It was
    plain to see that the work was strange to him, that he had been taught
    in a different school, and could never forget the old and acquire a new
    method. But as to what conditions he had been reared in or in what
    district or country no one could guess. Every one said that he was a
    sheep-dog, but unlike any sheep-dog they had ever seen; he was not
    Wiltshire, nor Welsh, nor Sussex, nor Scotch, and they could say no
    more. Whenever a shepherd saw him for the first time his attention was
    immediately attracted, and he would stop to speak with Caleb. "What sort
    of a dog do you call that?" he would say. "I never see'd one just like
    'n before."

    At length one day when passing by a new building which some workmen had
    been brought from a distance to erect in the village, one of the men
    hailed Caleb and said, "Where did you get that dog, mate?"

    "Why do you ask me that?" said the shepherd.

    "Because I know where he come from: he's a Rooshian, that's what he is.
    I've see'd many just like him in the Crimea when I was there. But I
    never see'd one before in England."

    Caleb was quite ready to believe it, and was a little proud at having a
    sheep-dog from that distant country. He said that it also put something
    new into his mind. He didn't know nothing about Russia before that,
    though he had been hearing so much of our great war there and of all the
    people that had been killed. Now he realized that Russia was a great
    country, a land where there were hills and valleys and villages, where
    there were flocks and herds, and shepherds and sheepdogs just as in the
    Wiltshire Downs. He only wished that Tramp--that was the name he had
    given his dog--could have told him his history.

    Tramp, in spite of being strange to the downs and the downland
    sheep-dog's work, would probably have been kept by Caleb to the end but
    for his ineradicable passion for hunting rabbits. He did not neglect his
    duty, but he would slip away too often, and eventually when a man who
    wanted a good dog for rabbits one day offered Caleb fifteen shillings
    for Tramp, he sold him, and as he was taken away to a distance by his
    new master, he never saw him again.
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