Cause and effect, demand and supply, where does the vicious circle begin and end? Certain it is that when motors began to drench the countryside in dust and suppress reflexion by providing our afterthoughts with transport, Dalmatians disappeared. Silently, imperceptibly, putting down their paws with all the old fastidious grace, they crept out of a world that had betrayed aristocracy. Only Fido remained—to die of a broken heart.
When I first saw him, he was a puppy—a thin lanky puppy, waiting to be filled in by life, a mere sketch of the masterpiece he was to become. Even in those days he had heavy black charmeuse ears, marvellous thick rich satin they were, and tiny dark rims to his eyes—a setting of pencilled shadow. How am I to describe his spots? The wonderful distribution of black and white, the ruffle at the side of his arched neck made by the meeting of two competitive rhythms of hairs, the looseness of his skin, his long lithe legs that would tie themselves into a tangled heap of grace when he lay down.
To see him move was to see motion made concrete—to see him run was to realise that even Pavlova had never quite overcome the obstacle of being a human.
At night he seemed phosphorescent, the dark itself was defeated by his whiteness. His bark was low and deep and resonant—a church bell of a bark—it reminded [Transcriber’s note: original reads ‘remainded’] you less of a ’cello than all ’cellos—except M. Casal’s—remind you of a bark.
He had the divine irrelevant grace of a cat. Always he was showing off, practising his paws, curling and stretching and pirouetting, letting himself go like an arrow out of a bow, circling on the lawn like a swallow above water, giving you daily a thousand illustrations of how much you would have lost by only having 100 masterpieces in bronze of him.
Living with Fido was a daily revelation of absolute beauty. He was the key to the secret of Phidias and Ucello Pascal and Mozart.
But he was alive, warm and gay and moody—joyous and absurd—full of little confiding gestures—a nose pressed under one’s chin, or a paw laid in alluring appeal on one’s hand. Withal he was detached with the detachment of his separate universe—a divine world of smells and sounds and ever new adventurous possibilities, unspoilt by memory and untarnished by experience.
Dogs are the best company in the world—I would watch Fido abandoning himself to each moment of the day, the victim or the hero of a hundred impulses, torn by competing smells and sounds as we are torn by overlapping warring emotions and ambitions.
And then he would lie sprawling in front of the fire with a half open eye and when you said “Fido” his ears would answer you, taut with response, while his tail would beat the floor in indolent happiness. Is there anything in life so infectiously joyous as a wagging tail? Worry, distress, crossness, all melt at the sight of it—a hypnotic conductor’s, baton beating the rhythm of triumphant joie de vivre.