After a few minutes given to sad contemplation she went inside again, and carried out the other little corpse, laying it near by its fellow and nosing it sadly, till the two were touching. There was another interval of melancholy contemplation. And then, suddenly lifting her muzzle heavenward, so that its deep flews swayed in the breeze, Desdemona broke into vocal mourning, in a long, deep, baying howl; a less eerie sound, perhaps, than the siren-like howl of an Irish wolfhound in distress, yet withal, in its different, deeper, more resonant way, a cry quite equally impressive.
It was at this employ that Finn found his mate when he arrived at the cave that morning from Nuthill. For some moments Finn also gazed down at the victims, pondering over their immobility and his mate’s mournful cries. Then, very tenderly at first, he nuzzled the dead puppies. That process flashed a picture into his mind, and he saw again Warrigal’s dead children in the Mount Desolation cave. So he understood. His head moved now far more vigorously, almost roughly, indeed, as he pushed the little bodies forward with his nose, thrusting them out upon the turf, so that they rolled, one over the other, down the steep part of the slope.
Then Finn turned to his mate and affectionately licked her low-hanging ears, flews, and dewlap. It was perfectly obvious that he understood her grief and sought to assuage it. Finding that she paid no heed to him, Finn turned from her gravely and walked within to where the three remaining pups lay. Carefully he licked the big black-and-gray dog pup. Still Desdemona remained outside. So Finn proceeded to lick one of the other pups, the weakling of the group. This produced at once a faint whimpering from the puppy, and that brought her mother quickly to her side. Standing aside now, Finn watched the bloodhound settle herself down to the task of nursing. Contented then, he walked to the mouth of the cave and lay down there, gazing out reflectively across the green ridge to the far-off Sussex weald.
It is easy for scientists to affirm that dogs cannot think. Call the process what one may, Finn saw and understood his mate’s grief. He recognized that he could not give her comfort. He knew that if Desdemona would not answer to a call from him she would respond immediately to the claims of her offspring, and to her offspring he led her. This is what actually occurred, and no matter what the theorists may say in their learned generalizations, the rest of us are free to draw our own conclusions.
What happened was that Finn led his mate from the abandonment of her lonely mourning to renewed absorption in her motherly duties. It is true enough that nature was at work on Finn’s side in this matter, and without the wolfhound’s aid would presently have achieved the same result. But Finn assisted and hastened the process; and is that not as much as one can often say of the high task of the physician?