SOME FIRST STEPS
The phase upon which little Jan now entered A was as jolly and enjoyable as any form of sheltered dog life could well be. There were no kennels at Nuthill, and it must be admitted that kennel life is never the happiest sort of existence for a dog, though in some establishments it is so organized, as to be a very healthy one.
Jan speedily became an object of affectionate interest for every member of the Nuthill household, and was, from the first, the special and well-loved protege of Betty Murdoch, a privilege which, of itself, would have insured his well-being. For Betty was an eminently sensible girl, besides being a kindly, merry lover of animals and outdoor life. And in her aunt and the Master she had perhaps the best sources of doggy information to be found in Sussex.
Thus Jan was never subjected to the cruel kind of ordeals from which so many petted dogs suffer. He was not treated as a delicate infant in arms for a day or so, and then ignored for a week. His internal economy was never poisoned or upset by means of absurd gifts of sweetmeats. His meals reached him with the unfailing regularity of clockwork, and were so carefully designed that, whilst his growth never was retarded for lack of frequent nutriment, the finish of a meal always left him with some little appetite. And he never saw food save at his mealtimes.
But, be it said, Betty did not forget that in Jan’s case weaning had been a very abrupt process. During his first few days at Nuthill he had as many as nine meals in the twenty-four hours, and for a week or more after that he had eight. Six daily meals was his allowance for several weeks, and in the later stage of four a day he was kept for months. After the first two days he never had two consecutive meals of the same composition. That fact affected his appetite and, in consequence, his bodily development, very materially. In fact, when Jan had been only a few days at Nuthill, and but thirty-four days in the world, he turned the big kitchen scale at 13 lb. 7-1/2 oz. In point of size and weight his thirty-fourth day found him pretty much on a level with a fully grown fox-terrier; though he was, of course, still quite unshapen, and somewhat insecure upon his thick, gristly legs.
“He’s going to be a slashing big hound, Betty,” said the Master, after weighing Jan. “And I think he’s going to do you credit in every way. You stick religiously to the feeding chart and the phosphates, and we shall presently have Jan lording it over his own father—eh, Finn, boy!”