Chapter Twenty-Five: My Friend Jack
My friend rack is a retriever—very black, very curly, perfect in shape, but just a retriever; and he is really not my friend, only he thinks he is, which comes to the same thing. So convinced is he that I am his guide, protector, and true master, that if I were to give him a downright scolding or even a thrashing he would think it was all right and go on just the same. His way of going on is to make a companion of me whether I want him or not. I do not want him, but his idea is that I want him very much. I bitterly blame myself for having made the first advances, although nothing came of it except that he growled. I met him in a Cornish village in a house where I stayed. There was a nice kennel there, painted green, with a bed of clean straw and an empty plate which had contained his dinner, but on peeping in I saw no dog. Next day it was the same, and the next, and the day after that; then I inquired about it—Was there a dog in that house or not? Oh, yes, certainly there was: Jack, but a very independent sort of dog. On most days he looked in, ate his dinner and had a nap on his straw, but he was not what you would call a home-keeping dog.
One day I found him in, and after we had looked for about a minute at each other, I squatting before the kennel, he with chin on paws pretending to be looking through me at something beyond, I addressed a few kind words to him, which he received with the before-mentioned growl. I pronounced him a surly brute and went away. It was growl for growl. Nevertheless I was well pleased at having escaped the consequences in speaking kindly to him. I am not a “doggy” person nor even a canophilist. The purely parasitic or degenerate pet dog moves me to compassion, but the natural vigorous outdoor dog I fear and avoid because we are not in harmony; consequently I suffer and am a loser when he forces his company on me. The outdoor world I live in is not the one to which a man goes for a constitutional, with a dog to save him from feeling lonely, or, if he has a gun, with a dog to help him kill something. It is a world which has sound in it, distant cries and penetrative