Beautiful Joe/Chapter 8
"I was a favorite with all the gentlemen. I was crazy with delight when I saw the guns brought out, and would jump up and bite at them. I loved to chase birds and rabbits, and even now when the pigeons come near me, I tremble all over and have to turn away lest I should seize them. I used often to be in the woods from morning till night. I liked to have a hard search after a bird after it had been shot, and to be praised for bringing it out without biting or injuring it.
"I never got lost, for I am one of those dogs that can always tell where human beings are. I did not smell them. I would be too far away for that, but if my master was standing in some place and I took a long round through the woods, I knew exactly where he was, and could make a short cut back to him without returning in my tracks.
"But I must tell you about my trouble. One Saturday afternoon a party of young men came to get me. They had a dog with them, a cocker spaniel called Bob, but they wanted another. For some reason or other, my master was very unwilling to have me go. However, he at last consented, and they put me in the back of the wagon with Bob and the lunch baskets, and we drove off into the country. This Bob was a happy, merry-looking dog, and as we went along, he told me of the fine time we should have next day. The young men would shoot a little, then they would get out their baskets and have something to eat and drink, and would play cards and go to sleep under the trees, and we would be able to help ourselves to legs and wings of chickens, and anything we liked from the baskets.
"I did not like this at all. I was used to working hard through the week, and I liked to spend my Sundays quietly at home. However, I said nothing.
"That night we slept at a country hotel, and drove the next morning to the banks of a small lake where the young men were told there would be plenty of wild ducks. They were in no hurry to begin their sport. They sat down in the sun on some flat rocks at the water's edge, and said they would have something to drink before setting to work. They got out some of the bottles from the wagon, and began to take long drinks from them. Then they got quarrelsome and mischievous, and seemed to forget all about their shooting. One of them proposed to have some fun with the dogs. They tied us both to a tree, and throwing a stick in the water, told us to get it.
Of course we struggled and tried to get free, and chafed our necks with the rope.
"After a time one of them began to swear at me, and say that he believed I was gun-shy. He staggered to the wagon and got out his fowling piece, and said he was going to try me.
"He loaded it, went to a little distance, and was going to fire, when the young man who owned Bob, said he wasn't going to have his dog's legs shot off, and coming up he unfastened him and took him away. You can imagine my feelings, as I stood there tied to the tree, with that stranger pointing his gun directly at me. He fired close to me a number of times—over my head and under my body. The earth was cut up all around me. I was terribly frightened, and howled and begged to be freed.
"The other young men, who were sitting laughing at me, thought it such good fun that they got their guns too. I never wish to spend such a terrible hour again. I was sure they would kill me. I dare say they would have done so, for they were all quite drunk by this time, if something had not happened.
"Poor Bob, who was almost as frightened as I was, and who lay shivering under the wagon, was killed by a shot by his own master, whose hand was the most unsteady of all. He gave one loud howl, kicked convulsively, then turned over on his side, and lay quite still. It sobered them all. They ran up to him, but he was quite dead. They sat for a while quite silent, then they threw the rest of the bottles into the lake, dug a shallow grave for Bob, and putting me in the wagon drove slowly back to town. They were not bad young men. I don't think they meant to hurt me, or to kill Bob. It was the nasty stuff in the bottles that took away their reason.
"I was never the same dog again. I was quite deaf in my right ear, and though I strove against it, I was so terribly afraid of even the sight of a gun that I would run and hide myself whenever one was shown to me. My master was very angry wiih those young men, and it seemed as if he could not bear the sight of me. One day he took me very kindly and brought me here, and asked Mr. Morris if he did not want a good-natured dog to play with the children.
"I have a happy home here, and I love the Morris boys; but I often wish that I could keep from putting my tail between my legs and running home every time I hear the sound of a gun."
"Never mind that, Jim," I said. "You should not fret over a thing for which you are not to blame. I am sure you must be glad for one reason that you have left your old life."
"What is that?" he said.
"On account of the birds. You know Miss Laura thinks it is wrong to kill the pretty creatures that fly about the woods."
"So it is," he said, "unless one kills them at once. I have often felt angry with men for only half killing a bird. I hated to pick up the little, warm body, and see the bright eye looking so reproachfully at me, and feel the flutter of life. We animals, or rather the most of us, kill mercifully. It is only human beings who butcher their prey, and seem, some of them, to rejoice in their agony. I used to be eager to kill birds and rabbits, but I did not want to keep them before me long after they were dead. I often stop in the street and look up at fine ladies' bonnets, and wonder how they can wear little dead birds in such dreadful positions. Some of them have their heads twisted under their wings and over their shoulders, and looking toward their tails, and their eyes are so horrible that I wish I could take those ladies into the woods and let them see how easy and pretty a live bird is, and how unlike the stuffed creatures they wear. Have you ever had a good run in the woods, Joe?"
"No, never," I said.
"Some day I will take you, and now it is late and I must go to bed. Are you going to sleep in the kennel with me, or in the stable?"
"I think I will sleep with you, Jim. Dogs like company, you know, as well as human beings." I curled up in the straw beside him, and soon we were fast asleep.
I have known a good many dogs, but I don't think I ever saw such a good one as Jim. He was gentle and kind, and so sensitive that a hard word hurt him more than a blow. He was a great pet with Mrs. Morris, and as he had been so well trained, he was able to make himself very useful to her.
When she went shopping, he often carried a parcel in his mouth for her. He would never drop it or leave it anywhere. One day, she dropped her purse without knowing it, and Jim picked it up, and brought it home in his mouth. She did not notice him, for he always walked behind her. When she got to her own door, she missed the purse, and turning around saw it in Jim's mouth.
Another day, a lady gave Jack Morris a canary cage as a present for Carl. He was bringing it home, when one of the little seed boxes fell out. Jim picked it up and carried it a long way, before Jack discovered it.