Thurber and Foote – Great Writing, from Great Dog Fanciers

I have been remiss! In the recent Pet Connection blog on best beloved animal stories of all times, I forgot to mention one of my absolute favorite dog writers, John Taintor Foote, a fact I was reminded of when I picked up my dog eared copy of “Dumb Bell of Brookfield” yesterday afternoon.

Born in 1881, Taintor Foote was something of a renaissance man – an author, a screenwriter and a playwright, he had a particular interest in the so-called ‘sporting life’ – angling, hunting, horse racing and the great outdoors. His screenwriting credits were diverse, ranging from The Mark of Zorro to the Story of Seabiscuit.

I was introduced to Foote’s writing by my rather eccentric – and recently deceased uncle. He found me in his rather well stocked library one day, reading a copy of “The Water Babies” that hindsight tells me was likely a first or so edition. He walked up, removed the book from my hands, and placed it back on the shelf, and then replaced it with a volume he selected from another shelf. The book was “The Dumb-Bell of Brookfield” – not an original edition (that came out in 1917), but one published in 1922. Dumb-Bell is the story of an under sized pointer – over looked, and under valued by his owners (a couple with the rather hackneyed mannerisms of “Mervyn Lloyd and Claudette Colbert”, in the words of Foote’s son, Timothy Foote , in the introduction to the re release of his father’s stories).

Years later, an article by Vicki Hearne mentioned some of Taintor Foote’s writing on Pit Bulls, and I immediately searched out a copy of the anthology of Taintor Foote’s dog stories. “Dumb Bell of Brookfield, Pocono Shot and Other Great Dog Stories” has some phenomenal writing about sporting dogs – even a neophyte like me can tell that – but for me, Foote shines when he’s writing about “Bulldogs” (‘Bulldogs’ of course, is used in the old sense of the world, as a vernacular for what we now call Pit Bull Terriers. To quote Thurber “An American Bull, none of your English fellows”). Foote’s most famous story, after Dumb Bell, is contained in this collection. “Trub’s Diary” is written from the view point of a troublesome white Bulldog, and is one of the funniest pieces of anthropomorphic writing ever done. Foote might have written human characters that are, by today’s standards, heavy handed, but his dogs still ring true today.

Pick up the collection of Foote’s dog stories, or grab one for the sporting fan or Pit Bull lover on your list who’s hard to buy for. Oh, and fans of great horse writing will be instantly enamored of “Hoofbeats“, his collected horse stories. His tales of track life are as evocative today as they were at the beginning of last century, although the vernacular used can be difficult to get used to (and the racial slang hard to swallow).

The Thurber DogI mentioned Thurber above, and no mention of great dog writing is complete without Thurber’s name prominent on the list. I suppose that, today, he’s better known for his downtrodden men and haughty women than he is for his dogs, but the “Thurber dog”, as it was known, was once an instantly recognizable icon. Shaggy, nondescript and not prone to the pitfalls of his people, the Thurber dog was a symbol of sanity in Thurber’s chaotic world.

Thurber’s dog stories recall some of the beloved dogs of his childhood, including the stories of Rex, the decidedly non English Bulldog. Rex, who found enjoyment in dragging home items like wardrobes, once engaged in a dog fight that lasted ‘most of the day’. Thurber reminisces about this event with nostalgia, even fondness. Thurber’s “Rex, Portrait of a Dog”, remains one of my personal favorite stories of all time, of all genres, and possibly the best story even written in homage of Pit Bulls.

Thurber seemed to relish dogs that others would describe as ‘difficult’. His story about Muggs (The Dog That Bit People), affectionately tells of his family’s irascible Airedale Terrier – a dog that did, quite literally, bite people with clock work regularity. Thurber’s encounters with Muggs, seen through the lens of nostalgia, become affectionate and humorous, but he makes it clear that Rex was a danger to almost everyone around him, and his mother’s eulogy for Rex, Cave Canem, was tellingly apt.

Also in this collection is Thurber’s bitterly humorous “Lo, the Gentle Bloodhound” – his response to the ‘dangerous dog’ hysteria his time was plagued with. Hard to believe today, but in Thurber’s time, Bloodhounds were regarded as savage man killers – a left over from their days as slave tracking dogs. It’s easy to laugh about anyone regarding the mope faced Bloodhound as a threat, but consider that, in Thurber’s day, the Pit Bull was America’s classic family pet – a sort of turn of the century Golden Retriever or Lab.  Thurber regarded fear of Bloodhounds to be as ludicrous as fear of moths, or bunny rabbits, but I have no doubt he’d have regarded fear of his beloved Bulldogs as even more ridiculous.

Thurber’s Dogs” seems to be sadly out of print. As an alternative, pick up the (possibly even better) “Dog Department“, which contains not only the stories from “Thurber’s Dogs”, but also previously unpublished work. Thurber and his wife bred and showed Scottish Terriers and Standard Poodles, and his writing on them, and on dog shows, will stand the test of time as some of the best ever published. If Thurber begins to beguile you, move on to “The Thurber Carnival“, which replicates some of the work from the “Dog Department“, but also includes many of his best short stories (including Walter Mitty) and a selection of his best cartoons (Thurber dogs included).

Wayne Pacelle's "Aunt" Says Nephew is a Fraud

The following was posted in response to an article in the Baltimore Sun Newspaper. The article, which lauded the ‘fine work’ of HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, contained several reminisces by Pacelle of the lessons learned and great accomplishments of the HSUS during Hurrican Katrina, and the Michael Vick case.

Someone writing as Pacelle’s ‘Aunt Harriet*’ took umbrage with the article, and wrote this fine, scathing rebuttal (note: added links and images are mine):

Aug 17, 2008

Interesting piece of fiction. However, it is time for a reality check. I am Wayne’s Aunt. You can call me Harriet.

I am really surprised that Wayne Pacelle, my nephew, would re-visit Michael Vick or Hurricane Katrina.

Let’s examine his request for “special donations” for Michael Vick’s dogs. And, before we do that, first you must understand that at no time … that means NEVER for the animal rights’ faithful … were these dogs in the care, custody, and control of the HSUS. They wanted these dogs dead. That was recommended by the HSUS to be their fate. HSUS had “no business” telling anyone what to do with these dogs once they were no longer considered as evidentiary.

JP John Goodwin HSUS Dog Fighting Czar in Animal Liberation Front t shirtPacelle hires criminals. Case in point is John “JP” Goodwin, the HSUS “dog fighting expert.” What exactly are his qualifications you might ask? What was Wayne hoping to find on the resumes of prospective candidates for this position… DOMESTIC TERRORIST perhaps? The FBI has Goodwin higher up the food chain than Al Qaida!

Goodwin is a high school dropout who set fires. When he couldn’t sit down in an intelligent fashion to get his point of view expressed in any other manner, he simply set another fire. Would you like to see his photograph in his ANIMAL LIBERATION FRONT t-shirt?

In a telephone conversation that I had with HSUS office last August, I asked about the credentials and qualifications for JP Goodwin. This was the quote I vividly recall from that conversation …“Are we to judge people by their past actions? We have many people working here from PETA & ALF!!”

Good God! Pass the collection plate and tell me how to apply. I actually have a few degrees that Wayne might consider useful. Oh, let me re-think that. He would have a serious problem with me. My brain is NOT pre-programmed to the Tower of (Pacelle) Babel. I am not fast tracking to buy his baloney. He can’t sell it to me. Since I was never a PETA-trained “operative”, he wouldn’t be able to flip my switch and hardwire me to his way of thinking.

Pacelle, my nephew, is an AR zealot at the controls of a cash-generating machine. No less. No more. His agenda is so clear that it is transparent. Irwin, the former Prez, was an “ordained minister.” Boy, that sure came in handy when he appealed from the animals rights’ pulpit to SEND MONEY, SEND MONEY, SEND MONEY.

Every time there is a fire, flood, or crisis in the United States, you can bet your last dollar that Wayne Pacelle and his “volunteers” will be there for a photo opportunity and, within hours, he will be pleading for more money.

Pacelle knows his ship is taking on water. His days of rhetoric spewing are numbered. There are too many eyes watching him … and … following the money!

Let’s ask it once again — Why is anyone still giving money to the HSUS?

Note: we have no idea if the author is actually Wayne’s aunt, although I do find it telling that he’s not yet spoken out to take issue with the claim of authorship.

Microchips Bring Two More Dogs Home

This past Christmas eve in Bentonville, Arkansas, Police Sgt. Robert Burkhart found a hound mix mutt lying still on the side of a busy road. The dog had been hit by a car, and showed little signs of life. With no collar or tags, her fate was measured in hours. Police in Bentonville have injured dogs euthanized, if they have no identification.

But emergency veterinarian Darlene Wier has a policy –  “No dogs .. die on Christmas Eve.”

Using a scanner, she found the stray dog’s ticket home buried in the skin under her neck – a tiny microchip, no larger than a grain of rice. The chip contained the name, address and contact information of the stray – and also her name, Coaster. Coaster had been adopted by her owner, Stephanie Comstock, from a local animal shelter two years earlier. Coaster had bolted while being walked along Comstock’s other dogs, and less than hour after she went missing, she lay at the side of the road, struck down by a car. Comstock and her children searched frantically, but found no sign of the missing dog until the phone call came in telling her that Coaster was safe – if not completely sound – and waiting to come home.

Comstock is grateful her dog is implanted with a microchip.

“This is the first dog we had that had a chip in it. Before, when you lost a dog, it was just gone. So to have the chip in there and to be able to get them back is just great,” Comstock said.

The microchip planted between Coaster’s shoulders meant that Comstock could tell her kids that their dog was alive and well.

Half a country away, up in Canada, another dog was heading home to its owner – almost seven years after it went missing.

On December 25th, 2001, Don French of Jutenheim Rottweilers was the proud breeder of a gorgeous litter of Rotties. He chose his own ‘Christmas gift’ from this litter, a pick male that he hoped to eventually show in conformation and obedience. Five months later, while Don was out grocery shopping, someone stole Don’s puppy out of his fenced back yard. Months of searching proved fruitless – the dog was no where to be found. Don reported the theft to the police and the Canadian Kennel Club, but as the years passed, he gave up hope of ever getting the pup back home.

Flash forward to December 22, 2008. Don French, now living in Burlington and working and no longer breeding Rottweilers, received a call from Hamilton Animal Control. A stray Rottweiler had been found roaming the streets, and Don was listed on the dog’s microchip as a contact person. Don is now a professional dog trainer – his first thought was that one of his training clients had put his contact info on their dog’s chip registration form. When Don asked who the owner of the stray Rottweiler was, Animal Control replied “According to the CKC, you’re the owner and breeder”. Puzzled and operating on a long shot, Don looked up the registration information for the boy he’d help whelp, almost exactly seven years earlier.

The chip numbers matched – the stray dog languishing in a run at Animal Control was Don’s stolen Rottie.

Hamilton Animal Control has no idea where the dog came from, or where he’s been. The dog looks to be in good shape – well fed and well cared for – so Don speculates that perhaps the puppy was sold to a family who had no idea that they were actually harboring stolen goods. Either way, no one but Don ever turned up at Animal Control to claim him, so on Boxing Day Don picked up and brought him home. Don says that Santo – Jotunheims Kaga vom Santo – might be seven years old, but that he’s still acting like a puppy. Don is considering putting him in the conformation ring, just for fun.

With all the news stories of pets reunited with owners thanks to microchips, it’s only puzzling that more owners at willing to have their pets implanted. Doing so could possibly be the best Christmas gift you ever give – to yourself, or to your pet.

“The main benefit of having the microchip is so (veterinarians) can easily locate the owners if a dog or cat is found. With the chips, the dogs can be found and returned home,” Sugar Creek office manager Melissa Freeman said.

“Collars can get loose and fall off or if the dog is stolen, the collar can easily be taken off – but the microchip cannot be removed,” Freeman said.

“(Coaster) is a lucky dog,” Wier said, noting that all pet owners should have their dogs and cats microchipped. “We love a microchip.”

More of Coaster’s story here, or read our own microchip miracle story here.

Dogs Worshipping False Idols – The Trend Goes Global

It was with a sinking heart that I ran across this Family Circus Sunday comic strip on the Comics Curmudgeon website

Comics Curmudgeon does his best to interpret the (as usual) indecipherable gibberish that is a Family Circus cartoon, with the following sentence:

“Barfy the dog is apparently unable to distinguish between a round-headed lump with an eternal dumb grin on its face and not a single thought in its head and a snowman”

Oh, if this were only true. To FrogDog Blog readers, this scenario screams of one thing, and one thing only – canine idol worship, a growing trend of global proportions.

Yes, Barfy, family dog of the decidedly Christian Keene family, is laying down an offering at the foot of his new Snow God. Bowing in worship, Barfy prays for his release from a world composed of round headed children, dead floating grandparents, and trite witicisms that would make Lol Cats look like Dorothy Parker.

What horrible vengeance will Barfy’s snow God unleash on the Keene world, if he ever rises to do Barfy’s bidding? I have no idea, but it would sure be awesome to find out.