Dogs Of Boytown


There are parts of Connecticut in which winter is likely to be a rather moist and miserable season, but Boytown was situated in the hills where it was colder and dryer. It lay in the snow belt, as Mr. Whipple used to say. Consequently, winter was, for these boys, a season which offered as many opportunities for outdoor sport as summer—coasting, skating, and all the rest of it.

A favorite pastime with Ernest and Jack Whipple was what they called snowshoeing. They wore no snowshoes or skiis, to be sure, but they pretended they did, and they enjoyed trudging off over the snow-covered fields and through the woods with their dogs, with their eyes ever on the alert for the tracks of birds and wild animals. It was Sam Bumpus who taught them how to distinguish these tracks, and whenever they found an unfamiliar one they took the news to him and learned what animal had made it. He showed them where a flock of quail had spent the night in a close circle on the lee of a stone wall or a corn shock and he told them about the quail's interesting 153 life history. He showed them how some birds hop and some, like the crow and the blackbird and the starling, walk like a man or a chicken. He taught them to know the tracks of the squirrel, the rabbit, and the white-footed mouse, and even the fox and the raccoon, and one day he showed them where an owl's wings had brushed the snow when he swooped down to catch a mouse whose lacy little trail ended abruptly. Jack thought that was a sad little story for the snow to tell.

Often they wanted no other object than merely to be out in the open, with the constant possibility of finding rare tracks, but sometimes they walked with a more definite purpose—to take Romulus up to Sam's for a little training to refresh his memory, or, when a longer trip was possible, to pay a visit to Tom Poultice and the Hartshorns. They were always welcome there.

It was on one of these visits in January that Mr. Hartshorn made good his promise to tell them something about the breeds of gun dogs other than setters and spaniels.

"I thought you must have forgotten about that," said he. "What memories you youngsters have—for some things. Well, suppose we see how much we know about the pointer. He is the dog, you know, that contests with the English setter the title of most 154 popular and efficient gun dog. I won't attempt to settle the matter. Each breed has its loyal advocates, and at the field trials sometimes a pointer wins and sometimes a setter.

"The pointer is a wonderfully symmetrical, lithe, athletic dog, with remarkable nose, bird sense, and action. Like the setter he has been trained to point and retrieve. He strains back to hound origin, probably, but was developed as a distinct breed in Europe long ago, doubtless with the help of setter and foxhound crosses. Some pointers are wonderfully stanch. I knew of one who held the same point without moving for an hour and a quarter, while an artist painted his portrait, and I once heard of one who caught a scent while halfway over a fence, and hung there by his fore paws till the birds were flushed.

"Then there are several varieties of retrievers that are also bird dogs. In this country we have the retrievers proper, the Labrador dog, and the Chesapeake Bay dog, though none of them are very common. They are all probably of spaniel origin.

"The Labrador dog is supposed to have come from Labrador, but we don't know much about his history before 1850, when he was introduced into England and was trained and used as a sporting dog. The wavy-coated retriever, called also the flat-coated retriever, became popular among British sportsmen and 155 fanciers about 1870. He has a wavy coat, longer than that of the Labrador dog. The curly-coated retriever, less common in England than the wavy, has seldom been shown here. He is characterized by short, crisp curls all over his body, with the exception of the head, strongly suggesting the presence of poodle or Irish water spaniel blood in his make-up. The Chesapeake Bay dog originated in Maryland and possesses many of the traits of the retrievers. He probably sprang from Labrador ancestors, crossed with tan-colored hounds.

"Finally we come to a very interesting dog, one that you would love if you knew him—the wire-haired pointing griffon. He is a new dog with us, but an old one in France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany. He is a splendid bird dog, useful for all kinds of game, and a natural pointer and retriever. He is medium-sized, symmetrical, and well built, with a wiry coat, and has a face something like an otter hound or an Airedale. And there you have all the prominent gun dogs."

"What is an otter hound?" asked Ernest.

Mr. Hartshorn laughed. "You are insatiable," said he. "Some day I'll tell you about the otter hound and all the other members of the hound family, but not to-day. You've had enough."

It was partly the prospect of gaining information of 156 this sort that made the trips to Willowdale so attractive to the boys, partly a genuine liking for Mr. and Mrs. Hartshorn, and partly the fun of talking with Tom Poultice and watching the Airedales and bull terriers. But more than all I think it was the homelike, hospitable character and doggy atmosphere of the big house. It was a place where everybody loved dogs and took as much interest in them as though they were people, and where any dog lover was welcome. Consequently, their visits there were more frequent than Mrs. Whipple thought was quite proper.

"You'll wear out your welcome," she warned. But somehow they didn't seem to.

It was during these winter days that they heard a good deal of talk about dog shows, both from Mr. and Mrs. Hartshorn and from Tom Poultice. Tom, indeed, was as much interested in the show dogs as if they had been his own and he was never tired of talking of their achievements on the bench and of their possible future triumphs. Mr. Hartshorn owned a string of winners of both his breeds that were famous throughout the country and that included several great champions. Tom, who nearly always took the dogs to the shows and stayed with them, knew every little point about them as well as the points of their rivals.

157 "Of course, it's a bloomin' gamble," he would say. "So much depends on whether your dog or the other one is in the best condition. That's why I've been doing so much fussing over them this winter. You can't be too careful. An upset stomach may mean a staring coat and may spoil a dog's chances. And then again you may run up against a new judge with hideas of 'is own, and then all your reckoning goes to smash. It's a great game, boys."

And so they were wont to go out to the kennels and watch Tom grooming the dogs and listen to his wise talk about points and judging. These were busy days for him, for some of the biggest shows take place in the winter and the early spring, and he had to keep the dogs in constant condition.

It was from Tom that they learned the names of famous dogs of various breeds, of instances when great champions had been beaten by unknown newcomers, and of the rising and setting stars of dogdom, but it was from Mr. Hartshorn that they gained a clear idea of what a dog show was like. He described to them the crowded halls, the long rows of dogs of many breeds chained in little stalls on benches, the arrangement of novice and puppy and limit and open classes for the different breeds, and all the rest of it.

"The dogs are taken to the show ring in classes," 158 said he, "and the judge for that breed sizes them up, feels of them, examines eyes, teeth, and hair, compares posture and spirit and all the other things that count, figures it all up according to a scale of points, and then hands out ribbons to the winners—a blue ribbon for first prize, a red one for second, and a yellow one for third. Cash prizes go with the ribbons usually. There are also special trophies for special winnings, such as the best American-bred dog of the breed, or the best brace, and there is the contest between the winners of the different classes in each breed. Finally, in some of the big shows, there is a special trophy for the best dog of any breed in the show. This contest is usually held at the end of the show, or perhaps before the packs of hounds and beagles are judged, and it is always an exciting time. Every exhibitor hopes to win one of the specials, but most of the dogs are trying for their championship titles."

"How do they win a championship?" asked Ernest.

"A dog becomes a champion," answered Mr. Hartshorn, "when he has won fifteen points in authorized shows. These points are granted according to the size of the show. At the biggest shows the winner of a first prize gets three points; at the smaller shows, where he has less competition, he gets two points or one point. An official record is kept of them all."

159 "The New York show is the biggest of all, isn't it?" asked Ernest.

"Yes," said Mr. Hartshorn. "It is usually held in Madison Square Garden in February—four days including Washington's Birthday. It's too long a time for the dogs to be benched, but there are so many of them that it is impossible to get through the judging in less time. Sixteen or eighteen hundred dogs are shown there, worth I don't know how many thousands of dollars, and the crowds of spectators are big in proportion. You get an idea at one of those shows how many people are interested in dogs. The New York show is run by the Westminster Kennel Club, and because it's the biggest of all its trophies are greatly coveted. The dog that is adjudged the best of all breeds at the New York show becomes the champion of champions of the United States."

"Oh, my!" sighed Jack, "I wish I could see a dog show like that."

"You will, some day," said Mr. Hartshorn. "And who knows but that you may have a dog benched there and carry away some blue ribbons and a silver cup."

"Anyway," said Ernest, "you'll tell us all about this next one, and what your dogs win, won't you, Mr. Hartshorn?"

"You may depend upon that," said he.

160 When the other boys learned what was afoot they all became mightily interested in the bench-show game and in the prospects of the Willowdale entries at New York. One or two of them had subscribed to papers devoted to the dog fancy and these were handed about until the boys had familiarized themselves with the names of some of the old champions and the newer dogs of whom great things were expected. Heated discussions ensued, but all were agreed in wishing luck to the Willowdale dogs.

They were a bit disappointed when they learned that Mr. Hartshorn had decided to send down only four of the bull terriers and five Airedales, but Tom Poultice explained the reason for this.

"It costs five dollars for each entry of each dog, and wot's the use of entering dogs that don't stand a chance? Ch. Earl of Norfolk is getting old and 'e's all out of coat, and it wouldn't be fair to 'im to show 'im that way. We've picked the ones we're going to win with."

When Mr. and Mrs. Hartshorn and Tom Poultice started out in the big car for New York, with two of Mrs. Hartshorn's Poms on the back seat with her, they were followed by the envious longings of most of the boys of Boytown. But the boys did not have to wait for their return to learn about the results of the judging. They bought New York papers which 161 reported the show fully, and they devoured every word of the reports. Many of the familiar names appeared among the winners, and the Willowdale dogs captured their full share of the honors. Even Mrs. Hartshorn's Tip won two red ribbons, while that splendid bull terrier, Willowdale's White Hope, was adjudged the best American-bred dog of his breed exhibited by his breeder, and gathered up enough extra points to secure his championship title. But the climax in their rejoicing was reached when they read that the new Airedale, Bingo's Queen Molly, had gone right through her classes to reserve winners in an entry of over one hundred of the best Airedales in the United States.

It was, in short, a great four days for Willowdale. The Hartshorns returned on Sunday, having arranged for the shipment of the dogs on Saturday, and they graciously invited the whole gang up on the following Saturday to admire the conquering heroes and their shining trophies and to learn all about what happened from the lips of Mr. and Mrs. Hartshorn and Tom Poultice, who, by the way, wore a grin that appeared to have become permanent.

"Didn't I tell you that Molly was the genooine harticle?" was his frequently repeated comment.

It was unthinkable that, after all this, the boys should speedily lose interest. On the contrary, dog 162 shows remained the foremost topic of conversation for a month, until one day Herbie Pierson had an inspiration.

"Say, fellers," he exploded one morning, bursting in upon a group of his friends in front of the schoolhouse, "let's get up a dog show of our own."

Just then the bell rang, which was rather unfortunate for all concerned. The teachers found the boys strangely inattentive that day and preoccupied, and more than one of them had to be reprimanded for whispering or for passing notes.

As soon as they obtained their freedom they plunged at once into a discussion of Herbie's fascinating plan, and in an incredibly short time they had arranged the essential details. The Easter recess was selected as the most fitting time for the Boytown Dog Show and a committee was appointed, consisting of Herbie Pierson, Harry Barton, and Ernest Whipple, to select a suitable place and make the necessary arrangements.

After considerable discussion it was decided that the Morton barn would make an ideal show hall, provided they could gain Mr. Morton's consent. It was one of the largest barns in the town proper and it was for the most part unoccupied, Mr. Morton having disposed of his horses when he bought his car.

Mr. Morton was the president of the First National 163 Bank, and a person of great dignity and importance, of whom the boys stood somewhat in awe. But they had set their hearts on getting his barn, and so they screwed up their courage and called on him at his home one afternoon after banking hours.

He turned out to be not such a formidable personage after all. In fact, he was amused by the diffidence of the delegation that called on him, and even more amused when Harry Barton, who had been chosen spokesman, outlined their plan and requested the use of his barn.

"I'll let you hold your show in my barn on two conditions," said he, after asking several questions. "First, you must promise to clean up thoroughly after it's all over. Second, will you allow me to enter Li Hung Chang in competition?"

Li Hung Chang was the blue-gray chow that followed at Mr. Morton's heels wherever he went, spent his days at the bank, and never had a word to say to any other dog. To this request the committee granted a ready and joyful request. And it gave them another idea—to invite the adult dog owners of Boytown, as well as the boys, to exhibit their dogs.

A meeting of the Humane Society was called to receive the report of the committee's success and to arrange further details. It was voted to charge an entrance fee of fifty cents for each dog shown and 164 twenty-five cents admission for spectators, the proceeds to be donated to the local chapter of the Red Cross of which Mrs. Hammond was an active member.

Since there were hardly two dogs in Boytown of the same breed, it did not seem possible to arrange for classes as in the big shows, so it was decided to make it a free-for-all contest, with first, second, and third prizes. Another committee was appointed to obtain these prizes from Boytown merchants and to secure the services of Mr. Hartshorn as judge.

Mr. Hartshorn, when approached on the matter, quite readily gave his consent, and the boys did not have great difficulty in obtaining the prizes when they explained that the show would be for the benefit of the Red Cross. In fact, Mr. Pierson, Herbie's father, who was a jeweler, was unexpectedly generous. He promised a silver cup for the first prize—not a large one, but real silver—to be engraved later with the name of the show, the date, and the name of the winning dog. The boys were so enthusiastically grateful for this that they expressed the hope that Herbie's Hamlet might win the trophy himself.

For six months past Ernest Whipple had been delivering evening papers for Mr. Fellowes, the news dealer, and had become quite a close friend of his employer's. This was due to the fact that Mr. Fellowes 165 had once had a brindle bull terrier that had met an untimely death and whose memory ever remained fresh in his heart. The dog's name had been Bounce, and Mr. Fellowes found in Ernest a willing listener to his tales of Bounce's sagacity, courage, and fidelity. He was a genuine dog lover and enjoyed having Ernest bring Romulus in to see him, for the boy's dog nearly always accompanied him on his paper route. Mr. Fellowes had become much interested in the activities of the Humane Society and had become acquainted with most of the dogs of Boytown, and when Ernest told him about the plan for a show he expressed a wish to have some part in it. Ernest was not a member of the prize committee, but when he reported that Mr. Fellowes wished to donate a dog collar, it was unanimously voted to accept it as second prize. The third prize was a twenty-pound box of dog biscuit offered by Mr. Dewey, the grocer.


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