Wednesday, 7 August 2013

In Praise of Dogs - Words from History

"The best thing about man is the dog." Voltaire

Man’s best friend – the dog.
 U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John F. Looney
The War Dog Cemetery, near Naval Base Guam

Our canine companions have had a long journey from guard and working animal to lap dog and friend. It is quite a transition from Shakespeare using the noun ‘dog’ interchangeably with ‘cur’ to denote an untrustworthy person, on to Benjamin Franklin writing in 1738 who said:

"There are three faithful friends—an old wife, an old dog, and ready money."

John Bull and his dog, Faithful.
A play on the politicians of the day.
The theme of dogs as faithful is frequently repeated such as in this quote from Sir Walter Scott in 1825:
"Recollect that the Almighty, who gave the dog to be companion of our pleasures and our toils, hath invested him with a nature noble and incapable of deceit."

And in 1720, John Gay writes in “An Elegy on a Lap-dog”
He's dead. Oh lay him gently in the ground!
And may his tomb be by this verse renown'd.
Here Shock, the pride of all his kind, is laid;
Who fawned like man, but ne'er like man betray'd.
Lord Byron
In this quote from Lord Byron, 1808, the death of a faithful canine companion elicited words of praise:
The poor dog, in life the firmest friend
The first to welcome, foremost to defend

King Charles II
However, this devotion was not welcomed by everyone, especially when the dog was a distraction. King Charles II’s love of dogs is well documents, but when he paid them too much attention during a meeting, a courtier was heard to remark:
"God save your Majesty, but God damn your dogs."

Samuel Pepys records another encounter with Charles II and “A dog the King loved” whilst travelling on a barge. The dog seemingly fouled the boat, “which made us laugh, and me think that a King and all that belongs to him are but just as others are.”  However, Pepys sense of humour did not extend to his wife’s dog, whom he threatened to “Fling out of the window” if he soiled in the house again.

Samuel Pepys
And finally, in praise of dogs:
"Histories are more full of examples of fidelity of dogs than of friends." Alexander Pope

"The dog puts the Christian to shame." Robert Burns

As a cat lover, I concede that dogs can be (perhaps) more faithful, but as to which species makes the better companion – my vote goes to cats because they can chose not to befriend you. So, what is your choice: cat or dog?


  1. I love both cats and dogs, but especially I love dogs. They truly are remarkable animals, and show such sterling traits: loyalty, devotion, sympathetic companionship. My husband and I are dealing with our dog's "end of the road" which is coming soon. It's going to be very hard to part with this wonderful friend.

  2. You are absolutely right, but I see dog owners walking their pets on a cold, wet day and think - "Ha, you wouldn't catch a cat anywhere but a sofa on a day like this."
    I love how cats have got life sussed.
    I get frustrated by how some dogs are ruined by their owners ie not properly trained and socialised, which means they become anti-social animals. Very much the owner's fault, not the dog.
    On a different note, I'm so sorry to read you beloved dog is nearing the end, such a difficult time, but I'm sure you will have his (or her) welfare foremost in you mind and make sure he doesn't suffer.
    Kindest regards, Grace x

  3. I love them both. They are both remarkable species. One of each is the perfect combination!


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