Bolton Landing, Lake George, N. Y., June 29, 1899.
While I am writing this there lies at the point of death Gipsy, usually called Gip, our poodle dog, my faithful friend and companion, and the pet of the whole family. He was presented to us six years ago, when we lived in a country house with large grounds around it — Solitude, Pocantico Hills. Gip was then said to be about three years old. He soon won the affection and respect of the whole household by the amiable vivacity of his temperament and his extraordinary intelligence as well as his character. He always accompanied me on my walks through the country — not tamely following my heels, but gaily bounding across the fields and woods in wide circles, and reporting himself from time to time to me as if inquiring whether I had any special orders, or whether I wished to return home, and then bounding forth again with a graceful strength and elasticity of movement which it was a delight to behold.
Once this habit was somewhat rudely interrupted. Soon after his arrival Gip constituted himself the policeman of the place. Every evening after dark he would make his rounds outside of the house and proclaim with a sonorous and defiant bark to the neighborhood that he was there. He considered it his official duty to keep stranger dogs off the grounds. Whenever such a stranger, whether big or small, appeared within the forbidden precinct, Gip trotted up to him in a good-natured way and put his head to that of the intruder as if saying something to him in a low voice. If the intruder heeded the warning and walked off, Gip quietly accompanied him to the gate and then came back to the house, taking his accustomed position on a corner of the verandah from which he could overlook his domain. But if the intruder refused to go, Gip would growl angrily, and if even that danger signal was not heeded, Gip proceeded fiercely to attack the recalcitrant, and a serious fight ensued from which Gip uniformly came out victorious — for he was a great fighter, strong, agile, tenacious and absolutely fearless. Indeed, when walking out with my children once he accepted a challenge from a fierce bulldog, much heavier than himself. By a dexterous and rapid grip he fastened his teeth in the underlip of the brute and hung on so firmly that the bulldog soon squealed for mercy, and Gip could be induced to let go only by several buckets of cold water being poured over the animals, whereupon the bully sought safety by running into the house of his owner near by.
But one day Gip sadly overdid his policeman's duty by actually killing a smaller dog that would not leave our grounds at his command. For this I have him a vociferous scolding and ordered him to be severely whipped. He took his whipping without a sound of complaint. An hour later I set out for my afternoon walk. Gip tried to join me as I stepped off the verandah, but I told him in angry tones that he had behaved very badly and that I could not accept his company. With head to the ground he slunk away. But no sooner was I outside the grounds when I saw Gip on my right about a hundred yards distant in the fields, not bounding about and gamboling as he had been accustomed to do, but walking demurely in the same direction with me, always keeping his distance and looking over toward me as if hoping to receive a sign of reconciliation. Returning home I met Gip, who had preceded me a little, on the verandah. He looked up at me beseechingly and raised his paw as if wishing to shake hands with me. But I said sternly: “No, Gip! You have behaved badly and must not come into the house!” He went off with a sadly lowered head, and I did not see him again until the next afternoon when he repeated his manoeuvre of accompanying me at a distance. The next day the same.
On the evening of the third day while I was lying on a lounge listening to the reading of the evening paper, Gip slid in noiselessly and rubbed his head against my foot. Then he advanced a little and putting his paw on the edge of the lounge he looked at me as if to say: “Is it not yet enough? Forgive me, I will be good.” I could resist no longer. I patted his shaggy head and said: “Yes, Gip, I will forgive you this time.” Then he uttered a little joyful cry and did what he had never done before. He jumped upon the lounge, put his forelegs around my body, and nestled his head closely to my breast and remained in that position some time. We were better friends than ever.
This sense of duty was however not confined to his police office. We had (and have) two little dachshunds, females. Gip felt himself to be their natural protector. Whenever a harsh word was addressed to either of those little animals, Gip promptly hurried to the scene and interposed his body between the scolding person and the threatened pet, and sometimes he would put his paw over her back as if to indicate that he would not permit her to be touched. At feeding time he would never take anything until the two little dachshunds had been provided for, and he would sometimes permit them to take the finest bone out of his mouth.
When at our summer home at Lake George, I was in the habit of taking a walk through the woods down to the lake and back before breakfast. Gip always stood ready to accompany me and usually addressed his joy by putting his forefeet on my breast or my back. My sister, Mrs. Jussen, who used to spend her summers with us, was in the habit of leaving the house a few minutes after me, to meet me in the woods at a spring halfway down to the lake. Now Gip, who loved my sister very much, went with me a short distance; then to disappear and to report himself again after a while. When he knew me to be in the woods he ran back to my sister to advise her where I was; and then he returned to me to give me to understand that my sister was on the way to meet me.
It was on a walk through those woods that Gip gave a proof of dog-intelligence which was truly startling. Mr. McAneny, the secretary of the Civil Service Reform League, was with me. We expected to meet my friend Dr. Jacobi near the lake. Not seeing him, I called my dog and said: “Gip, I do not find the doctor. Go and look where the doctor is.” Gip started off at once, galloped around us in a wide circle and then came back to us as if wishing to say: “I cannot find him.” I then said: “Perhaps he is in the boathouse.” Gip started off at once toward the boat house, put his paw against the door as if to try it, and when the door did not open, he came back to stand before me with the same look which to me said plainly: “The door of the boat house is closed, and I did not find the doctor there.”
The next day I told this story to a little company of friends who pooh-poohed it as one of those inventions which the owners of pet animals are fond of indulging in. A few minutes later Mr. McAneny joined us and I asked him to tell the ladies and gentlemen what had happened with Gip the day before as he had witnessed and now remembered it. To the astonishment of the company, he repeated the story as I had told it.
I have never known an animal that produced so much the impression of a thinking being. When talked to he would sometimes seem to indicate his understanding what was said by the look of his fine brown eyes. When on our walks through the country we approached a place where he had once given rein to his impulses and chased chickens or turkeys and been scolded for it, he would walk along quietly and look up with a self-satisfied air as if saying: “You see, I know how to behave.” Nothing could be more melancholy than his demonstration of contrition and remorse when he had done something wrong and been reproved for it, nothing more touching than his efforts to be forgiven, and nothing more exhilarating than his signs of joy and affection when after such a trial absolution was pronounced. When particularly pleased he had a way of showing his teeth which looked very much like a smile. It is no wonder that he was regarded as a member of the family, and how often have I heard the exclamation in my family circle when Gip had given a new proof of his fine character: “Ah, Gip, you are a gentleman.”
Gip is still alive! Yesterday morning we all sat around the couch that had been prepared for him in the hall of the cottage, watching his apparently flickering heartbeat, and expecting that the outstretched form would expire at any moment. And there tears running down every cheek. But he did not expire. Toward noon he almost startled us by raising his head a little and stretching out one of his paws as if to shake hands with his friends. Then he surprised us still more by actually getting up and walking with tottering steps to a lounge, under which he crawled, to lie down in one of his favorite places. An hour later we sat down to our midday dinner on the verandah, when to our utter astonishment we saw Gip come out of the house and walk slowly down the verandah steps into the bushed, whence he returned after a few minutes to lie down again in the house. There he apparently went to sleep.
Three hours later, when we were all on the tennis ground near the cottage to watch the finding of water by a witch-hazel man. Gip appeared among us and by various signs indicated his wish that we should take a walk in the woods. Myself, my sister and my daughter obeyed him and struck into one of the accustomed forest paths. Doubting whether his strength would endure such an effort, we tried to coax Gip back to the house, but he insisted upon going on. He evidently wanted to have one more walk in the woods — if it were his last. It was remarkable that, whenever any one of our little party fell behind, Gip would at once go back to bring up the laggard and thus to keep his family together. When were together again he seemed contented and walked quietly between us until we got home. He was evidently tired and soon stretched himself out for the night on the couch prepared for him where we found him still alive this morning.
Gip has been picking up a little. Our good village doctor is bestowing much care upon him and expresses some hope of pulling him through. When we sat at dinner on the verandah Gip was lying not far away from us in the sun. The conversation naturally turned upon him and Gip, hearing his name pronounced, raised his head a little as if listening. One of my children, pointing to an empty chair at the table, remarked that if Gip were much better, he would certainly climb upon that empty chair and sit among us, as had been his habit of doing. The word was hardly spoken when we saw Gip gather himself up, rise to his feet, advance toward the chair, climb upon it with a great effort, and then, when he sat among us, look around with something like a cheerful grin, as if to say: “Here I am again!” The whole company broke out into a shout of joy and congratulation. Then Gip laboriously climbed down again and resumed his former position in the sun. The effort seemed to have fatigued him very much. But we have high hopes.
Alas, it is all over. Yesterday the doctor pronounced Gip's case hopeless. The poor dog was evidently suffering great pain, and in a consultation among the men of the family the doctor strongly urged that an end be put to the poor animal by an overdose of chloroform. With great reluctance this recommendation was at last agreed to. My youngest son undertook to assist the doctor in the mournful operation and when in the evening the rest of the family went to supper at a neighboring cottage, he remained at home to attend to Gip. My sister and my daughters knew nothing of the purpose; and when we returned late in the night my son reported that Gip had been taken to a bed in the stable so that his whining should not disturb anybody, but that he was now “resting quietly.” He was then already buried under a beautiful pine tree in the woods.
When the following morning the truth came out, tears flowed abundantly. His grave has been hedged in with a circle of stones and adorned with plants; and a tablet has been fastened to the pine tree with the inscription: