The Bard, the puppy and the big birthday

THERE is a lot of fuss all around about some big anniversary on 23rd April. Even in our house, where my two two-legs spend a lot of time discussing Shakespeare on stage and Shakespeare on film and which were the best productions and performances they have seen. And so on.

Well, call me self-centred, but I think they could make a bit of a song and dance nearer home, because it’s my birthday too – and I’m going to be two (which may be 14 in your years).

I’ve been drawing as much attention to myself as I can, so that they don’t forget. I have been working on my bark, and that’s coming along fine. And I have found a pretty good coyote howl which gets their attention.

I take their shoes and hide them. Today I even climbed on the conservatory table and tried to get a nibble at the carrot cake, but they saw me.

Anyway, I thought I would see what this Shakespeare person has to say about dogs. So what do I find? Turns out, quite a lot. And most of it seems to be pretty bad.

There’s Macbeth, for example, where two-legs are compared (unfavourably – of course) with dogs:

Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men;
As hounds, and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,
Shoughs, water-rugs, and demi-wolves, are ‘clept
All by the name of dogs:

Seems pretty sad to me, since dogs, in my experience, are friendly and loyal and honest. When I listen to my two-legs talking about “the news” it all sounds horrible  – with people being rude and aggressive and sometimes really violent, even killing each other.

From what I’ve seen, dogs are only aggressive if their owners have made them that way. I know that people like me, because when we walk up the road to get the paper or go to the bakers, lots of them stop and talk to me, and I dance on my back legs (so sometimes I am taller than the little two-legs) and they are always friendly. And even when we meet other dogs, my two-legs always says that I am friendly and sociable and I haven’t (yet) met another dog that hasn’t been friendly.

I think that Shakespeare must have been pretty keen on hunting because I found another piece about dogs, in Midsummer Night’s Dream …

My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
So flewed, so sanded; and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew,
Crook-kneed, and dew-lapped like Thessalian bulls,
Slow in pursuit, but matched in mouth like bells,
Each under each.

Actually I can’t picture these at all (not having the foggiest idea what Thessalian bulls look like!) But I have seen dogs with long ears and I’m rather glad that mine don’t “sweep away the morning dew” because that sounds very wet.

Ploughing on regardless, I have found that there is a dog that actually appears in one of the plays. He’s called Crab and he is in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. His master is called Launce and he obviously loves the dog – he even takes the blame when Crab gets caught “a pissing” under the table at the Duke’s palace – and gets beaten for his troubles!

Launce is devoted to Crab, but he doesn’t think the dog loves him. When Launce tells his family that he has to travel from Verona to the Duke’s palace at Milan,  they all wail and cry, apart from Crab, says Launce – “this cruel-hearted cur [did not] shed one tear. He is a stone.”

Apparently the best-known quote about dogs is in a play called Julius Caesar – “Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!”

But it’s not dogs that make war. It’s men.

My two-legs says there are whole websites devoted to how Shakespeare hated dogs, but she also says that most people in his day regarded dogs as working animals – for hunting or shepherding livestock – and only a few wealthy aristocratic women would have had pet dogs.

And she says, I wouldn’t have been a pet, because I am a terrier and so I am a working dog. I am thinking about this while I sleep in the sunshine and think about my birthday … on 23rd April!

Pippin, the wire-haired fox terrier