The Dog-Caddie: 1904

The lady narrator and her dog-caddie, Ben.

The lady narrator and her dog-caddie, Ben.

The Caddie’s Rival

The Tatler We have all heard of dogs being trained to field a ball at cricket and to retrieve lost tennis balls, but the innovation of the dog caddie has been reserved for a member of the Bala Golf Club of Philadelphia. This enterprising young lady has trained a Russian deerhound to track with unerring certainty missing golf balls, and in other respects to prove himself a capital substitute for the mere human caddie. Ben, as the dog is called, enjoyed golfing from the first. He would watch his mistress tee off and drive with immense interest. His eye would follow the ball’s flight, and then away he would go after it, and when the caddie and the golfer caught up to him, there he would be standing patiently beside the ball. “I came out to golf one morning alone,” said Ben’s mistress, “alone, that is to say, except for Ben. I had told my caddie to meet me and he had promised positively to be at hand, but he broke his appointment, and I found that I had either to abandon the morning’s golf or to carry my heavy clubs myself. Suddenly I had an idea. Why should not Ben carry the clubs? Ben was always glad to do anything he could for me, why then should not the clubs be fastened on his back? I found a ball of twine, and emptying the bag I fastened it on Ben’s back. The opening was at the back of his head, and thus the bag sloped downwards to the left, overhanging his side a little. In this position there was no fear of the clubs falling out.” At first Ben apparently did not care for his new office—he shook himself uneasily and rolled on the grass-but after a little petting and soothing he took very kindly to his new employment, and within less than  a week he had learned to carry his mistress’s clubs with a dignity and proficiency which would have done credit to the finest caddie in the country.

After a while, however, an improvement was made in the burden for the dog, and now instead of a bag for the clubs he carries a kind of harness with loops on each side to support the clubs. This harness is simple and light, and consists of a strap that follows the line of Ben’s backbone from neck to tail, fastening at the neck to a collar. Then there are attached to this strap two loops, one on the breast and one on the loins, which buckle about the dog’s body. The clubs pass through these loops, of which there are three on each side—one for the driver, one for the lofter, one for the brassie, one for the mashie, and two for the irons. The Tatler 1904

Ben’s mistress explains the advantages of the scheme further:

“The boy caddie costs from fifteen cents to twenty-five cents an hour. An afternoon’s golfing with a boy eats a big hole in a dollar. But a dog caddie costs nothing. With the boy caddie you are constantly losing balls. Balls cost three and four dollars a dozen, and, when one disappears, your boy is not too anxious to help you find it, for, it he finds it later himself, he can sell it at a good price. But with the dog caddie you never lose a ball. The dog, with his fine sense of smell, will trail a golf ball as he would a rabbit. Boy caddies break appointments. But the faithful dog caddie never fails. The dog caddie, to sum up, is more industrious, more obedient, more sympathetic than the boy, and he is many times cheaper.”

The young woman, on a sunny April morning, was golfing. Ben stood beside her, silent, respectful, sympathetic— boys are not always so. She took her driver from Ben’s back, and she made a good, long drive, but the ball flew a little wild. It lighted in a tuft of tall Ben, with long, easy bounds, made after it. He nosed through the tall weeds, found it, and stood with it in his mouth.

“Now.” said the young woman.  “I would have been ten or fifteen minutes finding that ball, and perhaps I’d never have found it. As for the average caddie. I’m sure he would never have found it. He wouldn’t even have looked for it. He would only have pretended.”  The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] April 25, 1904.

A gentleman in Golf Illustrated offers some handy training tips if you wish your own dog-caddie:

As raw material, almost any sort of dog will do—a half-crown dog or the first cayoute you meet in the street. First train him to come to heel. To do this you don’t pound the dog with a niblick, or he may become link-shy. Talk to the beast gently, and when he is at heel give him a bit of biscuit.

Secondly, teach him the bread-and-butter trust trick, until he will even drop a piece of biscuit. After this, let him run after a golf ball, which he must drop on hearing the word “trust,” or its equivalent.

Lastly, and this is the most important, give the dog something to smell: before you tee your ball wipe it on a cleaner on which you have placed a few drops of oil of aniseed.

Do this, and you will save money, save time, save your temper, save invectives, play more golf, get better health, improve the morality of caddies, and destroy incentives to trifle with the eighth commandment. Golf Illustrated, Vol. 16, 1903

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Dogs simply cannot resist the scent of aniseed, which acts upon them like catnip on cats.  Mrs Daffodil would fear that an over-ecstatic dog-caddie might actually swallow a ball so treated. In such a case it is unclear whether the course steward would rule it a “Ball at Rest Moved by Outside Agency” (no penalty) or a “Ball Not Found Within Five Minutes.” (one-stroke penalty).

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.



2 thoughts on “The Dog-Caddie: 1904

  1. Pingback: Mr Shepherd Colley’s Visiting Card: 1885 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

  2. Pingback: The Talking Dog: 1891 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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