A Clever Dog Drives a Bargain: 1897


 Dog Drives a Bargain.

I was going down a little side street in the French quarter of New Orleans yesterday morning, says a correspondent of the Philadelphia Times, when I saw a dog—apparently a cross-bred setter that had come down in the world—trotting gaily along the banquette in front of me, carrying a partridge in his mouth. Presently he came to a queer little back shop letting upon an old-time court. Stopping before the shop window, the dog reared up on his hind legs and tapped with his forepaws upon the closed pane, whereupon the baker came and raised the window.

“Bon jour, monsieur,” said the man, quite cheerily, as if he were speaking to an old acquaintance. At the same time he took a small round loaf of bread from the shelf and put it down on the sill.

The dog, wagging his tail the while, deposited his bird on the window ledge, picked up the loaf and trotted back the way he came.

“You are wondering at my queer customer?” asked the baker, seeing my astonishment at the transaction. “Well, all I can tell you,” he went on, “is that the dog has been trading with me for nearly a year now. Where he comes from and to whom he belongs I know not. I think it is more than likely that he is a stray, making his own living. Sometimes he brings a bird, as you see; sometimes a fish or crab; now and then only a potato or sprig of parsley or thyme. Now and then, although very rarely, he comes without anything at all. Then I know, poor fellow, he has had a hard day, so he gets his loaf just the same. Why not? Even a dog must live, and often he overpays, anyhow, so it all comes right in the end.

“It is queer, though,” the man continued. “he always must have the same sort of bread; no other will he take. See, I keep his loaf here always, and if I start to get one from another shelf, he barks, you don’t know how, and will not put down whatever he has brought till I get the right bread. Oh, he is sharp, that dog,” added the little baker, and I think that most people will agree with him.

Evansville [IN] Courier and Press 8 April 1897: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Recently Mrs Daffodil told of the various clever dogs who collected money for various charities, including King Edward VII’s dog, Caesar. Although dogs were often a public nuisance in the nineteenth century, its periodical readers enjoyed anecdotes about canine sagacity. Mrs Daffodil will quote another particularly charming example:

The truth of the following instance of the sagacity of a dog, we can substantiate in every particular, and it is, we think, well worthy of notice. A little daughter of one of our prominent citizens has a well-arranged baby house upon which she bestowed much care, tastefully dressing the various doll occupants thereof in the morning, and divesting them of their clothing at night. This practice she has followed for some months. The pet dog usually sat by her at night, and superintended the work of preparing the dolls for bed. One evening last week the girl was away to tea, and did not return in season to perform the practical duties for the babies. The dog awaited her arrival until the dolls’ hour of retiring had passed, and knowing that they ought to be taken care of, he carefully went to work and undressed them—five in number—without injuring the dresses in the least. How he did it we know not, but it is a fact. [Nantucket Inquirer.] Mineral Point [WI] Weekly Tribune 5 July 1859: p. 1


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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


3 thoughts on “A Clever Dog Drives a Bargain: 1897

  1. downbythebrook

    Cute! I wonder if the dog was getting the loaf for a human friend? I have never heard of dogs liking to eat bread!


    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      It does seem as though the dog would have needed an initial impetus from some human master or mistress to begin trading with the baker. And one would have thought the dog would have preferred to trade with the butcher. There is a joke from the same period about a man who trained his dog to carry home sausages for the family dinner. The man boasted to his friend that the dog was so clever, he’d discovered a way to prevent other dogs from stealing the sausages. “What does he do?” asked the friend. “He eats them himself!”


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

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