Tag Archives: dogs

The Pets’ Christmas: 1901-1915


Lamb Chops, Carrots, and Bottle Flies hang on Christmas Tree.

Chicago. On the Christmas tree hung four luscious lamb chops.

Near the top were eight fine, big blue bottle flies, each impaled deftly on a pin thrust through red tissue paper.

Two luscious carrots dangled by red ribbons, knotted into holly, from a lower branch.

Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Crane fluttered about like flustered mamma and excited dad at a daughter’s coming-out party.

The tree was lighted; Mrs. Crane’s four chameleons executed deep courtesies; Dick, who was the guest of honor, barked a tiny squeak of appreciation, and the pets’ Christmas tree party was on.

Dick, be it known, is the Belgian griffon owned by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Grossmith. Vernon Castle, a brother of Mrs. Grossmith, solemnly baptized the dog a year ago, and has been Dick’s patron, so that these social affairs are somewhat boresome to him.

But Mrs. Crane’s chameleons’ party was not boresome. The chameleons feasted off the flies caught by café busboys at $1 per catch. Dick engaged the lamb chops in deadly encounter, and two mere rabbits, called in at the last minute by the resourceful Mrs. Crane when she received the regrets of George Arliss’ English bulldog, served their turn as “social fillers,” and munched the carrots. The Washington [DC] Post 29 December 1915: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously written on entertainments for favoured felines. With the approach of the winter festivals, naturally every dog must have his holiday.  Recently at the shops, Mrs Daffodil observed a department lavishly furnished with toys and gifts for pets, as well as special wrapping papers, decorations, costumes, and greeting cards designed with Our Furry Friends in mind.  One would imagine that our households were stocked with nothing but royal Corgis.

Mrs Daffodil is in favour of kindness to our animal companions, but draws the line at purchasing blue-bottle flies at premium prices. A saucer of sugar-water in the stables would produce as many choice specimens as desired. But perhaps these were pedigreed chameleons requiring a special diet.

Some other examples of celebrating with pets:


It was Laden With All Possible Canine Delicacies.

Baltimore, Dec. 26. A Christmas tree laden with sausages, ham bones, juicy chicken and other delicacies that would appeal to the taste of a dog was the novel holiday feature for the benefit of pet dogs on the estate of Miss Nannie Sloan, a well-known member of society. Miss Sloan has a beautiful country residence at Fairlee, near Lutherville, with O.B. Magrader, the manager of the place.

The tree was decorated with the usual trimmings, and the three pets, a greyhound, a fox terrier, and a pug, were taken to the room where the tree had been prepared and in a little while they were having the time of their lives. The dogs jumped after the various delicacies, much to the amusement of the spectators, and the event was voted a success. Wilkes-Barre [PA] Times 26 December 1906: p. 5

One imagines the tree did not long remain upright. The Queen of Servia’s dogs were more disciplined;


The Queen of Servia has a Christmas tree for her dogs. On it are placed those delicacies dearest to the canine heart. The animals are trained to take off these dainty morsels in an orderly manner, and at the Christmas ceremony itself the Queen and her friends attend to witness the proceedings. The Enquirer [Cincinnati OH] 22 December 1901: p. 2

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.

A Clever Collie: 1891

A Border Collie, Thomas Sidney Cooper, 1838, Canterbury City Council Museums and Galleries

A Border Collie, Thomas Sidney Cooper, 1838, Canterbury City Council Museums and Galleries

A Clever Collie.

Sidney Cooper, the English animal painter, say that he often made valuable studies in Cumberland, at places where Scotch drovers halted with their cattle for the night. On such occasions he often had a chance to see illustrations of an animal’s intelligence, as well as of its physical perfection.

“One day, when there was a pouring rain, a man consented to sit for me at the inn where I was staying. He brought his collie with him, and both of them were dripping wet, so he put off his plaid and laid it on the floor by the dog.

“I made a very successful sketch of the man, but before I had finished it the dog grew fidgety with the wet plaid, and his master said, “Tak’ it awa’, mon, tak’ it awa’!”

“The dog took the end of it between his teeth and dragged it out of the room.

“After I had finished the drover’s portrait I asked him if he thought his dog would lie quiet for a time, as I wished to sketch him.

“’Oh, yes, mon,’ he answered, ‘he’ll do anything I say to him. Watch! Watch!’ he called, and then ‘whustled’ for him as the Scotch say.

“As the dog did not appear, we went together to look for him, and found him sitting before the kitchen fire with the end of the plaid in his mouth, holding it up to dry. I expressed my admiration of his intelligence, and the master replied.

“’Ah, he’s a canny creature, sir! He knows a mony things, does that dog, sir. But come awa’, mon, the gentleman wants to mak’ your picture.’

“So we returned to my room, and the handsome collie sat for his portrait.”

The News-Herald [Hillsboro, OH] 26 March 1891: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Collies, whose name comes from the old Celtic word for “useful,” are, indeed, one of the cleverest dog breeds.  American readers will perhaps remember one collie in particular, called “Lassie,” who was able to successfully communicate the dire tidings every time (and there were many) that his little master, Timmy, fell down a well or a mine-shaft.

Mr Andrew Lang, the folklorist, felt that some collies were too clever by half: “The self-consciousness and vanity of dogs.” he says, “might disgust even a minor poet. I have known a collie — certainly a very handsome collie — to pass his days in contemplating his own image in the glass. I know a dog dandy which actually makes eyes, being conscious that he possesses organs very large, brown, and decorative.”

Let us have one more instance of the sagacious behaviour of these intelligent animals:

A collie dog is in the habit of fetching from his master’s room slippers, cap, keys, or anything he is sent for. One day, sent on the usual errand, he did not reappear. His master followed, and found that the door of the bedroom had blown to, and that the dog was a prisoner. Some days later he was again told to fetch something; and, as the wind was high, his master, after a few minutes’ delay, followed him. He found him in the act of fixing the door firmly back with a door-mat, which he had pulled across the landing for the purpose, and, having taken this precaution, the prudent animal proceeded to look for the slippers. Hawera & Normanby Star, 1 February 1906: p. 2 

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.


Mr Shepherd Colley’s Visiting Card: 1885

dog visiting card

Olive Logan on British Absurdities.

Just a little mention of a tiny absurdity before I append my valuable autograph. Will you believe that my Lady Frivolity and the Misses Brainless made me a morning call while I was out, and with their precious cards I found a bit of pasteboard, about an inch long and half an inch wide, which bore the name, duly engraved upon it, of “Mr. Shepherd Colley?” It was fully one minute before this delightful joke dawned upon me in all its blinding luminosity. Mr. Shepherd Colley was their Colley dog, who was accompanying them on their round of calls. Desiring not to be behind in the rigid etiquette of social life, I hied me to my stationer in order to cause to be engraved the same sort of card, with the names of my own canine family, “The Misses Poodle.” But, bless you, the modish stationer keeps that sort of thing in stock. I found ready engraved, size, one quarter inch by one half-inch, and done up in the usual visiting-card packages of 100, “Miss Minnie Black and Tan,” “Mr. Suttle Pug,” “Mrs. Willoughby Pug,” “Mr. Frank Fox Terrier,” and “many others,” as the ball lists say. London Letter in Philadelphia Times.

The Weekly Wisconsin [Milwaukee, WI] 12 August 1885: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The notion of wee visiting cards for dogs (and that such absurdities should be aided and abetted by respectable stationers) seems to Mrs Daffodil—if one will pardon the expression—barking.  But it has ever been thus with those who love their dogs more than they might any putative children and who lavish all manner of fashionable toys on the canine Smart Set, as this bulletin from Paris notes:

The leading Paris dog’s tailor, for there are famous specialists also in that line here, has just issued his winter novelties circular which shows the canine fashion has undergone some modification. A chic tailor-made mantle replaces last year’s seal skin coat. The new mantle is specially designed to protect the dog’s chest, when accompanying his mistress in her auto. The bow-wow’s handkerchief is now carried in a little purse attached to the leash. The lady experts who specialty is canine hairdressing have decreed that the Parisienne’s pampered pets must now use the same perfume as their mistresses.

The jewelry most in demand for aristocratic dogs this winter will be gold bracelets ornamented with diamond attached to the front legs. Footwear for dogs has been condemned as it makes the dear little paws look too large. Winston-Salem [NC] Journal 9 October 1908: p. 5

Canine card cases were also introduced:

Visiting cards for dogs are announced by one of the largest stationery concerns in America. These can be supplied in any style desired, it being important, however, that they express in some measure the dog’s personality. A variety of card cases can be obtained. Cigarette cases, we believe, are later to be added to the equipment, small ivory ones for the delicate, scented smokes and larger, more masculine cases of gold for the other kind of dog. The Punta Gorda [FL] Herald 29 July 1920: p. 2

Members of the Pet Set will find many other posts under the “Animals” subject heading, such as the “dog’s barber,” dogs to match ladies’ gowns, and dogs as golf caddies.

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.



The Poodle Marriage: 1897


Latest Fad Among Members of French Smart Set.


All the Members of the Four-Footed Aristocracy in Attendance Are Dressed in the Most Appropriate of Costumes for Such an Occasion.

All in Evening Suits.

There is a brand new fad in swelldom. It is the dog marriage. To be thoroughly fashionable nowadays one must own two dogs of opposite sexes, and they must have been duly married by the staid and respectable canine selected by the fashionable community to act as the representative of the cloth.

Of course, it is from France that this new idea has come. When it is necessary to discover something particularly eccentric, French genius always comes to the rescue. The fashionable to whom fell the honor of introducing this new and rather remarkable step for the advancement of canine creation was none other than Mme. Ephrussi, daughter of Baron Alphonse de Rothschild, the wife of the multi-millionaire, Maurice Ephrussi. Mme. Ephrussi is an inveterate lover of dogs, a taste which she inherits from her mother, the Baroness de Rothschild, and so, when seeking new amusements, during what is just now in France the dull season, she turned to her canine friends for aid, and behold the dog wedding is the result.

This initial wedding of dogs in high society is so novel as to be well worth description. In the first place, Mme. Ephrussi sent out formally engraved invitations to several hundred of her friends, announcing the approaching nuptials of Diane, her favorite poodle, and La Petite Major, a handsome poodle, the property of the Baron Alphonse de Rothschild. Not only were the recipients of these invitations asked to come themselves, but requested to bring their dogs also.

It is recorded that not a single invitation to this most singular wedding was refused. It is also a matter of social history that not one of the guests who owned a dog, from the tiny, four-ounce black and tan to the giant St. Bernard, left it at home. Such a gathering as it was no one had ever seen before, and it is doubtful if the like will ever be visible again. It is often remarked at any particularly swell gatherings of humanity that a given number of millions are represented by the guests present. At least the same might be said of these dogs, when it comes to the thousands. There were dogs there which were valued anywhere from $50 up to $20,000. They all looked with open-eyed wonder at the strange fate which was apparently befalling the two charming poodles.

Not the least odd and attractive feature of the whole affair was the fact that many of these visiting dogs—in truth, the majority of them—were in full evening dress. Not evening blankets, but if the dog was a male, in the swallow-tail and trousers of the human, together with the standing collar, dress shirt and unspeakable tie. The paws were adorned with patent leather evening shoes; and, in fact, the gentlemen guests, even though canine, were a credit to their respective tailors.

As for the feminine dogs, their costumes were simply ravishing. Of course, the dresses were in all instances decolletté. Trains and demi-trains were worn by these specimens of canine aristocracy with exceeding grace, and, strange as it may seem, many ofthe lady dogs carried bouquets securely fastened in the most up-to-date bouquet holders. With all this gorgeousness on the part of the guests, what must have been the worldly splendor that surrounded the bride and groom! Diane, who is described as a poodle of rare grace and beauty, wore a white satin dress trimmed with beautiful lace; a long tulle veil decorated with orange blossoms, and white kid shoes. Major, the bridegroom, wore full evening dress, swallow-tail coat, low-cut vest, trousers not creased, because it is not fashionable to crease the trousers at weddings; patent leather shoes and gloves of the appropriate shade. On the buttonhole of Monsieur Major’s very swell coat was a dainty orchid. Gleaming from the centre of his immaculate front was a diamond of the purest ray serene. Could anything be more swell?

Presently all the guests have arrived, human and canine, the latter, of course, being given the preference. All is in readiness. If the carriage did not wait, the ceremonies did. Everyone was on tiptoe of expectation, even the dogs, for it dawned on even the canine mind that something tremendous was about to happen. The word was given that the hour approached, and Mme. Ephrussi’s magnificent ballroom, unquestionably the finest of all those of rare beauty to be found in the residences which adorn the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, was thrown open to the assembled guests.

There every one repaired, everybody and his dog, or possibly it is more correct to say, her dog. A moment later, and there softly floated through the air the strains of the ever-familiar, ever-beloved wedding march from “Lohengrin.” Mincing up the aisle, along which it had been arranged that the wedding procession was to pass, walked three small poodles, each in evening dress and semi-harnessed together with white ribbon. Following these came the bride, languishing upon the arm, or rather hand, of her most charming mistress, while behind them walked on his hind feet and without support, accompanied by Baron Rothschild, came Monsieur Major, modestly reflecting the glory that shone around.

Then came the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the former wearing white silk dresses, and long veils; the latter in full dress and adorned with embroidered white satin coats. All these advanced upon their hind legs. But behind them came a host of canine guests, who were permitted to walk as nature had originally intended they should.

Away down at the further end of the ballroom the wedding procession was met by the stanch and sober bulldog of Comte de Berteux. Upon his head this honored canine wore a tall silk hat, and about his waist was tied the tricolor sash. his badge of office, for he was representing none other than that most distinguished of officials, Monsieur le Maire. After greeting the procession, the bulldog Maire advanced on his hind legs in a dignified manner, and then seated himself upon his haunches, upon a magnificently embroidered cushion.

Now all was in readiness for the ceremony. The Maire looked solemnly at the fair young couple whose destinies he was about to unite, and then barked distinctly three times. The bridegroom gave a short bark. The bride barked low and impressively. Then the Maire barked several times in quick succession, and there was a series of responsive barks, in which some of the rude and unthinking in the audience joined without request. A gold ring with a diamond setting was then slipped over the paw of the fair Diane, the Maire barked gleefully, and the procession moved to the adjoining room, where the marriage register was signed, in this instance the owners of the dogs having to act for them.

Following the signing of the register came the reception and supper. Every dog was given a seat at the table, and a regular course supper served. It is not stated that there was any reprehensible conduct on the part of the canine guests to any greater extent than is witnessed at a wedding supper at which only human beings are in attendance. And so passed off the first dog wedding of which Dame Fashion ever acted as chief guest. It is among the probabilities that the United States will see a repetition of the event before many weeks.

The Morning Times [Washington DC] 10 January 1897: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has served the noble and the wealthy far too long to be surprised at any of their little fads and fancies, but really, a simple notation in the stud book would have met the case.

The English are fond of their dogs, but Mrs Daffodil is certain that no well-bred Englishman (or woman) would have countenanced anything like the excesses of this marriage between two Rothschild poodles. One wonders if the French learned anything from their Revolution.

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.

Diary of a Young Dog: 1898


A Day from the Diary of a Young Dog.  

7:00 A. M. — Woke up feeling rather below par, owing to disturbed rest. Hardly energy enough to stretch myself. In the middle of the night a strange man came in by the kitchen window very quietly with a bag. I chummed up to him at once. He was nice to me and I was nice to him. He got me down a piece of meat that I could not reach myself. While I was engaged on this he, took a whole lot of silver things and put them into the bag. Then, as he was leaving, the brute — I believe now it was an accident — trod on my toe, making me yelp with pain. I bit him heartily, and he dropped his bag and scurried off through the window again. My yelping soon woke up the whole house, and in a very short time old Mr. Brown and young Mr. Brown appeared. They at once spot the bag of silver. They then declare I have saved the house and make no end of fuss with me. I am a hero. Later on Miss Brown came down and fondled me lots, and kissed me, and tied a piece of pink ribbon round my neck, and made me look like a fool. What’s the good of ribbon, I should like to know? It’s the most beastly tasting stuff there ever was.  

8:30. — Ate breakfast with difficulty. Have no appetite.  

8:35. — Ate kittens’ breakfast.  

8:36. — An affair with the cat (the kittens’ mother). But I soon leave her, as the coward does not fight fair, using claws.  

9:00. — Washed by Mary. A hateful business. Put into a tub and rubbed all over — mouth, tail, and everywhere—with filthy, soapy water, that loathsome cat looking on all the while and sneering in her dashed superior way. I don’t know, I am sure, why the hussy should be so conceited. She has to clean herself. I keep a servant to clean me. At the same time I often wish I was a black dog. They keep clean so much longer. Every finger-mark shows up so frightfully on the white part of me. I am a sight after cook has been stroking me.  

9:30. — Showed myself in my washed state to the family. All very nice to me. Quite a triumphal entry, in fact. It is simply wonderful the amount of kudos I’ve got from that incident with the man. Miss Brown (whom I rather like) particularly enthusiastic. Kissed me again and called me “a dear, clean, brave, sweet-smelling little doggie.” 

9:40. — While a visitor was being let in at the front door, I rushed out and had the most glorious roll in the mud. Felt more like my old self then.  

9:45. — Visited the family again. Shrieks of horror on seeing me caked in mud. But all agreed that I was not to be scolded to-day as I was a hero (over the man)! All, that is, except Aunt Brown, whose hand, for some reason or other, is always against me — though nothing is too good for the cat.  

9:50. — Glorious thought. I rushed upstairs and rolled over and over on the old maid’s bed. Thank heaven, the mud was still wet!  

10:00 to 1:00. — Dozed.  

1:00. — Ate dinner.  

1:15. — Ate kittens’ dinner.  

1:20. — Attacked by beast of cat again. She scratched my hind leg, and at that I refused to go on. Mem: To take it out of her kittens later.  

1:25. — Upstairs into dining-room. Family not finished luncheon yet. I go up to Miss Brown, and look at her with my great pleading eyes. I guessed it; they are irresistible. She gives me a piece of pudding. Aunt Brown tells her she shouldn’t. At which, with great pluck, Miss Brown tells her to mind her own business. I admire that girl more and more.  

1:30. — A windfall. A whole dish of mayonnaise fish on the slab in the hall. Before you can say Jack Robinson, I have bolted it.  

1:32. — Curious pains in my underneath.  

1:33. — Pains in my underneath get worse. 

1:34. — Horrid feeling of sickness.  

1:35. — Rush up into Aunt Brown’s room and am sick there.

 1:37, — Better. Think I shall pull through if I am careful.

 1:40. — Almost well again.

 1:41. — Quite well again. Thank Heaven! It was a narrow shave that time. People ought not to leave such stuff about.

 1:42. — Up into dining-room. And, to show how well I am, I gallop round and round the room at full pelt, about twenty times, steering myself by my tail. Then, as a grand finale, I jump twice on to the waistcoat part of old Mr. Brown, who is sleeping peacefully on the sofa. He wakes up very angry indeed, and orders Miss Brown to beat me. Miss Brown runs the burglar for all he is worth. But no good. Old Mr. Brown is dead to all decent feeling. So Miss Brown beats me. Very nice. Thoroughly enjoyable. Just like being patted. But of course I yelp and pretend it hurts frightfully, and do the sad-eye business, and she soon leaves off, and takes me into the next room and gives me six pieces of sugar.

Good business. Must remember always to do this.  

2:00 to 3:15. — Attempt to kill fur rug in back room. No good.

 3:15 to 3:45. — Sulked.

 3:46. — Small boy comes in and strokes me. I snap at him. I will not be every one’s plaything.

 3:47 to 4:00. — Another attempt to kill rug. Would have done it this time had not that odious Aunt Brown come in and interfered. I did not say anything, but gave her such a look, as much as to say, “I’ll do for you one day.” I think she understood.

 4:00 to 5:15. — Slept.

 5:15. — Awakened by bad attack of eczema.

 5:20 to 5:30 — Slept again,

 5:30. — Awakened again by eczema. Caught one.

 5:30 to 6:00. — Frightened canary by staring greedily at it.

 6:00. — Visited kitchen folk. Boned some bones.

 6:15. — Stalked a kitten in kitchen passage. The other little cowards ran away.  

6:20. — Things are looking brighter. Helped mouse escape from cat.  

6:30. — Upstairs, past the drawing-room. Door of old Mrs. Brown’s bedroom open invitingly. I entered. Never been in before. Nothing much worth having. Ate a few flowers out of a bonnet. Beastly.  

7:00. — Down to supper. Ate it, but without much relish. I am off my feed to-day.

 7:15. — Ate kittens’ supper. But I do wish they would not give them that eternal fish. I am getting sick of it.  

7:25. — Nasty feeling of lassitude comes over me, with loss of all initiative, so I decide to take things quietly, and lie down by kitchen fire. Sometimes I think that I am not the dog that I was.  

8:00. — Hooray! Appetite returning. 

8:01. — Ravenous.  

8-05. — Nose around the kitchen floor and glean a bit of onion, an imitation tortoise-shell comb, a shrimp (almost entire), an abominably stale chunk of bread, and about half a yard of capital string.  

8:30. — If one had to rely on other people, one might starve. Fortunately, in the hall I happen on the treacle-pudding, and I get first look in. Lap up the treacle, and leave the suet for the family. Ah.  

8:40. — Down into the kitchen again. Sit by the fire, and pretend I don’t know what treacle is like. But that vile cat is there — and I believe she guesses — keeps looking round at me with her hateful, superior look. Dash her, what right has she got to give herself such airs? She’s not half my size, and pays no taxes. Dash her smugness. Dash her altogether. The sight of her maddens me — and when her back is turned I rush at her and bite her. The crafty coward wags her tail, pretending she likes it, so I do it again, and then she rounds on me and scratches my paw viciously, drawing blood, and making me howl with pain. This brings Miss Brown down in a hurry.  She kisses me, tells the cat she is a naughty cat (I’d have killed her for it), gives me some sugar, and wraps the paw up in a bread poultice. Lord, how that girl loves me!  

9:00. — Ate the bread poultice.

 9:15. — Begin to get sleepy.

 9:15 to 10:00. — Dozed.

 10:00. — Led to kennel.

 10:15. — Lights out. Thus ends another derned dull day.

 The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 10 January 1898

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  In the course of her long career Mrs Daffodil has known a great many dogs–for example,  Wink, the Dowager Duchess of Spofford’s pomeranian, who came to a tragic end when a large caller at his mistress’s house sat upon him, mistaking him for a muff. One of Mrs Daffodil’s previous masters, a medical gentleman with a macabre sense of humour, prized a large black, wolfish animal, which he daubed with luminous paint and sent out to roam the moors at night.  And, of course, there was Master Georgie’s wolf-hound, Angela, unjustly accused of killing a fox to explain the blood in the library to the police. [See “A Spot of Bother.”]  Mrs Daffodil must applaud the ingenuity and spirit of this young (and surprisingly literate) dog in taking revenge on Aunt Brown and playing the innocent victim of the cat. It takes cunning to outwit a cat.

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.


Incidents at a Rat Pit in London: 1850s


A few years back I attended a rat-match in London, at which the dog which could kill the greatest number in the shortest time would win the prize. The first man that entered the pit brought in with him a dog, which was as handsome as the man himself was ugly. Time being called, he seized his dog by each side of the face, and, arching his long carcass, was soon in readiness. They now made a curious picture. From the fierce anxiety of their countenances, it became a strong matter of doubt as to which would mouth the first rat—the dog or its master. However, upon the signal being given, away went the dog, first killing one rat, then another; down went the man on his hands and knees, then pounded the floor most furiously, and roared and bellowed with all his might, to urge on the dog. The rats were falling in every direction, when, all in an instant, the man stood bolt upright, with his eyes staring like a madman, and his mouth wide open. But the cause, to the great amusement of all present, soon became apparent. It is the custom for those who enter the pit to tie a piece of string or garter round each ankle, to prevent the rats from crawling up their legs beneath their trousers. He had neglected to do this, and a rat was plainly seen working its way up his body between his skin and his shirt. With maniacal desperation he pulled off his cravat, and, tearing open his shirt, exposed his thin scraggy neck. Presently out came a pretty little glossy creature on his shoulder, and made a spring to the edge of the pit, which it succeeded in accomplishing. Heels-over-head went a dozen or twenty of the lookers-on, forms and all; and from the general scrambling, kicking, bustling, and alarm, one might have thought that, had it not been for their hats and boots, the poor little frightened rat would have swallowed at least a dozen of them; but, as it was, the little creature made its escape; and thus were they allowed to return home to their families undigested. Suffice it to say, I have since heard that nothing could ever induce this man to enter the pit again, but that he always pays another to do it for him.

On the opposite side to where the rat made its escape sat an enormous publican, who had laughed most heartily at the discomfiture of his friends. His face was a perfect picture of the sign of his house, namely, the “Rising Sun.” He was lounging carelessly on the edge of the pit, and resting his chin on his thumbs, when in came the second dog, —a fine furious creature. Time was called; the dog set to work, and down lay the rats, one after the other, with a single bite each. Presently one seized the dog by the lip; he gave his head a violent shake, and twirled the rat into the fat publican’s face. To describe his agitation and alarm would be impossible; but, throwing his head back, the rat fell into the bosom of his coat; and, in his anxiety to get it unbuttoned, he puffed, grunted, and blew like a great hog with a bone in its throat; and thus ended his sport for that evening.

Unhappily, however, these rat-frights do not always terminate so harmlessly as in the preceding cases. A friend of mine once informed me that twenty years since his father took a house in Edinburgh, and that after he had taken it, he found, to his dismay, that it was swarming with rats. However, one day, as they were all in the kitchen, where the boards of the flooring were about an inch apart, they were suddenly aroused by two rats, which had commenced a regular battle beneath the boards. My informant told me that his little brother became very much alarmed; when suddenly one of the rats gave a dreadful squeal, and at the same time one of their hind legs and a tail appeared through the cracks, which so frightened the lad, that he sprang to the other end of the place, when it was found, to the great affliction of the family, that he was bereft of reason, or, rather, he had become a complete maniac; nor was it till some weeks had passed, accompanied with sound medical treatment and warm baths, that anything like consciousness returned. However, by degrees he recovered the possession of his faculties; but to this day he is horror-stricken at the bare mention of a rat.

The Rat: its history & destructive character, With Numerous Anecdotes,  James Rodwell, (Uncle James.) 1858

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has scant sympathy for vermin. If left unchecked they destroy the crops, gorge on candles and shoes, undermine the drains, gnaw through rat-proof meat-safes, and devour invalids and infants. Mrs Daffodil shudders to remember the stories that her father used to tell about rats the size of bull terriers fought in the pits beneath the Hops and Hoe at Maidstone. Despite her antipathy for these rodents, Mrs Daffodil thinks it rather unsporting that not all of the rats are forced to enter the pit—the ones with florid complexions or wearing cravats, to give two instances.

The Dog’s Barber and Hair-Dresser: 1884

A pair of Victorian Skye terriers

A pair of Victorian Skye terriers


Who Officiates as a Canine Barber and Hair-Dresser

A small black sign over the door of a frame stable in the vicinity of the gospel tent, back of Lincoln park, attracted attention last week. It was apparently painted by an amateur artist, and its white lettering on a black ground told the following story:

GuS fLOwer

Dog’s barber. Dogs

Washed, cLIppeD, and



Terms Reasonable

Without the preliminary of knocking, the reporter pushed open the door and bearded the Flower in his den. The place was perfectly clean, newly whitewashed from stem to stern, and well garnished with sawdust.

Two stalls on each side of the room were occupied by a couple of Newfoundlands, a St. Bernard and a mongrel; and Mr. Flower himself, in the center of the place, was just taking off his white shirt preparatory to beginning operations.

“You need not retire,” he said, deftly slipping the linen over his head and disclosing a short-sleeved gossamer garment beneath it.

Then he walked over to a thin, black coat hanging on a peg near the entrance and took from one of the side pockets a shaggy little skye terrier so overgrown with hair that it was impossible, without close inspection, to tell which end was heads and which tails.

He placed the dog gently in a small tub of warm water, and, after wetting him thoroughly all over, with the exception of the head, he broke a couple of eggs into a cup and rubbed the yolks well down to the roots of the little creature’s hair. A few drops of cologne were added, and the lathering began. For twenty minutes the terrier was softly manipulated, the perfumed foam coming out of his coat, and covering him to the neck like a blanket of raw cotton.

“In washing a dog I always leave the head to the last,” said the shampooer, “because if I don’t he is bound to shake himself while the operation is going on, and plaster me with wet lather. Between you and me, it is ignorance of this dodge among the public in general that gives me much of my work at washing dogs. A dog will never shake himself when his head is dry; by remembering this fact almost anyone can wash their pets with ease and comfort.

“Once a week in summer, and once every two weeks in winter, is not too often for every house dog to have a thorough bath. But, let me tell you one thing—never wash your dog with coarse, resin soap; use the finest grade of castile on him, if he is as big as the side of a house, and if he is a little fellow like this, the yolk of an egg is better yet. The coarse, harsh soaps are no more effective against dirt than the finer grades, and they inwardly destroy the gloss which gives an animal’s coat half its beauty, by clogging and burning out the glands at the root of the hair, which furnish an oily secretion producing this gloss, and at the same time protecting the hair from dampness.

“While doctoring dogs in an amateur way in New York city I once had a greyhound brought to me suffering from a loathsome skin disease which the owner thought to be mange. I asked him to bring me a piece of the soap with which he was accustomed to wash the animal. It was harsh, yellow bar-soap, and was the cause of the trouble.”

The perfumed lather was now washed away with clear warm water, followed by  a cold douche bath, and then the silky little creature was rubbed with a towel until every hair was as dry as a bone. He was then trotted up and down upon the sawdusted floor for some ten minutes, given a drink of milk and a piece of biscuit, and put to bed in a couple of yards of clean straw, until time came to carry him home to his mistress.

From a chest in the corner the barber produced a pair of horse-clippers, in shape precisely like the clipper in use in the ordinary shaving parlor, somewhat larger, however, and not so highly embellish with nickel-plate. He took a seat near the St. Bernard, and proceeded to clip away the animal’s heavy brown coat. First he cut away a circle of hair on a line with the dog’s fore-shoulders.

“I am going to give him the old-fashioned lion cut,” said he, “and this ring that I am cutting now is to be the boundary line; beyond it I will not go forward. I cut away every hair behind, of course, with the exception of a tuft on the tail. A full-blooded St. Bernard, when properly clipped, bears a very striking resemblance to a lion, mainly because the color of his coat is much like that of the king of beats. More than one small show that exhibits in the country towns to-day startle the rural roosters with bogus lions manufactured form these dogs. They invariably have the creatures muzzled, so that they cannot give themselves away by barking. I am not much stuck on the lion cut myself, especially for Newfoundlands, as it keeps their head and fore-quarters too blamed hot. There is not the slightest resemblance between a black dog and a lion, anyhow.

“But for a first-class, an A No. 1, artistic cut, the greyhound has the best figure in the world. Half of them will come from under the clippers a beautiful mouse-color, and no matter how slender they may have been before, they all seem to lose about half their bulk during the operation, most of them looking slim enough to pass through a key-hole.”

Daily Illinois State Register [Springfield, IL] 29 July 1884: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: For more on the history of dog breeds see this admirable blog, which has an excellent illustration of Ishbel Maria Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair awash in a positive sea of Skye terriers.