A Stout Doggy Heart

Our dog is a complete shower.

He is a rag-tag collage, an impressionistic daubing of crazy-haired keen eyed energy. He is a liability, a small staccato loud noisebox.

He is good at three things: being a companion; being a guard dog; and eating anything, even the things which would be well under our radar. I will refer to this latter issue in as little detail as possible to avoid gastric distress.

But while his skillset might be limited he has tended to develop considerable specialisation. Macaulay the cock-a-hoop terrier shares the concentrated characteristics of his forebears.

I think I have mentioned before that Macaulay has a singular lineage. His mother was a foppish King Charles spaniel; his father a miniature schnauzer.

Schnauzers appeared in the 15th and 16th centuries in Germany. Albrecht Duhrer is reputed to have had one which he painted repeatedly: the little chap makes appearances  between 1492 and 1504. They are kind souls; less frenetic than your average terrier but with a focus which makes them excellent guard dogs. They are fiercely loyal and often courageous.  And the flip side of the guarding business is that they police territorial lines: for example fences and gates- with keen attention to detail.

Such is Mac. He is affable, he is loyal, he is affectionate, he is courageous. And he sermonises at the back gate something awful.

He never really sleeps, but dozes with an ear cocked for the pesky fox who prowls our land at night.

And everyone will be fast asleep, and it may be two in the morning, but if old red-brush puts a paw over our boundary Mac sets up a bark which would irritate the dead enough to wake them.

Giant schnauzers were war dogs in World War II. They have a long and honourable military history: in fact legend has it that they were almost wiped out because of their war service, and the breed had to be revived at cessation of conflict through careful breeding programmes.

Dogs seem to have had a place next to men at war for a long time.

None was more colourful than a dog who belonged to the nephew of Charles I; which was – wait for it – a white hunting poodle.

His name was Boye and his appearance must have been,to the untutored eye. quite comical: a large dog with a mane of white hair.

He was brought to Prince Rupert of the Rhein after he was taken prisoner in battle, in 1638, to while away the hours in captivity.

It is difficult to verify the stories about Boye because the cavalier four-legged friend was subject to an unusual amount of Roundhead propaganda. The tales tell of Boye being trained to jump for joy at the name “Charles”; of his sleeping each night in Rupert’s bed, and having more haircuts, even, than Rupert did.

According to the Poodle History ProjectBoye was great playing with the children; used to lay his paw on Rupert’s foot;  and did like a good sung mass, evidenced by his propensity to trot up to the altar, the better to listen.

But as Rupert was quite a warrior, his dog became a target for his enemies.

The roundheads were quite convinced that Boye could turn invisible and walk amongst the enemy lines, spying. Quite how he was supposed to impart garnered knowledge is uncertain. But I guess if you can render yourself invisible, you can probably talk too.

It was at Marston Moor that they allowed Rupert free rein.

It may have been practice to let dogs wander battlefields: but me? I would have popped my beloved white hunting poodle on a leash so he was unable to feel the full force of enemy gunpowder. Boye pottered off for a constitutional and was triumphantly shot by a roundhead soldier.

And then the conspiracy theories began.

There is this woodcut. Its background is beautifully charted over at Mercurius Politicus, a blog run by a Birkbeck academic about early modern books.

The woodcut was printed in a pamphlet in 1644, and it depicts the death of Boye. It is called A Dog’s Elegy, or Rupert’s tears. Poor Boye is being shot: and next to him stands a witch, throwing her head up in horror. One particularly nasty story charts her as Boye’s mother. The choice morsel of propaganda which alleged Boye could catch bullets aimed at his master in his mouth was proved groundless.

Loyalty and a stout heart: the qualities of many a dog. Macaulay is valorous in his defence of the front door and the back gate; giant schnauzers are reputed to have defended their masters in the trenches almost to the extinction of their breed; and much maligned Boye took the very same bullets as the soldiers he wandered beside at Marston.

Whatever would we do without them?

Picture source here


47 thoughts on “A Stout Doggy Heart

  1. Oh, Boye, what a sad ending!
    I have always associated Charles with spaniels and Rupert with Zenda – sorry, my mind wanders.
    Your Mac is a character with a capital K!

    1. He is, Col 🙂 How strange you should mention Rupert: I have been reading an old set of Times letters centred around where the real Ruritania is….wonderful…

  2. Oh why do humans involve innocent animals in human-to-human conflicts?

    The propensity for some dogs to eat what we would deem as dangrous is something I also prefer to gloss over.

    and now I’m feeling sorry for Mr Foxy, as humans make his habitat shrink, even his nightly wanderings are broadcast abroad.

  3. ahh, we all love a good pooch story. Mac sounds absolutely adorable. We’ve two terriers ourselves – noisy but kind and ours tend to find all sorts of living things to eat — eeeewW.

  4. Every time you post about Macaulay, I am struck by the similarities to my Minnie (whose lineage is all Miniature Schnauzer), and imagine them as distant cousins with very similar thought processes and habits. 🙂

    On gastronomy: she, too, will eat most anything offered, and a few things that are not, and has a particular fondness for bathroom tissue, Kleenex and paper toweling. Since we’ve brought a new puppy into the fold (Yorkshire terrier, and another tale entirely), Minnie has now added a new stop to her patrol, a couple of times a day ’round Lulu’s playpen to be sure no morsel of puppy food has gone uneaten!

    On vocalization: If not sleeping, Minnie is patrolling our space, nose to the floor and ear to the street; she alerts to the UPS van when it’s a block away, to the rotund Jack Russell who has moved in next door, to the neighbor she spots in his driveway down the street, to the ringing telephone (in case my hearing is failing, she can be louder), ad infinitum. Blessedly, she seldom finds the need to be so vigilant during the night, because, I suspect, with her hip firmly planted against mine she KNOWS I am safe — my sister advises that Minnie makes little comment about anything if I am not at home!!

    When I read “cock-a-hoop,” an expression I didn’t recognize, my first thought was “rooster,” as Minnie’s alarm voice frequently escalates until that is EXACTLY what one hears. However, I immediately realized my first interpretation of the phrase didn’t fit your context, so I’ve been Googling again: http://www.word-detective.com/2008/01/16/cock-a-hoop/ It seems there might be a bit of likeness there after all. 🙂

    I thoroughly enjoy it every time you write about your faithful friend, and manage to slip an interesting historical lesson into the bargain!

    1. Karen, I thoroughly enjoy hearing about MInnie. Schnauzers: a breed apart. We want never to be without at least part of a schnauzer every again. We have a comedian here, Ronnie Corbett, who owns two miniature schnauzers. He loves them dearly but says they thieve for the sheer joy of thieving…

  5. The only thing my Jazzmine wouldn’t eat was salsa. She got some on her nose one time, and it burned through to her brain. She had only to smell it to flee.

    1. Oh, Jazzmine, that beautiful little creature: she stole my heart (as did your playing) on that wonderful film of you performine- was it Chopin? Little claw-tapping patters past the piano throughout the piece, always with focus, but always with perfect manners. What a lovely little soul she must have been.

  6. I sent my long-suffering retriever out to play in the snow with Felix this morning while the delicate-pawed pug stayed inside with me. She rolled gleefully in the white for the first quarter-hour, and then shivered dutifully at his side for another three-quarters, sneaking glances closed door.

    Where would we be without them, indeed?

  7. Hi Kate, I haven’t come across Boye yet on my travels to the early Seventeenth Century, and 1642 in particular – so this is a first for me – something new once again! 😀 It looks as though poodles had similar hairstyles to the celebs of the day back then too, according to your first picture!

  8. Another delightful post, Kate, full of interesting tidbits of information and life with Macauley. Always a treat. Haven’t seen our fox lately, but, the first of the chipmunks has reared its body today.

  9. I have heard the legend of Boye too, it makes a good story, how interesting but when you think about it logical, to take dogs to the battle field, i imagine they did do some damage! But dreadful as well.. c

    1. Dreadful indeed. Not their war. The distress and incomprehension: I feel it is a betrayal of their fierce loyalty. But I guess there are cases when they have saved lives. The debate rumbles on, Celi.

  10. Poor Boye! The woodcut is impressive, and a bit upsetting, isn’t it? I was waiting for Springer Spaniels. The nephew’s poodle came in as a surprise! i like that you describe Macaulay with his stout heart! I can just picture him as the defender of your gates! Debra

    1. The woodcut is horrid, yes, Debra.Poor old boye, they couldn’t even stop talking about him in death; rather, they accorded him superhuman powers.

      Mac is a gem…:-)

  11. Just wait, Kate Shrewsbury. There has to be an equal cat story somewhere. Surely the mighty feline featured prominently in some battle or other…

    1. Did I say Shrewsbury…I have to correct myself constantly when I visit you! Shrewsday. I once worked with a man from Shrewsbury Shropshire – a sweet little man who had done incredible work in Scouts! He must have had a terrible time working with a bunch of wild western canadian women who thought couth was something to drink.

      1. No problem: it’s a pseudonym, Amy, after my heroine in the Taming of the Shrew :-)Your Shropshire man sounds lovely. And don’t worry, Kit Kat is never far from centre stage…

  12. Very interesting post. I love dogs. Hate the thought of them being used in war. Regardless of work ethic or loyalty or fierceness (is that a word?) they don’t have the ability to choose. Men choose for them, often without any sense of loyalty to the dog. Anyway, just saying. . .

  13. Terrific story, but I should have peeked ahead to the end before I read it all the way through. You see, whenever a story or book has a dog as part of the story, I always go to the end to find out if the dog is still alive. If it is, then I go back and read the whole thing. If it isn’t, I put the book away. Sorry. Hate it when the dog dies. . .

    Really – a great read! 😆

    1. Oh, so sorry, Paula: I hate it too. But my love of odd facts overrules all else when I ‘m writing. I must remember what you have told me. Glad you enjoyed the read though.

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