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 Project, Boye 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