By Greg Clark, December 26, 1942
“Do you want my share,” inquired Jimmie Frise cautiously, “of the Duchess?”
“Jim,” I replied craftily, “I will very gladly surrender to you any claim I may have on the Duchess. Two men can’t successfully share a dog.”
“Look,” said Jim. “You take her. You’ve only got that one little house dog, Dolly. I’ve got old Rusty for a house dog, and now, on the very eve of Christmas, I learn I am to get a beagle pup for my Christmas present.”
“Unless you live in the country,” I ruled, “two dogs is too many. My family would never let me keep the Duchess in addition to Dolly.”
“A lovelier English setter never breathed than the Duchess,” said Jim. “Besides, being a lady, she would make a perfect companion for your Dolly, who is getting old.
“Jim,” I said, “we made a great mistake, right at the start, in trying to deceive our families about who owns the Duchess. We agreed to keep her, week about; I telling my family she was your dog; and you telling your family she was my dog; and all we were doing was helping the other fellow out for a few days, by keeping her. The Duchess has only been a guest in our houses, Jim. The minute I try to put over the fact that she is a member of the family, there will be a row.”
“My family adores her,” submitted Jim. “But she sheds her hair. It’s all over the carpets, the chesterfields.”
“My family,” I confessed, “envies you the ownership of the Duchess. But there is an awful difference between having a guest in the house and making a stranger a member of the family. It is the same problem, for example, as choosing a daughter-in-law. The boys bring some awfully cute kids to the house. But when I look at some of them as permanent fixtures… I dunno!”
“Look,” pleaded Jimmie. “I’m getting one of Andy’s new litter of beagles. I’ve wanted a beagle all my life. Old Rusty is getting on in years. He has never been worth his salt as an Irish water spaniel. He’s terrified of water. And every time he sees a duck, dead or alive, he goes and crawls under the back kitchen. But a beagle… there’s the dog for the city sportsman! You can hunt rabbits almost on the edge of the city limits.”
“Aw, Jim,” I protested. “Don’t you remember the way we talked before we bought the Duchess? Last September? The greatest dog in the world was an English setter.”
“Well,” explained Jim, “in September, the pheasant season and the partridge season was just ahead…”
“A couple of weeks of shooting,” I snorted. “Out of the whole year. And how many days did we get off to shoot? Two. Yet we spent five bucks each on the purchase of a setter. And she turned out to be a lemon. And now she is a burden not only on our hands but on our consciences.”
“I Couldn’t Shoot Her”
“Boy, was she ever a lemon,” mused Jimmie. “When we bought her, I thought I had never seen a more perfect bird dog. She certainly looked as if she had been trained.”
“But out in the field,” I remembered, “she was just about as useful as a dachshund.”
“What could you expect,” said Jim, “for 10 bucks? Imagine two guys like us thinking we could buy a bird dog for five bucks each!”
“Well, as the fellow said when he brought her around to your house,” I reminded him, “the war has depreciated the value of sporting dogs. Only a few old guys like us can do any shooting now, and mighty little at that.”
“What we should have done,” said Jim. “was rent the Duchess from him. We could have paid five bucks each for two weeks’ rent of her.”
“Okay, then,” I exclaimed “why not take her back to him and give her to him. That’s one way of getting rid of her.”
“I’ve thought of that already,” replied Jim. “I went to the address he signed on the receipt, and there is nobody of that name living there. They’ve never heard of the guy.”
“That’s odd,” I suggested. “But isn’t there somebody else we could give her to?”
“Who wants a bird dog at this season of the year?” demanded Jim. “And besides, all our friends know she is no good. We made the mistake of yelling about what a lemon the Duchess is. If we had kept our mouths shut, we might have sold the Duchess to some real dog lover for a little profit on our 10 bucks.”
“She’s a beautiful beast,” I pondered, “but she’s utterly useless. Did you ever see a setter act so crazy in the field?”
“I never did,” said Jim. “Instead of birds, she seemed to be hunting for people. When we let her out of the car, instead of dashing out to find a pheasant, she visited every other human being she saw, and left each one sadly, as if she were looking for her master. It took us all morning merely to round her up. That’s no way to waste your time on one of the few hunting days we have now.”
“I was tempted to shoot her,” I submitted. “A real dog fancier has no sentiment about him. If a dog won’t work, he shoots it. But I’m a sentimentalist. I couldn’t shoot the Duchess. I couldn’t even speak crossly to her. She’s a lady.”
“Lady is right,” said Jim. “My family is crazy about her. Whenever it is my week to keep her, the family all says: ‘Aw, dad, why don’t you buy her from Mr. Clark.’ Is my face red?”
“Well, if it weren’t for the fact that we have one dog already,” I mused.
“Well, I can’t keep her, either,” declared Jim firmly. “I have it on the best authority that I am getting a beagle pup, six weeks old, and that is going to be all the dog the family will go for around our house, along with old Rusty.”
“There is only one way,” I stated, “to get rid of a no-good bird dog. It is a method well known to all dog lovers.”
“And what’s that?” inquired Jim.
“You put an ad in the paper,” I elucidated, “like this:
Found – Beautiful English setter, female, white with blue and brown markings. Appears well trained. Owner can claim by paying for ad and small amount for keep.”
“Ah,” smiled Jimmie. “Small amount for keep.”
“About 10 bucks,” I suggested.
“Five bucks each,” mused Jimmie. “But who will claim her?”
“The first crook who reads the ad,” I cried triumphantly. “There are guys who love bird dogs and who at the same time are as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. The minute one of them sees that ad, he will come rushing up here and take one look at the Duchess and rush up to her and fall on his knees and make an awful fuss over her. Of course the Duchess will respond. She’s a lady. And he will leap up and thank us a million. And 10 bucks to him will be a mere flea bite.”
“Owner Can Claim”
“Why should a crook pay 10 dollars for a bird dog at this season of the year,” demanded Jimmie, “when we couldn’t get an honest man to take her as a gift?
“It’s just the way of men,” I explained. “A man who is a little crooked will get more kick out of getting something by skullduggery than if he had the dog given to him.”
“We could try it,” muttered Jim.
“We’ll split the cost of the ad?” I suggested.
“You pay it,” said Jim, “and deduct my share from what the guy pays us.”
So it was with a good deal of pleasure I inserted an ad in the final edition of the paper so that Jim and I would both be home for the arrival of our victim.
“After all,” I said to Jim, “he will be getting a good dog. And the Duchess will be getting a good home, which is all we are worried about. We say she appears well trained. And the Duchess certainly does appear well trained.”
“Go ahead,” said Jim doubtfully.
I inserted the ad as outlined. “Found: Beautiful English setter, female, appears trained, white with brown and blue ticking, owner can claim after paying cost of ad and small expenses re keep.”
And Jim and I hurried home a little ahead of the 5 o’clock jam to wait. For, if my prescription for getting rid of a no-good bird dog was to work, the man who answered the ad would be up at the house hotfoot ahead of any possible competitors.
We had hardly got our coats off before there was a loud ring of the bell.
And the Duchess, who was reclining like a queen on the chesterfield, leaped up with a loud and joyous bark.
Jim opened the door to a heavy built and eager looking gentleman who, the minute he saw the Duchess let out a wild yell and the Duchess, like a lady swooning, fairly fell into his arms.
We urged the two of them to come in and shut the door.
“Daisy, Daisy,” crooned the stranger, tears flowing down his cheeks, and the Duchess blind with the light of love, emitted an endless series of little whimpers that was enough to make anybody weep.
“Where,” demanded the stranger, from his knees, “did you find her?”
“Er… aw … wuh…” said Jimmie.
The stranger rose to his feet and swelled himself up.
“Where,” he said slowly, “did you find her?”
Jimmie looked at me and I looked at Jimmie.
“Come, come,” said the stranger loudly. “I ask you, where did you find her? This is Daisy of Thermopylae, dual international champion, field and bench. She cost me $600. And she was stolen from my kennels on September 16.”
“Well, well, well,” I said, with profound interest.
“May I, inquire,” said the stranger, advancing on me and towering himself up, “where you found her? Your ad says you found her. Okay. Where did you find her?”
There was no use in trying to equivocate.
“Sir,” I said humbly, “we did not find her. We bought her, about September the 18th last for $10.”
The stranger staggered.
“For … 10 … dollars,” he whispered, reaching down and fondling the fine domed head of the Duchess, or Daisy.
Then he drew himself up again.
“You bought her, eh?” he gritted. “On the very eve of the bird season, she is stolen from my kennels. I have not only missed the pleasure of shooting over the finest bird dog that ever was sired, but I have missed two important shows and one field trial of the utmost importance, in the States. To me, the loss of Daisy of Thermopylae is a matter of dollars and cents. I have been robbed. Therefore, I propose to deal with the matter in forceful manner. I am going to hand you over to the police.”
“Hold on, there, mister,” interposed Jimmie who is bigger than I am, “just a minute. We bought that dog in good faith.”
“Who from?” inquired the stranger grimly.
“Aw,” said Jim, remembering that he had been unable to trace the man from whom we bought the dog.
“We have a receipt,” I cut in. “A signed receipt.”
“For $10,” sneered the stranger. “Show it to me.”
“As a matter of fact,” confessed Jim, “we went to find this man who gave us a receipt and there is no such man at the address.”
“A fine cock and bull story,” yelled the stranger. “You put an ad in the paper saying you found the dog. And when I claim my dog, you admit you bought her, away back in September, for $10. My fine friends, you can tell all this to the judge. Maybe he’ll listen. But I won’t.”
“Excuse me,” I put in. “Will you listen to a simple story of what has happened? All you’ve got to do is look at the Duchess – or Daisy as you can call her – to see she has been well cared for. Have you to sense of gratitude for that? Suppose some cruel person had had her all this time…”
The stranger looked down at Daisy and immediately knelt down and petted her and felt her ribs and took her head in his hands and nuzzled at her in the curious love that men and dogs can share.
Crazy to Get Daisy
“And furthermore,” suddenly announced Jim, you haven’t satisfactorily identified her. How do we know you aren’t some faker, just making a fuss over the dog?
“I can produce a thousand witnesses,” declared the stranger, hotly, “to prove this is Daisy of Thermopylae.”
“Very good, produce them,” said Jim harshly.
“Look here, gentlemen,” said the stranger, changing his tone. “I’m so crazy to get Daisy back that I’ll forget all about the funny angles of the case if you’ll just let me quietly depart with her.”
“That’s better,” said Jim.
“On the other hand,” said the stranger, rising and buttoning his overcoat, “I do not feel under any obligation to pay you for Daisy’s keep nor even for the advertisement. You were harboring stolen property.”
“Not wittingly,” I put in.
“You did not know the vendor,” declared the stranger, “you bought the dog, at an absurd price – if you know anything about dogs – and you should at least have established the bona fides and title of ownership of this thief you bought her from.”
“All dog sellers look funny,” I submitted.
“Furthermore,” accused the stranger “when you tried to get in touch with that person later, you could not find him at the address he gave. Your suspicions should have been aroused at once.”
“I always thought there was something funny about the Duchess,” said Jimmie. “But the funniest thing about her is the way she behaves in the field. If she is a field champion then I’m a Mexican hairless.”
“Then I can produce documentary evidence,” smiled the stranger, “that you are a Mexican hairless. For this lady is one of the greatest bird dogs in the world.”
“She wouldn’t hunt for us,” I stated.
“Is it any wonder?” inquired the stranger, showing his teeth.
So we stood silently looking at each other while the Duchess tried to climb her lovely and lithe length into the stranger’s overcoat pocket, so desperate was she to be off and away with him, back to heaven somewhere.
“I tell you what I’ll do,” said the stranger at length. “I’ll pay the cost of the ad. But I’ll be hanged if I will pay you anything for her keep. That goes against the grain.”
“It has been a great pleasure and privilege,” said Jimmie, “to have had this lady as our guest for a few weeks.”
“Ah, then,” said the stranger, “I’ll pay $10 into any charity you gentlemen care to mention.”
“The Santa Claus Fund,” cried Jimmie and I both together.
Editor’s Note: The Santa Claus Fund is a charity that is run by the Toronto Star for children at Christmas. It still exists today.