International Dog Day

Angela Thirkell's "Cousin Ruddy" - Rudyard Kipling with Mike, his Aberdeen Terrier

It’s another of Those Days – August 26th has been designated, by those who decide these things, as International Dog Day.

There’s no shortage of dogs in Angela Thirkell’s novels, but probably the most memorable is the dog with the most names – eventually settling to Gallant via Zog, Beneš, Amethyst, Eisenhower, Mannerheim, Churchill, Smigly-Rydz, and Schusnigg, not necessarily in that order.

In “Cheerfulness Breaks In” he’s described as: “The dog, presumably Smigly-Rydz-Zog-Beneš-Schuschnigg, was one of those very stout little dogs with a black shaggy coat, short in the leg, with a head as large as an elephant’s and mournful eyes.” A similar dog, Penny Barton, appears in “Pomfret Towers”: “…an old Scotch terrier with a face as large as an elephant’s”. This suggests that Gallant and Penny are both Aberdeen Terriers, a favoured breed of Angela Thirkell’s “Cousin Ruddy” – Rudyard Kipling. Thirkell took some of her characters from life (to Kipling’s disgust) so perhaps she took some dogs, too.

The photograph of Rudyard Kipling with one of his terriers, probably Mike, in the garden at his Sussex home, Bateman’s, was kindly provided by The Kipling Society. Apparently the terriers would circle the Bateman’s parlour at high speed, bouncing off the furniture.






One response to “International Dog Day”

  1. HilaryT avatar

    Thirkell’s approach to dog-lovers amuses me immensely. In my dilapidated copy of Pomfret Towers, page 24 describes ‘three dogs who came bouncing into the room under the false assumption that they were all welcome and honoured guests, paying no attention to their mistress’s loud commands of silence. Sally Wicklow claims that they are as quiet as angels as a rule, which is obviously a besotted view unlikely to be shared by anyone else.
    ‘From under her chair a hoarse subterranean growl arose and all the dogs began to bark again. “Hullo, it’s Penny,” said Miss Wicklow, feeling under the chair and dragging out an old Scotch terrier with a face as large as an elephant’s. “Isn’t he a clever dog to know his Aunt Sally is here? And weren’t Aunt Sally’s dogs clever children to smell Penny?”
    “No, they weren’t, Sally,” said Mrs Barton rather sharply. [Well, she has just been asked by Sally if she has written any more books…] “Anyone could smell Penny. I have told Walter again and again that he ought to be destroyed, and Penny knows he isn’t supposed to be in the drawing-room.” So Horton the butler has to take charge of all four dogs.
    One can hear a voice offstage murmuring “It’s not the dogs – it’s the owners” as it will do even more entertainingly with Jack Middleton and Flora in Before Lunch a year later.

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