Their roles are not confined to the traditional kind which involve hunting, herding or pulling loads. They are never a part of a paw patrol handled by a rozzer. Instead, they have a healthy contempt for those in the uniform. They may not be indefatigable detectives out to assist a Sherlock Holmes in sniffing out crucial leads in a mysterious murder case, but they shape the love affairs of quite a few young men who wear their hearts on their sleeves.
In Plumsville, they enjoy motherly affections of the delicately nurtured. Their misdemeanors are overlooked. Their acts of omission are energetically defended, annoying the officers of the law. If taken into custody, prompt steps are taken through the proper channels to get them extracted. They display unbounded joy and affection to the owners of trousers which happen to be liberally sprinkled with aniseed.
Here are some examples of characters of the canine kind we come across while navigating the humorously sun-lit lands of Plumsville.
We meet Sam Goldwyn in ‘The Mating Season’. Owned by Corky, he is a shaggy dog of mixed parentage. He is no beauty-prize winner and conceives a burning passion for the company of Bertie Wooster. He is also adept at biting those who exude authority. At Deverille Hall, Uncle Charlie becomes his first victim. Police Constable Dobbs happens to be the next one. He takes Sam into custody. Corky charms Gussie Fink-Nottle into extracting Sam Goldwyn. The reunion is beautifully described as follows:
“The baying and the patter of the feet grew louder and suddenly out of the darkness Sam Goldwyn clocked in, coming along at a high rate of speed and showing plainly in his manner how keenly he appreciated the termination of
the sedentary life he had been leading these last days. He looked good for about another fifty miles at the same pace, but the sight of us gave him pause. He stopped, looked and listened. Then, as our familiar odour reached his nostrils, he threw his whole soul into a cry of ecstasy. He bounded at Jeeves as if contemplating licking his face, but was checked by the latter’s quiet dignity. Jeeves views the animal kingdom with a benevolent eye and is the first to pat its head and offer it a slice of whatever is going, but he does not permit it to lick his face.”
McIntosh is an Aberdeen terrier of weak intellect. We meet him in one of the stories appearing in ‘Very Good, Jeeves’. He belongs to Aunt Agatha who has left him in Bertie’s charge while she goes off to Aix-les-Bains to take the cure. Bobbie Wickham gives McIntosh off to the kid Blumenfeld who has developed a liking for it.
Jeeves comes up with a rescue plan, persuading Bertie to sprinkle his trousers with aniseed which is extensively used in the dog-stealing industry. Bertie visits the hotel suite where McIntosh is holed up. As Bobbie Wickham leaves the suite, McIntosh bounds out, sniffing passionately, drinking Bertie in with every evidence of enjoyment. Bertie returns to his abode with McIntosh in tow. A successful mission thus gets accomplished, saving Bertie from incurring the wrath of Aunt Agatha.
To ensure that Bobbie Wickham’s relations with senior Blumenfeld do not get jeopardized, Jeeves buys another look-alike Aberdeen from a shop in Bond Street and hands it over to him.
‘Jeeves in the Offing’ introduces us to the dachshund Poppet who charges at people with the apparent intention of seeing the color of their insides. Closer to destination, though, he merely rises like a rocket and licks people on the chin.
The scene under reference gets played out by the side of a lake where the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, his step-daughter Phyllis, Bobbie Wickham, Wilbert Cream, Kipper and Bertie Wooster have gathered. As per plans, Bertie is to shove Upjohn into the water, followed by Kipper diving in and saving him. This, it is hoped, would improve the chances of Kipper persuading Upjohn to withdraw the libel case he is planning in connection with a derogatory review Kipper has written of an article of his.
As luck would have it, Poppet charges abruptly at Augustus, an easy-going cat which has curled up into a ball and resumed his afternoon siesta. Poppet’s plunge – with his tail straight up at right angles to the parent body, ears turned inside out, barking merrily – jolts Augustus no end. In the ensuing scuffle, Poppet lands up in the lake, accompanied by Bertie. Wilbert dives in, seizes the hound by the scruff of the neck, and tows Poppet at a brisk pace to the shore. Kipper’s mission fails.
Poppet could as well have got ashore perfectly well under his own steam, but Phyllis believes Wilbert Cream rescued her dachshund from a watery grave. As a result, she announces her engagement to Wilbert Cream.
A bull terrier kind dog by the name of Buster comes along in ‘The Girl in Blue’. He is a pet of Marlene Hibbs and ends up biting Constable Simms whose bicycle is used by Chippendale to impart driving lessons to Marlene.
When she points out that every dog is allowed a first bite by law, Simms says that if this were to happen again, he would prosecute it with the utmost severity. Chippendale finds her in tears near the village pump and has to stand her a strawberry ice cream before he can bring the roses back to her cheeks.
By way of a protest against his high-handedness, Chippendale eventually gets Simms pushed into a river, with the latter’s body as well as ego getting soaked to the gills.
In ‘The Code of the Woosters’, we come across Bartholomew, a pet of Stiffy’s. An Aberdeen terrier, he is to be watched closely if he gets near anyone’s ankles, “for he biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder”.
In the scene under reference, we find him all whiskers and eyebrows, silently and earnestly following Constable Oates who is quietly enjoying a bicycle ride with his hands off the handle. A mere connect with the ankle bone and the officer of the law falls into a ditch.
This is how the scene unfolds:
“One moment he was with us, all merry and bright; the next he was in the ditch, a sort of ‘macedoine’ of arms and legs and wheels, with the terrier standing on the edge, looking down at him with that rather offensive expression of virtuous smugness which I have often noticed on the faces of Aberdeen terriers in their clashes with humanity.”
Stiffy, true to form, defends Bartholomew. By way of revenge, she starts making plans to get Oates’ helmet pinched.
Bartholomew also puts in an appearance in ‘Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves’. He drives Bertie and Pop Bassett to the top of a large chest of drawers. Bertie finds himself gazing into the eyes of the animal, which looks at him with a sinister intentness characteristic of the breed. Bartholomew also bares his teeth which happen to be in excellent shape, thereby reminding Bertie of his tendency to bite first and ask questions afterwards.
Since Scotties have short legs, a series of energetic springs do not yield any constructive result. Poor Bartholomew has to remain content merely with dirty looks and sharp, passionate barks. Eventually, Stiffy walks in and removes him from the scene, providing much-needed succor to Bertie and Pop Bassett.
Of Dog Fights and Toto
In ‘The Adventures of Sally’, a poodle of military aspect wanders up to Sally at a French seaside resort. Discovering that Sally is in possession of a box of sweets, the poodle decides to stick around and await developments. Soon, a white terrier with a black patch on its left eye also joins in. A little later, a group of expectant dogs assembles. This is followed by an intense dog fight which scares off Sally.
This is how the dog fight gets commented upon:
“There is about any dog fight a wild, gusty fury which affects the average mortal with something of the helplessness induced by some vast clashing of the elements. It seems so outside one’s jurisdiction. One is oppressed with a sense of the futility of interference.”
However, Ginger does decide to interfere. He does so successfully, much to the relief of Sally.
Later in the narrative, we meet Toto, a small woolly animal with a persistent and penetrating yap. Toto likes a cracker after breakfast. Judicious dieting indeed perks him up. He goes on to play an important role in the lives of Sally and Ginger.
When it comes to etching out characters, P G Wodehouse is an acknowledged genius. His expertise in this realm is not restricted to human beings alone. It covers pigs, cats, swans and dogs as well. ‘St. Bernard dogs doing the square thing by Alpine travelers’ is another expression which finds frequent mention in his narratives!