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Posts Tagged ‘Dogs’

While etching out some of the feline and canine characters, P G Wodehouse never fails to amuse, entertain and educate. Many of you may agree that even when he decides to capture the spirit of a hearty brawl among different members of these species, he excels himself.

Consider these fight scenes captured by him.  

‘The unpleasantness opened with a low gurgling sound, answered by another a shade louder and possibly more querulous. A momentary silence was followed by a long-drawn note, like rising wind, cut off abruptly and succeeded by a grumbling mutter. The response to this was a couple of sharp howls. Both parties to the contest then indulged in a discontented whining, growing louder and louder until the air was full of electric menace. And then, after another sharp silence, came war, noisy and overwhelming.

Standing at Master Waffles’ side, you could follow almost every movement of that intricate fray, and mark how now one and now the other of the battlers gained a short-lived advantage. It was a great fight. Shrewd blows were taken and given, and in the eye of the imagination you could see the air thick with flying fur. Louder and louder grew the din; and then, at its height, it ceased in one crescendo of tumult, and all was still, save for a faint, angry moaning.’

(Something Fresh)

‘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. And this was no ordinary dog fight. It was a stunning mêlée, which would have excited favourable comment even among the blasé residents of a negro quarter or the not easily-pleased critics of a Lancashire mining-village. From all over the beach dogs of every size, breed, and colour were racing to the scene: and while some of these merely remained in the ringside seats and barked, a considerable proportion immediately started fighting one another on general principles, well content to be in action without bothering about first causes. The terrier had got the poodle by the left hind-leg and was restating his war-aims. The raffish mongrel was apparently endeavouring to fletcherize a complete stranger of the Sealyham family.

The only reason why dog fights do not go on forever is that Providence has decided that on each such occasion there shall always be among those present one Master Mind; one wizard who, whatever his shortcomings in other battles of life, is in this single particular sphere competent and dominating.

At Roville-sur-Mer it was the red-haired young man. His dark companion might have turned from him in disgust: his services might not have seemed worth retaining by the haughty Scrymgeour: he might be a pain in the neck to “the family”; but he did know how to stop a dog fight. From the first moment of his intervention calm began to steal over the scene. He had the same effect on the almost inextricably entwined belligerents as, in mediaeval legend, the Holy Grail, sliding down the sunbeam, used to have on battling knights. He did not look like a dove of peace, but the most captious could not have denied that he brought home the goods. There was a magic in his soothing hands, a spell in his voice: and in a shorter time than one would have believed possible dog after dog had been sorted out and calmed down; until presently all that was left of Armageddon was one solitary small Scotch terrier, thoughtfully licking a chewed leg. The rest of the combatants, once more in their right mind and wondering what all the fuss was about, had been captured and hauled away in a whirl of recrimination by voluble owners.

(The Adventures of Sally)

Homo sapiens pride themselves on being superior to other species. But the scenarios described above, do these not remind us of bitter fights in our board rooms or even at our homes? The need for a dynamic leader is also brought home so very clearly.

Some introspection would lead us to conclude that when raw anger and impotent rage takes us over, there is little difference between members of different species. In fact, human beings have refined the art far better. We go a step ahead and start fighting others at the mental level, deliberately twisting facts and doing and saying things which would torment the souls of the party of the other part. Avarice and greed overcome our prudence. Human values get thrown out of the window. As to grudges against others, we carry these within us for a very long time, ruining our own health.     

This might well explain why the likes of Augustus and Bartholomew often treat us with a sense of dignified detachment and cast supercilious gazes at us, the lesser mortals.   

(Note: With due respects to Plum, passages quoted above have been slightly edited, so as to focus only on the fight part.)

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In order to celebrate the 137th birth anniversary of P G Wodehouse, the Pittsburgh Millionaires decided to meet up on the 14th of October, 2018. The meeting took place at one of the Panera Cafés in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh, USA.

Lest some of you get an impression that the millionaires foregathered to discuss some trustworthy sources from where one could secure either a cow creamer or a scarab, you would be sadly mistaken. If your ambitions lead you to believe that you could have run into an arts dealer offering The Girl in Blue, the famous Gainsborough miniature, to one of the millionaires present at the gathering, you would be even more off the mark.

Had you been able to make it to the gig, you would have discovered the Pittsburgh Millionaires to be a group of strong and adventurous folks, well endowed and successful in more ways than one.

Besides being successful at keeping their respective bodies and souls together, they possess an immense wealth which could make many of us green with envy. Their wealth is not to be measured in terms of the millions of dollars they possess, but in terms of the trillions of units of common love and fondness they have for the verbal musician of our times, P G Wodehouse. A profound knowledge of his canon is another wealth they possess.

Eve Halliday and Phyllis Jackson were already seated on the table when Rupert Psmith and the not-so-efficient Baxter trooped in. Stiffy Byng fluttered in like a rose-leaf on the wind. Pauline Stoker floated in pretty soon thereafter and the meeting was called to order. Picture post cards featuring The Empress of Blandings were gifted by Eve Halliday to those present.

The management of the Panera Café has a stiff-upper-lip policy. Target practice by throwing bread crumbs is out of the question. The place does not boast of fans of any kind, ceiling or otherwise. Hence, hurling boiled eggs at such contraptions is also ruled out. The ambience of the place is not such as to allow a boisterous rendering of The Sonny Boy.

Wisdom prevailed. A reading of the story ‘Goodbye to All Cats’ followed. Curious customers on nearby tables were taken aback by the intermittent ripples of mirth emanating from the table. The management was polite enough not to interrupt but ensured that the tray-carrying trolleys generated sound-bytes which were loud enough to deliver suitable admonitions to the members of the Plummy troupe. Needless to say, the same were duly ignored.

Bits and pieces of the Wodehouse canon were fondly recalled by those present. The Bertie-Jeeves relationship was dissected at length. The challenge of popularising his works amongst the youth of today was discussed. Eve Halliday recommended the practice of ‘fairy books’ where some of his works, duly gift wrapped, could be left in public places, spreading joy amongst those who venture to pick these up. Stiffy Byng commented that her interests included not only the narratives dished out by Wodehouse but also the ones whipped up by Alfred Hitchcock. Pauline Stoker lovingly mentioned the BBC series.

Deferring to the wishes of the café management, no cake was cut on the occasion. The meeting ended on a cordial note, with much ‘What-ho’-ing and ‘Pip-pip’-ing. Baxter was wished a happy travel back to India.

(Note: Yours truly is grateful to Abigail Thompson, Filomena Conti, Allison Thompson, Carol Colby and Sandip Chaudhury, who could spare the time to grace the occasion. Special thanks are due to Allison Thompson who took special interest in coordinating the gathering and even brought along an Augustus look-alike to attract the attention of incoming millionaires).

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ashokbhatia

Every dog has his day. Well, on the occasion of Dogs’ Day, it is time to pay a tribute to some characters of the canine kind who regale us with their antics in Plumsville.dog-day

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…

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Every dog has his day. Well, on the occasion of Dogs’ Day, it is time to pay a tribute to some characters of the canine kind who regale us with their antics in Plumsville.dog-day

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.

Sam Goldwyn

We meet Sam Goldwyn in ‘The Mating Season’. Owned by Corky, he is a shaggy dog of mixed parentage. He is no beauty-prize PGW MatingSeasonwinner 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

McIntosh is an Aberdeen terrier of weak intellect. We meet him in one of the stories appearing in ‘Very Good, Jeeves’. He belongs toVeryGoodJeeves 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.

Poppet

‘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 PGW JeevesInTheOffingWickham, 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.

Buster

A bull terrier kind dog by the name of Buster comes along in ‘The Girl in Blue’. He is a pet of Marlene PGW TheGirlInBlueHibbs 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.

Bartholomew

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 CodeOfTheWoostersgets 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 PGW StiffUpperLipdrawers. 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 PGWTheAdventuresOfSallysome 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!

(Related posts: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/different-shades-of-women-in-plumsville, https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/the-hapless-rozzers-in-plumsville)

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