He Can Teach Him Unselfishness, Bravery, Loyalty, And All Else That Is Good
by NICK BULGER
1929 Lawrence, Mass.
This story was submitted by Isabel S. Kurth. It is a true story about a Newf who lived in 1890, originally written by the father of Mrs. Kurth's veterinarian. The story tells of a Newfoundland dog. Spring. and all the great things he did for children. Reprinted from NewfTide 1979.
EVERY sane, thinking man has his own belief. Personally, I have no objection to my neighbor's belief. And I trust he has no objection to mine. I believe that God, in his infinite power, created man. But after a space of time, God found that He had made a grave mistake, for man did not come up to God's standard.
Then God created boy. He was priding Himself upon the perfection of the work, when to His amazement God found boy growing up exactly like His selfish, cowardly, lazy, slovenly, unprincipled first creation. So after much thought and study-which very likely took countless years-God decided to create a four-footed animal that would be greater than either man or boy, excepting only in intellect.
And so dog came into the world to show boy the true meaning of unselfishness, of bravery, of steadfastness, of cleanliness, of friendliness, and of all else that is good.
To explain more fully what I mean, let me drift back forty or more years, and tell of the boys and dogs with whom I associated in my youth. They were normal boys and normal dogs, and so they can represent dogs and boys of other communities in which the goodly companionship of dogs and boys exists.
The dog I would like to mention was a noble Newfoundland, the favorite animal of all children in the days of my youth. Spring was his name, and no dog since has taken his place in the hearts of my sister Kate and of my brothers, Tom and Dick, to say nothing of myself. In those days we had to carry water, some distance, from a brook. Here is where the word laziness can be used, as we all rebelled, fearing in our selfish, little minds that one was not doing as much work as another.
Not so, good old Spring. He was always ready to carry water, thereby showing neither laziness nor selfishness. Little did we realize how true it was when our mother would chide us and remark, "that her dog was better t~ her than her children." It was a wonderful lesson of unselfishness that Spring taught, one that has come down through many years, and undoubtedly will remain with us throughout all the years of our sojourn on earth.
When we were old enough to swim, Spring was always in our midst, teaching us companionship with neighboring boys. Let me cite one case of how he taught us a lesson in bravery and good judgment. The river in which we swam was a short distance from our home. And in it we spent more time swimming than we did in learning our lessons. Spring was always with us, and we had a lot of fun throwing a stick into the river and watching the dog fetch it back in his mouth. Reaching shore, Spring would drop the stick at our feet, eager to repeat the performance if we threw the stick again into the stream.
As is usually the case, some of the boys learned to swim far sooner than did the others. One boy-now Lieutenant John Bagge of the Taunton, Massachusetts, police-picked up the sport decidedly faster than did the younger boys, and soon was venturing far out beyond his depth. One day something happened. Bagge was caught in the swift current of the river and found it impossible to return.
When we realized the situation, we all became panic stricken. One or two of the youngsters ran for home. Others dashed madly along the bank of the river, shouting wildly to Bagge. Every one was excited but old Spring. He came bounding to me with rather a large stick in his mouth. He dropped the stick on the ground at my feet, picked it up again, and repeated the performance several times.
Finally my dull brain began to realize what Spring was trying to say. Seizing the stick, I spat upon it for good luck, as all boys would do, and then I threw it out into the water as near to Bagge as possible. Hardly had the stick hit the water than old Spring, with a bark, bounded into the river and began to swim towards the drowning boy.
Long before he had reached Bagge, the lad had clutched the big stick with a death-like grip. Finally, the dog reached the struggling boy and seized the stick in his mouth. At once the real battle began. Holding the stick in his mouth, the dog started for shore, towing the boy who was also gripping the bit of wood. We watched the struggle from the shore, praying that our companion would be saved. Finally, old Spring laid the stick of wood at our feet, with Bagge still clinging to the other end.
Through that incident Spring taught us a lesson of good, sound judgment, besides cementing friendships that have never grown cold. One year later we buried old Spring with all the funeral rites at our command. And over his grave, in a boyish way, we swore everlasting fealty to one another. It is more than forty years since the oath was sworn, but yet the friendship still exists. Each Christmas a word of cheer is exchanged, regardless of the fact that the boys of the incident are now living in all parts of the world. Undoubtedly we were all better boys-and we are all today better men-for having known that Newfoundland dog.
Reprinted with permission of the American Kennel Club. Pure-Bred Dogs. AKC Gazette. May, 1929.