As I mentioned in my previous posts this week, I’ve been reading through dog stories in old newspapers online and reworking them into posts on my blog.
Our latest story comes from Brisbane, Queensland and we’re turning our clocks back to 1888, one hundred years after European settlement when Brisbane was but a fledgling town of 366,940 persons. We’re also returning to the era of the horse and cart.
Introducing…The Dog’s Revenge
“Two Brisbane gentlemen residing together each owned a dog—one a collie, the other a
Newfoundland. The latter dog was always kept on the chain, while his more fortunate mate had the run of the place, a circumstance which did not tend to increase the little love they bore each other.
The collie, presumably being a victim to ennui, and being one of those to whom the proverb “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do” would well apply, used to delight in teasing the restrained Newfoundland; he would always bring bones to the latter’s kennel and coolly proceed to gnaw them just beyond the larger dog’s tether. The collie would at times steal into the Newfoundland’s dominions when the latter was asleep and annex his food, which he would play with in a tantalising manner and finally devour just out of reach, but under the very nose, of the rightful owner.
This course of proceeding naturally caused the victim unutterable annoyance, and he thirsted for his persecutor’s gore. The fates were all in favour of the collie though, for the only exercise the Newfoundland received was under the eye of his master, who was always ready to stop any fighting.However, one day an opportunity occurred for the carrying out of a well-laid plan of revenge. The two dogs were taken to the river for a swim, and immediately the collie had got a dozen yards or so from the bank the long-suffering Newfoundland seized him by the neck and ducked him. Every time the astonished collie rose to the surface a well-aimed blow on the head from the enemy’s immense paw immersed him again and again, until the owner, seeing that unless a speedy rescue was effected his dog would drown, was obliged to swim out to the pair, and after much difficulty succeeded in bringing the collie to shore more dead than alive.
It was not for some days that the half-drowned animal was restored to his usual health, and it was noticeable that from that day the collie treated his erstwhile victim with the profoundest respect, and entirely discontinued annoying him.
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939) Saturday 7 January 1888 p 26 Article
Reading through this story, particularly after researching Newfoundlands for my last post, I can just imagine those huge, webbed paws rising through the water and pushing that nasty collie under the water, knowing exactly what it was doing. Not killing it but repeatedly tormenting the Collie in the same way it had treated him…an eye for an eye…justice. It almost makes sense and yet weren’t there alternatives?
Probably not if you were that Newfoundland and no one’s come to your rescue.
This brings me to the person who wrote this story, otherwise known as the “Omniscient Narrator”… the story behind the story.
As you might be aware, the omniscient narrator “knows all the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in the story, while maintaining an omniscient – or godlike – distance.”
So in this scenario, our narrator is fully aware that the Newfoundland, a huge dog renowned for its swimming abilities and athletic strength, is kept chained up at least for very extended periods AND that the Newfoundland is being repeatedly tormented by the Collie and that the owners of both dogs, aren’t doing anything about it.
Yet, the narrator’s seemingly done nothing about it.
Well, they did write about it but I can’t help feeling that they thought the story was funny or entertaining in some way, rather than trying to speak up for the dog. After all, the dog was still being chained up even if the collie has changed its ways.
This raises important issues for writers. Is it okay for us to take the role of the detached observer? Be that omniscient narrator? Or, should we intervene? How do you feel about writers, journalists and the like writing about suffering without stepping in and trying to help the victim? After all, while this might be a story about a dog who lived and died well over 100 years ago, it’s also about today. Our role in the here and now.
I would love to hear your thoughts!
 As of 31st December, 1887 Source: http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/19931712