Squanko by F. Cheseboro

WHAT a name for a dog, auntie!”

Name! Why, Frank, when you hear the whole, like the Queen of Sheba, you’ll say the half has not been told you.”

“Why, didn’t you find Squanko quite enough for one dog?”

“His full name,” said my aunt, loftily, “is Squanko Guy Edgerly Patterson.”

She rolled out these resonant titles with due gravity, and Squanko, turning his bright eyes from one to the other, solemnly wagged his tail, as if to signify approval.

I was a New Hampshire boy, and this was my first visit to the city. My experience with dogs previously had been that of a country boy bred up among sportsmen. I had known several highly-trained hounds, and famous bird dogs, though my ideal of canine perfection was that marvel of sagacity, the shepherd dog. Still, my first love among dogs had been a noble old hound, who, though sightless from age, would follow a rabbit better than any young dog was capable of doing. The scent of powder brought back his lost youth. Let him hear the loading of a gun,—or the mere rattle of a shot-pouch was enough,—he would break out into the wildest gambols, dashing hither and yon, in an ecstasy of delight.

Running headlong against rock or tree, as he was liable to do, only tempered his  zeal for a moment; the next, he was tearing along more madly than ever. Dear old Trim! I had shed a boy’s hot tears over his grave on the hill-side, and I was not ashamed of it either.

I felt a tenderness for Squanko. The yellow spots which marked his white fur reminded me of Trim’s. Remembering the accomplishments of my lost favorite, I ventured another question.

“What is he good for, aunt Patterson? Can he hunt?”

“Good for!” ejaculated my aunt—“good for! I couldn’t keep house without him.” A certain fine disdain curled her lip; she had utterly ignored my second question. Completely quenched, I was fain to accept Squanko at once, hunter or no hunter.

And we were, on the whole, pretty good friends, in spite of the battles we fought, nearly every evening, for the possession of the lounge. It made small difference to Squanko if I was beforehand with him. Though quite a large dog, he would creep up behind me, slowly insinuating himself between me and the back of the lounge. Then, watching his opportunity, he would brace his feet suddenly, and more than once the execution of this manœuvre sent me rolling, ignominiously, upon the floor.

The intruder ousted, his majesty would settle himself for a nap, not heeding in the least the shouts of laughter which his triumph never failed to evoke.

On all occasions (excepting only nights, when he slept tranquilly on a rug in my aunt’s room) he felt it his duty to keep watch and ward over the premises. His favorite perch, in sunny mornings, was in the window of my aunt’s chamber. If by any chance the white curtain had not been looped up, as usual, leaving the window sill exposed, Squanko went down for help, and by whining, pulling his mistress’s dress and similar arts, persuaded her to go up and remove the obnoxious curtain. Carefully seating himself upon the sill, which was all too narrow for his portly figure, he would fall to work, by barking furiously at every person—man, woman, or child—who presumed to pass up or down the street. Most fortunately for him, the window he occupied overlooked the lawn at the side of the house, instead of the pavement in front; for on several occasions his fury became so ungovernable, that he barked himself sheer off his foundation.

Catching a glimpse of his whirling figure, my aunt rushed out, armed with a bottle of liniment; and while she bathed his imperilled legs, she strove also to soothe his outraged feelings. For the time all vanity seemed to have been dashed out of him; but comforted by sympathy and caresses, he again mounted his perch, and barked with undiminished ardor.

At table, my aunt always occupied what is termed an office chair. Being quite small in person, a portion of the great leather cushion, at the back, was left vacant. Squanko rarely failed to possess himself of this vantage-ground, and squatting thereon, peered wisely over his mistress’s shoulder, as if studying the problem of what portion of the goodly meal before him might safely be counted on as a remainder.

Yet Squanko had his grievances. One was, not being allowed the freedom of the garden. If he went out, my aunt’s careful hand hastened to link the long chain, attached to his house, to his collar. She had a chronic fear of his running away.

Squanko utterly disdained to occupy the bed of straw which graced his dwelling, but climbing to a board which surmounted the ridge of the roof, would lie upon that narrow ledge, ready to pounce upon any one who ventured near.

Missing him one morning, both here  and on the window-sill, one of the wee Johnnys of the neighborhood, who stood in wholesome awe of Squanko, put his curly head in at the doorway.

“Where’s Squanko, Mrs. Patterson?”

“Gone to walk.”

Gone to walk,” chuckled Johnny, bursting with merriment. “That’s funny—a dog gone to walk!”

Squanko’s walk was rarely omitted; generally it was performed under my aunt’s tutelage, when she went a little way with her husband, whose business took him to the city every morning. If, for any reason, Mrs. Patterson let her husband go to the cars alone, she sent Squanko off by himself, with strict orders to return speedily, which direction he had never failed to obey.

Besides his chain, Squanko had one other trial to endure—a thorough ablution once a week. Bathing was his aversion; still, he had been obliged to submit to it from his puppyhood, and Mrs. Patterson was inexorable. A dog who was not faultlessly clean could have no place in the arrangements of her household. In and about her dwelling all was spotlessly neat. Everything susceptible of polish shone, from the window-panes, and the great cooking-stove, to Squanko’s white coat. In vain were his protests, his indignant snorts and sneezes, his incipient growls; into the tub of warm water he had to go, while the scrubbing-brush performed its office upon his fat sides. Having been duly washed and wiped, he always indulged in a vicious shake or two, producing a sort of mist in his immediate vicinity. After being wrapped in his own blanket shawl, he was placed on the lounge, to repose while drying. His luxurious nap completed, he would emerge from his retirement, his short white hair shining like satin,—as clean a playfellow as one might desire. His temper,—not usually of the best,—after one of these baths, would remain sunny for hours.

But Squanko—like many another spoiled darling,—was not content with the home where he was so petted and indulged.

As his master opened the door to go into the garden, one evening, Squanko rushed past him, and made for the street. In vain our hurried search, up and down, in the dark spring night. In vain his mistress’s frantic calls. If Squanko was hidden in some nook hard by, and heard her entreaties, his heart must have been harder than a stone. That hasty exit was the last we ever saw of him. Night after night my uncle, coming home from the city, inquired for Squanko, only to receive the sad reply,—

“No, Roy! We never—never shall see Squanko again.”

Soon a fat, brindled puppy was installed in the vacant place. Day by day he grew, both in bulk and in the affections of the family. My aunt named him “Trouble.” All the devotion which had been Squanko’s was straightway lavished on him.

When, in process of time, the tidings were borne to my aunt’s ears, that Squanko, forgetful of former friends, was leading a jolly existence in a neighboring town, she only replied, with a toss of her head, “Let the ungrateful imp stay there. Trouble is worth a dozen of him!”