MEMOIRS OF A YELLOW DOG
by O. Henry
I don't suppose it will knock any of you people off
your perch to read a contribution from an animal.
Mr. Kipling and a good many others have demonstrated
the fact that animals can express themselves in
remunerative English, and no magazine goes to press
nowadays without an animal story and an answer to
Lawson in it, except the old style monthlies that
are still running pictures of Bryan and the Mont
But you needn't look for any stuck-up literature in
my piece, such as Bearoo, the bear, and Snakoo, the
snake, and Tammanoo, the tiger, talk in the jungle
books. A yellow dog that's spent most of his life
in a cheap New York flat, sleeping in a corner on an
old sateen underskirt (the one she spilled port wine
on at the Lady Longshoremen's banquet), mustn't be
expected to perform any tricks with the art of speech.
I was born a yellow pup; date, locality, pedigree
and weight unknown. The first thing I can recollect,
an old woman had me in a basket at Broadway and
Twenty-third trying to sell me to a fat lady. Old
Mother Hubbard was boosting me to beat the band as
a genuine Pomeranian-Hambletonian-Red Irish-Cochin-China-Stoke-Pogis
fox terrier. The fat lady chased a V around among
the samples of gros grain flannelette in her shopping
bag till she cornered it, and gave up. From that
moment I was a pet--a mamma's own wootsey squidlums.
Say, gentle reader, did you ever have a 200-pound
woman breathing a flavor of Camembert cheese and
Peau d'Espagne pick you up and wallop her nose all
over you, remarking all the time in an Emma Eames
tone of voice: "Oh, oo's um oodlum, doodlum, woodlum,
toodlum, bitsy-witsy skoodlums?"
From a pedigreed yellow pup I grew up to be an anonymous
yellow cur looking like a cross between an Angora cat
and a box of lemons. But my mistress never tumbled.
She thought that the two primeval pups that Noah
chased into the ark were but a collateral branch of
my ancestors. It took two policemen to keep her from
entering me at the Madison Square Garden for the
Siberian bloodhound prize.
I'll tell you about that flat. The house was the
ordinary thing in New York, paved with Parian marble
in the entrance hall and cobblestones above the first
floor. Our fiat was three fl--well, not flights--climbs
up. My mistress rented it unfurnished, and put in the
regular things--1903 antique upholstered parlor set,
oil chromo of geishas in a Harlem tea house, rubber
plant and husband.
By Sirius! there was a biped I felt sorry for. He was
a little man with sandy hair and whiskers a good deal
like mine. Henpecked?--well, toucans and flamingoes
and pelicans all had their bills in him. He wiped the
dishes and listened to my mistress tell about the cheap,
ragged things the lady with the squirrel-skin coat on
the second floor hung out on her line to dry. And every
evening while she was getting supper she made him take
me out on the end of a string for a walk.
If men knew how women pass the time when they are alone
they'd never marry. Laura Lean Jibbey, peanut brittle,
a little almond cream on the neck muscles, dishes unwashed,
half an hour's talk with the iceman, reading a package
of old letters, a couple of pickles and two bottles of
malt extract, one hour peeking through a hole in the
window shade into the flat across the air-shaft--that's
about all there is to it. Twenty minutes before time for
him to come home from work she straightens up the house,
fixes her rat so it won't show, and gets out a lot of
sewing for a ten-minute bluff.
I led a dog's life in that flat. Most all day I lay
there in my corner watching the fat woman kill time.
I slept sometimes and had pipe dreams about being out
chasing cats into basements and growling at old ladies
with black mittens, as a dog was intended to do. Then
she would pounce upon me with a lot of that drivelling
poodle palaver and kiss me on the nose--but what could
I do? A dog can't chew cloves.
I began to feel sorry for Hubby, dog my cats if I didn't.
We looked so much alike that people noticed it when we
went out; so we shook the streets that Morgan's cab
drives down, and took to climbing the piles of last
December's snow on the streets where cheap people live.
One evening when we were thus promenading, and I was
trying to look like a prize St. Bernard, and the old
man was trying to look like he wouldn't have murdered
the first organ-grinder he heard play Mendelssohn's
wedding-march, I looked up at him and said, in my way:
"What are you looking so sour about, you oakum trimmed
lobster? She don't kiss you. You don't have to sit on
her lap and listen to talk that would make a book of
a musical comedy sound like the maxims of Epictetus.
You ought to be thankful you're not a dog. Brace up,
Benedick, and bid the blues begone."
The matrimonial mishap looked down at me with almost
canine expression in his face.
"Why, doggie," says he, "good doggie. You almost look
like you could speak. What is it, doggie--Cats?"
Cats! Could speak!
But, of course, he couldn't understand. Animals were
denied the speech of humans. The only common ground of
communication upon which dogs and men can get together
is in fiction.
In the flat across the hall from us lived a lady with a
black-and-tan terrier. Her husband strung it and took it
out every evening, but he always came home cheerful and
whistling. One day I touched noses with the black-and-tan
in the hall, and I struck him for an elucidation.
"See, here, Wiggle-and-Skip," I says, "you know that it
ain't the nature of a real man to play dry nurse to a
dog in public. I never saw one leashed to a bow-wow yet
that didn't look like he'd like to lick every other man
that looked at him. But your boss comes in every day as
perky and set up as an amateur prestidigitator doing the
egg trick. How does he do it? Don't tell me he likes it."
"Him?" says the black-and-tan. "Why, he uses Nature's
Own Remedy. He gets spifflicated. At first when we go
out he's as shy as the man on the steamer who would
rather play pedro when they make 'em all jackpots. By
the time we've been in eight saloons he don't care
whether the thing on the end of his line is a dog or
a catfish. I've lost two inches of my tail trying to
sidestep those swinging doors."
The pointer I got from the terrier--vaudeville please
copy--set me to thinking.
One evening about 6 o'clock my mistress ordered him to get
busy and do the ozone act for Lovey. I have concealed it
until now, but that is what she called me. The black-and-tan
was called "Tweetness." I consider that I have the bulge
on him as far as you could chase a rabbit. Still "Lovey"
is something of a nomenclatural tin can on the tail of
one's self respect.
At a quiet place on a safe street I tightened the line
of my custodian in front of an attractive, refined saloon.
I made a dead-ahead scramble for the doors, whining like
a dog in the press despatches that lets the family know
that little girl is bogged while gathering lilies in the
"Why, darn my eyes," says the old man, with a grin; "darn
my eyes if the saffron-colored son of a seltzer lemonade
ain't asking me in to take a drink. Lemme see--how long's
it been since I saved shoe leather by keeping one foot on
the foot-rest? I believe I'll--"
I knew I had him. Hot Scotches he took, sitting at a table.
For an hour he kept the Campbells coming. I sat by his side
rapping for the waiter with my tail, and eating free lunch
such as mamma in her flat never equalled with her homemade
truck bought at a delicatessen store eight minutes before
papa comes home.
When the products of Scotland were all exhausted except
the rye bread the old man unwound me from the table leg
and played me outside like a fisherman plays a salmon.
Out there he took off my collar and threw it into the
"Poor doggie," says he; "good doggie. She shan't kiss
you any more. 'S a darned shame. Good doggie, go away
and get run over by a street car and be happy."
I refused to leave. I leaped and frisked around the old
man's legs happy as a pug on a rug.
"You old flea-headed woodchuck-chaser," I said to him--"you
moon-baying, rabbit-pointing, egg-stealing old beagle,
can't you see that I don't want to leave you? Can't you
see that we're both Pups in the Wood and the missis is
the cruel uncle after you with the dish towel and me with
the flea liniment and a pink bow to tie on my tail. Why
not cut that all out and be pards forever more?"
Maybe you'll say he didn't understand--maybe he didn't.
But he kind of got a grip on the Hot Scotches, and stood
still for a minute, thinking.
"Doggie," says he, finally, "we don't live more than a
dozen lives on this earth--and very few of us live to be
more than 300. If I ever see that flat any more I'm a
flat, and if you do you're flatter and that's no flattery.
I'm offering 60 to 1 that Westward Ho wins out by the
length of a dachshund."
There was no string, but I frolicked along with my master
to the Twenty-third street ferry. And the cats on the
route saw reason to give thanks that prehensile claws
had been given them.
On the Jersey side my master said to a stranger who stood
eating a currant bun:
"Me and my doggie, we are bound for the Rocky Mountains."
But what pleased me most was when my old man pulled both
of my ears until I howled, and said:
"You common, monkey-headed, rat-tailed, sulphur-colored
son of a door mat, do you know what I'm going to call you?"
I thought of "Lovey," and I whined dolefully.
"I'm going to call you 'Pete,'" says my master; and if
I'd had five tails I couldn't have done enough wagging
to do justice to the occasion.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~