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 in it, except the old-style monthlies that
are still running pictures of Bryan and the Mont Pelee horror.
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 expcctcd 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
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
flavour 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-
>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--well, not
flights--climbs up. My mistress rented it unfurnished, and put in
the regular things--1903 antique unholstered parlour 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
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 that 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
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 the 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
intelligence 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. Humans were denied the
speech of animals. 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
"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 that terrier--vaudeville please copy--set me
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 Alice is bogged
while gathering lilies in the brook.
"Why, darn my eyes," says the old man, with a grin; "darn my eyes if
the saffron-coloured 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 street.
"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, eggstealing 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,
"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
"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-coloured 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