AUGUST 19, 1957
HYDE PARK—My mind has perforce been turned to the care of dogs in the last few days. Besides my own Scottie, Duffy, we have three dogs on the place. Rusty belongs to the couple who take care of me and my family. Smuckles belongs to my secretary, Mrs. James Upright, and Shep, who is mostly collie, belongs to my son and his family.
From the time they left, Shep was restless. He feels better today because the youngest member of the family, Joan, has returned to stay with me until I go away, while her nurse has a holiday. Mrs. Upright is away, and I have just come to the conclusion that our house had better take over the feeding of all the dogs.
A dog needs more than just his food at a regular hour daily. He needs water kept in a place where he knows he can get it. He needs companionship. My son's dog Shep has adopted us, and I think shortly Smuckles will do the same.
To me it is astonishing that many people leave their pets when they go off in summer for a holiday, or even for a day's outing, without making any provision for the care either of the dogs or the cats. Yet these animals are so useful and every family enjoys their pets so much when they are home. In many cases this is just thoughtlessness, but it is the kind of thoughtlessness that is almost like cruelty.
An animal will often find its own sleeping place. Shep, for instance, prefers to sleep on the porch of my son's house. I think he feels that he must guard it. My own little Scottie, when I am home, always sleeps on my sleeping porch with me, and in the winter he has a basket in my room. But when I am away he sleeps on a chair that is carefully covered every night and placed by the door of my couple's apartment. In this way he has the companionship of their dog Rusty, and the knowledge that he is not left alone.
I think children should be trained from the time they first get a pet to care for it and to think of how it will be cared for when they are not around. Moreover, I find that the care of animals is one of the most instructive experiences for children. My son's children have had horses to care for, and even the little four-year old has learned a certain amount about the responsibility of treating an animal well. She has made such friends with my son's big horse that she can take a handful of oats and a halter and go out into the pasture, whereupon the horse will come and allow her to put the halter around his neck.
With a grown rider, the horse is a handful. But when she once fell off, the horse stood stock still, turned his head around, looked at her and then came over to nuzzle her. And when she got up and went crying ahead of him down the road, he followed her, as if to say: "I'm still looking after you!"