A hundred years ago | June 5, 1918. Archives

War Horses and War Dogs.

War-horses and war-dogs are our comrades in arms. The war-horse is in harness and subject to discipline. He is a soldier says Charis. Massis in the “Daily News”. The war-dog is subject to every other condition of war except discipline. So he is not a soldier. He is always deserting from one regiment and joining another, hiding himself among the French or Belgian civilians. He has been known to go over the top with the first wave of our infantry and return again — a prisoner among the German prisoners, laughing mightily as though this was one of the best jokes in the world. The war-dog is a gipsy, a vagabond, lovable scoundrel, affectionate where he is hungry, disdainful when he is full, a born thief, an artful rogue, a prodigal who is always sure to turn up at the killing of the fatted calf.

I have a dog now who cannot understand Chinese, and so his arguments are many with the Oriental labour camps. He is a particularly English Irish terrier of French extraction, and his argument is – if you cannot understand a man’s language, bite him. A simple enough doctrine which leads straight to the camp hospital and other trouble. I think it rather strange, because other dogs get on quite nicely with the Eastern irregular verbs. “Dick” is like the epigram on “ignorance” in one of Keats’ sonnets. He “makes a barren waste of all beyond himself”. At his very best the war-dog is only human. The war-horse, however, is something not human. His patience is more than the patience of a saint. His vegetarianism has made him a dreamy aesthetic. The soldier cannot divine his dreams as he stands at attention with sweetness and humility in his lustrous eyes. He can understand us, but we cannot understand him.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2020 7:50:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/archives/from-the-archives-june-5-1918-war-horses-and-war-dogs/article24082013.ece

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