Dogs: Shoot, hang or poison?

Down boy!

A modern motor cycle, even a small one, can outrun a dog. ‘Twas not always thus. The following yarn dates back to a time when many dogs were driven to a murderous frenzy by the site and sound of a motor cycle. Before long motor cyclists responded in kind (or, more accurately, damned unkind). Pioneer riders hated dogs. They really, really hated them…

1903 DOGS1
“A huge mongrel with a wide fork crown and no mudguards to speak of.”

SOME DOGS ARE thoroughbred. These are no good as they get “lost” a lot. Others are half bread, half sage. This kind, when seasoned with pepper, is called sausages and has the same food value as venison, only you can come out in spots of a different colour.
The dog next door to me had kleptomania. I do not know if that was why he howled and yelped all night, but such was his objectionable custom. One day, after a more than usually musical night, he sneaked into our garden, stole a glass syringe containing prussic acid, swallowed the contents, tied himself into a sailor’s knot, and froze stiff in the dustbin –on a summer day, too. A silly thing to do, as you cannot make a hearthrug of a dog that shape. Prussic acid is no good for dogs; it spoils them after they are dead, just when they might be useful.
Some people let their dogs run about the streets to play “dummy duck” with motor cyclists. This is a mistake, as they pick up bad language, broken ribs and other blemishes.

A drastic remedy

The proper place for a street dog is on one end of a rope four feet long. The other end of the rope should be fixed to the bough of a tree ten feet from the ground. This keeps the dog’s feet off the damp grass and wards off old age. It may occur to you that this is a strange doctrine but if you work on the line indicated you will save money, as it costs a good bit to have a dog remodelled after it has been using a 3hp motor cycle as a toothbrush.
Some dogs are very thoughtless. When the man calls about the licence, and you are showing him a Norwich canary as your one and only pet, a furious barking in the next room is very disconcerting and entails your entering into a long explanation about your little son’s power of mimicry, which takes up valuable time and requires great art, if there is no whisky handy.
Inquisitiveness is another canine failing which is very obnoxious and engenders bad feeling. I was cycling in Dover once, when a huge mongrel with a wide fork crown and no mudguards to speak of was very curious to see whether my pants were lined with sanitary wool. When I left he was loudly calling out for the St John Ambulance Corps. I was sorry to bend that pump; it was a brass one, two feet long, and weighed 8lb. Celluloid pumps have no weight with dogs. A bulldog has a face like a Chinese idol put through a mangle, and should never be fondled with a naked tyre but patted vigorously under the jaw with the toe of a boot, preferably by deputy, as some expertness is necessary. If you miss your “pat”, you dismount in his mouth and get hurt. If you catch him fair and square, kerplunk, with all your might, as I did recently, you gain that dog’s surprised admiration and a week’s holiday with a sprained ankle.

1903 cannine mcist
Not all dogs were tyre-munching maniacs. But a bullet through the skull would at least put this hatted and begoggled poodle out of its misery.

When a playful collie jumps up and tries to sit in your lap as you are bowling along, it is cruel to have a cobbler’s awl tied to the end of a walking stick, and jab him in the ribs with it, and the niche you might have occupied in that dog’s affections will be “to let unfurnished” if you act thus. It is better to spray him gently in the eye with an ammonia squirt, which acts as a capital germicide, and if you watch that collie you will observe him energetically trying to wriggle out of his skin backwards, which will make you feel good for a long time.
Always be kind to dogs — off the chain. Remember, pain hurts them, and it is a pretty tough job to stick a piece of meat back on your calf if the dog swallows it.
I have no use for, so will not mention, the astrachan-garbed retriever who flies down the carriage drive, bounds over the gate into the street like a roaring lion with d.t. and the devil’s tattoo on the kettle-drum mixed, and cannons your better half out of the trailer into the interior of an astonished piano organ in the throes of a pathetic, but jerky, Goodbye, Dolly Gray.

The most useful type

Then there is – or, rather, there is not – the “extinct” type of dog-the most useful of all. A mongrel, no doubt, but with gentle instincts and affectionate nature. You will remember the kind I mean. A faithful, beseeching look in the eyes, a fawning attitude, and an apologetic “sorry I am in your way” kind of air. A dog it was safe to leave to romp with the children, that would grovel on its stomach at a threatening gesture, and bolt in terror at a threatening shout. We miss this type. Why?
Because the police, with an eye to a soft job and easy promotion, have trapped every single specimen over a measured “quarter” and have led each one, tethered by a piece of grocer’s twine, followed by a crowd of jeering urchins, into captivity, thence to be transferred in due course, with lamblike meekness, to another place, and we know them-as such-no more.
But something makes our thoughts go out to them at times, as we munch our morning snack of porkpie in the City, and we gulp down a sob, and a hurried draught of Bass.
A brief reference to the pet dog and I must close. If you are out cycling, and see in the middle of the roadway a little tangled heap of haywisp sort of stuff with sore eyes and a bit of blue ribbon tied round its neck like boatrace day, I warn you, apply both brakes, dismount, and go back at once to save further trouble, rumpus, and nervous exhaustion.

1903 DOGS2
Marketed as “a useful motorcycle alarm”, the Markt & Co bell promised “a very sweet flowing sound sufficient to penetrate the ear of even the deafest pedestrian or driver which has gained the econiums of our pedestrian friends”. It wouldn’t stop a charging cur.

If you disregard my advice and go forward, upon your head be it. For what happens? The dog-for it is a dog, and not a sparrow’s nest out of work-zigzags about in your path aimlessly. You dodge eight and a half times, then in alarm, because of your unpaid life assurance premium, you yell, “Hoo! burr-r-roosh!” and this is your undoing. There is a shrill agonised shriek, a rustle of drapery. The figure of a more or less Victorian maiden lady precipitates itself upon your machine, yourself, the dog, the heap of slush at the roadside, and the surroundings generally. Seizing your scanty locks in a two-handed grasp, she hugs them to her bosom, under the impression she has hold of the wretched poodle. Raising her tearful eyes skyward, she gasps, “Saved! my darling, saved!” and straightaway faints in your front wheel, oblivious of the triple fact that you are wearing your back wheel for a necktie, that her false front has come unstuck and is dangling forlornly upon your offside pedal, and, moreover, that she is sitting on that dog all the time; and then, when her darling’s teeth, meeting in the fleshy part of her arm, advise her of the real state of affairs, she blames you for it, and not the dog-unkindest cut of all.
Avoid these pet dogs. They are wrong ‘uns. I know it for a fact.

Here’s one rider’s far-from-humorous response to the canine threat:

SEEING FROM time to time letters complaining of dangerous dogs and their attacks on motor cyclists, I should like to describe a plan I always find successful in circumventing them. Firstly, procure a fairly stout walking stick of oak or ash, remove the ferrule, and insert a U-shaped staple. Next buy a slender dog chain, and divide it into three portions.
Fix these on to the staple, in equal lengths (about twelve inches long). Then get one of those devices sold by accessory dealers for holding a walking stick, etc by means of a clip on the handle-bar and a socket clamped on to the front forks. Carry this stick and chains always. It can be taken out of the holder absolutely instantaneously, and when the dog comes alongside he can be given such a painful blow with one or all of the three dangling chains that he will be never at all likely to repeat his assaults.
The horrified surprise and rapid rout of all the dogs I have applied this treatment to has been most satisfactory and unfailing, so far as my own experience has gone, in all parts of the United Kingdom, and it has the recommendation that It does not in any way permanently injure them. If I come across a vicious or niiscliievous terrier or collie, the lesson I give him is never forgotten, and as the chains splay out it is really almost impossible for even a duffer to help hitting the creature somewhere or other.

Some riders were clearly driven to extreme measures, and contemporary observers clearly had more sympathy for them than their canine victims. Mind you, permanent blindness seems a tad radical.


THE daily papers last week reported a case against a motor cyclist who had used what is known as a cyclist’s pistol to prevent an Irish terrier, which daily annoyed him, from rushing at his machine and endangering his life. It was stated in the evidence that the pistol, which consists of a tube and a rubber bulb, which is filled with a solution of ammonia and water, was charged with a fifty per cent. mixture. The ordinary amount of ammonia which is generally used in this article is about ten per cent. If the rider had confined himself to this, the dog would only have been temporarily, and not permanently, disabled. Surely, a man’s life (even if he does happen to commit the heinous offence of riding a motor cycle or ordinary bicycle.) is of as much value as the most valuable dog in existence, and riders, while excercising discretion, should be allowed to adopt some means of keeping these pests at bay.
In France most savage dogs are kept, and these are in the habit of making in a straight line for anything on wheels that they have never seen before, such as a bicycle, and the riders to protect themselves are often armed with small revolvers. We do not advocate anything as stringent as this, but we certainly think that no unbiassed magistrate would convict a rider for carrying a good horsewhip on the handle-bar, which he could slash at the dog, unless taken unawares. These whips are carried by many motor cyclists in France, and are laid along the handle-bar in two clips which allow the whip to be instantly detached.

1903 DOGS3
It’s true, some French cyclists, and presumably motorcyclists really did carry pistols. This .22 calibre revolver was marketed as the Velo-Dog; it was readily available in the 1890s. For the more humanitarian riders there were cartridges loaded with pepper or rock salt, otherwise a bullet offered a deadly response to aggressive curs.

The first generation of motor cyclists were beset by bio-hazards and not all of them had four legs. At a time when many pedestrians were baffled by the arrival of motorised traffic wandering into the path of oncoming motor cycles was the rule rather than the exception. This essay gives us an insight into road safety circa 1903.

ACCORDING TO A work on ‘Freaks of Nature’ the pedestrian of primeval days ambled around upon all fours. This statement may be true. It probably is not, but I believe it all the same. Nay, more; I would go so far as to believe almost anything of pedestrians. You may have noticed that the pedestrian of today has so far improved upon the habits of his ancestors as to walk upon his hind legs only. This is so that he may keep a sharper look-out for your motor cycle, and when you approach, spring into your path in several directions at once and finally, if his luck is in, reach a friendly lamp post, brushing a smudge of mud from the tail of his frock coat and hurling hieroglyphics at you.
Spillby, a friend of mine, is death on pedestrians. He rides a motor tricycle, at least he used to, but fashions change so rapidly that by the time he comes out of hospital ‘trikes’ may be quite out of date.
If measures were taken obliging pedestrian to give audible warning of their intention to acrobatically perform in the roadway, to carry a number plate by day, a red light in the rear after sunset, and to stand still when called upon by any person in charge of a restive motor cycle, our troubles would be alleviated considerably. Or better still, our legislators might restrict the perambulating pedestrian entirely to the woods and fields, and cause them in their own interests to be ‘hobbled’ by both ankles to two 56lb weights. This would tend to keep them out of harm’s way, and would have the advantage that if persons were required in the interests of science, say as obstacles in driving competitions, or brake tests, one could just apply to the Auto Cycle Club for a permit and cut loose a few pedestrians to choice.
Bearing in mind the famine in rubber which is inevitably going to arrive soon if everyone’s tyres wear out as mine do, it was suggested to me by a particularly brutal person that under the hygienic and rural conditions above-mentioned, and given a suitable diet, the skin or hide of pedestrians would form an idea material for making tyre covers.
Now, without taking this seriously, I must admit I have run across – both literally and figuratively – pedestrians, possessing to a remarkable degree the two chief characteristics of rubber, namely toughness and resilience. An instance of this last week. He was round a bend in the road taking a photographic view. His head was under the black cloak, so I do not think he heard my approach. But I was interested to observe that, although the top of my engine was intensely hot, he sat upon it pensively for quite an appreciable time without any apparent inconvenience, which indicated toughness. In fact, it was only after I had regained full consciousness and clambered out of the ditch to reclaim my motor cycle that it seemed to suddenly occur to him that he was being branded for life. Then, indeed, he did indulge in a kind of fandango or hornpipe, but this might have been mere resilience. He was not sufficiently resilient, however, to bounce the price of a new pair of trousers out of me.
M’yes, fellow motor cyclists, the average pedestrian, like most ancient institutions, requires revising and bringing up to date.

This image dates from 1907 when, it seems, dog were still faster than bikes.