Here to return to
I CARRIED little Scotch all day long in my over coat pocket as I rode through the mountains on the way to my cabin. His cheerful, cunning face, his good behavior, and the clever way in which he poked his head out of my pocket, licked my hand, and looked at the scenery, completely won my heart before I had ridden an hour. That night he showed so strikingly the strong, faithful characteristics for which collies are noted that I resolved never to part with him. Since then we have had great years together. We have been hungry and happy together, and together we have played by the cabin, faced danger in the wilds, slept peacefully among the flowers, followed the trails by starlight, and cuddled down in winter’s drifting snow.
On my way home through the mountains with puppy Scotch, I stopped for a night near a deserted ranch-house and shut him up in a small abandoned cabin. He at once objected and set up a terrible barking and howling, gnawing fiercely at the crack beneath the door and trying to tear his way out. Fearing he would break his little puppy teeth, or possibly die from frantic and persistent efforts to be free, I concluded to release him from the cabin. My fears that he would run away if left free were groundless. He made his way to my saddle, which lay on the ground near by, crawled under it, turned round beneath it, and thrust his little head from beneath the arch of the horn and lay down with a look of contentment, and also with an air which said, “I’ll take care of this saddle. I’d like to see any one touch it.”
And watch it he did. At midnight a cowboy came to my camp-fire. He had been thrown from his bronco and was making back to his outfit on foot. In approaching the fire his path lay close to my saddle, beneath which Scotch was lying. Tiny Scotch flew at him ferociously; never have I seen such faithful ferociousness in a dog so small and young. I took him in my hands and assured him that the visitor was welcome, and in a moment little Scotch and the cowboy were side by side gazing at the fire.
Scotch near Timber-Line
I suppose his bravery and watchful spirit may be instinct inherited from his famous forbears who lived so long and so cheerfully on Scotland’s heaths and moors. But, with all due respect for inherited qualities, he also has a brain that does a little thinking and meets emergencies promptly and ably.
He took serious objection to the coyotes which howled, serenaded, and made merry in the edge of the meadow about a quarter of a mile from my cabin. Just back of their howling-ground was a thick forest of pines, in which were scores of broken rocky crags. Into the tangled forest the coyotes always retreated when Scotch gave chase, and into this retreat he dared not pursue them. So long as the coyotes sunned themselves, kept quiet, and played, Scotch simply watched them contentedly from afar; but the instant they began to howl and yelp, he at once raced over and chased them into the woods. They often yelped and taunted him from their safe retreat, but Scotch always took pains to lie down on the edge of the open and remain there until they became quiet or went away.
During the second winter that Scotch was with me and before he was two years of age, one of the wily coyotes showed a tantalizing spirit and some interesting cunning which put Scotch on his mettle. One day when Scotch was busy driving the main pack into the woods, one that trotted lame with the right fore leg emerged from behind a rocky crag at the edge of the open and less than fifty yards from Scotch. Hurrying to a willow clump about fifty yards in Scotch’s rear, he set up a broken chorus of yelps and howls, seemingly with delight and to the great annoyance of Scotch, who at once raced back and chased the noisy taunter into the woods.
The very next time that Scotch was chasing the pack away, the crippled coyote again sneaked from behind the crag, took refuge behind the willow clump, and began delivering a perfect shower of broken yelps. Scotch at once turned back and gave chase. Immediately the entire pack wheeled from retreat and took up defiant attitudes in the open, but this did not seem to trouble Scotch; he flung himself upon them with great ferocity, and finally drove them all back into the woods. However, the third time that the cunning coyote had come to his rear, the entire pack stopped in the edge of the open and, for a time, defied him. He came back from this chase panting and tired and carrying every expression of worry. It seemed to prey upon him to such an extent that I became a little anxious about him.
One day, just after this affair, I went for the mail, and allowed Scotch to go with me. I usually left him at the cabin, and he stayed unchained and was faithful, though it was always evident that he was anxious to go with me and also that he was exceedingly lonely when left behind. But on this occasion he showed such eagerness to go that I allowed him the pleasure.
At the post-office he paid but little attention to the dogs which, with their masters, were assembled there, and held himself aloof from them, squatting on the ground with head erect and almost an air of contempt for them, but it was evident that he was watching their every move. When I started homeward, he showed great satisfaction by leaping and barking.
That night was wildly stormy, and I concluded to go out and enjoy the storm on some wind swept crags. Scotch was missing and I called him, but he did not appear, so I went alone. After being tossed by the wind for more than an hour, I returned to the cabin, but Scotch was still away. This had never occurred before, so I concluded not to go to bed until he returned. He came home after daylight, and was accompanied by another dog, — a collie, which belonged to a rancher who lived about fifteen miles away. I remembered to have seen this dog at the post-office the day before. My first thought was to send the dog home, but I finally concluded to allow him to remain, to see what would come of his presence, for it was apparent that Scotch had gone for him. He appropriated Scotch’s bed in the tub, to the evident satisfaction of Scotch. During the morning the two played together in the happiest possible manner for more than an hour. At noon I fed them together.
In the afternoon, while I was writing, I heard the varied voices of the coyote pack, and went out with my glass to watch proceedings, wondering how the visiting collie would play his part.
There went Scotch, as I supposed, racing for the yelping pack, but the visiting collie was not to be seen. The pack beat the usual sullen, scattering retreat, and while the dog, which I supposed to be Scotch, was chasing the last slow tormenter into the woods, from behind the crag came the big limping coyote, hurrying toward the willow clump from behind which he was accustomed to yelp triumphantly in Scotch’s rear. I raised the glass for a better look, all the time wondering where the visiting collie was keeping himself. I was unable to see him, yet I recollected he was with Scotch less than an hour before.
The lame coyote came round the willow clump as usual, and threw up his head as though to bay at the moon. Then the unexpected happened. On the instant, Scotch leaped into the air out of the willow clump, and came down upon the coyote’s back! They rolled about for some time, when the coyote finally shook himself free and started at a lively limping pace for the woods, only to be grabbed again by the visiting collie, which had been chasing the pack, and which I had mistaken for Scotch. The pack beat a swift retreat. For a time both dogs fought the coyote fiercely, but he at last tore himself free, and escaped into the pines, badly wounded and bleeding. I never saw him again. That night the visiting collie went home. As Scotch was missing that night for a time, I think he may have accompanied him at least a part of the way.
One day a young lady from Michigan came along and wanted to climb Long’s Peak all alone, without a guide. I agreed to consent to this if first she would climb one of the lesser peaks unaided, on a stormy day. This the young lady did, and by so doing convinced me that she had a keen sense of direction and an abundance of strength, for the day on which she climbed was a stormy one, and the peak was completely be fogged with clouds. After this, there was nothing for me to do but allow her to climb Long’s Peak alone.
Just as she was starting, that cool September morning, I thought to provide for an emergency by sending Scotch with her. He knew the trait well and would, of course, lead her the right way, providing she lost the trail. “Scotch,” said I, “go with this young lady, take good care of her, and stay with her till she returns. Don’t you desert her.” He gave a few barks of satisfaction and started with her up the trail, carrying himself in a manner which indicated that he was both honored and pleased. I felt that the strength and alertness of the young lady, when combined with the faithfulness and watchfulness of Scotch, would make the journey a success, so I went about my affairs as usual. When darkness came on that evening, the young lady had not returned.
She climbed swiftly until she reached the rocky alpine moorlands above timber-line. Here she lingered long to enjoy the magnificent scenery and the brilliant flowers. It was late in the afternoon when she arrived at the summit of the peak. After she had spent a little time there resting and absorbing the beauty and grandeur of the scene, she started to return. She had not proceeded far when clouds and darkness came on, and on a slope of slide-rock she lost the trail.
Scotch had minded his own affairs and enjoyed himself in his own way all day long. Most of the time he followed her closely, apparently indifferent to what happened, but when she, in the darkness, left the trail and started off in the wrong direction, he at once came forward, and took the lead with an alert, aggressive air. The way in which he did this should have suggested to the young lady that he knew what he was about, but she did not appreciate this fact. She thought he had become weary and wanted to run away from her, so she called him back. Again she started in the wrong direction; this time Scotch got in front of her and refused to move. She pushed him out of the way. Once more he started off in the right direction, and this time she scolded him and re minded him that his master had told him not to desert her. Scotch dropped his ears and sheepishly fell in behind her and followed meekly along. He had obeyed orders.
After traveling a short distance, the young lady realized that she had lost her way, but it never occurred to her that she had only to trust Scotch and he would lead her directly home. However, she had the good sense to stop where she was, and there, among the crags, by the stained remnants of winter’s snow, thirteen thousand feet above sea-level, she was to spend the night. The cold wind blew a gale, roaring and booming among the crags, the alpine brooklet turned to ice, while, in the lee of the crag, shivering with cold, hugging shaggy Scotch in her arms, she lay down for the night.
I had given my word not to go in search of her if she failed to return. However, I sent out four guides to look for her. They suffered much from cold as they vainly searched among the crags through the dark hours of the windy night. Just at sunrise one of them found her, almost exhausted, but, with slightly frost-bitten fingers, still hugging Scotch in her arms. He gave her food and drink and additional wraps, and without delay started with her down the trail. As soon as she was taken in charge by the guide, patient Scotch left her and hurried home. He had saved her life.
Scotch’s hair is long and silky, black with a touch of tawny about the head and a little bar of white on the nose. He has the most expressive and pleasing dog’s face I have ever seen. There is nothing he enjoys so well as to have some one kick the football for him. For an hour at a time he will chase it and try to get hold of it, giving an occasional eager, happy bark. He has good eyes, and these, with his willingness to be of service, have occasionally made him useful to me in finding articles which I, or some one else, had forgotten or lost on the trail. Generally it is difficult to make him understand just what has been lost or where he is to look for it, but when once he understands, he keeps up the search, sometimes for hours if he does not find the article before. He is always faithful in guarding any object that I ask him to take care of. I have but to throw down a coat and point at it, and he will at once lie down near by, there to remain until I come to dismiss him. He will allow no one else to touch it. His attitude never fails to convey the impression that he would die in defense of the thing intrusted to him, but desert it or give it up, never!
One February day I took Scotch and started up Long’s Peak, hoping to gain its wintry sum mit. Scotch easily followed in my snowshoe-tracks. At an altitude of thirteen thousand feet on the wind-swept steeps there was but little snow, and it was necessary to leave snowshoes behind. After climbing a short distance on these icy slopes, I became alarmed for the safety of Scotch. By and by I had to cut steps in the ice. This made the climb too perilous for him, as he could not realize the danger he was in should he miss a step. There were places where slipping from these steps meant death, so I told Scotch to go back. I did not, however, tell him to watch my snowshoes, for so dangerous was the climb that I did not know that I should ever get back to them myself. However, he went to the snow-shoes, and with them he remained for eight cold hours until I came back by the light of the stars.
On a few occasions I allowed Scotch to go with me on short winter excursions. He enjoyed these immensely, although he had a hard time of it and but very little to eat. When we camped among the spruces in the snow, he seemed to enjoy sitting by my side and silently watching the evening fire, and he contentedly cuddled with me to keep warm at night.
One cold day we were returning from a four days’ excursion when, a little above timber-line, I stopped to take some photographs. To do this it was necessary for me to take off my sheepskin mittens, which I placed in my coat-pocket, but not securely, as it proved. From time to time, as I climbed to the summit of the Continental Divide, I stopped to take photographs, but on the summit the cold pierced my silk gloves and I felt for my mittens, to find that one of them was lost. I stooped, put an arm around Scotch, and told him I had lost a mitten, and that I wanted him to go down for it to save me the trouble. “It won’t take you very long, but it will be a hard trip for me. Go and fetch it to me.” Instead of starting off hurriedly, willingly, as he had invariably done before in obedience to my commands, he stood still. His alert, eager ears drooped, but no other move did he make. I repeated the command in my most kindly tones. At this, instead of starting down the mountain for the mitten, he slunk slowly away toward home. It was clear that he did not want to climb down the steep icy slope of a mile to timber-line, more than a thousand feet below. I thought he had misunderstood me, so I called him back, patted him, and then, pointing down the slope, said, “Go for the mitten, Scotch; I will wait here for you.” He started for it, but went unwillingly. He had always served me so cheerfully that I could not understand, and it was not until late the next afternoon that I realized that he had not understood me, but that he had loyally, and at the risk of his life, tried to obey me.
The Cloud-Capped Continental Divide
The summit of the Continental Divide, where I stood when I sent him back, was a very rough and lonely region. On every hand were broken snowy peaks and rugged canons. My cabin, eighteen miles away, was the nearest house to it, and the region was utterly wild. I waited a reasonable time for Scotch to return, but he did not come back. Thinking he might have gone by without my seeing him, I walked some distance along the summit, first in one direction and then in the other, but, seeing neither him nor his tracks, I knew that he had not yet come back. As it was late in the afternoon, and growing colder, I decided to go slowly on toward my cabin. I started along a route that I felt sure he would follow, and I reasoned that he would overtake me. Darkness came on and still no Scotch, but I kept going forward. For the remainder of the way I told myself that he might have got by me in the darkness.
When, at midnight, I arrived at the cabin, I expected to be greeted by him, but he was not there. I felt that something was wrong and feared that he had met with an accident. I slept two hours and rose, but still he was missing, so I concluded to tie on my snowshoes and go to meet him. The thermometer showed fourteen below zero.
I started at three o’clock in the morning, feeling that I should meet him without going far. I kept going on and on, and when, at noon, I arrived at the place on the summit from which I had sent him back, Scotch was not there to cheer the wintry, silent scene.
I slowly made my way down the slope, and at two in the afternoon, twenty-four hours after I had sent Scotch back, I paused on a crag and looked below. There in the snowy world of white he lay by the mitten in the snow. He had misunderstood me, and had gone back to guard the mitten instead of to get it. He could hardly contain himself for joy when he saw me. He leaped into the air, barked, jumped, rolled over, licked my hand, whined, grabbed the mitten, raced round and round me, and did everything that an alert, affectionate, faithful dog could do to show that he appreciated my appreciation of his supremely faithful services.
After waiting for him to eat a luncheon, we started merrily towards home, where we arrived at one o’clock in the morning. Had I not re turned, I suppose Scotch would have died beside the mitten. In a region cold, cheerless, oppressive, without food, and perhaps to die, he lay down by the mitten because he understood that I had told him to. In the annals of dog heroism, I know of no greater deed.