X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Notes on...

Why every child should know a dog

Kipling got it right: ‘Buy a pup and your money will buy/ Love unflinching that cannot lie’

11 February 2017

9:00 AM

11 February 2017

9:00 AM

Henry, our springer spaniel, has died, suddenly and prematurely. With the passing weeks, we are becoming accustomed to the strange stillness his absence has left behind, and I no longer expect to meet him hurtling around the house in motiveless delight or to find him sidling against my leg as I sit in the kitchen. We do adapt quite quickly to life post-dog, though the sadness lingers.

Sir Walter Scott knew this. ‘I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives,’ he wrote, ‘and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or 12 years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?’

The allotted ten or 12 years, or eight and a half in Henry’s case, are also a lifetime from the perspective of a child. Our daughter was three when Henry joined us, and ten when he left. She can barely remember life without him by her side.


Although a friend to all, Henry was particularly drawn to children and enjoyed a devoted and ludic relationship with the girl. They went adventuring together; he willingly performed his rather limited repertoire of tricks for her; he slept in her room. Most of all, he offered her unquestioning companionship and comfort. Any great adversity or perceived injustice would see her retreat to her room with the dog. She would cry into his fur and he would love every second of it.

Every child should have a dog. Children thrive on giving and receiving love and as Kipling said in his poem ‘The Power of the Dog’: ‘Buy a pup and your money will buy/ Love unflinching that cannot lie.’ It must be the only love that money can, in a way, buy.

As well as emotional nourishment, dogs bring tangible health benefits. It is well documented that just about the most advantageous thing parents can do for their offspring is to introduce a dog to the household. Babies who live with a dog are, according to some research at least, 31 per cent more likely to be healthy in their first year than their dog-deprived counterparts, because the presence of a dog enriches the infant microbiome and stimulates a robust immune system. Cats offer only a fragment of the same benefit — and little else besides.

Dogs do occasionally like to test the character of their owners with particular challenges, but Henry’s criminal tendencies, which mostly involved eating things that were either revolting (putrified corpses) or idiotic (linoleum), were offset by his willingness to enslave himself to the girl. In return he hoped for a degree of absolution, which was usually forthcoming, when, for example, he vomited a rabbit’s backbone on to the bedroom floor or chewed the legs off a favourite toy. Forgiveness is another thing a dog encourages.

Life’s hectic arc is better experienced for the first time through the canine microcosm. The great tragedy is that the final and harshest lesson the dog teaches is the one the child must face alone, with no fur to cry against. ‘So why in Heaven (before we are there)/ Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?’ cried Kipling. Because — as he knew well and our child knows now — of that shared, unflinching love.

 

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close