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An Officer's Dog by Bob Thornburgh


Fort Omaha, Nebraska, March 2, 1880.

I am eight years old, and I have a Gordon setter—liver and white—just as old as I am. His name is Paul. He was born in Tennessee, and given to my papa as a puppy, and soon learned to be a good retriever, to carry newspapers and bundles, and to bring papa's slippers to him.

When I was old enough to crawl, he would watch to see that I did not get hurt, and if I got too near a flight of steps, he would stand between me and them, and pull my dress to get me away. If I went to crawl under him, he would lie down, and over him, he would stand up, and so guarded me safe till my nurse came, and she often found me asleep with my head on Paul's back, who kept still till I waked up.

At Fort Foote, Maryland, Paul became an excellent hunter, and was out with my papa nearly every day, bringing home plenty of quail and other game. He was a happy dog, taking great interest in garrison life, always attending retreat and tattoo with the officer of the day, and even going the rounds with him on his tour of inspection after midnight. No weather was too bad for Paul, who knew every note of the bugle, and was always on hand at the proper "call."

When we went to Fort Brown, Texas, Paul staid behind for cooler weather; then he was sent around by sea from New York. He landed at Point Isabel, and came over by rail to Brownsville, where my papa met him early one morning. Paul barked a welcome at once, and was wild with joy when papa released him from the box in which he had travelled, and let him run after him out to our quarters. I was still asleep, but Paul knew I must be near, so he ran all over the house till he found my bed, when he jumped in, and lay down beside me; it woke me up, and we had a fine meeting, after six months' separation.

When I went out to ride on my Mexican pony—General Robertson—with our boy Florentio, then Paul, and then Billy (my goat), we made quite a procession. Paul always looked so dignified, and never noticed one of Billy's tricks, who pranced along, butting him in the funniest way, and trying to attract his attention.

Poor Paul's misfortunes began in Texas, where a large black dog bit him through the shoulder, causing a lameness that has never left him, and making him hate all black dogs.

After I went North, Paul went with my papa all over Texas, from one fort to another, and always rode in his ambulance, which he would leave for no one but him. At one of the upper posts he once followed a deserter—who had fed him—and to avoid suspicion, the man put Paul down a deep hole, and left him. After searching some time, my papa at last found him; but he was almost starved, as he had had nothing to eat for several days.

Paul next went with us to Omaha, where he suffered from the great change of climate, and was too lame for much hunting. He was very jealous of our two other dogs, Tom and Bill, and would not let them come near my sister, brother, or me.

Then we went to Fort Steele, Wyoming, where he hunted a little, and played with me a great deal. The high and dry air did him good. He was very fond of my little brother George—our "Centennial baby," whose birthday was the 22d of February. When George and I got the scarlet fever, Paul would visit both our rooms, and look so sorry for us. After Georgie "fell asleep," Paul would trot off every day, alone, to the cemetery, and lie down by his "resting-place" awhile, then get up and walk home again, his mind satisfied.

Paul has always been an "officer's dog," and never visited the barracks at any post, and will not follow soldiers, except the one who feeds him. He dislikes citizens, and any stranger not in uniform arouses his suspicions at once, and he watches him closely till satisfied he is a friend of ours; but did he wear uniform, it would be all right at first.

Paul is now at Fort Omaha on the "retired list," and valued for "the good he has done." He is getting as fat as a seal, and has the gout—my sister says the go-out. But he's a good old fellow. My grandpa takes Harper's Young People for me, and I like it so much I thought I would like to tell you about my dog.