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Fire Eating Djijam, edited by Andrew Lang


Some curious notes about walking unharmed through fire, in the November (1894) number of ‘Longman’s Magazine,’ under the heading ‘At the Sign of the Ship,’ suggested that a record might be kept of Djijam’s eccentricities, especially as they differed somewhat from those of most other dogs. Anyone accustomed to animals knows, and anyone who is not can imagine, that dogs differ as much in their behaviour and ways as human beings. Djijam was as unlike any dog I have ever had, seen, or heard of, as could be. My wife, who is a patient and successful instructor of animals, never managed to teach him anything, any attempt to impart usual or unusual accomplishments being met with the most absolute, impenetrable idiocy, which no perseverance could conquer or diminish in the least degree. That this extreme stupidity was really assumed is now pretty clear, though at the time it was attributed to natural density.

It was at Christmas-tide, about two years ago, that my wife and I drove over to a village some few miles away, to choose one of a litter of four fox-terrier pups, which we heard were on sale at a livery stable. We found the mother of the lively litter almost overpowered by her boisterous progeny, who though nearly three months old had not yet found other homes. Without any particular objection on the part of the parent we examined the pups, and selected and brought away one which seemed to have better points than the rest, whom we left to continue their gambols in the straw, unconscious probably that any other  means of warming themselves were possible. The journey home was accomplished with the customary puppish endeavors to escape restraint. The same evening, after the servants had retired to bed, Master Djijam was placed in the kitchen, out of harm’s way as it was thought. The last thing at night we went to inspect the little animal, and could not at first discover his whereabouts. When a thing is lost it is customary to hunt about in unlikely places, so we looked into the high cinder-box under the kitchener, and found the object of our search comfortably curled up directly under the red-hot fire. It was fairly warm work fishing him out.

For another reason, not connected with heat, he was subsequently christened Djijam, a truly oriental name, which some of our friends think may have helped to develop his original taste for fire.

When Djijam was about six months old we observed that he frequently jumped up to people who were seated smoking. This induced a humorous friend one day to offer him the lighted end of a cigarette, which Djijam promptly seized in his mouth and extinguished. After that triumph Djijam usually watched for, and plainly demanded the lighted fag ends of cigarettes and cigars, so that his might be the satisfaction of finishing them off. This led to lighted matches being offered to him, which he eagerly took in his mouth, and if wax vestas, swallowed as a welcome addition to his ordinary diet. From matches to lighted candles was an easy step, and these he rapidly extinguished with great gusto as often as they were presented to him. He would also attack lighted oil lamps if placed on the floor, but they puzzled him, and defied his efforts to bite or breathe them out. A garden bonfire used to drive him wild with delight, and snatching brands from the fire, indoors or out, was a delirious joy. My wife discovered him once in the full enjoyment of a large lighted log on the dining-room carpet. Red-hot cinders he highly relished, though in obtaining them he frequently  singed off his moustaches. Perhaps the oddest of his fiery tricks was performed one day when he wished the cook to hand him some dainty morsel on which she chanced to be operating. This was against the rules, as he well knew, so she declined to accept the hint. Djijam was at once provoked to anger and cast round for some way of obtaining compensation, at the same time hoping, perhaps, to retaliate. He naturally went for the kitchen fire, out of which he drew a red-hot cinder and carried it in his mouth across the kitchen, through a small lobby into the scullery, to his box-bed, into the straw of which he must have speedily dropped the live coal, and jumped in after it. Soon after, the cook smelt wood burning and searched the lower part of the house lest anything were afire. Finding nothing wrong, she last of all visited the scullery, and found Djijam enjoying the warmth of his smouldering straw bed and wooden box.

Djijam pulls a log out of the fire


Alas, Djijam grew snappish even to his best friends, and although it was suggested that he might be found an engagement on the Variety stage of the Westminster Aquarium, as a fire-eating hound, it was reluctantly decided that he should go the way of all flesh. I am sure if he had been asked, he would in some way have indicated that he preferred cremation to any other mode of disposal. But it was not to be, yet it was a melancholy satisfaction to learn that his end was peaceful though commonplace.