From the archive: PG Wodehouse and the love of dogs

The Observer Magazine of 9 March 1975 featured PG Wodehouse writing about his dogs (‘Pekes, hounds and mutts I have known’). The article formed the introduction to Son of Bitch, a book of photographs (with a very un-Wodehousian title) by Elliott Erwitt . Perhaps press times precluded it but no mention is made that Wodehouse had died just a few weeks earlier. Wodehouse is pictured with his one-year-old stray, Boy, at his home on Long Island. ‘There is not a sitter in his gallery who does not melt the heart,’ he writes about Erwitt’s pictures. ‘And no beastly class distinctions, either. Thoroughbred or mutts, they are all here.’
A colleague gave him his first dog, a French bulldog named Sammy, ‘as amiable, and sweet-natured an animal as ever broke biscuit’. But when Sammy died, confesses Wodehouse, ‘I made what I think was a mistake by appointing as his successor an Aberdeen terrier who was supposed (though he seldom did) to answer to the name of Angus… Angus had a way of standing in front of me and looking at me like a Scottish preacher about to rebuke the sins of his congregation.’ One can only marvel over the following sentences – the first for its parenthetical descent and the second for being appallingly funny. ‘Over Bill, the foxhound, even Mr Erwitt, broadminded though he is, would, I’m afraid, have shaken his head. Bill was a stray in the last stages of starvation and so covered with ticks that only the keenest eye could detect that there was a dog underneath.’

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Finally, he considers the ‘hotly debated’ question of whether dogs have a sense of humour. ‘My own opinion is that some have and some don’t. Dachshunds have, but not St Bernards and Great Danes. Apparently a dog has to be small to be fond of a joke. You never find an Irish wolfhound trying to be a stand-up comic.’

Just perfect.