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LITTLE DOG TOBY

Rachel Field (1894 – 1942) - sent in by Fred Lanting, Int'l All Breed Judge and SAAB Member

 

He was not always called Little Dog Toby. In fact, for the first few months of his life he had no name at all. In the tumble-down house in London where he lived, he was known just as the little yellow dog under the stairs.

 

 

And he was a very yellow dog indeed, with a pointed nose, big shining eyes, little paws, and almost no tail to speak of. But he made up for not having much of a tail by being brighter and quicker than any of his brothers and sisters. When he was still a puppy, he taught himself to sit up and beg and to walk on his hind legs.

 

There were always a great many children running up and down the stairs of the old house. Sometimes they tied a piece of rope round the little dog’s neck and took him out walking. The little dog liked that. There was the London Bridge to see, with people and wagons moving across it. Sometimes, too, he saw long strings of dark gray barges moving slowly on the river. Then there were the street peddlers. Soon the little yellow dog knew them all. There was the Muffin Man with his bell who cried his hot muffins.

 

There were men who cried, “Old Clothes” and “Old Chairs to Mend.” One of them had a song: “If I’d as much money as I could spend, I never would cry Old chairs to mend, Old chairs to mend, Old chairs to mend.” Then, there were women calling, “Strawberries, scarlet strawberries!" and “Cherries, round and sound!” and: “Who’ll buy my sweet lavender? Only a penny for a bunch of lavender!”

 

Best of all, he liked to see the Cat and Dog Meat Man come by with his cart, and hear him call, “Cat’s Meat! Dog’s Meat! Who’ll buy my nice fresh cat and dog’s meat?” It made the little dog’s mouth water to hear him.

 

The Punch and Judy Show: Sometimes the children took the little yellow dog to the park. It was a beautiful green park with trees and yards and yards of the nicest-smelling grass. There were also ducks and swans swimming on a round pond, and horses and riders going by along at path.

 

Then there were plenty of wooden benches painted a nice bright green, where the children could sit down and rest. Sometimes when they did this, the little yellow dog found close by the bench a fountain with a low bowl where he could get a cool drink of water. This was not a drinking fountain for people but one for dogs. In lots of places in London the little yellow dog had seen them. They were put close to the ground and the stone on the side had words on it. The words read, “Drink, doggie, drink.”

 

One fine day when they were in the park, something happened. The little dog heard a sound like thunder. He was so surprised that his tongue hung out and his little tail stopped in the middle of a Wag.

 

“Boom —— Boom —— Boom!” went the noise. “It’s a drum!” said the children. “It’s a Punch and Judy Show!” and they began to run.

 

Under some trees by the gate was a brightly painted little stage set up on an old two-wheeled cart. There were striped curtains that hung to the ground, and scarlet and gold curtains across the little stage, and stars and a moon painted on top. The curtains were parting! The little play began. There was Mr. Punch himself with his long nose, and Judy, and the Baby, and the Policeman. But this was not all —oh, no! This was one Punch and Judy show in a hundred, for it had a live actor.

 

There he was — a little white dog no bigger than the yellow puppy looking up from the sidewalk. He had a clown’s ruff around his neck and a little red coat on his back. “Look! Look! It’s Little Dog Toby!” said the children. “It’s a real live Little Dog Toby!”

 

And so it was; and he went through his part of the show perfectly. When the right time came, he jumped at Mr. Punch’s long nose; and all the little boys and girls laughed and clapped their hands at that. When the curtains closed, the man began to pass his hat around for pennies. When he came near the little yellow dog, up sat that little dog as straight as he could, holding out his paws.

 

“Well, well!” said the man. “This is a trick dog, himself! My Toby is getting old. Children, I’d like to buy this little yellow dog from you and make a Little Dog Toby out of him for my show.”

 

So, the Punch and Judy man, whose real name was Mr. Hicks, bought the little yellow dog, then and there, and took him home with him. The little yellow dog had many things to learn. Mr. Hicks taught him his part in the show, and he learned to bark and growl at the right times. He had to do his part without help from Mr. Hicks, who was busy with the dolls. Punch and Judy and the Baby and the Policeman were dolls, of course. Mr. Hicks sat under the stage where he couldn’t be seen and moved the dolls around and talked for them. He even cried for the Baby.

 

 

At last, the old Dog Toby went to live with Mr. Hicks’s sister and our Little Dog Toby began his life as an actor. And a fine one he was! Every time he jumped for Mr. Punch’s nose he made the crowd laugh, and more and more pennies were dropped into the hat.

 

Little Dog Toby became quite a hero, too, in that part of London. One time a man slipped up to the back of the Punch and Judy Show and tried to take Mr. Hicks’s box of pennies. Little Dog Toby saw him and made a jump for his nose. He held on to that nose as hard as he ever held on to Mr. Punch’s. He was still holding on when the police came.

 

By Command: In the summer, Mr. Hicks and Toby took the cart and the show to the Park. In the winter they often set it up outside a toy shop because many children came there. The toy-shop man and his wife were great friends of Mr. Hicks.

 

One cold afternoon when Toby was in the middle of the show, he saw the Little Boy. He was standing alone at the edge of the crowd and Toby thought he had never seen any child that liked the show so well. He laughed and clapped and hopped up and down and he never once took his eyes off Toby.

 

Toby was used to this by now, but there was something about this Little Boy that made you look at him. It wasn’t just his clothes, though they were finer than most. It was the way his eyes shone and the way he held his head and shoulders so straight, while he stood watching with his hands in his pockets. Each time Toby looked at him, he was pushing his way closer and closer to the stage. Then just as things were at their best and Toby was ready to jump at Mr. Punch’s nose, a tall soldier rushed into the crowd and led the Little Boy away.

 

The Little Boy kept turning back as if he wanted very much to stay. Toby saw the people looking at the soldier and the Little Boy, and he saw the toy shop man and his wife bowing to them long after they had gone down the street.

 

When it was nearly dark, Mr. Hicks shut up the show and got ready to go home. Just as they started, there came a great clatter of horse’s hoofs. A soldier in a splendid scarlet coat stopped beside them.

 

A great many people came from near-by doorways to see what the soldier wanted. The soldier put a paper into Mr. Hicks’s hands. Then he rode away again. The paper was signed by the King. It said that the next afternoon Toby was to come to Buckingham Palace!

 

To Buckingham Palace to give a show for the King’s son! Toby heard the toy shop man’s wife say, “Sent for to Buckingham Palace to give a show! Well, I never! And ‘by command,’ too!”

 

Mr. Hicks said he was just about knocked off his feet. “Well, Toby boy,” he said, “we had best be getting along home. We’ve got a lot to do before tomorrow!” Toby learned that night that some of it was to give him such a washing as he had never had in his life before.

 

Three o’clock the next afternoon found them on their way, with Toby riding on top of the show wagon as his master pushed it before him. Buckingham Palace! Toby could never remember all that happened.

 

But there were a lot of soldiers and servants, and after a while they were in a great room with soft rugs on the floor and mirrors on the wall. Mr. Hicks put up the Punch and Judy Show and Toby took his place on the stage. A big door opened and in came two children with some fine ladies and gentlemen. When Toby saw that one of the children was the Little Boy, he barked out loud before it was time to bark.

 

 

The Little Boy crowded close to the stage and the show began. Over and over they acted it until it grew dark and servants had to put on the lights. “Come,” said a lady bending over the Little Boy, “Dog Toby must be tired now. We must let him and his master go to the supper that is waiting for them.”

 

And such a supper as it was! Toby had a whole plate of roast beef and the biggest bone he had ever seen. And not only that! When they went home, Mr. Hicks had a pocket full of money, enough money so that he and Toby would not have to go out with the show on cold or snowy days.

 

On warm days in the Park, you can see them. But you will see something that you never will see in any other Punch and Judy Show in London. Tied to Little Dog Toby’s collar is a card with red letters that reads: “Dog Toby, by Special Appointment to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales.”

 

Rachel Lyman Field was an American novelist, poet and children's fiction writer. She is best known for the Newbery Award–winning "Hitty, Her First Hundred Years", a children's novel published in 1929.

TheDogPlace.org EST 1998 © January 2022 https://www.thedogplace.org/Prose-and-Poetry/Little-Dog-Toby-f22L021.asp

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