Thursday, February 28, 2013

Today's Weird Historical Footnote: Dog Suicide in the 1890s

In the heyday of Yellow Journalism, the papers loved both outrageous stories about animals and emotional tear-jerkers. Writers at the New York World found a way to bring them together, via stories of dog suicide:
Nero, another Newfoundland, from New Jersey, was “buried with honors,” according to The World’s headline. Nero was a purebred dog with a working-class lineage. Despite his imperious name, he was the dog of Frank Hall, a railroad coal man, and a creature well known to the train engineers, who, the article reports, he would greet by running alongside the tracks. Nero was a cheerful dog, until Hall whipped him for tearing his daughter’s dress. After that, “the way he shunned the society of his little mistress and her companions; his silence and abstraction and loss of appetite, were all direct and irrefragable evidence of the deadly purpose that was forming in the canine mind.” He committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train (after drowning, this seems to have been the most popular method). The engineers who witnessed his death recalled Nero with tender affection. “It was as plain a case of suicide as you ever heard of,” said the driver of the offending train in The World. “I felt just as bad as if I had struck a man. It took all the nerve out of me.”
Shame, it seems was the main cause of canine self-destruction. J.P. Morgan's bulldog His Nibs, once a champion show dog, was held by the papers to have died of shame after being bested in battle by the neighbors' cat.

More here in great little article by John Patrick Leary.

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