A Dog's Tale (1904)

A Dog's Tale - Mark Twain, W. T. Smedley "My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian." and starts the tale of Aileen Mauvourneen.How often does one come across tales that leave you asking for more, as though the book had never ended? And imagine if it had to be mere 50 odd pages? No matter how unexpected but this was that book which left me feeling rather incomplete and what do they say, speechless?Being the kind of animal-lover that I am; especially dog-lover, I am always on the look-out for books on dogs, about dogs. It took me by surprise that I had missed this short yet intriguing story all these years when I accidentally stumbled across it on Librivox. So I audio-read the book which is as short as 35 minutes and the story is done.The beginning of the story goes like this,My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian. This is what my mother told me, I do not know these nice distinctions myself. To me they are only fine large wordsmeaning nothing. My mother had a fondness for such; she liked to say them, and see other dogs look surprised and envious, as wondering how she got so much education. But, indeed, it was not realeducation; it was only show: she got the words by listening in the dining-room and drawing-room when there was company, and by going with the children to Sunday-school and listening there; and whenever she heard a large word she said it over to herself many times, and so was able to keep it until there was a dogmatic gathering in the neighborhood, then she would get it off, and surprise anddistress them all, from pocket-pup to mastiff, which rewarded her for all her trouble.and I knew I am going to be hooked to it. But only to find it ending pretty too soon.Aileen narrates her life of how she is raised by an English family and then given away to a different family. There, she gives birth to her puppy and is living her life until one day the house of her new owners catches fire. She tries to rescue her owner's baby by pulling the baby out of fire when the owner sees her and misunderstands her and hits her with a stick that gives her a deep wound. She runs for life and hides in a secluded corner for hours, all starved but starts to miss her puppy. Later, her intention was discovered and the owners praise her for her deed. A short period later, the owners of Aileen who are science experts perform an experiment on her puppy who dies in the process and is buried in the owner's garden-yard. She learns what was done and yearns for her baby over the grave with a clear intention of doing so for the rest of her life.The story is simple yet captivating, short yet compelling, sweet yet aching. Its incredible what such a short story has to offer to its readers. Its packed with humor, grief, love, greed, and much more that makes the story so impressive and long-lasting in memories in just 50 pages which most 500 some page books these days fail to do. It tugs and then pulls at your heart wanting to make you cry and pull Aileen in a hug for so adorable she is.There are few things that the story holds for us, as human beings to understand and apply. When Aileen leaves her mother's house, her mother tells her,We were sent into this world for a wise and good purpose, and must do our duties without repining, takeour life as we might find it, live it for the best good of others, and never mind about the results; theywere not our affair. She said men who did like this would have a noble and beautiful reward by andby in another world, and although we animals would not go there, to do well and right without rewardwould give to our brief lives a worthiness and dignity which in itself would be a reward.I guess there is a far deeper message for us as human beings in there. To be lot more considerate about our actions toward other beings of the eco-system and stop using other inhabitants of the planet for our purposes.There is this instance in the end that made me realize that I was reading through teary eyes.It is when the servant carries Aileen's dead puppy to bury him in the garden. She helps him dig the ground for she thinks that the puppy will grow into a handsome dog like Robin Adair(another Presbyterian in the neighborhood she loved). But she realizes she was tricked, her baby was tricked when the servant says to her, ""Poor little doggie, you saved HIS child!". And she waits for weeks at the grave for her baby to grow and come out but he never does. She is so broken-hearted and depressed with anguish and doesn't help herself one grain of food.I know I have uncovered fairly good chunks from the book but I cannot stop myself from doing so for the sake of prospective readers of this book. Its a tale of sacrifice, selflessness, love, compassion and one's duties toward others. Its about being human and I, totally respect and admire the way Mr. Twain has put it across to his readers. Strikes a cord and makes one think about each of those times when they have done or seen someone mistreat/disregard animals. I cannot say I loved the book, I mean I cannot say enough. All through the book as I read it, I felt as though Aileen was talking straight to me. I laughed a lot and cried a lot more. More than once I imagined Alfey in place of her. But I guess that's what happens when you own pets, their grief becomes yours even if its just fiction.Well, if you've really read the review till this last word, do yourself a favor. Read this book, whether or not you like animal literature.