These words struck a chord with me because, gender apart, they could have been written about my dear wee Hamish, who was also much very much a creature of habit. In fact, the description comes from a letter written around 1880 by Emma Darwin, the wife of Charles Darwin, and they refer to Polly, the family terrier.
Charles Darwin died on 18th April 1882. Polly survived her master by only a few days. Darwin is reported* to have been "terribly fond of Polly and taught her to catch biscuits off her nose, and she sat with him patiently while he spent quiet hours working in his study".
Few great scientists come over as such likable human beings as Charles Darwin. Not only was he a devoted and loving father to his ten children, but throughout his life, he owned and adored a series of dogs. Spark, a nine year old black and white mongrel, provided solace to the nine year old Charles after the boy's mother died, and from then onwards Darwin's correspondence was peppered with references to his beloved pets, full of tenderness and amusement at their antics, and news of any accidents they suffered was reported with the same importance as a family wedding or a new baby. Had he been born two centuries later, who knows, might there even have been a Darwin's Dog Blog??
Back to Polly, the final and favourite dog. Here's what Francis Darwin had to say in a memoir about his father:
"He was delightful and tender to Polly, and never showed any impatience at the attentions she required, such as to be let in at the door, or out at the verandah window to bark at "naughty people", a self-imposed duty she much enjoyed".
The loving bond Darwin's evidently enjoyed with 'man's best friend' surely strengthened his belief that there was no shame in the notion of humans and animals sharing a common ancestry.
Dog lovers, we are in good company!
* from the book 'Darwin's Dogs: How Darwin's pets helped form a world-changing theory of evolution', by Emma Townshend.