27 JANUARY 1956, Page 25

The Actor's Dog

ACCORDING to my local paper, a man appeared before the magistrates last week and applied for the restora- tion of his driving licence; it had been suspended for a Year, , of which some nine months were up. 'The applicant told the court he was an actor and had started rehearsals for a play shortly to go on tour. Another reason—it sounded al silly one—why he wanted a car was because this would enable, him to take his dog on tour with him, which would not be possible if he had no car.' His application was granted.

One of my troubles is that I seem to be able to read the newspapers in a reasonably alert and conscientious way with- out my eyes ever actually conveying any message to my brain. They travel down column after column of news and comment about things that matter with .the same diligence with which they watch me shaving in the mirror. Afterwards I remember reading a long article about inflation, or the politics of France, in the same way that I remember having shaved; but there is precious little to choose between the intellectual increment from either process. It is only upon matters of the utmost unimportance that my attention seems capable of riveting itself, and to these I devote the anxious thought which better men reserve for the hydrogen bomb and the cost of living index. This regrettable tendency Was instantaneously brought into play by the report which I have quoted above. My sympathies ranged themselves automatically on the side of the young actor. His admission that his wish to take his dog with him on tour might sound silly to the Olympian bench struck me as disarming; and I quite saw his point that he could not take the dog unless he had his car to take it in. Ordinary railway tickets are expensive enough, but at least some attempt is made to provide suitable accommodation for the passenger who buys one. Dog tickets are also extremely expensive, but no attempt is made to cater for the comfort of the dog or to define his rights (if any) as a traveller.

He is not, according to the regulations, allowed on the seat. If he is a large dog and the carriage is full, there is not enough room for him on the floor, which in winter is often both wet and draughty. He can be put on a chain and tied up in the inhospitable guard's van, but all dogs dislike this form of solitary confinement in noisy and unfamiliar surroundings and some dogs dislike it very much. On a long journey the dog is not allowed in the restaurant car, and although the staff are invariably ready to provide a meal of scraps or a drink of water they are not equipped with a receptacle for the dog to eat or drink out of, and the dog's master has to lurch to and fro along the corridor with an over-flowing soup-plate. And what is supposed to happen to the dog while his master has his meal?

I am an anti-guard's-van man, because I know that my dog, although he would behave sensibly, would be worried and unhappy at being separated from me..For this reason, on the rare occasions when I go to Scotland by train, I do not book a sleeper in advance but present myself to the sleeping car attendant on the train and ask whether there is an empty sleeper and if so will he connive at my dog travelling in it with me? Since this , is against the regulations everything depends on the attendant; and, if he refuses, the dog and 1 spend the night in an ordinary compartment. This prevents us from worrying about each other and me from lying awake and composing an exigent and unreasonable letter to The Times. But it is not—considering how much the railways charge for dog tickets—an altogether satisfactory arrange- ment, and I dOn't see why there shouldn't be some recognised system—such as the payment of a deposit to be forfeited if the dog misbehaves itself—which would offer an alternative to the lonely austerities of the guard's van.

Glad though I am that the actor is not to be deprived of the society of his dog, I cannot help wondering how far the sagacious creature is destined to accompany him up the rungs of the theatrical ladder. Irving, it is true, had a succession of dogs. The most celebrated of them—Fussy, a terrier who had been given to Ellen Terry by Fred Archer, the jockey, and passed on by her to Irving—met his death by falling through a trap door in the stage of a Manchester theatre; next day Irving took Fussy up to London (a ticket, alas, was no longqr necessary) and buried him in the dogs' cemetery in Hyde Park.

But Irving moved on a loftier plane, and in a more feudal atmosphere, than is likely to be the case with a young actor setting out on tour today. Will his landladies, or the colleagues with whom—unless the play has an abnormally small cast— he will have to share a dressing room, take a favourable view of the dog? Much depends on the animal itself; but even if it has the nicest possible nature and is extremely well trained I have an uneasy suspicion that it may not advance the pro- fessional prospects of its owner. It may never get the chance to follow him effusively on to the stage and spoil his or (more probably and much worse) somebody else's big scene; but between them they will be lucky if, in their journey through the provinces. a tendency does not arise for the actor's fellow- artistes to refer to the dog as that damned dog.'

I hope they are lucky, all the same. STR1X