The Faithful Friend *

Mary Newmans cottage, Saltash

* Suitable for a bedtime story

“Where do you go, boy?” asked Thomas Parkin of the dog that visited his house in Saltash.  Every day the dog would turn up at the door and wait patiently until someone in the house took pity on him and gave him some scraps of meat. He would wolf down a couple and then trot off with the rest dangling from his mouth. No one knew where he took the meat.

The family wondered at the mystery. The little dog didn’t look underfed. Why was he storing the meat? Wouldn’t it go bad?  They tried to follow but the dog was too quick and too cunning for them.

Then one Sunday the dog turned up with a blind mastiff in tow. The mastiff walked slowly and carefully. He was nudged along by the smaller dog until they arrived at the Parkin’s door. Both dogs sat; the big old blind one and the small younger one. It was the younger one who whined and begged prettily for food. The family couldn’t resist. When the meal was over and all scraps eaten, the two dogs turned and left.

The whole family followed the pair as they made their slow way out of Saltash to a field. They watched as the younger dog guided the old one to a well- worn bed in a sheltered corner in the brakes. The mastiff sniffed and then curled himself up with a sigh. The younger dog sat down beside him.

From then on the small dog would come for his daily meat which he would take up to the old blind dog in the field. Somehow the dogs would know when it was Sunday or a feast day and the pair of them would turn up at the door to join in the festivities. This went on until the old dog died.

Thomas Parkin told the tale to Robert Carew who wrote it in his book A Survey of Cornwall in 1602. It made such an impression that when Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, published his book on his travels through the British Isles in 1725 and described Saltash, he mentioned this story.

retold by Liz Berg

  • Saltash