I've said it before, I'll say it again: I have a very soft spot for a sailor. (There are many in my family.) And that's why I was attracted to this sympathetic passage about seafaring men's kind hearts and pet-nurturing ways.
* * *As a general rule, sailors are most successful in the domestication of animals. They are so utterly fearless, so childlike, and so forbearing, that they can manage to overcome the roughest and most crabbed of living beings. Every one knows that a child can have no better nurse than a sailor. The fine fellows take instinctively to children, and children to them; and they have not the least idea of any false shame if seen while tending a child. These characteristics render them admirable teachers and trainers of animals. They will have a pet of some sort; and if they cannot obtain one of the ordinary and legitimate pets, they will take to the most unlikely creatures. . .
A ship's bear leads a strange life, very like that of a college dog. He is dressed in all kinds of uniforms; he is made to eat and drink the most remarkable solids and liquids; and the great object of his masters seems to be that he should be taught to smoke a pipe,—a feat never yet performed, as far as I can make out, by any animal except man. . .
There is always a share of the mess for the ship's pet, whatever that might be; and every man would cheerfully deprive himself of half his rations rather than his pet should be hungry. . .
Any one who wishes to appreciate the manner in which a ship's company will treat an animal, should read Captain Basil Hall's account of the pig Jean and her treatment by the men. It is positively affecting, as well as extremely ludicrous (and I really appreciate someone who sees both at once - curator), to read the account of that pig, and to see how the sailors took a fancy to her; how they actually begged her life when she was destined for the butcher's knife; how they fed her until she was so fat that she could not stand, much less walk; how they attended to all her wants, and actually put food into her mouth as she lay, huge and helpless upon deck, a very mountain of a sow, with all her feet pointing to the sky through sheer exuberance of fat.
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from John George Wood, Glimpses Into Petland (London: Bell and Daldy, 1863) pp. 192-4.