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One Man’s Court Case to Re-Claim & Reunite his Dog Jim with his Performing Cat Soot

This gem comes from UNDINE. As a former Municipal Court Judge I have witnessed some interesting and unorthodox testimony. However, I can say this story takes the cake. The following case unfolded in a London courtroom in the Victorian era. This Case appeared in November 23, 1878 issue of the “Illustrated Police News.” When the Dog refused to perform, it reminded me of Michigan J. Frog. Enjp

William Needham, of Lucas-street, Commercial-road East, appeared to answer a summons taken out against him by “Professor” Moffat, trainer of performing animals, for detaining a black and tan English terrier dog. Mr. Moffat, who resides at 40 Dean-street, Commercial-road, said he was a trainer of “professional” dogs, sheep, goats and other animals. It was his business to instruct the creatures in the particular line in which they were required to perform. About nine months ago he had a black and tan terrier dog in his possession, but by some means the dog got astray and he lost it. Last week, when he was passing through High-street, Stepney, he saw the dog in the defendant’s possession, and at once went up and claimed the animal. The defendant, however, declared that the dog belonged to him, and refused to part with it. They together went with an officer to the Arbour-square station, and then, as defendant still persisted in his refusal to part with the dog, the inspector on duty advised witness to apply to the court for a summons, and this he accordingly did.

Mr. Lushington inquired how witness identified the dog. Witness said he identified it from its general appearance, also from some marks it had on its head. The dog was a great favourite, and shortly before witness lost it had been in the habit of going through the “trapeze” business with a cat. (Laughter.) His worship: What? A performing cat? I did not knew there was such an animal. Witness said that he had a performing cat, and he believed it to be the only performing cat in Europe or the world. The dog, whose “professional” name was “Soot,” could do the “trapeze” very well, with “Jim,” the cat. (Laughter.) The witness added that he had the cat with him, and with his worship’s permission he would show him what the cat could do. He then put his hand into a capacious bag he had with him and produced the renowned “Jim,” to the gaze of the audience.

Although there were a large number of persons standing about the Court, “Jim” seemed nothing daunted at his position in the witness box, but looked round with a self-satisfied and complacent air. At a word of command from his master he stretched himself out stiffly, as if dead, lying thus for some few minutes, apparently oblivious to all around. At the words “fat mutton,” however, Puss at once started into active life and frisked and gamboled about like a three months’ old kitten. He was then told to answer to his name when called upon, which he did in a series of loud “mews,” and he followed this by standing straight up on his hind legs and kissing his master with apparently much affection. Mr. Moffat then held up a stick, on which “Jim” jumped, and hung by his hind legs, swinging about a la Leotard amidst considerable laughter.

Mr. Moffatt then called to the dog, who, however, did not come forward to perform his part as “Jim” had done. Two witnesses then were then examined for the complainant, and they had seen the dog, and believed it to be the property of Mr. Moffatt.

In reply to the case, the defendant stated that he had had the dog four years and a half. It was given him by a female friend who was about to go abroad. He called witnesses to prove that this was the case, and one of them, a Mr. Bann, was very positive as to the identity of the animal. His worship enquired what made him so sure. Witness: Oh, some long time ago, sir, he bit me in the leg, and I have always remembered him well ever since. (Laughter.) His worship: Then the dog is no friend or yours? Witness: Oh, no, sir; an enemy. (Renewed laughter.) After some further evidence had been called, his worship stated that he did not think the complainant had made out his title to the dog, and he therefore dismissed the summons.

Story from Strange Company , A walk on the weird side of history, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, Newspaper Clipping of the Day

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