I suppose one ought to TRY to be fair, even if one is posting material for the Interwebs. This column, some months ago, did suggest that dogs on postcards are primarily concerned with indiscriminate urination. Although you can find a lot of postcards to demonstrate this (I have plenty more you haven’t seen yet), dogs on postcards did many, many other things.
We will set aside any serious postcards involving dogs. We are here concerned with the cartoonists. Our ancestors, who lived in a less sanitary and tidied-up world, were made aware of dogs just about any day, at any time of the day or night. And they were aware of all sorts of other activities a dog might pursue in the day’s schedule. Dogs on postcards sleep in the sun, sniff each other’s backsides (mostly on postcards of the midcentury and later), had sex in public (also primarily mid-century, and then mostly on cards bought at penny arcades), stole food, scratched fleas (especially on all those “Itching to Hear From You” cards). had tin cans tied to their tails (mainly early in the century this time, thank goodness, though the decline in tin can jokes is probably less due to our growing kindness and more to a lack of cans), tore up random toys and other objects, sniffed at the bases of trees and lamp posts, chased cats, chased rats, chase chickens, chased cars, chased their tails, and, especially, chased people.
Bulls and goats will often be found chasing people on postcards, but this was increasingly a rural pursuit (literally.) Dogs, being as urban as people, could be found guarding their home territory (whatever they perceived that to be, in their complex canine craniums) I suspect the dude at the top of this column actually had the dog sicced on him by Annabelle’s father, but in general, no motive is really needed. In the following case, the rather pudgy bulldog may simply have decided that this was quarry he might actually be able to catch.
Ditto this sturdy fellow. There is no immediate or obvious reason for either of these apparently well-to-do passersby offended the dogs on duty (this one, in fact, doesn’t have his jacket on, so he may have been indoors when the chase began.)
Perhaps the dogs involved were sent to pursue a man with the intent of fetching him home. (This is an unusual card in many ways: consider the comparative heights of the woman, the man, and the dog. Make a spot in your nightmare schedule for this trio.)
The job of the watchdog is, of course, to chase away intruders. This chap seems harmless, but someone who had an honest purpose in coming around would head for the gate in this situation. No, the miscreant obviously came into the yard by way of the fence and wants very much to depart the same way.
This man’s clothes and beard mark him as a hobo, a traveling man whose profession, or lack thereof, led him to become familiar with all the dogs along the road. Knowing when and where to run was essential to a long career for such men.
As time went on, of course, even those who believed in having a few canines of mass destruction on hand realized there was a certain fuss and mess involved to letting them run free to pursue any passing suspect. And this is where we start getting the jokes about muzzles and chains.
And, of course, the postcard featuring those really responsible homeowners who raised a sign to warn passersby of the presence of a vicious guard animal.