You may or may not recall the name of Stanley Pleeber, the late Boston-based collector of rare manuscripts, precious artworks and postcards with horses on them. I assembled some ‘random facts’ pertaining to his strange life on this very blog a year or so ago (you’ll find most of them here). Amongst other things, I commented on his dislike of bronze sculpture, his fondness for seagulls and his conspicuous lack of similarity to Harry Elkins Widener. I also mentioned his fear of dogs: one of many impediments to his instinct for adventure. ‘If I hear a dog yapping in a man’s house, I do not enter that house’, he said once. This turned out to be an understatement. If he heard a dog yapping anywhere, Pleeber’s reaction was to run as fast and far as he could. He simply could not abide dogs.
Further proof (if needed) is offered by a book I uncovered in his archives, entitled ‘Diary of Dogs Without Bite’. In this volume, Pleeber made a note of every dog he had encountered against his will – and whether or not it had bitten him. Though Pleeber did his best to avoid dogs, the list was long. He came across many dogs: it was inevitable. ‘I am plagued by malicious beasts,’ he once complained: ‘I dream of pulling dogs out of my hair. They are simply everywhere’. What is remarkable about this diary, however, is that for all the hundreds of dog encounters it lists, there is no mention of having been bitten. For the truth is: Pleeber never was bitten. He aimed to make a note of how many dogs he could pass without suffering an attack. The answer was: all dogs.
But did he soften? Did he indeed. Irrational fears change shape, but they never soften.