The Dog’s Life (Based on a Fable by Aesop)
One day in midsummer, as the sun began to set, the heat of the day waned a little and all the forest animals crept slowly out of shady hiding places. They moved quietly through the forest to the stream where they met every night to drink.
The summer’s heat was hard on the animals, but most exhausted of all the creatures was Wolf, who suffered from both hunger and thirst. He had grown thin and tired, and his coat was dry and ragged. He often wondered what might become of him, living as he did in the forest, but as he walked to the stream, he gazed up at the full moon rising and at the evening star. The forest was a beautiful place, he thought. Walking along, he soon passed by the farmer’s house. He glanced toward the house, across the rolling green of the lawn, and spotted Dog lolling in the long grass.
“Good evening,” Wolf called to Dog.
“Good evening to you,” Dog answered as he trotted to the gate to greet Wolf. The dog was a friendly creature, and he often longed for the company. Whenever he watched the others moving past his home, he wondered what it might be like to join them. “Where are you headed on this fine evening?” he asked.
“I’m heading toward the stream to drink,” Wolf replied. “If you like, you may join me.”
The dog was delighted with this offer. He looked around, checking to make sure his master was nowhere nearby, and then ran to Wolf’s side and walked along with him to the stream.
“You are handsome,” Wolf said admiringly. “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a beautiful coat like yours.”
Dog raised his head high with pride, for he was proud of his shining coat. “Thank you, Wolf,” he said.
“And how do you keep looking so well-fed?” Wolf asked. “That surprises me, for I am often starving. How do you manage it, Dog?”
Again Dog raised his head. “That’s no problem at all,” he told Wolf. “I am fed day and night. I eat the most wonderful foods you might imagine. And I sleep in comfort in a lovely home. Why there’s no secret at all to my marvelous coat and a full stomach. I live a life of luxury.”
“What must you do in return for all your luxuries?” Wolf asked.
“I guard the house,” Dog replied, looking again over his shoulder. He would have to hurry home once nightfall came, for his master counted on him to watch the place at night.
“That sounds easy enough,” Wolf said. “I envy you, for at present I live in the woods and must endure the heat of the day and the mosquitoes and dragonflies and ants. They crawl up on my skin sometimes, and I rarely have enough to eat. You see, I share the forest food with all the other creatures. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live the life you live.”
“But you can!” Dog answered. “Come home with me and I will tell my master that you’ve come to help us guard the house. Can you howl?”
Wolf stopped in his tracks and raised his snout to the sky and howled with all his might.
The dog sat up on his hind legs and applauded, for the sound resounded everywhere. Owl hooted his admiration. “Whoo,” Owl called, “no one wakes the forest like you, Wolf.”
“Well, then,” Dog said, “let us just turn around and go back home, and you will live with us and help me with my work.” Wolf grinned, and the two turned on their heels and trotted quickly to Dog’s house. Wolf was full of energy, for he imagined all the food he would soon eat and the comfort of a roof over his head.
As they were walking, Wolf suddenly spotted something on Dog’s neck. It looked to be a crease at first, but Wolf saw that it was made of leather, bound tightly and carrying silver rings with chains that jingled in the quiet night. “What is that thing around your neck?” Wolf asked.
“Oh that,” Dog said. “Why, that’s nothing at all.”
“Please, Dog. It is something. Tell me what it is.”
“Well, fine then,” Dog said haughtily. “If you must know, this is a collar. My master ties me up during the daytime. He loops a rope through all these lovely silver rings I wear, but that is only because my master wants me to sleep during the daytime so that I might be full of vigor in the night. Once the sun sets, I’m set free, as you see. And then my master brings me huge bones from his own table, and the children feed me scraps, and everyone pets me and calls my name and tells me I am wonderful. Just imagine, Wolf. Soon you too will have all the table scraps you could want, and you’ll be loved by all the children, and everything will be wonderful. You’ll have a roof over your head …”
But Wolf raised a paw to silence Dog. He had heard enough. “I’m sorry, Dog,” he said, “but you may keep your happiness. I would not trade my freedom for all the treats in the world. I wish you well, but I must say goodnight.”
And with that Wolf turned around and set off on his own. Dog shook his head, for he did not understand freedom.