The Origin of Dogs (old fiction)

I like dogs a lot.


When they were still young, Adam divided up the world between his two sons. To Cain he gave responsibility for plants, the great trees and the blades of grass. To Abel he gave responsibility for the animals, from the eagles soaring overhead to the sheep grazing in the meadows. Now, everybody knows about when the relationship between the brothers went sour, but it didn’t start out that way.

In the beginning, they collaborated. They shared. Abel had sheep, and Cain had grass, and the world was good, or at least the bits they spent time on in. But it was no Eden, and weeds and wolves both flourished, stubborn creatures seeking out their own destiny in the shadow of Man. Cain, he just pulled up the weeds that choked out the most succulent grasses, and that was that. But Abel was a different sort.

He found the king of the wolves one sunny day basking beside a clear pool. The king of the wolves had just feasted, and he and Abel greeted each other amiably enough. Then Abel said, “The sheep would like it very much if you wouldn’t eat them any more.”

The wolf yawned and said, “Aye, and so would the elk and the deer. What of it?”

Abel looked uncomfortable. “Well, they live in the valley next door to us. I sleep among them. It’s very disconcerting to wake up to a scattered flock and blood everywhere.”

“Yum,” said the wolf.

“And they complain for days afterwards.” Abel blushed. “They’ve had it very easy in the valley, you see. I find their company pleasant. They’re not very bright, it’s true, but their fleece is so soft. The tufts left on rocks and shrubs make such nice things.”

The wolf did not seem impressed with Abel’s choice of favorites, but he wasn’t an unkind animal. “Tell you what,” he said. “There’s plenty of game around. I’ll keep my pack away from the places with your smell on them.”

Abel was very pleased by this, and thanked the wolf, and went home again and for a long summer of years, he and his flock lived in peace. Sometimes he’d exchange howls with the distant wolves, blessing them for their consideration. Once a year, he’d visit the king of the wolves at the pool, and they’d chat.

Now, times were getting harder as the memories of Eden faded from the land. One year, Abel got news of a fierce winter coming to his valley. This was bad, but his brother Cain had found another valley, further to the south, where winter would still be far away. So Abel set about trying to convince the sheep that it was time to move.

Unfortunately, as Abel had admitted to the wolf king, sheep aren’t very bright. By the time he’d convinced any one sheep to move, the others would start wandering back to their usual grazing grounds. It was a hopeless situation. He spent so much time trying to move the sheep around that he missed his yearly meeting with the wolf king, and one day, he heard a familiar laugh above him.

He looked up, and the wolf king crouched on the top of a tall rock. The sheep didn’t even notice, he was so high up. “They’ve gotten fat and slow without us to chase them around,” the wolf king said. “What are you trying to do?”

“A bad winter is coming,” Abel explained. “We have to move south. But they won’t move!”

“Aye,” said the wolf. “We’ve smelled the winter coming. It’s a shame, ’cause my pack’s got six puppies to bring up. The two youngest won’t make it.”

Abel blinked, and looked at the sheep, and looked at the wolf king, and that was when he thought of the Bargain. “Hey,” he said casually. “How about your pack helps me move the sheep– without eating any, mind– and I’ll make sure those two puppies survive?”

The wolf king stared at him for a long minute, and then lolled his tongue out. “Man lost a lot of power in the Fall. Let’s put together a better bargain than that, shall we?”
In the end, Cain and Abel each took home a child of the king of the wolves, and to the king of wolves they made this promise: “Your child will share my place. Your child will share my fire. Your child will share my food. My children and your children will grow together, side by side, pack and family.”

And in return, the king of the wolves promised: “These children, and their children, will always walk beside you. They will sense what you cannot sense. They will catch what you cannot chase. They will hunt what you cannot kill. They will obey you as they would me.”

And that’s how the flocks got moved south, and that’s how dogs came to be.

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