Way back in the dawn of time, a ways after Coyote tricked the Moon and the Sea into a quarrel that left the sea salted with his own tears, but well before the conveniences we take for granted today, there were a pair of wolves. They were litter mates, and while they were young they played and played. They loved each other greatly and each balanced the spirit of the other. Alpha was strong and brave. His cunning and fierceness showed early on and the rest of the pack knew that he would do well one day when Prime was old and could no longer lead. His brother Friendly was just that, friendly.
It wasn’t that the pack didn’t love Friendly as much as Alpha, but they really didn’t know what to do with him. When there were no Elk (for these wolves specialized mainly in hunting elk.), they would seek the Canadian Geese that came up to change their feathers and could not fly. More often than was good for them, just as Alpha or Prime or one of the rest of their pack were about to pounce on one of the temporarily flightless geese, Friendly would leap out on them and try to play a game of tag with them. The yip of surprise would alert the birds who would get as far away or on the water as they could. Friendly didn’t do this because he was trying to be mean to his pack mates, but because he often got bored and loved their reaction when he would start the game.
That is not to say that friendly was a bad hunter. After all, Flanker and Grace (short for Coup De Grace) were often impressed by how he could get close to a bird’s next in a tree and then make a strange dance underneath it. Writhing and rolling on his back to feign madness. The concerned birds would then defend their nests by diving at Friendly, who would kip up from his back over six feet (2 meters) into the air and catch the poor things in mid air. The pack was impressed by this and definitely appreciated his ability to use guile and trickery to keep himself fed.
Then one day as they were tracking Elk and pushing them on to new territory, the wolves smelled something strange. The smell was like that of the great forest fires that sometimes raged through the woods, but smaller. Alpha directed the pack to continue hunting and to be careful of the strange smell. Friendly wasn’t so sure. He noticed that the fire had another smell with it and there were strange animals they’d never seen before. These manlings seemed to walk about like any other, except that they had only two legs to walk with. Friendly thought this was very funny and he raced back to join the group.
Just in time too, because the wolves had cornered a young elk alf and had it separate it from the herd. Friendly loped over to the group and helped to pull at it and distract it so that flanker could grab it by it’s throat. Soon after it was over and the pack set down to their well-earned meal. They picked the bones clean, each knowing it might be weeks before they ate again.
Returning to their den full of food which Mother would share with the pups, Friendly asked Alpha if he had seen the strange two-legged creatures who smelled of burnt elk. Friendly thought there was something strange about them and resolved to keep an eye out for them.
Weeks turned to months and the pups grew and soon had positions of their own in the pack, which was good. Some of them were half-grown and would be useful in helping to bring the food needed to contribute to the pack. Despite their growth, they still loved to play with Friendly. They wrestle and tumbled about, each day growing in strength and cleverness.
One day, while tracking their prey by the moonlight, Stealthy (a black wolf whose eyes seemed unnaturally bright) signaled to Friendly that she heard something wrong. They had wandered a bit too far from the group and noticed that the caribou were here, but so were the strange Man-creatures who wore the skins of other animals and sat near to fire without being burned. Friendly and Stealthy watched amused at how little these creatures knew. How could they hunt? They were slow. They had no sharp teeth or claws. They brought pieces of guts and trees with them. At first Stealthy assumed it was some strange way of marking territory, after all, the males of her pack used trees sometimes. But they never seemed to mark the strange sticks they carried.
Things grew even stranger when he saw that the hunters didn’t seek the weakest easiest prey, but instead would go after the strongest. The most dangerous males or largest females seemed to be the only ones the hunters desired. They didn’t even try for the calf that was grazing contentedly. It was ridiculous. Friendly was glad Stealthy was there, because he knew none of the others in his pack would believe it if they didn’t se if for themselves.
Then an amazing thing happened. A tree flew! One of the trees that the manling held was perpendicular to another and it bent in the air. Then it flew though the air and struck the beast from far away! The elk was injured, but even from their hiding place, the two wolves could smell the direction it was traveling.
Stealthy signaled that it was time to go and friendly noticed a chill in the air. Then he looked at his friend and nuzzled her chops that were slowly getting white with falling snow.
They ranged out west as winter grew deeper and more and more often they ran into these strange creatures and as they did, Alpha grew more and more wary of them. Friendly and Stealthy grew more curious with each encounter. As they did, they started following the men back to the camps. First staying out of site and then it happened. They found the pile of food. Outside their camp was a pile of bones, still with meat sometimes! This was great. It wasn’t enough to feed the whole pack, but it was good. Friendly and shadow grew more bold until they got caught and would be chased off by the men with the trees that flew. Three times they came and went before resolving to be more discreet. Those flying trees had taken down larger animals than them…
One day after returning to the hunt Alpha noted that Friendly and Shadow were better fed than many of their brothers, despite having missed hunts and not eaten. It was then that they called the council of the pack to discuss the situation. Thus under the guidance of the moon, whose full attention shone bright on the land, they gathered. The wolves bayed their ritual howl and the moon descended to them.
“Yes children?” asked the moon, “why do you seek my council for pack business?”
“We have a problem with two of our wolves and we seek you as an impartial judge.”
“Why me?” she asked, “I am no wolf, nor am I a part of the pack?”
“With respect mistress,” said Prime- the oldest and wisest of the pack, “You are not a wolf it’s true, but your light guides us on through the night and lights our way to keep us safe and find our prey.”
“True, but does my light not shine on you as well and warn your prey of me?”
“It’s not our fault if the prey do not pay attention to your gifts as we do mistress,” said Prime.
The moon smiled a slight smile.
“Okay Prime. Long have I known you, and long have we run through the nights together under the guidance of the stars. I will judge your case. Tell me of it now.”
“Friendly and Shadow of our pack have been stealing the kills of another pack, which is not the problem. They have been doing so instead of hunting with our pack and they are grown fat as a result.”
“And what do you say to these charges? Have you left your pack for another pack of wolves?”
“No mistress never,” said Shadow and Friendly together. Each was too afraid to say more around such a venerable spirit.
“They deny they have left the pack and deny joining another.” Said the Moon.
“That is because the way you asked it, that is true,” said Prime. “They have been scavenging off of the leavings of the human pack. The one just over the ridge.”
“Is this true?” asked the moon.
Friendly and Shadow bowed their heads and nodded.
“I will require some time to think. Do nothing until I return here in 28 days. Hunt as usual and Friendly and Shadow will hunt with you, leaving the humans alone. No action may be taken against them until I return my judgement. Do you understand?”
The pack nodded and howled their assent. The moon nodded, pleased and once more ascended to the heavens. Then, she did something she had not done in years, she returned to the garden of Dreams.
The wise man of the human tribe was wandering through the garden, for he had seen the moon disappear and was concerned it might be a sign. Using such signs and means as are secret to the wise ones of the tribe and have been lost to history, he made his way to the garden and thus he waited for the moon to acknowledge him. While he waited, he saw Animals and monsters, heroes and gods, weapons and strange things that were like trees only flat with one stick on the back side to help them stand up. He questioned none of these things, for that was not his purpose here. Instead, he waited for The Moon and was rewarded.
The moon approached in her full-white aspect, a shimmering gown trailing behind her. “Ho, young wise man.” She said, “do you wait for me?”
“I do.” Said the Wise Man.
“Why do you wait, when you should be resting and enjoying the works and delights of the dream players.”
“I wait, because as I watched the Spirits dance in the sky above, your light was taken from the sky and landed near to where the wolf pack lives. I wait because this has never been seen in the memory of my people. I wait because I am concerned and wish to make sure we please the spirits.”
“Hmm… you are respectful wise man, for all that you speak in threes to sound more wise than you are.” She said. “I will tell you of a problem I have and perhaps you can help me to find a solution.”
Then the moon told him of the wolf pack and of the two members of the pack who went and stole the leavings of their neighbors. How they were kind and a bit lazy, but how they were still useful to their pack. When she had told him all she knew of the story of the two wolves, he thought for a moment.
“I have an inkling of what we should do, but I will need to think. May I take some time to render a judgment? I fear this is a case that will require all of my wisdom and rushing may turn me from wise man into fool.”
“I can respect your wise to make informed council Wise Man. Return to me before my dress has changed to black and I will listen to your council.”
And so, for the next week, the Wise Man did something that few men get the chance to do. He watched the wolves hunt. He tracked them and using the description of Friendly and Shadow he noted how they aided their pack, how Friendly helped the pups and how shadow could find any prey, no matter how hidden because of her powerful nose. Under the moon he watched, growing fascinated by the way they hunted together and how the family of the pack acted almost like one being swooping down on the land to separate only the weakest, leaving the rest of the herd of Elk stronger than before their hunt.
When he realized that the two would be seen like the weak Elk by their own pack he decided something. With three days left before the moon went dark, again he used his secret ways and means to call the moon and meet her again in the Garden of Dreams.
“Ho, young wise man,” called the moon. Now darker and more severe than before. Only the trim of her dress remained a brilliant white. The rest was a diamond studded blackness to match the sky. “Have you come to a judgement?”
“Indeed I have. I have decided these wolves are guilty of theft from my tribe and neglect of their own tribe, which are two most grave sins.”
“Indeed,” said the moon, a trace of sadness, “And I know well the penalties your tribe have for thieves.”
“Normally, yes. But there is an old tradition of weregild. Do you know it?” Asked the man.
“Blood money? To pay for a crime usually.” Said the Moon, “how do you suppose that these wolves will pay? They have no skills save hunting and the pack never catches enough to feed more than themselves except in the best of times.”
“They will pay in two ways. First, they will be separated from their pack. The pack will see them as weak for taking our food and traitors for missing the hunts. They can no longer be part of the pack.”
“Indeed,” said the Moon. “I suspect this is the more dire option. Surely it would be more merciful to allow the pack to kill them.”
“Perhaps,” said the Wise Man. “For what I have is a different idea entirely. For the crime of stealing and neglect, they will lose their tribe and ever after, they will work for mine. They will become a part of our tribe and help us our hunts, raise our children, track our prey. In taking animals killed by the tools of man, they too must become the tools of man.”
“Very just” said the moon, trying to hide her smile. “But you give yourself an advantage if you take them as they are. So I will make this adjustment…
The wolves took in a circle as the moon finished her judgement. “You sought me and know my power to change my sign and shape. This I will give to you. As your use to the man changes, so will you change as a sign of the work you do for him. Thus will you be ever separate from your brothers who run under the moonlight.”
“But they will chase us off!” Said the dog.
“They will not,” said the Moon. “For I consulted with their wise man to come up with your punishment.”
“You repay their disloyalty with meat?” said Alpha. “Surely we should just kick them from the pack and send them to wander!”
“Alpha,” barked Prime, “I asked our mistress here to render judgement. Surely you see that being cut from the pack to join Man and working for his good and being shaped by man instead of yourself is a more dire punishment than any we could choose.”
Alpha growled and was worried for his brother, but said nothing further.
“Will you accept this geas to serve the man and help to repay the meat you stole?”
“I will,” said Friendly.
“I will, “said Shadow.
“Then by my magic which is who I am, I will make a sign so he will know me as a friend and helper. For his part, the man will share his meat and not chase you off.”
Come said the moon. She lead them away with her gown trailing behind her, a radiant white. As they walked away, the wolves saw their friends and former pack mates change slowly. Their ears folded, their fur grew spotted or striped and their rear dew claws disappeared. As they walked over the hill to meet the Man Tribe, they were met by the Wise Man. He had some of his hunters with him who were wary and held their flying trees protectively. The moon gestured a greeting and the Wise Man signaled to let down their guard. He met them solemnly on the field and knelt down to let them smell his hand in greeting.
“Shake” he said.
Friendly put a paw in his hand in greeting and from that day to this they have been a part of our pack. They do many jobs, helping to hunt, finding rats and other vermin, playing with children. For their loyalty they were given a warm home, good food and a new name. Dog. For surely by the time they were integrated into the Man’s Tribe, there was little of their former selves and they needed a new name.
Down in their hearts, all dogs know they are with the man because of their crimes against the pack and that is why gives them so much joy or pain when they are called a ‘Good Dog’ or a ‘Bad Dog’. For they know that if they were really good, they would not have needed to leave their former pack. Yet, because they are something like a human they are given a part of the Garden of Dreams, when you can sometimes see or hear as they chase prey under the moonlight with their mistress shining down overhead.
And still, Dog will chase the trickster when she comes as Coyote or Fox, because even though he is no longer a wolf, he has still not forgiven the trickster for breaking the heart of the mistress who showed him kindness when he deserved punishment.