Why The Indian Loves His Dog
A Tale from the Iroquois
The dog is the Indian's best friend. He is the comrade by day and the protector by night. As long as the Indian's dog has strength, he will fight for his friend.
The Indian says this is how the dog came to take his part.
An Indian and his dogs went into the woods to hunt. It was in the days when dogs and men could talk together, and each understood the language of the other.
When they reached the woods, the dogs began to talk with the Indian. They told him many wonderful things about the woods, which he did not know. They taught him many tricks of the chase: how to scent and track the game, and where to look for trails.
The man listened to what the dogs said, and he did as they told him. Soon the sledge which the dogs had drawn to the woods was piled high with deer and other game.
Never had the Indian's arrows brought him so much game. Never had he met with such success in hunting. He was so pleased that he said to the dogs, "Always shall I talk with you, give ear to what you say, and be one of you."
"Ah, but listen!" said the dogs. "If you wish to be one of us, you must live under the law of dogs, not men. Animals have laws different from those of men. When two dogs meet for the first time, they try their strength to see which is the better dog.
"Men do not fight when strangers meet, they shake hands. As we fight strange dogs, so you, too, must fight strange men, to see which is the best man,-if you are to live under the law of dogs."
The man said he would think it over, and at sunrise give his answer. Indians always sleep before deciding a question.
Next morning, the man said he would live under the law of animals, and fight strange men.
The following day, the man made ready to leave the woods. From the basswood, he made a strong harness for the dogs, so that they could draw the load of game back to the camp for him.
When the sun was high, the man and the dogs started with the sledge load of game. They had not gone far before they saw two strange Indians coming.
"Now," said the dogs to the man, "remember you are living under the dog's law. You must fight these strange men."
The man attacked first one Indian and then the other. At last both turned on him, and when they left him, he was nearly dead. At this, the dogs took a hand. They leaped upon the Indians and drove them from the woods. Then they came back to where their friend lay on the ground, and began to talk with him and lick his face.
The man could not speak for some time, but when his voice came to him, he said to the dogs, "No longer do I wish to live under the law of animals. No more shall I fight strangers. From this time, I shall shake hands with strangers, and bid them welcome. From this time, I shall be a man and live under the law of men."
"Then," said the dogs sadly, "we shall no longer be able to talk with you, and tell you the things that we know. But we will always stand by you. We will be your friends and will fight for you, when you need us as you did to-day."
This is why the Indian and his dog are now unable to speak each other's language. This is also why an Indian's dog will fight to the death for his friend.
Not only is the dog a true friend to the Indian in this world, but in the next as well. It seems that the soul of an Indian on its journey to the Happy Hunting Ground must cross a deep, swift-running stream. On either side of this dark river, there stand two dogs who hold in their teeth a great log upon which the souls pass.
The soul of the Indian who has been kind to his dog crosses the log easily, for the dogs stand guard. As the soul of such an Indian reaches the river, they say, "This Indian was kind to his dog. He gave him of his own food, and the dog always had a warm place by his fire. We will help this Indian to cross."
Then the dogs grip the log firmly in their teeth, and hold it steady while the soul of the kind Indian passes over.
But if the soul of an Indian who has been unkind to his dog comes to the river, the dogs say, "This man was cruel to his dog. He gave his dog no place by the fire, he beat him, he let him go hungry. This man shall not cross."
Then the dogs grip the log lightly in their teeth, and when the soul of the unkind Indian is half way across, they turn it quickly to one side, and the soul is thrown into the deep, dark river.
Many an Indian has been kind to his dog, that he might make sure of a safe crossing on that log.
Sources And Further Reading
Project Gutenberg Stories the Iroquois Tell Their Children by Mabel Powers