Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Dog in the Manger

Here's a really old story that you might have heard before, but it's short, so I will tell it to you again.  There was this dog, see, and he went in a barn and got up in the manger, which is what cows and horses eat out of, so it's sort of like a dog dish for cows.  Anyway, the manger was full of hay, which made it an excellent bed for the dog because hay is soft and it smells good, too.

So the dog took a nice nap, and while he was sleeping, an ox came along and wanted to eat some hay.  (An ox, in case you don't know, is a bull who had a certain kind of surgery so he wouldn't be flirting with all the cows when he was really supposed to be pulling wagons and doing other work like that.)  But the dog, who was rudely awakened from his nice nap, snarked at the ox and wouldn't let him eat any hay.

That's it.  That's the whole story.  Except it's not really called a "story."  It's called a "fable," which means it is supposed to teach you a lesson.  And here's the exact lesson you are supposed to learn from this fable:

People often grudge others what they cannot enjoy themselves.

Now I am going to tell you what is wrong with this interpretation of this story because I think the dog is not really the bad guy, even though people always say he is.

First of all, the ox was all wrong to wake the dog up like that when he was sleeping.  Didn't this ox ever hear of the Canine Law of "Let sleeping dogs lie"?  Many dogs don't enjoy being awakened like this, and they snap at whoever woke them up.  The ox could have been much nicer and more polite about waking the dog up, and then the dog might have been more willing to get out of the manger.

But the main point is that the moral of the story says that the dog was not enjoying the hay in the manger, even though he clearly was.  Hay can be a nice bed as well as a nice meal for an ox, and this is a fact that the dog recognized right away.  So he found a nice bed for himself and he was willing to defend his bed because he had been enjoying it a whole bunch.  He was just doing what dogs do.  They defend their territory.  They don't defend stuff that they don't care about.  I am a dog and I know this.

So who wrote this goofy fable story in the first place?  We think it was a man named Aesop, who was Greek, and he lived a long, long time ago.  Nobody really knows much about him, which is true of a lot of people that lived a long, long time ago.  Mr. Aesop might have been a slave.  And he might have died by being pushed off a cliff by an angry mob of people.  In my opinion, it's more likely that he was attacked and eaten by dogs since he didn't write very nice stories about them!

Here's a picture of Mr. Aesop.  As we can see from looking at it, he had a funny red hat.  I like red hats, so maybe he wasn't all bad.  I just don't think he understood dogs very well!


  1. Piper...you did it again. I was sitting at my computer complaining (to myself) that I had ANOTHER dr's appt. Kind of feeling sorry for myself. Then I read your blog and it made me smile....OK I actually laughed outloud!! Thanks!
    Love, AP

  2. Wow Piper, I really like your take on this. So if YOU were to write bedtime stories, they'd end "And they were eaten by wild dogs, ever after..." Wasn't that part of the original plot in "Good Dog Carl" before Green Tiger Press got a hold of it?

  3. Dear gforce,
    I'm so glad you like the way I interpreted this old fable. And yes, I think all stories should end with someone getting something yummy to eat! Good Dog Carl had to be "reedited" a little so that the children reading it wouldn't get so scared. Which made it less appealing to dogs and wolves, I think.