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IN former days all animals dwelt together in peace; but then it befell that the dogs killed and devoured hares and other game in the open fields. The other animals complained, and when God called the dogs to account, they objected that they had nothing to eat. Their plea was admitted, and leave was granted them to eat fallen animals. The dogs requested and received a written license to that effect, which was intrusted to the sheep-dog, as the largest and most reliable among them. But in autumn the sheep-dog was very busy, and could neither carry it about with him nor find a dry place for it, so he intrusted it to the care of his friend the tom-cat, who had always a safe room, or sat on the stove. The cat arched his back, and rubbed it against his friend’s foot, as a promise of fidelity, and the document was laid on the stove, where it was supposed to be safe.
One day the dogs found a pony in the wood which had fallen, so they fell upon it, and killed and devoured it. The animals complained again, p. 283 and the dogs were pronounced guilty; but they appealed to the license, in which it was not stated whether the fallen animals should be dead or alive. When the sheep-dog and the cat sought for the document, they could not find it, for the mice had nibbled it away.
The cats were so angry with the mice that they began to kill and eat them, and have done so ever since; but the dogs likewise became enemies of the cats, as they are at present.
The sheep-dog did not venture to return to his fellows without the license. They waited for him in vain, and at last followed him, and sought for him everywhere, but could not find him. So whenever a dog sees another he runs to ask him whether he has not got the missing document with him.