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Dogs and Devotion: An Ancient Story

Cleo's Dog Devotion Here is an ancient story about a dog and devotion. I read this canine parable in Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's book, "The Dog Who Couldn't Stop Loving", a book mostly about how dogs make us human. If you're interested, you can read his thoughts on how our relationship with dogs is likely to go back as far as 40,000 years rather than the commonly accepted 15,000 years.

Today I think dogs wear the label faithful companion with pride. Cleo, my rescue dog, certainly seems to enjoy this role. Sometimes we call her "Elmer" because she's glued tightly to our side, to the point of bumping into cabinets and doorjams.

In all seriousness take a moment and enjoy this Indian fable [think Aesop or Rudyard Kipling] it's my way of publicly honoring Cleo's steadfast devotion:


People in India tell their children about the faithful dog in the Indian epic the Mahabharata, the core of which was written well before the Christian era. As the story goes, the great and righteous Yudhishtira abdicated the throne in favor of a great-nephew. Then he, along with his four brothers and queen Draupadi, set off on a pilgrimage, which they knew would their final journey.
As they moved north toward the Himalayas, a dog attached himself to the royal procession. One by one, great warriors (including Krishna) and the queen perished, leaving only Yudhishtira and the faithful dog to continue on the journey alone. Suddenly, a glow of light appeared, and out of the light came the god Indra in his golden chariot.
Indra invited Yudhishtira to board the chariot, since it would carry him straight to heaven. As Yudhishtira prepared to mount the chariot with the dog, Indra laughed and told him that there was no place in heaven for a dog. Yudhishtira shook his head sadly and said he would not mount. "This dog," he explained, "has shared all my troubles. He is devoted to me. I will not abandon him, not even for heaven. I have a duty to this dog, and not all the joy of heaven will persuade me to leave him."
Indra tried to persuade him and urged him to "give up this obsession for a dog."  Yudhishtira was firm: "I can't give up this dog for the sake of my happiness."  Indra insisted.  He reminded Yudhishtira that he'd given up his brothers and his wife. "No," said Yudhishtira.  "I only gave them up when they were dead.  This dog is alive. He stays with me."
Yudhishtira turned away, but as he did so, the dog began to change form.  None other than the dog of justice himself - Dharma, Yudhishtira's celestial father - stood before him.  All along, it was Dharma who had kept pace with his son, all the way until the final test.  Yudhishtira had mirrored the dog's pure devotion, and for this he was rewarded with his place in heaven.

Read more about the ancient epic Mahabharata

Aesop's Fable The Dog and Its Reflection

Collected Dog Stories Rudyard Kipling

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