Origin Tales: How Dog Lost His Tail
A long time ago, before cartoons were channeled, before ice cream was scooped, before pizza was pied, Dog and his brothers and sisters romped and played beneath the World Tree.
Dog was a rascal of an animal. He always loved to chase after other creatures. He would sneak up on someone and bark his loudest bark. When they would jump and run away, Dog would follow playfully nipping at their heels. Such good fun! At night, all the other canines would get together and tell tales of their best chase that day. They would laugh and jest, never understanding the terror the other animals had at their game.
One day, Coyote saw Dog playing his game and thought to himself “boy, that seems fun! Look at how Squirrel dashes about and chitters. What a riot!”
He walked up to Dog after Squirrel climbed the World Tree and started throwing acorns down at Dog’s head, saying the most ungrateful things.
“Hey Dog,” Coyote said. “I see you are having a blast playing your game of chase, mind if I play too?”
“You’re not a dog and you’re old,” Dog sneered. “Go away before I chase you.”
It was true that Coyote had been around the World Tree a bit longer than Dog. But it was also true that Coyote was Dog’s uncle, though he never pressed the point. Coyote was an ancestor of both Dog and Gray Wolf…though he had little interest in the whole family thing.
“It’s rude to talk to your elders so,” Coyote said. “Manners are a sign of respect.”
“I have your respect right here! Woof!” Dog barked and chased Coyote through the grass.
Now Coyote may have been old, but he was also the most cunning creature under the World Tree.
“You know,” Coyote yelled back, dodging Dog’s nipping teeth, “I can turn myself into shadow. You will never catch me.”
Dog got so mad he leaped at Coyote, wanting to do more than just nip. Coyote was waiting for it, of course, and easily dodged aside. Dog ended up in a pile of slobber and dirt and grass.
As dog picked himself up, Coyote slipped down Badger’s hole and sneaked up beneath Dog.
“See, I’m now a shadow. Come get me if you can!” Coyote taunted.
Dog saw the shadow he cast on the ground and thought it was Coyote. He snarled and bit the dirt, but Coyote just laughed.
“See, can’t catch me!” Coyote laughed.
Dog moved and saw his shadow move. He ran after it, but the shadow always stayed just ahead. All afternoon, Dog chased his own shadow while all the creatures laughed to see such a silly sight.
Coyote could have left it at that, but he was a trickster at heart. Dog needs to be brought down a peg or two, he thought.
That night, as Dog and his brothers and sisters gathered to brag about their days, Coyote slinked into their den with mischief on his mind. You see, Dog and the rest had a rule to leave their tails at the door. This was because too many drinks had been spilled and too many tails had been singed from stumbling by the fire. They were all organized nice and neat with name tags attached to each to help at the end of the night.
As the party got started and the laughs about Dog chasing his shadow echoed around the den, Coyote sneaked into the tail room and switched all the names. He laughed at his joke, but no one could hear over the noise. For extra measure, he left a note tied to one of them telling of the mix up.
That night, Dog and his crew started to depart. They blearily looked at the name tags and put on the tail that wasn’t theirs. It just so happened that Dog was the last and grabbed the tail with Coyote’s note.
“Wait!” Dog said, but it was too late. His guests had already left to go sleep off the rest of their night.
To this day, Dog hasn’t found his tail. Every time two dogs meet, they sniff each other’s rear ends to see if the other dog has their tail. And every time, if you listen close, you can hear Coyote laughing in the distance. As Dog found out, it’s always wise to respect your elders, because a moment of respect is better than a lifetime of sniffing butts.