The Dog and The Leopard:
A Modern Fable

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The Dog and The Leopard:
A Modern Fable

[Ed. Note: The dog in this modern fable is featured in a May 4, 2011 NY Times article, "A Bin Laden Hunter on Four Legs" and the leopard is featured in a May 6, 2011 Wichita Eagle article, "Sedgwick County Zoo leopard attacks boy through cage."]

By Bee Friedlander, Animals and Society Institute (ASI)

Both became pensive, thinking about their past lives, about doing Leopard things and Dog things, and about how their lives had been changed by people. “We actually have a lot in common,” Dog said finally. “I don’t understand why people, even good, kind people, don’t just let us be.”

Once upon a time and not so long ago, Dog and Leopard met in a place called a “green room.” During recent days, they both had been discussed with much interest by what people call “the media,” and they were brought to this place to talk to a very famous man in what was called an “interview.” The two had lived very different lives, and had almost nothing in common until a few days earlier.

They eyed each other warily, but also with much interest because they intuitively understood that their meeting this day resulted from forces beyond their control, but from forces that were very powerful indeed.

As they settled into the alien surroundings, Dog and Leopard began to notice that they were being treated quite differently. Dog was supplied with the most elegant house he had ever seen. Every possible toy and treat was within his reach. He noted with particular satisfaction that several Kongs, all filled with peanut butter, were scattered near him.

Leopard on the other hand, was confined to a very small cage. Although she was used to being confined, this cage was smaller and more uncomfortable than her home. Food and water had been placed in the cage, but she was too nervous to eat.

Dog, feeling more confident was the first to speak.

Striding up to Leopard’s cage, his chest puffed in pride, an impressive looking medal suspended around his neck, he said: “I have met with a very important man, indeed. The most important man in the world came to see me. And, just a few days earlier, I had an incredible adventure in a far away land, on a very dangerous mission. In fact, it is so secret that I can’t even tell you my name.” But suddenly he caught a look at Leopard crouching in the farthest reaches of the cage, her head bruised, and looking utterly defeated.

Dog, who was as kind as he was brave, and who was not usually given to self promotion, became silent. He stood quietly by the cage. Sensing his empathy, Leopard gradually approached him.

“What’s your name?” asked Dog. “My name is Nia,” she said, and began to tell her story. “I also was in a far away land once, the place where I was born. I think about it every day. When I was a cub, I enjoyed frolicking with my brother and sister and learning from my mother how to be Leopard. Then one day it all changed. Some people came to my home and took me away. I will spare you the details but I was separated from my family and ended up in a small, enclosed place, where I’ve lived for most of my four years. Although other animals, such as deer and ducks live by me, there are no other leopards. Truth be told, that’s not so bad, because I’m a solitary Leopard. And, that’s not to say that my needs aren't taken care of by people who are kind and treat me well. They even like me…or used to. I heard them say I was playful and active and enjoyed stalking people and nearby animals, which is my nature. But on most days, strangers come to my home and look and point at me. Just the time of day when I want to sleep! Then the other day, a boy suddenly jumped the fence that separates me from the strangers, and appeared right in front of me. I had been sound asleep and he startled me. What happened then is a blur, but the next thing I remember, a man started kicking me in the face.

“I guess lots of other people were interested in this, because I am suddenly the center of attention and important people want to talk to me. But I don’t think they are happy with me.”

Now it was Leopard’s turn to stop talking. She noticed that Dog had become quiet, all his bravado gone. “A penny for your thoughts,” she said, using a term she’d often heard people saying.

Dog began to reminisce. “Listening to you talk about your mother and brother and sister, and about being young, made me think about my own past. Unlike you, I don’t often think about those days. When I was a young Dog, I, like you frolicked with my litter mates and learned to be Dog from my mother. All that ended one day when some people came and separated me from my family. I have to be honest: I live with a very nice man who works with me all day and takes me home at night. He has taught me to do very important work for him. Just the other day, I could tell that something out of the ordinary was about to happen. My person was distracted. Then we took a trip on a helicopter and landed in a very unusual place. What happened then is kind of a blur, but the next thing I remember, we were back on the helicopter and everyone was relieved and happy.

“I guess lots of people are interested in this story…but maybe for a different reason than they are interested in your story, Nia.”

Both became pensive, thinking about their past lives, about doing Leopard things and Dog things, and about how their lives had been changed by people. “We actually have a lot in common,” Dog said finally. “I don’t understand why people, even good, kind people, don’t just let us be.”