Loyalty and Protection

Man's best friend... One of the tribal stories said that when the Spirits got ready to leave the Earth, they drew a line in the dirt. On one side was man and on the other the spirits from the Upper Worlds. Just then a great fissure was created by the line, and man was no longer able to cross over to the spirit realm. As they stood there, the fissure grew and widened, and at the very last minute "dog" jumped across to stand with man.

All of the Southwest tribes had dogs. It has been reported that all breeds of dogs are descendants of the wolf, but even though the early dogs were considered part "wild", they were fiercely loyal to their owners. Historically, dogs have been portrayed as the guardians of ancient secrets, hidden treasures, and infants.

Volumes have been written about the dog, but someone touched by the healing energies of loyalty can tell you of the "power" of Dog Medicine.

How True Dog Came To Be

True dog yipped as she felt herself shoved roughly into a greasy skin bag. She was barely awake, yet here she was, being grabbed by the scruff of her neck, abducted right from the doorstep of her parents' own den.

At first, she thought she was still dreaming - inside the warm dugout, cuddled up beside her brothers and sisters. She had always felt quite safe beneath the roots of the large spruce tree. The children of the tree had formed a thick ring around their mother, and so provided a good place to hide a family of four furry pups. At least that is what True Dog's parents had hoped.

But True Dog wasn't dreaming.

Her parents had gone hunting, and had left an uncle by marriage nearby to watch the pups. The uncle was a younger brother of her mother's brother's wife, and was inexperienced at these things. He let his attention be drawn away to a chipmunk scampering up a fallen log, and while he was distracted, a strange creature had come into the wolf camp to grab True Dog and one of her brothers. The other pups had hidden themselves out of reach in the back of the den and so they were not taken.

True Dog and her brother were jostled and pummeled as they were carried inside of the sacks on the backs of the creatures.

After a long, bumpy time, True Dog looked out over the Two-Legged's shoulder. There, in front of her was a marvelous sight. In a meadow were a group of shelters standing tall, like trees in a circle with each flap facing east, towards the rising sun. Many two-leggeds came running out to greet the grandmothers as they came back into camp. There was much noise and confusion.

Everything was a blur of new sights and new sounds and unusual smells. Wondrous smells pervaded the encampment. True Dog had known only the smells of the earthen den, the sweet milky smell of her mother, and then, later when her little white teeth had come in, the sour-meat smell of her father who disgourged breakfast for his children every morning.

It was by the smells of her father's offerings that the grandmothers had found the den. While searching for roots and for herbs, the grandmothers' noses of experience detected the pups - cleaverly concealed in the den beneath the tree.

Suddenly, True Dog felt herself rudely dumped upon the ground. Beside her, whimpered her brother who was scared and confused.

"Don't worry," she whispered. "We have each other. I will stand by you. Say, 'huka', I am not afraid."

He was afraid anyway, despite her brave words to him, and yelped loudly when a small two-legged hugged him tightly to his chest.

"A-i-i-i," he cried. The little two-legs laughed and held him up for all to see. "This is my pup," said Little Two-Legs. "My grandmother has given him to me as a present."

"Yes," Grandmother Unci, replied. "And if you care for him as well as you would your own brother, he will be your trusted companion for all of his days."

At that, she picked up True Dog and talked to her softly. "Woze," said Grandmother Unci, and she gave her some pieces of good-smelling meat from the fire.

"True Dog," she said, "I am most pleased to have found you. You are a great gift to me. From now on, I have someone to help me and a friend to keep me company."

And so it was that True Dog was taken from her family as a "winu," a captive and a prisoner, and forced to live in a village of the two-leggeds for the rest of her life. But Grandmother Unci was kind to her, and praised her and acknowledged her hard work. So, when True Dog had a family of her own, she became a kind of "hunka" to the two-leggeds. She became a relative by choice, and all of her children and grandchildren did, too. "Hecitu yelo." That is true.

Meaning and pronunciation of Lakotah words is from a glossary prepared by Chunksa Yuha with James E.Ricketson for use in the book, Hanta Yo, by Ruth Beebe Hill.

The story "How True Dog Came to Live Among Us", © 1995 by Natalie R. Neal, is based upon accounts of how wolf pups were domesticated by the native peoples of the plains and mountains.

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