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For a long time, the sheep (especially the black ones) and the lambs were vulnerable as prey. Wolves menaced them almost every day. Sometimes the wolves would ravage them for no other reason than hatred. And other times the wolves would invent trumped-up offenses by the sheep and lambs and attack them on flimsy causes.

For instance, the wolves might say the sheep and the lambs were too loud with their bleats, grunts, rumbles, and snorts; and then the wolves would attack them on that pretense. Or maybe the wolves would accuse the sheep of being ill-clad in a public space shortly after a shearing; and they’d attack them for that.

There was no lack of creative excuses from the wolves to menace and actually kill the sheep and the lambs. And the way the wolves killed the sheep and the lambs was excessively cruel. It was not always the quick death of the fang and claw. The wolves performed other horrid torments on the sheep and the lambs long before death came as solace to end the pain.

So the sheep and the lambs sought out the lanes and the byways to protest their treatment from the wolves. And many other animals besides sheep and lambs assembled across the land in sympathy with the plight of the sheep and the lambs. Rabbits and groundhogs and beavers had a case against the wolves as well. And the protests grew and were potent and heart-rending.

But incredibly, the wolves came in to monitor the sheep and the lambs at the protests! Unbelievable! If the scene had been enacted upon a stage we would have dismissed it as an improbable fiction. Of course, the wolves terrorized the sheep and the lambs during the protests! Preposterous! But, sadly, it was true.

Mary, a merry little lamb, lost family and friends to the wolves. She wept briny tears every time. She could not understand for the life of her why such a world as this existed. “Why,” she asked the elders, “can’t some other peaceable animal monitor us instead of the ravenous wolves we are protesting against?” Then a wise and wooly ewe named Baaba said, “That gives me an idea.”

She began a series of experiments with various benevolent canines. Not too long afterward, the sheepdog was bred into existence—for the sole purpose of protecting and serving the sheep and the lambs.

The sheepdogs possessed numerous suitable traits for the job: courage, even in the face of the menacing wolves; devotion to the objects of their protection; strength, in the ability to spend long daylight hours keeping a watchful eye on the sheep and lambs; sacrifice, evinced in a willingness to forego even sleep during nights perched alongside the herd, listening for the paw-fall of stealthy wolves.

Breeding sheepdogs was one of the great successes of sheep and lamb ingenuity. To this day, the bond between sheepdogs and sheep and lambs is indissoluble. What a wonder the world can be when innovation and goodwill collide!

[The moral of the fable for our chiefs of police is this: Hire sheepdogs and fire the wolves.]

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J. H. McKenna (Ph.D.) has taught the history of religius ideas since 1992 at various colleges and since 1999 at the University of California, where he has won teaching awards. He has published in academic...