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Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)

Perry 517 (Phaedrus 4.19)

Once upon a time, the dogs sent ambassadors to Jupiter to ask him to improve the conditions of their life and to save them from being mistreated by people who fed them nothing but bread that was full of bran, compelling them to satisfy their hunger with unspeakable filth. The ambassadors set out on their mission but were hardly swift of foot: instead they sniffed for food in heaps of manure and did not even come when called. With considerable difficulty Mercury found them at last and dragged them into heaven. The dogs were wild with excitement but when they glimpsed the face of mighty Jupiter, they were stricken with fear and covered the floors of the palace with shit. They were chased out with clubs and went outside, but Jupiter would not let them depart. Meanwhile, the dogs back home were surprised when their ambassadors did not return. After a while they concluded that the mission must have ended in an embarrassing failure, so the dogs ordered that other ambassadors be appointed in their place. Eventually they learned the full story of their predecessors' shitty performance, and they were afraid that something similar might happen once again, so this time they stuffed the dogs' behinds full of perfume. The ambassadors received their orders and were sent on their journey; as soon as they requested an audience in heaven, it was granted. The supreme father of the gods took his seat and as he rattled his thunderbolt, the universe quaked. The dogs were startled by the sudden upheaval and promptly pooped, their shit now mixed with perfume. The gods all demanded that the dogs pay for this outrage so Jupiter issued the following decree before punishing the dogs: 'A king cannot refuse ambassadors leave to depart, and it is hard to decide on a penalty that suits their behaviour, but their insolent prank cannot go unrewarded: accordingly, I will not prevent their departure, but I condemn them to a starvation diet, so that they will be able to keep control of their bowels. Meanwhile, those dogs who twice appointed such incontinent incompetents as their ambassadors will forever be humiliated by mankind.' As a result, dogs of this later age are still on the look-out for their ambassadors, so whenever a strange dog crosses their path, they take a whiff of his behind.

Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
NOTE: New cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.