I was going through some Fables listed in an old notebook. It's fun reading a Fable
and deciphering it's meaning. But one fable in particular has us all rather stumped
as to what the overall message or moral is.
The part that is puzzling is at the end, when its the dog's turn to repay man for the
favors the dog received. The fable implies that dogs are often snappish, irritable,
hard to please, and selfish, tolerant only of his own household, etc.
Why is the dog depicted in such an unfavorable light? The fable tells that the animals
were determined to repay man to the best of their ability. The horse and the ox in the
story reflect favorable attributes, but the dog is characterized very negatively.
What are we missing?
The Man, the Horse, the Ox, and the Dog
A Horse, Ox, and Dog, driven to great straits by the cold, sought shelter and protection from Man. He received them kindly, lighted a fire, and warmed them. He let the Horse make free with his oats, gave the Ox an abundance of hay, and fed the Dog with meat from his own table. Grateful for these favors, the animals determined to repay him to the best of their ability. For this purpose, they divided the term of his life between them, and each endowed one portion of it with the qualities which chiefly characterized himself. The Horse chose his earliest years and gave them his own attributes: hence every man is in his youth impetuous, headstrong, and obstinate in maintaining his own opinion. The Ox took under his patronage the next term of life, and therefore man in his middle age is fond of work, devoted to labor, and resolute to amass wealth and to husband his resources. The end of life was reserved for the Dog, wherefore the old man is often snappish, irritable, hard to please, and selfish, tolerant only of his own household, but averse to strangers and to all who do not administer to his comfort or to his necessities.
Maybe he didn't like dogs- they don't come off very well in some of the other stories either, like The Dog and Its Reflection or The Dog and the Wolf.