"The Guilty Dogs"

This is my favorite bedtime story.
Mom reads it to me every night after she sobers up:

(The following tale is one of the Jatakas,
stories of the Buddha's former lives.)
One evening, after the king had spent the day traveling in his magnificent carriage, the three pairs of horses were led back to the stables to be fed and watered, but through some oversight the vehicle was left untended in the courtyard.
During the night it rained, and the fine leather harnesses were softened and began to exude a spicy, powdery odour that proved irresistible to the palace dogs.

They tugged and gnawed, and scrabbled and chewed, and when just a faint glow appeared on the eastern horizon, they tip-toed away to curl up in their usual places.
In the morning, the syces and stablemen could not believe their eyes. With cold feet and trembling hands, they went to tell the king.
The king was furious.
We do not know how the people responsible were punished, but we do know that he called for the death of every single dog in the vicinity.
All the dogs in the city, pets and pye dogs alike, knew what would be the consequence of the actions of the royal hounds (all but the very youngest ones) and so they fled to the outskirts to join the packs that lurked in the woods.

At any moment, they expected the king's enforcers to come and exterminate every one of them for something they had had no paw in.
The lead dog who, it is believed, was the Buddha in a previous lifetime, put his own fear aside, and calmly and with great dignity, went to talk to the king. He was so imposing that the guards made no move against him.
As he approached, the king asked, "How is it that you are still alive?
The great dog prostrated his head on the carpet between his paws, rose again and replied, " I have come on a mission of mercy, your Highness. "Why are you determined to put to death every dog in the kingdom? It is not possible that they all had a bite of the royal livery. There is certainly not enough leather on six bridles and harnesses for every single dog here."
The king replied, "Dogs chew royal property; dogs die."
"Highness, you have always been a most just ruler. The guilty ones deserve a punishment, that is true. Which dogs did the chewing?"
The noble hound continued, "Maharaj, is it right for all to suffer for the wrongs of only a few? Your response to this question will surely cause deep reflection by those in your own household, not to mention your ministers and even your many loyal subjects of high and low degree."
After a brief hesitation, the king said, "If you can show me the guilty parties, I will spare the other animals."
The skillful dog responded, "It is known that dogs will eat grass to scour their stomachs, therefore, let all the dogs eat kula grass. This will make them cough up what is in their bodies, and then we will find the guilty parties."
"It seems that most of the dogs have fled," said the king. "Only the royal hounds remain. How can royal dogs be compared to common curs? But let us see if the kula grass is effective. We will try it on them first, then."
The royal dogs were fed kula grass and lo, and behold, they coughed it up along with little bits of gilded leather.
The king was amazed, and he reflected on his spontaneous angry response.

He put an immediate stop to the dog hunt. He even halted the destruction of wild dogs.
As their penance, every year the royal dogs had to serve all the others -- pets, pye dogs and even those that lived in the forest -- at a great feast in the city centre.
So it happened that a great king learned the virtue of restraint, justice, courage and compassion from the Tathagata, who in that lifetime was living in the Animal Realm as a lead dog.

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