Once upon a time there lived in a certain pueblo a rich man who
had a dog and a cat. His only daughter, of whom he was very fond,
was studying in a convent in a city several miles distant and it was
his custom, about once a week, to send the dog and cat to take her
a little present. The dog was so old that he had lost all his teeth,
and so was unable to fight, but the cat was strong and very cunning,
and so one could help the other, since the dog knew better how to
find the way.
One day the rich man wished to send a magic ring to his daughter, so he
called the dog and the cat to him. To the cat he said: "You are very
cunning and prudent. You may carry this magic ring to my daughter,
but be sure to take very great care of it." To the dog he said:
"You are to go with the cat to take a magic ring to my daughter. Take
care not to lose the way, and see that no one molests the cat." Both
animals promised to do their best and set out immediately.
On the way they were obliged to cross a wide and deep river, over
which there was no bridge, and as they were unable to find a boat,
they determined to swim across it. The dog said to the cat: "Give
me the magic ring." "Oh, no," replied the cat. "Did you not hear the
master say just what each of us had to do?"
"Yes, but you are not very good at swimming, and may lose the ring,
while I am strong and can take good care of it," answered the dog. The
cat continued to refuse to disobey its master, until at last the dog
threatened to kill it, and it was obliged to intrust the ring to the
Then they began to swim across the river, which was so strong that they
were about an hour in getting over, so that both became very tired and
weak. Just before they came to the other side, the dog dropped the ring
into the water, and it was impossible to find it. "Now," said the cat,
"we had better go back home and tell our master that we have lost the
ring." "Yes," answered the dog, "but I am very much afraid." So they
turned back toward home, but as they drew near the house his fear so
overcame him that he ran away and was never seen again.
The master was very much surprised to see the cat back so soon, and
asked him, "Where is your companion?" The cat was at first afraid to
answer. "Where is the dog?" asked the master again. "Oh, he ran away,"
replied the cat. "Ran away?" said the master. "What do you mean? Where
is the ring?" "Oh, pardon me, my master," answered the cat. "Do not be
angry, and I will tell you what has happened. When we reached the bank
of the river, the dog asked me to give him the ring. This I refused
many times, until at last he threatened to kill me if I did not give it
to him, and I was obliged to do so. The river was very hard to cross,
and on the way the dog dropped the ring into the water and we could
not find it. I persuaded the dog to come back with me to tell you
about it, but on the way he became so frightened that he ran away."
Then the master made a proclamation to the people, offering a reward to
the one who should find his old dog and bring him to him. They could
recognize the dog by his being old and having no teeth. The master
also declared that when he had found the delinquent he would punish
him by cutting off his tail. He ordered that the dogs all around the
world should take part in the search, and so ever since that time,
when one dog meets another he always asks: "Are you the old dog who
lost the magic ring? If you are, your tail must be cut off." Then
instantly both show their teeth and wag their tails to mean no. Since
that time, also, cats have been afraid of water, and will never swim
across a river if it can be avoided.