Of the nature of dogs The Latin name for the dog, canis, seems to have a Greek origin. For in Greek it is called cenos, although some think that it is called after the musical sound, canor, of its barking, because when it howls, it is also said to sing, canere. No creature is more intelligent than the dog, for dogs have more understanding than other animals; they alone recognise their names and love their masters. There are many kinds of dogs: some track down the wild beasts of the forests to catch them; others by their vigilance guard flocks of sheep from the attacks of wolves; others as watch-dogs in the home guard the property of their masters lest it be stolen by thieves at night and sacrifice their lives for their master; they willingly go after game with their master; they guard his body even when he is dead and do not leave it. Finally, their nature is that they cannot exist without man.
Also of the nature of dogs We read that dogs have such great love for their masters, as when King Garamentes was caught by his enemies and taken into captivity, two hundred dogs went in formation through enemy lines and led him back from exile, fighting off those who resisted them. When Jason [Licio] was killed, his dog rejected food and died of starvation. The dog of King Lysimachus threw itself in the flame when its master’s funeral pyre was lit and was consumed by fire along with him. When Apius and Junius Pictinius were consuls, a dog that could not be driven away from its master, who had been condemned, accompanied him to prison; when, soon afterwards, he was executed, it followed him, howling. When the people of Rome, out of pity, caused it to be fed, it carried the food to its dead master’s mouth. Finally, when its master’s corpse was thrown into the Tiber, the dog swam to it and tried to keep it from sinking.
When a dog picks up the track of a hare or a deer and comes to a place where the trail divides or to a junction splitting into several directions, it goes to the beginning of each path and silently reasons with itself, as if by syllogism, on the basis of its keen sense of smell. ‘Either the animal went off in this direction,’ it says,’or that, or certainly it took this turning.’
Again on the nature of dogs Often, also, when a murder has been committed, dogs have produced clear evidence of the guilt of the accused, with the result that their unspoken testimony is for the most part believed. They say that at Antioch, in a distant quarter of the city at dusk, a man was murdered, who had his dog with him on a lead. A soldier had been the perpetrator of the deed, with robbery as his motive. Undercover of the growing darkness, he fled elsewhere. The corpse lay unburied; the crowd of onlookers was large; the dog stayed at its master’s side, howling over his sad fate. It happened that the man who had committed the crime, acting confidently in order to convince people of his innocence – such is the cunning way in which men think- joined the circle of onlookers and, feigning grief, approached Then the dog, briefly abandoning its doleful lament, took up the arms of vengeance, seized the man and held him, and, softly singing a pitiful song, as in the epilogue of a tragedy, moved everyone to tears; and the fact that the dog held that man alone, of the many that were there, and did not let him go, lent weight to its case. In the end, the murderer was at a loss because the evidence in the case was so plain; he could not clear himself by objecting that he was the victim of anyone’s hate, enmity, envy or spite, and he could no longer rebut the charge. Because it was very difficult for him, he suffered punishment, because he could offer no defence.
A dog’s tongue, licking a wound, heals it. A dog’s way of life is said to be wholly temperate. A puppy’s tongue is generally a cure for internal injuries. It is characteristic of a dog that it returns to its vomit and eats it again. If a dog swims across a river carrying a piece of meat or anything of that sort in its mouth, and sees its shadow, it opens its mouth and in hastening to seize the other piece of meat, it loses the one it was carrying. In some ways preachers are like dogs: by their admonitions and righteous ways they are always driving off the ambushes laid by the Devil, lest he seize and carry off God’s treasure – Christian souls. As the dog’s tongue, licking a wound, heals it, the wounds of sinners, laid bare in confession, are cleansed by the correction of the priest. As the dog’s tongue heals man’s internal wounds, the secrets of his heart are often purified by the deeds and discourse of the Church’s teachers. As the dog is said to be temperate in its ways, the man who is set over others diligently studies wisdom and must avoid drunkenness and gluttony in every way, for Sodom perished in a surfeit of food. Indeed, there is no quicker way for the Devil, his enemy, to take possession of man than through his greedy gullet. The dog returning to its vomit signifies those who, after making their confession, heedlessly return to wrongdoing. The dog leaving its meat behind in the river, out of desire for its shadow, signifies foolish men who often forsake what is theirs by right out of desire for some unknown object; with the result that, while they are unable to obtain the object of their desire, they needlessly lose what they have given up.
Some dogs are called licisici, wolf-hounds, because they are born of wolves and dogs, when by chance these mate. In India bitches are tethered at night in the forests to breed with wild tigers, by whom they are mounted, producing very fierce dogs, so strong that with their grip they can pull down lions. Whenever a sinner wishes to please his maker, it is necessary and advantageous for him to seek out three spiritual masters, who will hire three spiritual servants with three spiritual gifts in order to reconcile the man with his maker. The masters and their servants with the three gifts are in this order: the first servant is a tearful heart; the second, true confession; the third, sincere repentance. Their masters are the love of God, righteous desire and good deeds. The spiritual gifts are cleanliness of body and mind, purity of speech, and perseverance in good works. The servants and their masters with their spiritual gifts appear before the Trinity in this way: before God the Father appears the tearful heart bearing cleanliness of body and mind; before God the Son appears true confession with righteous desire and purity of speech; before the Holy Spirit appears sincere repentance with good deeds, bearing perseverance in good works. As potions are necessary for a sick body to heal its infirmities, a potion is needed to cure its spiritual corruption, a potion of four ingredients – a tearful heart, true confession, sincere repentance and good conduct. This potion is a fitting remedy for the spiritual ailments of the body because when the soul is anointed with it, it is at once cured of its frailties. But if the soul, once healed, is left without a decent covering, how, in the heavenly court where it must be presented, will it be presented before its maker? The man who undertakes to order and array his soul, must clothe it decently and fittingly, therefore, so that he can present it in a praiseworthy fashion before the angels in heaven. The first garment in which the soul should be clad is purity. For no soul can be presented in the court of heaven, which now or in the future is not pure. Other garments are piety, charity and other virtues in which it should be attired. Clad in such raiment, with the three guides, purity of thought, chasteness of speech and perfection in deeds, the soul can be presented honourably in the glory of heaven, where it will be rewarded by that blessed state which the angels enjoy, for which God created man, assigning him three counsellors, spiritual understanding, the capacity for doing good, and wisdom; if man accedes to them, he will not lose his heavenly kingdom; because man did not accede to them, he lost his inheritance.
Folio 18r – Wolf, continued. De natura canum; Of the nature of dogs. There’s also an interesting paper, The Dog in the Middle Ages.