The Ribboniers

This story originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2004 issue of GSM. Current revisions of the official breed standard now underway by the Scottish Terrier Club of America make this “why-tale” timely and relevant. It is hoped our ‘high priests’ in the Temple of Dog will make ‘standard’ both health and longevity and do no harm – Joseph Harvill

Scottie “Why-Tales” – The Ribboniers …… or Why Persons Have Power Over Scotties recounted by Sir Hoary Merrier, S.K.O.T. (Sacred Keeper of Tales, Clan Terri-UR) [a story by Joseph Harvill, editor, owner, publisher of Great Scots Magazine]

William, "chatty man"
William, “chatty man”

Gather around, you descendants of Terri-UR, for I have tales to tell. I am Hoary McTerrier, Sacred Keeper of Tales of the Clan McTerri-UR, bearer of legends from the Ancient Ones. Listen carefully, for today, I bring word of doom at the dawn of the world, the story how Scotties became pets and men became masters.

Long, long ago, before the Great Whelping of which Petsons speak, the Creator made the World of Dog. It was for romping and playing and laughing – as dogs do to this day and when they are happy and forget themselves as in the beginning.

“It is all very beautiful”, said the first dog, Terri-UR, as he surveyed the landscape. “But I need one thing more. Make me a companion I can love unconditionally, as you, O Great Spirit, taught me to love. Make for me a loyal companion so I may go forth into the world unafraid.”

So the Great Spirit took a bit of mud, a piece of Terri-UR’s fur and a snatch of wind and stars and shaped a Man.

“He’s wonderful!, O Great One,” exclaimed Terri-UR. “Now make him nimble and quick to play at my side – but not too quick so I can’t catch him. And make him smart like me – but not too smart so I can’t teach him to obey.”

And the Mother of all things breathed life into the man-creature the spirit of companionship and Terri-UR jumped for joy.

And so it was in the ancient World of Dog that canines increased and multiplied everywhere and so did their companions whom they called “Petsons”. And greatest among all the canids were the sons of Terri-UR whose Petsons were the envy of all as the finest companions in the land.

But dissension arose among the sons of Terri-UR over whose Petson was best, and, indeed, over the very idea of Petsons.

Some said a real Petson has a function and a job and that without tasks by which to prove his worth a man-creature is worthless and no true Petson at all.

Others said function was irrelevant, that it was how a Petson measured up to the eternal standard of Petsonhood that mattered, because only beauty and form count.

Still others argued that neither function nor form went to the heart of the matter since the essence of the true Petson was the Friendlies, and that, therefore, was what man-creatures were all about.

Passions we intense as the controversy spread among the sons of Terri-UR.

At first the Functionists were in charge saying Petsons must perform, must work to earn their keep and that without function there was no reason for a Terri-UR to have a Petson. So Petsons worked in those days, and worked hard, at all the jobs man-creatures are best at doing.

Now in the World of Dog the Priests in the Temples of Dog were very powerful and in the Land of Terri-UR they were clever and strong. And they rose up among the sons of Terri-UR and rebelled against the Functionists and the Friendlies and seized control, saying because Petsons were gifts of the gods, and because only Priests were qualified to speak the will of the gods, only they could know the true purpose of man-creatures and shape the Petson’s destiny.

Behind closed doors in the Temple of Dogs the Priests drew up a standard how Petsons must look: ears, eyes, skin tone, nose, mouth, posture, height and weight – everything to do with the form of a proper Petson. “We want our own special Petson made in our image,” they announced, “worthy of highest Terri-UR standards. The old man-creature is no longer acceptable, unworthy of our divine inspiration. After all, beauty is from the gods, and we are voice of deity among you, so we are the dividers of what is true and beautiful in the Land of Terri-UR. We alone set the standard for we alone know the measure and meaning of the Petson.”

Now, as you might expect among the sons of Terri-UR, not everyone was pleased about the new strict rules.

“Aren’t beauty and form matters of individual canine taste?” asked one of them with an arched tail. “Why are long earlobes on a man-creature pronounced ‘right’ while short earlobes are called ‘wrong ear-set? I love my Petson whether short earlobes or long, whether they’re ‘right’ or not.”

The Priests were indignant. “You know nothing of our Truth Circles wherein perfection is haloed,” they snarled. “Our standards are not arbitrary; they are established by the mystery of Peepage, for in the Truth Circles where the best Petsons emerge, our designated Priestess uses The Peeps, the Urim, and Thumim, which she puts over her eyes and by peeping at parading Petsons through these she instantly discerns perfect beauty – the perfect Petson.”

So the Priests of Terri-UR dominated the thinking of the sons of Terri-UR and perfect form became the measure of all that mattered in Petsons. And the Temple unified their control by a solemn proclamation that went forth across the land banning all mating of Petsons except in the Temple of Dog, where selective Petsoning eliminated from mating rituals man-creatures too tall or too short or those over-weight or who had defective vision as well as those with crooked noses or bald heads or bad teeth or small earlobes. And the High Priests kept records in the Temple, records of all who won ribbons in Truth Circles, and those Petsons were the sacred ones, the only man-creatures allowed to breed, for they were Petsons of the Temple, the blessed ones they called “Ribboniers.”

In time the whole idea of man-creatures changed. Function was forgotten; even Friendlies receded into distant memory. Producing Ribboniers became the holy quest of the Priests who fashioned ever more beautiful Petsons by breeding only the best of the best of the Ribboniers. And so, year by year, they sought the super Petson.

But there was unrest in the Land. “If we reject all Petsons except Ribboniers,” argued one outspoken voice, “aren’t we putting Petsons and ourselves at risk? Our legends say that’s how Giants and Ogres are unleashed on the earth when taboos against mating within families are broken. How can such mating be safe for our man-creatures?”

Others began to worry over imperious notes of beauty. “There’s more to a great Petson than being a Ribbonier,” insisted one independent-minded daughter of Terri-UR. “My nose is not the measure on my worth, why should nose define my Petson?”

Others claimed to notice rise in the Sicklies. They said Petsons had problems and they were spreading.

“We are High Priests in the Temple of Dog!” shouted the priests when they heard these opines. “We are Keepers of the Keys. We alone know the gods and history and only we know the measure of beauty. How dare you question our work! You would have only Petson rubbish were it not for us and our Truth Circles, for we and we alone gave you Petson class and beauty and true form. You are an ungrateful lot,” they thundered, “unworthy of our holy endeavours to give you perfection!”

Then the sons of Terri-UR were ashamed of their questioning the ways for they looked at their Petsons and saw they were classy and beautiful and perfect in form.

So the Priests in the Land of Terri-UR consolidated their strength and number and pursued ever more perfect Petsons in their Truth Circles. Meanwhile the Terri-URs themselves were obedient and passive, saying among themselves, “Our Priests know Best.”  So they waited in line meekly at the Temple of Dog hoping for a cast-off Ribbonier Petson.

But then the world changed for everyone. Plague gripped the Land of Terri-UR and every Petson was at risk of developing deadly Cankors. Petsons died at younger and younger ages as the Elders recounted long life and laughter in days of old.

There were but few deaths at first, or so it seemed, for Terri-URs mourned quietly in private and spoke little of The Plague. But The Cankors were relentless. Petsons left and right died all across the land including the best of the Ribboniers from The Temple of Dog and a great and mournful Ah-r-r-o-o-o filled the land because the sons and daughters of Terri-UR loved their Petsons and anguished to watch them die.

Rumour spread that the sons and daughters of Terri-UR were marching on the Temple of Dog to demand answers from the Priests. Behind Temple doors the Priests met in hushed session. “What shall we do?” they asked one another with anxious faces.

Then The High Priest arose with great solemnity to declare a plan.

“This is not our problem, and indeed it is not even certain there is a problem with man-creatures. We’re dealing here with rumour and gossip and unfounded conjecture by the rabble,” he asserted forcefully, “and we must not be deterred from our sacred duty as Keepers of the Keys to hold fast to our traditions. Perfect form Petsons is our calling and it is not negotiable and we are no true stewards of our standard if we bend to the will of the masses who are ignorant of our high and noble cause.”

“Besides,” he added in quieter tones, “Terri-URs are weak and passive before us. They will bend to our will.”

So a great assembly convened at the Temple of Dog to ascertain what had done wrong and what could be done to save beloved man-creatures.

“We can’t be sure there really is a problem,” barked the High Priest to the restive crowd. “No one can say for sure what causes The Cankors or whether they’re worse now than in the Old Days or that man-creatures are sicklier and dying younger than Petsons in the past. No one can say for sure because there are no facts, no records of sickness and dying.”

“But there are plenty are records in the Temple,” yelled out one angry voice. “You are Keepers of the Keys; Petson records are your business. What is your business if not the well-being of Petsons?!”

And the High Priest’s righteous indignation grew dark and ominous as the mournful dirge of Terri-UR weeping increased.

“The Cankors and sickness and dying are not our doing,” chimed the whole chorus of Priests. “The Plague is not serious – and if it is serious, then it is an evil of your making, not ours. Don’t blame us. You owe us praise and thanks and gratitude, not complaints, for Petsons rare and perfect in form and standard.”

“But our Petsons are from your hands,” the crowd insisted. “They are progeny of Temple rituals, solemn and blessed, which we were told lead to Petson truth and life. Our man-creatures are the children’s children of Ribboniers, whose beauty and form you validated in your own Truth Circles. Is not their life the work of your hands?”

Someone else shouted, “we hear that Petsons in other lands seldom get The Cankors ravaging our companions. Why are our Petsons dying by the score when other’s man-creatures aren’t? What has gone wrong in our Temples?”

The Priests grew hot with rage. “How dare you blame us,” they snarled. “You owe us adoration, praise and obeisance, not criticism! We took away the Uglies from your Petsons and gave you perfection of form and that is everything that counts in Petsons!”

“But aren’t health and long days part of Petsons perfection?” the crowd countered. “What good is the perfect Ribbonier whose sickness breaks our hearts?”

“Listen to your Priests,” the Temple leaders chanted over and over. “Quit trying to understand the Mysteries. We know what is best. We’ve given you beauty and that is everything you need. There is nothing better in a Petson. What’s a little sickness? – it’s everywhere; what’s a little plague when you have Petsons of perfect form! There is no problem except in your minds.”

“You say there is no problem,” groaned the mourners, “but shattered companionship is a grave problem for use.”

“Tell us,” another in the crowd insisted, “when you took away our Petsons’ Uglies what else did you take away? By mating only Ribboniners to Ribboniers have you unleashed upon us the Ogres the Ancient Ones warned us about? Have you given us beauty at the price of plague?”

“Silence!” screamed the High Priest. “Enough of your nonsense! You are not Priests; you have no place in our rituals or our temples. You are ignorant of the holies and of mysteries of Petson perfection. We cannot abandon perfection – plagues come and go, but perfect form is forever! And besides, longevity is worthless if your Petson is cursed with Uglies! To go outside our Truth Circles pollutes Ribboniers and will bring back the Uglies. Such brutes would be not Petson at all.”

The crowd murmured loudly. Someone shouted, “there are worse blights among us than the Uglies.” Another voice cried out “If you know how to breed against the Uglies why have you not bred against disease? If you can make our Petsons handsome why can’t you make them healthy?”

“Listen to us,” the Priests soothed, “we’re taking care of The Cankors. We’re pondering these matters on Tuesdays and we’re organising special vigils in the Temple, burning an extra candle and saying an extra prayer, so we’re certain The Cankors will go away. Trust us. We’re your leaders. Nothing is wrong in the Temple of Dog. We love Petsons more than you do for they are our masterpieces. Our work, and ours alone, gave you Petsons of rare form and beauty and perfect form is as good as it gets!”

So the crowd knelt down in humble obeisance before the Priests then melted away in silence and tears.

Then the assembly returned to their homes and buried their Petsons. One by one the man-creatures in the Land of Terri-UR withered and died while the High Priest chanted this mantra to wailing mourners:

“We are the Keepers of the Keys

you owe us praise, we take no fees;

Go bury your pets

There are no threats

And bow when you thanks us, please!

But the sound of the wailing was so great in the land of Terri-UR that it reached to the heavens and the Great Spirit came down to investigate.

When the Mother of all things saw the devastation among the companions of Terri-UR She gathered together all the canines and all their Priests for judgement.

“Form without fitness is folly,” She thundered to the Priests gathered before Her. “You have disgraced your high office by reducing the spirit of your stewardship to petty rules lacking judgement. Your cursed beauty has wronged the very foundation of the Temple of Dog which call on you to do no harm.”

And turning to address the sons and daughters if Terri-UR, the Spirit Mother said “Your passivity in the ruin of the man-creatures is unworthy of the gift of companionship I bestowed upon you in the beginning. Your Petsons needed you to rise up together in loyalty to save them, but you surrendered to the folly which engulfed them.”

To all She decreed an end to the World of Dogs as they had known it. From thence forward Petsons would be known as “Persons” and they would be the masters of the earth, and the descendants of Terri-UR would be the “pets” so that they might know forever a life of dependence and perhaps neglect and even abuse.

“But because of your ancestor Terri-UR, whom I loved as my own,” She said, “I will not abandon you fully to your fate. Although you will be pets in the new world at the mercy of your Persons, I will give you strength of will forever – the strength you failed to show on behalf of your own Petsons. You will never again be passive for yours will be the will of a lion, but it will be a bitter gift since you will be the servant of Man.”

And so, on that fateful day long, long ago, the world as canines knew it was turned upside down and dogs became pets and Persons were given power over all things.

And to this day one see glimpses of the old world order when a descendant of Terri-UR pulls hard on her leash ahead of her Person forgetting she is no longer in control.

And there remain glimpses also of The Plague and of The Cankors, too. Persons and more especially Scotties themselves these days show signs that are worrying. Some say the Ogres have been released all over again.

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