This is our year, my husband’s and mine. It’s the Year of the Dog and we were both born in a canine year. I’ve been writing about these Chinese zodiac creatures for years, but only yesterday did I understand the story behind them.
The Jade Emperor needed twelve guards. He would select the first twelve animals to enter the Heavenly Gate as Guards of that gate. Rat rose early as did the Ox, and stowed away in the Ox’s ear until they neared the gate. Rat jumped down and “dashed to the feet of the Emperor,” coming in first, followed by the Ox. Tiger and Rabbit, Dragon and Snake, Horse and Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig followed. These animals became the Guards of the Heavenly Gate.
On hearing this story, my cat, Gordon, expressed dissatisfaction that the Emperor chose a rat over a cat. This is a common enough question that the storytellers came up with two explanations. One is that Cat asked Rat to wake him up in the morning of the race and Rat purposely let him sleep in, so he would miss the cycle. The other is that on the way, Rat pushed Cat into the water. Gordon says the latter is far more likely. He would never oversleep.
Dogs, according to legend, are loyal, true, honest, just and popular in social circles. My favorite characterization is this: “Everyone needs a Dog friend for advice and help. They are also good at helping others find and fix their bad habits.”
I suspect my popularity in social circles will decline after I’ve called a few people’s attention to their bad habits and offered to fix them, but apparently that’s my destiny.