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A dog's plea to an army of crows
Beside the road, in the shadow of the trees, a man-dog licks his chops. He has come a long way for food.
He is a German Shepherd and his name is Spix.
In 1822 the man who owned him was a man called Karl von Spix, a Prussian general who had the ear of a German emperor.
In those days the German army was marching east to take the Russians out of Prussia and so end the war they had started three years earlier with the invasion of French territory.
The armies marched by and von Spix's dog was among them. His task, to follow and spy out enemy movements, was to be as close to the armies as he dared.
He followed the armies from Pomerania in the north, over the Oder River, to the banks of the Vistula in Poland, and finally on to Riga in Latvia in the Russian Baltic.
In Riga the emperor of Russia sent a special messenger for von Spix, saying: "My dog is hungry and thirsty, and it is the duty of my imperial messenger to feed my dog."
Von Spix went on another long journey, this time to St Petersburg where he met the emperor Nicholas I, and there he was fed every day, first with bread and water, then with raw liver.
He got away
When he came back to his master, in Riga, the emperor Nicholas had disappeared.
But von Spix did not want to stay in Riga. He knew that a Russian emperor was not going to feed him, so he slipped through the fingers of the army and went to see the tsar of a neighbouring country, Prussia, where he had been living since 1811.
Prussia was at war with France at the time. The man who would not feed von Spix was called Frederick William III, and the dog's owners called him the king. He lived on a hill in Berlin.
Prussia seemed a bit cramped, so Von Spix asked if he could be allowed to live with him. But the king was a bit cross, he sd.
What can I do with a dog who was born to spy? You don't want me to spy on your enemy, do you?
He looked at the dog and saw something shining in his eye. "Oh, if that were all," he thought, "I could do without him."
Prussia had been at war with France for over a year. King Frederick William knew that Russia was the biggest army in the world, and he thought the time was right to call on the Russians for help.
In a secret letter to his ambassador in Russia, von Spix asked for permission to spy on the enemy. The ambassador was pleased.
He asked his ambassador to arrange a meeting with the tsar.
A few weeks later, the ambassador called the man who had the key to the kingdom, the tsar. He had the name Friedrich Wilhelm, the king had told him, but he was a bit odd. He liked to take dogs for a walk with him.
After they had talked for a while, the ambassador asked the tsar whether he would allow the dog to spy on his enemies. The tsar was not pleased to hear it, but he consented. He invited the dog to come and stay in his own palace. He told the ambassador, "If anything interesting happens, I can't help but let you know about it."
Prussia and Russia were now both at war with France. The tsar sent his messenger dog to spy on the Prussian ambassador. He asked the dog to report to him everything that he learned. When the messenger told the tsar about a battle, he was happy, and when he told him about a battle, the tsar was happy.
Every day, the dog's reports to the tsar added to the general joy. The dog's reports helped the tsar win a great victory in an important battle. The Prussian ambassador did not know what to make of it.
After the battle, the messenger dog went back to the tsar's palace. He was told by his master to wt until dark. The tsar would come for him.
Late in the evening, the tsar came. He was very upset to learn that the messenger had not wted for him, and sd, "I gave my word that you were to wt for me."
"I told you about the battle," the dog explned.
The tsar nodded. "And that is exactly what I want to know. Do not lie to me. Tell me what happened. If you do not, I will punish you."
"There was a battle," the dog answered.
The tsar was not satisfied. "Tell me more," he demanded. "How was the battle won?"
"I cannot tell you," the dog answered.
"Can't or won't?" the tsar demanded.
The dog had heard his master do this before. He knew better than to disobey him. He would not tell him what happened to him on the battlefront.
The tsar's face darkened. He threw the dog off his lap and stood up. He was very angry and took the dog in his hand. He sd, "I am the tsar, and you will obey me. You will tell me what happened on the battlefront. That is all. You will not lie to me. If you do not, you will suffer."
The dog's heart was pounding, and he was trembling. "The battle was won," he sd.
The tsar was still very angry. He was breathing very hard. His hand was still gripping the dog's head. The tsar sat down, still holding the dog's head. Then he began to slap the dog. The dog jumped and yelped with every blow.
"Do you hear me?" the tsar shouted.
"Yes," the dog answered. "You are the tsar."
The tsar stopped and began to slap the dog agn, harder than before. The dog was now whimpering and his eyes were filled with tears. His paw pads were bleeding. When the tsar stopped agn, the dog was panting with pn. "I cannot keep doing this," he sd to the dog.
The dog was crying. "Please," he begged. "I cannot tell you what happened."
The tsar was crying, too. He was furious with the dog. He sat for a long time. Then he sd, "Very well. Let me do the slapping myself. You will tell me the truth."
The dog whimpered.
The tsar stood up. He turned to the chr where the tsarina was sitting. The tsarina was silent. She did not move.
"Where is Grand Prince Mikhl?" the tsar asked.
"He left the battlefront yesterday morning, Your Majesty."
"He is a coward. He should have stayed."
The dog looked up at the tsar and sd, "He is the bravest dog I have ever known."
The tsar turned and began to slap the dog agn. The dog was whimpering now. The tsar stopped agn and asked, "What do you mean, bravest dog? He is not brave. He ran away to Germany. He is afrd of his own life. You think he is a brave dog? A good tsar? Have you lost your mind?"