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A sheep, strolling down a forest road, came across the pelt of a wolf that had fallen from a hunter’s wagon. Excited by the idea of joining a prestigious, lucrative pack, the sheep draped the heavy pelt over his head and back and headed over to the wolves’ lair in the middle of the woods.

When the sheep reached the edge of the clearing in which the wolves made their lair, he was challenged by a young wolf, who bared his teeth and snarled, “Who are you? Why are you here?”

The sheep snarled, too, and said from under the pelt, “I’m a wolf. I want to join your pack.”

The young wolf growled, “What makes you think you are good enough? Where are you from?”

The sheep pointed back from whence he came and said, “About a league from here. Where all the ivy grows.”

“Ivy? League?” The young wolf grinned. “Why didn’t you say so?! Me too! Come this way.”

The young wolf brought the sheep deeper into the clearing, where several older wolves were resting. He introduced the sheep as a young wolf from his neck of the woods, and said that he might fit in with the pack. The oldest wolf opened one eye, dubiously, and asked, “That so, newbie? You gotta have a fire in your belly to run with us. Are you hungry enough to do whatever it takes? Get the last of the pickings from the hunt? Eat grass if we tell you to?”

The sheep barked. “I could eat grass all day. And when I eat grass, it doesn’t grow back!”

The older wolves all howled, and the oldest wolf nodded approvingly and said, “We could use someone like you. Lemme take you to the alpha male.”

The oldest wolf brought the sheep to the alpha male, who was lounging in the center of the lair, surrounded by she-wolves. The alpha male’s hackles rose when he saw the intruder, but the oldest wolf calmed him down. “Got a new recruit,” said the oldest wolf. “Got the right background, looks like a hard worker. What do you say?”

The alpha male gave the sheep a quick once-over. He saw an ungainly schlub who barely looked comfortable in his own skin. Certainly no threat to his alpha position. He gave the oldest wolf a nod. “Welcome aboard,” he said to the sheep. “Now, if you’ll excuse me . . .” The alpha male and two she-wolves got up and headed into a cave together.

The sheep was delighted to have made it into such an elite pack. He imagined himself in eight years — an older wolf, with more prey than he would know what to do with, a great big den, maybe even beta male!

That night, his first hunt with the pack seemed to him to go pretty well. He kept up with the rest of the wolves . . . most of the time . . . and he made a point of kicking the carcass of the cornered deer, once the other wolves had taken it down. Some of the other wolves looked a little oddly at him, panting and breathless after the chase, but then, for a laugh, the oldest wolf told him to eat some grass, and when the sheep did all the other wolves howled. The sheep thought he was going to fit in.

By the end of the first year, though, the sheep was a wreck. None of the older wolves wanted to hunt with him, because he was too slow and he wasn’t “bloodthirsty enough”, and the pack’s motto was “you eat what you kill.” The sheep was embarrassed, because he still hadn’t figured out how to corner prey, and there were pups who were hunting better than he was.

Worst of all, a couple of days earlier, one of the older wolves, annoyed with the sheep’s lack of kills, had nipped at the sheep’s haunches, and the sheep only barely kept himself from baa-ing. That would have instantly turned him into prey. Now the sheep felt he could never relax. He hated being a wolf, but he couldn’t afford to admit he was a sheep. He could barely keep up with the pack when they were hunting deer; how was he going to keep ahead of them if they decided to hunt him?

That night, the alpha male came up to him, just before the start of the hunt, and growled, “Follow me, and keep up. If you don’t help us corner the prey this time, you’re history.” The sheep gulped and then ran gasping behind the alpha male, deathly afraid of falling behind, but the alpha male drew away. Then, when the prey changed direction unexpectedly, the alpha male swiftly turned into the thick briars, barking “Come on!” to the sheep.

The sheep followed as he was told, but the old, heavy wolf pelt got caught on the thorns, and was dragged off his back. Suddenly thirty pounds lighter and much slimmer, the sheep ran past the alpha male — who snapped at the sheep and missed — and disappeared into the brambles, where the larger wolves could not follow. Free at last, he bounded ecstatically to the meadow, where he contentedly spent the rest of his days.