The Size of the Dog

All dogs are a single species. More precisely, I’m told, dogs are the domestic subspecies of wolves. You can almost get that out of the Latin name, even if you aren’t a former alter boy or an ex-nun. Canis lupus familiaris: Canis sounds like canine. Every fan of vampire movies knows that lupus means wolf. And familiaris seems pretty obvious to me.
A single subspecies they may be, but all dogs are not created equal. Our bichon, despite his name (Spike), is a 15-pound fluff ball who’s usually afraid of almost every other canine he encounters. The Westminster Dog Show places bichons in the “non-sporting” category, just one notch above the “toys,” e.g., the toy poodle. He’s cuddly, clingy, and far from fierce.
By contrast, while traveling in Israel on a Foundation for Defense of Democracies fellowship two weeks ago, I attended a demonstration of the guard dogs employed by the army units tasked with moving terrorists and criminals from police station to courtroom to jail. The demo took place on a large lawn. One guy, probably the last man to punch in that day, donned the brown prison coveralls issued to all inmates. He pretended to be running for freedom. The dog, which looked like a German police dog on steroids, ran him down and knocked him to he ground. Then the beast went for the guy’s throat. (Of course, the brute was muzzled for the exercise.)
I raised my hand. “Does the dog only hold onto the throat or does he…”
The officer smiled. “He’s not there to negotiate,” he replied. The rest was left to my imagination.
Subsequent demonstrations proved the dogs to be as brave as they are fierce. Faced with firearms and hand grenades, they charged into melees without a second’s hesitation. No time was wasted on negotiations… that’s for sure.
Arriving home, I decided to discover whether Spike had any semblance of the Israeli dogs’ wolfish qualities buried beneath his white, wooly exterior. One thing I’d noted on walks with our four-footed fuzz-ball: He’s braver on his own block than anywhere else in the neighborhood. With this in mind, my experiment went like this.
I waited until the guy on the corner let his dog into the back yard. This dog is a big boy. My best guess is that we’re talking about a retriever-setter mix of some sort. This fellow is 90 pounds if he’s an ounce. He always bellows his basso bark when Spike and I walk up the opposite side of the street. Spike usually ignores him. However, once in awhile my tiny pooch has uncharacteristically barked back.
This time we strutted our stuff right on up the big guy’s side of the street. As we approached the fence, the monster roared his low-pitched bark. Spike dragged me toward the fence. I couldn’t resist. I let go the leash. Spike charged right up to the fence, yapping like Peewee Herman on a caffeine high.
In the ’62 Cuban missal crisis, when word reached the Oval Office that the Russian ships had turned back at the American blockade line, Secretary of State Dean Rusk remarked, “We were eyeball to eyeball and I think the other fellow just blinked.” I held my breath, hoping Spike wouldn’t be the dog that blinked.
Far from it, he pushed his muzzle between two slats in the fence. Then, just as quickly, he backed away, turned around and started for home, me double-timing behind him. He didn’t stop until we reached the front door. Checking him over, I found three long lacerations on his little black nose.
They say it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Having seen the Israeli guard dogs in action, and having completed my Spike-experiment, I can report that this saying is baloney. Where dogs are concerned, size matters.
All the same, Spike sports his dueling scars… but we keep to our side of the street.

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2 Responses to “The Size of the Dog”

  1. star wars stuff

    check this out I can’t believe it

  2. That’s a good story and it reminds me of my encounter with Terror (http://oorvi.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/when-terror-struck/)…I completely agree with you when you say that size does matter:) especially in dogs…because they don’t follow human laws!

    I (and I am sure Spike too) is happy for your decision to keep to your side of the street:)

    Licks n Wags,
    Oorvi

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