Doggone it, I feel a tantrum coming on!

Let me tell you about big dogs and little dogs, writes Nigel Jamieson.

There are some dog parks - the one I'm thinking of right now is in Green Island - where the park is segregated, one portion for big dogs, and the other for small dogs.

In these days of animal rights, nothing could be more humane than this segregation. Indeed, compared with human rights, this separation of big dogs from small dogs - think of upper decile schools from lower decile schools - is almost humanitarian.

Now, the small dogs (well, most of them anyway) for being set free by segregation from the bullying mannerisms of the big dogs, just love to exert their new-found freedom. They exercise it to their own best advantage by running up and down the boundary fence between their own enclosure and that of the big dogs.

In this fashion, these small dogs yap-yap-yap as they self-exercise themselves by running up and down this boundary fence that safely separates them from the big dogs. And doing so, much to the pleasure of their owners, who have no need to play ball, or to throw sticks, or to entertain their dogs in any other more humanistic way. These small-dog-owners are happy to leave their own small dogs to their own doggy devices.

For both the small dogs and their much bigger owners, this is all quite rational, all quite reasonable (although some anthropologists, being the big guys in all this, might cut it down to size, label it, and throw it out for being only a very small anthropomorphism). In the very same way, some big-dog-owners despise small-dog-owners - just as some big-car-owners despise small-car-owners.

Now, insofar as the small dogs are concerned, this is the only boundary - the one that separates them from the big dog park - that is fit for small dogs to play this same yap-yap-yapping game. Because what they hope to do by yap-yap-yapping . . . as they keep running up-and-down . . . and yet again up-and-down . . . and all the while yap-yap-yapping . . . as these small dogs exercise themselves alongside only the big dog boundary - is to tease the living daylights out of the big dogs.

You may ask me how I know all this. Is it because some of the big dogs - those who bark-bark-bark at the small dogs, and who run up-and-down . . . and up-and-down . . . the same big-dog-boundary . . . do not seem, like the small dogs, to be really enjoying the same game? The same chase for these bigger dogs seems to express their big-doggy exasperation by taking big-doggy affront at the disreputable tactics of the much smaller dogs.

Well, that's true, for I find my own big dog has now developed an antagonism towards small dogs. So I don't take my big dog back to this sort of segregated dog park any longer - although even elsewhere, I now have to muzzle my dog (which is not really so big nor in any other way so turbulent) but only because of her learned aversion to small dogs.

Now some of the biggest of dogs, for being far above all this sort of thing just wouldn't care a hoot about small dogs. They don't need to - although the biggest and fiercest of dogs (as well as the smallest and fiercest of dogs) can have their own, and sometimes worse problems. You see, even if you don't believe me as to what I'm saying about big dogs and small dogs, I know what I'm saying is true, because at five feet two inches short (and still shrinking fast) I'm really now quite a small dog.

Small dogs and big dogs are not much different from each other than small people and big people. (You only have to go to the gym and see how the body-builders are behaving there to believe this - which is why I won't go to the gym.) So for being a small person myself in almost every way, I know what it's like when trying to keep up with so many still-growing bigger persons. (Because we are hominids standing for the most part on two legs, read here taller for bigger, and shorter for smaller.)

So I know, for being such a small person myself, what it's like to snap at the heels of a much bigger person who insists on looking over my head (when I'd much prefer he shared his mind or even threw a tantrum). What it takes for a smaller person to make his or her mark, is often much harder than for a bigger person, so smaller people are prone to tease, or to snap, or in their own way to throw a small-doggy tantrum.

Socrates, so we are told, was quite a small dog of a person - and so was quite simply put to death for his teasing the Athenian nation. But even the biggest of persons may be put to their death without reason - to be either put down or strung up, as by some Sanhedrin which couldn't discern either the truth behind the teasing or even just the teasing by which to express the reasoning.

-Nigel Jamieson is a Dunedin dog owner.


For some years, I have wondered about 'Fang', a big malamute from the Arctic Circle. Transported below the Tropic of Capricorn, 'White', as he is known, is in a hot country. On edge in this climate, he chases horses, and French trappers called 'Jacques'.