Dogs have a power hierarchy that has been working for them since the Stone Age. So why do I keep thinking I can establish an egalitarian dog society in my house, in which the two dogs would function as equals and partners and they would be privileged to food and accommodation based on objective things like their size?
In the middle of the night, I get out of bed to go to the bathroom and see that, once again, the small dog is sleeping on the big dog’s bed where he looks like a newborn baby on a queen-size mattress and the big dog is curled around herself three times in order to fit into the small dog’s bed without draping her head or paws over the edge. I tell the small dog, whose name is Bow Wow, to beat it. He gets up and trots off the big dog’s bed and stands looking at the big dog, whose name is Minnie.
Minnie hesitates. She stands as if waiting for a direct expression of approval from Bow Wow. Her subservience makes me crazy. “Minnie!” I say. “Go to bed.” She obediently takes her place on the big bed but doesn’t really relax; Bow Wow is in his rightful bed but waiting for me to turn my back. His oppression of Minnie is so thorough that he needs only to glance at her and she will relinquish her bed to him.
This has become the predominant feminist metaphor in my life right now. Why does Minnie, the larger dog and the female dog, so readily acquiesce to Bow Wow’s preferred sleeping arrangements? She will also back off treats and toys when Bow Wow shows an interest and often his interest in the item is shallow. His interest is in his ability to put her in her place.
This irks me no end.
So I am glad when we are outdoors and the dogs are running loose and it is Minnie who becomes the shepherd of the smaller Bow Wow. Now the dominance isn’t about things – who gets what bed or what piece of rawhide – it’s about who’s going to make who run where. I can almost hear Minnie thinking, “You might push me around in the bedroom, buddy, but out here, I’m going to kick your little ass.” She’ll run him down and bite his neck; it’s like she’s been storing up all those nights of sleeping like a spool of thread on a sewing machine spindle, wound around and around. She’s stretching her legs, tail flying, cutting Bow Wow off at the pass.
I can almost hear Minnie saying, “Who’s the bigger dog now?” And Bow Wow sneering, “Wait until we get home, sugar.”
I’ll never figure it out.