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Srbija 2020

Dog Watching

Neighborhood DogsNeighborhood DogsThere are about twelve dogs outside my window, more or less.

If you close your eyes and listen, there might be five hundred. No one loves these dogs. They are loud, abrasive, and harbor a particular dislike for passing cars. The dogs live in a large dirt bottomed lot, replete with hills and valleys and studded with protruding atramental re-bar in the Non-Operational Construction Area for Suspended Housing (NO-CASH) – an open field/apartment block in transition. A perfect place for our twelve neighborhood dogs.

The space they occupy bothers no one. There is no overt sign of heavy machinery coming to finish creating a building out of the embedded concrete columns which were pile-driven into the ground every day from 6 am to 11 pm two years ago. The space is a no-man’s-land where our twelve dogs have developed a microcosmic civilization.  

No one has actually counted these dogs, but twelve appears to be a propitious number for them. The number brings to mind scenes of the last supper, the hours of the clock, the months of the year, the signs of the zodiac, and the stations of the Moon and of the Sun.

Twelve dogs.

The untrained eye cannot distinguish among them – they are “dogs.” Given a little effort, if you can find someone other than myself who will take the time to do so, a person might venture that one dog is bigger, one dog is louder, one dog less socialized, one scruffier. The dogs ALL appear to be the leader. This does not happen at the same time, but (again you have to WANT to find this out) there is a discernable, if syncopated, rhythm for change-in-command in this group of twelve dogs. Within a five minute interval, a leader may have been installed and overthrown eight times – with the Big Dog getting more than his fair share of turns at bat.

This means that if I go look out my window at odd intervals during the day, I will see a new powerscape nearly every time. Each glance reveals a subtle or shocking reordering of the gears and levels that indicate Power within this circle of twelve. I have yet to determine the real criteria for mounting a coup-d’état, what qualifies a leader in this group, which are the backdoor-bargainers and which are the populists. As the group is completely self-contained, each dog is simultaneously constituent, candidate, incumbent, and contender.

It is likewise unclear to me what constitutes a successful regime for a leader. From the outside (read human) point of view, each configuration is equally cantankerous, cacophonic, and consternating – although I have never felt fear of direct assault by the group, I have often worried about bavures, accidental overspills of canine exuberance.

But to these twelve dogs, the power struggle is clear and present. No matter what role they are playing at whatever moment, the next move is being planned – and while this hatching of plots is going on, perhaps another leader has been toppled again. It is a continual motion machine wherein the status quo is a measure of change.

I must say that I find the yipping and yapping of these twelve dogs a constant annoyance. I often find myself wishing for, say, a passing crash of rhinoceroses to migrate into the NO-CASH zone and replace them. For their part, I am fairly certain that the dogs are unaware of the human population encroaching around them. They are far too concerned with their internal affairs to waste any time contemplating their place in the Universe.

I should also say that I do not usually spend so much time thinking about their doings. From time to time, events in our world lend themselves to analogy and metaphor. The all-too-human squabbling that we read about in our papers sometimes leads to a fleeting indulgence in anthropomorphism.

My hope is that as soon as we have a new government, most of the barking will subside.      

Hi Chris,

Do you remember what happened to stray dogs in Athens prior the commencement of Olympic Games? All the dogs from Olympic village have instantly disappeared over night. The rumour was that thousands of dogs have been killed in government-organised action. Who knows, maybe under new government, most of the barking will subside following Greek example.

Sometime in 1925, F. Scott

Sometime in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald told Ernest Hemingway to cut the first chapter out of his famous debut, "The Sun Also Rises," because it gave away too many details regarding the subtleties of the larger narrative. You didn't need that last bit, Mr. Farmer, we got it.

Neat piece though!

Hemming for Hemmingway

You are, of course, absolutely right... Ars poetica est non omnia dicere (Horace).

and thanks!


Animal Farm

You see, people in this small country only ever have a very passionate preference for a single type of dog, to the exclusion of all others. But, it is not the ability of the dog that causes this, such as protection or looking after the young or being a working dog. No, rather, it is the type of barking that the person prefers.

Since there are just so many dogs in Serbia (that includes bitches, of course) and as, in reality, they all always bark for the same reason, it is impossible for any one of them to ever become a true leader.

So, unless something changes with NO-CASH dogs and they stop concentrating on barking, looking for rhinos for help may be the only way to get a good night's sleep.


Someone wrote at the begining of Balkans crisis that stray dogs and money exchanges are sure sign of trouble.

Basics of human psihology can be conveniently learnt from dogs! Including tribal behaviour.

LP MMM, Ljubljana

Looking for Rhinos

Very nicely put! Thanks.

lead by example

serbia is bordering on barbaric, we know that. dogs are stray, hungry, it's bleak and gloomy and there's a lot of power struggle not to mention territorial marking going on.

so do one better. contact an animal shelter. extend them a helping hand. feed them. find them a home.

just looking on won't stop the barking or the biting.