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I feel sorry for big urban dogs

Walking in a residential area can be peaceful on a warm Arizona day. The songbirds chirp. The mourning doves coo. The mail people, dressed in shorts, make their appointed rounds.

Suddenly you hear the jingle of a chain. Somewhere near, a big dog has detected you. You cringe, for you know that within seconds you are going to get bawled out at close range by an enraged canine.

No matter how much the mind knows that the big dog is secured behind a chain link fence or tethered by a chain, the bare fangs and foaming mouth trigger an adrenaline rush -- exactly the opposite effect one hoped for when going for a walk.

One barking dog sets off the other big dogs. Pretty soon the entire neighborhood goes absolutely bonkers and you feel like a crook for just ambling down the street.

Are the dog owners concerned? Not at all. They're not home. They put their dogs on a chain and left for work. Or vacation. Or somewhere.

Poor big urban dogs.

I don't feel so sorry for the poodles, schnauzers and shitzus. They seem well adapted to tight quarters.

But big dogs? Who in their right mind would confine a big dog to a small city space where it spends its days alone?

A big dog should live on a farm. It should devote its life to chasing enemy cars that dare pass by on County Highway 54. After a successful chase, a big dog should trot for a triumphant quarter-mile back to the farm.

Other important tasks -- killing rabbits, scaring away deer, marking trees, collecting cockleburs and ticks from the woods -- await the animal up at the yard, at least until the next car approaches.

Then, another dramatic mission begins: The crouch in the ditch, the burst of speed, the nipping at the intruder's tires, the victorious return to the homestead.

If the passing vehicle happens to be the Schwans man and pulls into the yard, a good big dog will shrug off the chase and welcome the company.

That's because big country dogs are happy, healthy, well-adjusted, self-actualized dogs.

But big dogs in the city? I am no dog expert, but they look so sad. And angry. If you approach them through the fence, hoping to make peace, they get even angrier.

"Oh," the owners of big dogs say, "we take Bozo on two walks per day." But is a little prance around the block really enough exercise for a big dog?

Little dogs pitter patter around and eagerly sniff every urine-soaked shrub. They enjoy themselves on city walks, even on a leash.

But big dogs look just plain sad and bored.

So, why do city folks get big dogs?

Some people want the protection. A big, angry dog might, after all, deter crooks from entering a house when the owners aren't home.

Other big dogs are simply for toughness. Insecure thugs buy pit bulls for the same reason they might tote a gun. They crave every violent prop they can muster, including a car with a loud exhaust system and a pounding stereo.

In the end, big urban dogs exist not to be dogs, but to massage the ego of their owners. So what if the dog whimpers alone for 10 hours per day. If it jumps up and down with joy when the owner finally shows up, it is doing its job.

Large big city dogs, with their endless patience and infinite forgiveness, often serve to replace humans, who have the annoying habit of standing up for their dignity.

For some people, dogs are surrogate children. Others, unable to find a human to endure their nagging, will buy a big dog.

"Jezabel? Jezabel! Jezabel, I have had it! Put down that ham! You are not to...get over here! Now! How many times..."

Country dogs are allowed to act like dogs, but big dogs in tight urban quarters are expected to act human. It's as if they're supposed to cross their legs and sip tea!

No wonder big city dogs show such rage as they strain against their constraints to scare away passing pedestrians.

Big dogs evolved to chase cars along the county highway. Little missions in a tight back yard cramp even the limited dignity of a dog.