A Big and a Small Dog


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

By Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, Founder of Sri Lanka’s Sarvodaya Movement

A house was burglarized every night. Finally, the home owner had enough. He went to an animal shop and said,

“I want to buy the biggest dog you have.”

The shop owner showed him his biggest dog, and he bought it and went home with it. He fed it very well, and was sure that this strong dog would scare off any burglar. But the next night, a burglar came again, and the dog slept right through and did not notice anything. The homeowner was furious. He took the dog back to the pet shop and said,

“I want to return this dog. It is no use. It slept right through while my house was burglarized.”

The shop owner said,

“Why did you not tell me that you want a dog to scare away a burglar? For that you need a small dog, which will wake up easily and bark loudly. But you also need the big dog. If a burglar sees only the small dog, he will not be scared. But the small dog will wake up the big dog, and then the big dog will chase the burglar away.”

The homeowner brought back both dogs, and indeed, his house was never burglarized again. The big dog is like the government: it has a lot of resources, but it does not pay much attention to people’s problems. The small dog is like the activists, the NGOs, civil society and the media: they don’t have as much resources, but they are aware of people’s needs and can raise their voices to mobilize the government to help solve the people’s problems. We need both.


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. Fischer was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University 1986-88, has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities, and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 Apr 2021.

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