When I was a little boy we had an enormous black Newfoundland called Cokie. Cokie’s life consisted of rooting around in the garbage cans behind the dining hall of the boarding school my father ran, and grinning and slobbering on anybody who seemed to be in need of a good slobbering but otherwise mostly just lying around in the shade with his tongue lolling out.
From a distance Cokie was often mistaken for a bear. He was sort of an animal George Foreman, s0 big that he could afford to be good-natured. He couldn’t be bothered to lose his temper, or snarl at man or beast, or bark in anything but excitement and welcome.
Then one summer vacation my father rented the school to a semantics conference. One of the conferees was a woman who showed up with a tiny lapdog, perhaps a Yorkie. Who knows, or cares. One of those nervous, inbred, and insufferable yapperdogs, anyway.
This nasty little freak took on Cokie as a summer project. She would yap, and snap and circle him, sometimes daring to dart within range and then jumping back, and all the time yapping, yapping, yapping.
Cokie just lay there day after day indifferent, unoffended, passive, in a stupid-seeming torpor, showing hardly a sign of life. Until at last one afternoon he suddenly snapped back, and bit the head clear off the little pest.