One hundred dogs and 94 bones

nce upon a time there was a small community comprising 100 dog bone-winners and their families. Each morning for as long as anyone can remember the 100 dogs set off into the field to dig for bones to bring back home to their families. The government's bone policy was designed to ensure that there were always enough bones for all the bone-winners to succeed in their search and no dog families went without a bone. The community was secure, young dogs were happy and well prepared to take over the bone-winner's role when the older dogs retired. There was no bone-stealing and all the bone-winners always had an incentive to get up each day to dig for the bones that were buried in the field each night.

A keen dog ready to dig Each morning, the bone-winners would groom themselves with pride and head off to the field. You could see how keen they were to get on the road and go and dig for bones (see picture to right). One day the 100 dog bone-winners set off for the field and when they arrived they found there were only 94 bones buried. Some dogs who were always very sharp dug up two bones as usual, others dug up the usual one bone. However, as a matter of accounting, at least 6 dog bone-winners returned home to their families that day bone-less. There was initial despair but because this had never happened before the bone-less families pulled together and ensured that their bone-winner maintained spirit and arose earlier than usual next morning and spent the extra time grooming and getting prepared for the day in the field.

But the pattern set in and the next day the 100 dogs set out to dig for 94 bones. They searched vigorously but only 94 bones were in the field. The situation started to get desperate and the government bone policy took a sharp turn and started to focus on the motivation of the bone-seekers who were bone-less.

At first there was resistance Consultants were called in - dog psychologists and dog-trainers - to work on the attitudes of the bone-less dogs. Initially there was resistance because the dogs didn't feel that they were to blame. 100 dogs but only 94 bones. The Bone Network was established by BoneCentre to provide various programs designed to help the bone-less dogs get back into bone-winning shape and organisations sprung up all over the small community to offer Bone Network services. The bone-less dogs began to hear new terms like bone-seekers and the staff in the Bone Network provider offices often called them clients. As time went by changes continued and each bone-less dog (and by now more than 25 per cent of them had been in that state for over 52 weeks) had to attend the nearest Bone Network office and be classified by the Bone Seeker Classification Instrument (BSCI). One dog was asked about the assessment process undertaken in the BSCI interview by the BoneCentre officer. The dog replied that the BoneCentre officer had a big sheet and put down numbers. Every time the dog fidgeted a bit a bad score under the heading "observable behaviours" was noted. The bone-less dog was considered a problem if they were "too quiet", or "too loud", or "talked over", or used "inappropriate or aggressive language", "talked incessantly", showed a "lack of insight", had "unusual dress", "inappropriate make-up application", and "shaked, paced, twitched, trembled" and almost any other sign of nervousness that accompanied their bone-less state.

The young dogs in the dog-school yards started using new words to describe the dog-parents who were bone-less. One bone-less dog heard his young pup using terminology like Bone Snobs in the back dog-yard one evening and the dog was filled with despair and self-hate. You could clearly observe the change in the grooming and bearing of the bone-less dogs. Once proud now forlorn. Some of them became ill while others found their families were no longer the happy places as they had previously been. The dog divorce rate increased. The typical vibrant nightly family discussions that came after the day's bone digging were now marked with a sense of purposelessness and the whole bone-less dog-family was affected. BoneCentre also introduced a new scheme designed to ensure that the bone-less dogs earned the survival bones that were given to them. This became known as the very popular Dig For The Bone program and BoneCentre officials talked endlessly about compliance and mutual obligation. One bone-less dog muttered that mutual was like a tango - it needed two parties to be successful.

BoneCentre also commissioned a major consultant's report which identified eight bone seeker segments, which reflected the bone-seeker's level of motivation towards the bone search activity. A complex diagram summarised the eight segments. Only one of these segments was focused on by the community's media next day. It identified Cruising Bone Seekers who were described as being relaxed about being bone-less and didn't really want to return to the field and had stopped going out to the field each day. The terminology quickly entered the kid's dog-school yard jargon. Any dog walking down the street during the hours when they would normally be digging in the field were taunted with the term. But there were still 100 dogs willing to dig each day and only 94 bones. BoneCentre published a monthly Bone-Less rate and this became contentious because the definition of being bone-less excluded those who didn't go out to the field each day. The same dogs had always gone out and would again but they understood the equation - 100 dogs 94 bones. BoneCentre said that the Bone-Less rate was around 3 per cent and would drop further once the benefits of the Bone Network were realised.

Some of the help given by the Bone Network helped make some individuals more motivated and aggressive and so subtle changes were noticed in the composition of the bone-less dogs at the end of each day. But no matter how many resources BoneCentre pumped into the Bone Network, there were still many dogs who remained bone-less day in day out. They steadily lost their pride and their appearance became increasingly worrying (see a typical Long-Term Bone-Less Dog to the right). The rate of bone theft rose dramatically and dog prisons started to grow at a faster rate than dog schools as the government rallied the community around law and order issues.

However, whichever way you counted the bone-less rate there were 100 dogs wanting to go to the field each day and only 94 bones were buried there.

100 dogs and 94 bones.


Thanks to Phillip Harvey for inspiration. Ideal for children as a bed-time story. It teaches them about their future.

Education Page

Home Page

The Centre of Full Employment and Equity, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia
Telephone: +61-2-4921 7283, © Copyright 1998-2017     E-mail: