Number 72- I is a big dog, I is.
Gretchen is trying to look out of the front window, she balances on her back legs, leans her chin on to the book case, but she is still to small, too short. She is reduced to jumping up and down, getting brief, partial glimpses of the garden and the cat that is sitting on the front wall, staring in at her house.
Gretchen is struggling to bark and jump, her flattened face and squashed nose make this challenging and even to her own ears her bark is tiny, yappy, not very impressive at all.
“Yip, yip, yip”.
The cat lifts his head and stares at Gretchen as desperately trying to bounce higher, to get nearer , to look bigger, she overbalances and performs a prefect back summersault, taking a whole shelf of books with her.
The cat doesn’t even blink and returns to his quiet contemplation of the empty street.
And then the crash of books and a vase that had been left,forgotten in the great puppy proofing of 2015, half hidden by books on the middle shelf and has finally succumbed to the curse of the dog.
There is a pause, a chance for Gretchen to adopt her saddest face, ears drooping, sitting on her haunches, head bowed and then….
“ Gretchen “ the voice is loud, followed by the thump of feet on the stairs and then a pause, a taking stock of the damage, pause. Gretchen sits quietly, doesn’t move a muscle, waits with her head held low.
At 9 months old,she has discovered that this is the most effective way to head off disaster.
Make the sad noise
And if all else fails, roll onto your back and show off your baby pink belly.
She is about to start this manoeuvre when she is scooped up, squeezed against a shoulder and kissed.
This is a surprise to her, loud bangs, crashes and the smashing of breakables is usually followed by the angry voice and an exile to the crate in the kitchen, but today the girl has seen the smug faced cat on the wall. She holds the dog up to the window and laughs
“ too small” she croons “ too small to even scare of that little cat”.
Gretchen wriggles in frustration, she is not too small, it is the world that is too big, the world that operates at a scale unfriendly to a French bulldog. On the inside she feels huge, a wolf of a dog, the kind of dog that struts across the park, smaller dogs scattering before her.
Gretchens reality at the dog park is something quite different, the walk preparation starts with an outfit being chosen. She has an extensive wardrobe, coats, jumpers, even a darling little tank top and matching skirt and then a lead and collar chosen to match the clothing, a quick squirt of lavender scented dog parfum and then off they head. Gretchen pulls in her eagerness to get there, but remembers her manners and is patient when the girl stops to allow the many admirers to pat and cuddle her.
The park is full of smells, scents that call out to her, that are so vivid, so heavy with information that she hardly knows where to start.
She bounces with excitement as finally the lead is removed and she is set free and with that she is across the park, mouth open in joy.
On the park she doesn’t feel small at all, she feels herself to be all dog, the wolf within let lose as she races from trees to long grass and into the patches of undergrowth where the scents are most delicious.
Here, Gretchen is the perfect size to squeeze under bushes, into the spaces between the benches where foolish picnickers leave the tastiest morsels of sandwiches and can, if she breathes in and nobody’s paying attention, slide underneath the toddler climbing castle and forage for chocolate buttons and dropped crisps.
On the park Gretchen fills the spaces perfectly, rises above the girl’s attempts to make her small, to keep her cute, to negate the dog inside. On the park, Gretchen leads a pack of dogs exploring the skate park, encourages them to turn deaf ears to owners too timid to challenge the hoodies and the emos who have ownership of the skate space and the burnt out bench.
It’s Gretchen who discovers the carrier bag momentarily ignored by the father rescuing his over ambitious five year old from the big kids climbing frame and tears it open, sharp tiny teeth tearing at the wrapped cooked chicken and its Gretchen who gets the lions share, holding her corner even from the sheep dog from across the road.
Finally, Gretchen is recaptured, her lead clipped on and still yapping her excitement, they return home and as they enter the house, she feels herself shrink, diminish, becomes all to aware of her size in a house where everything is too big.
Gretchen tries to look out into the front garden, tries to monitor the cat situation, but without the bookcase to balance on,she is even smaller and can only get brief,momentary glimpses of the wall as she leaps up and down.
There are two cats now, both seem completely unimpressed by the tiny barking dog jumping up and down to see out of the window.