DON’T CALL HIM SHORTY
It was featured in TIME Magazine and chosen by Oprah for her “O List’ of recommended products. It was heralded as a revolutionary tool in solving that age-old communication query: “What does a dog want?” It was the amazing new gadget pet lovers everywhere were whipping out their plastic to purchase — the Bow-Lingual Doggie Translator. It cost around $100, batteries included, and when your dog barked, it would tell you what was on its mind, even recording your pet’s emotions when he’s left home alone. Lonely? Playful? Happy? Hungry? Horny? (Isn’t it funny how dogs and men seem to have the same basic emotions? But I digress…..)
Well, this handy little gizmo would not be necessary for moi. I had no trouble understanding my French bulldog Roland’s growls and grumbles, boisterous barks and crybaby whines, rude stares, cold shoulders and well-timed gas attacks offered as a social commentary. Just to prove it, I closed my eyes and divined what the Tiny Terminator would say if he were writing this story.
“It’s me, Rollie, Kathy’s fabulous Frenchie boy, and it’s time for me to air one of my kennel full of pet peeves. How come nobody remembers that good things come in small packages? Despite my obvious machismo, I’m a sensitive guy. So what if I look more like Danny DeVito than Brad Pitt? I still deserve some respect.
French bullies like myself are not just whoopee cushions with bat ears. We have appeared in several major movies — “Titanic” and “Armageddon,” to name just two. When’s the last time you hung out with Leonardo DiCaprio or Will Smith?
Granted, most of the dogs who come to my owner’s grooming shop are taller than me. Lots of handsome Golden Retrievers sashay past me, swishing their plume tails like feather dusters right in my face. Stately German Shepherds stroll by, looking down on me like I am a speck of dirt. St. Bernards slobber on me without giving it a second thought.
‘Come here, little guy,’ my owner chirps. ‘I don’t like that Tasmanian Devil look on your face.’ She knows I’ve reached my limit and tries to bribe me with a pig ear but for the life of her, she can’t figure out why I’m getting testy. She can be clueless. Forget the pig ear, I want to tell her. Doesn’t she realize that if I had a nickel for every time she uses the word ‘little’ while referring to me, I could buy the whole pig?
The other day she was gushing about how gorgeous one of her Boxer clients was. ‘Look at those rippling muscles and the size of his chest! Is he in shape or what?’ I had the sudden urge to make a mess on the floor, so I did.
‘Oh oh — who did this?’, she asked, hands on her hips as she glared down at me. ‘I really don’t have to ask, do I? You’re busted, Rollie! Only you would do a peewee-sized poop like that!’ She waggled her finger in my face as she scolded me. ‘Bad little boy!’
Nice, I thought as I turned my back on her, skulking towards my crate. Even my poops are too small. The big dogs snickered. ‘Hey, Half-Pint, get a life!’ chuckled an arrogant Airedale. A big goofy Lab guffawed and threatened to lift his leg on me.
Another time, Kathy was extolling my virtues as a watchdog, but she even managed to turn that into a backhanded compliment. ‘Rollie barks his little brains out every time someone comes to my house. People on the other side of the door probably think he’s a Great Dane,’ she chortled.
Go ahead, I thought, mock me. Forget the obvious advantages of being small. Forget how my jaws are at just the right height for nipping the ankles of an intruder.
I know what it feels like to swallow my pride, to have to be lifted into the back of her SUV, to be carried up and down the stairs like those poor old folks who need a motorized chair attached to the banister to get them where they’re going. I know what ii feels like to be treated like a puny weakling who has sand kicked in his face by some muscle-bound steroid case at the beach.
Take the time I was at the shop, happily chewing on my stuffed teddy bear, when a massive Malamute yanked it right out of my mouth. I jumped as high as I could, grabbing that hairy halfwit by the neck and hanging on for dear life as he swung me around the room. Everyone was screaming as my owner swatted us with the broom.
The next thing I knew I was running down a long tunnel. It was beautiful and warm and smelled like fresh-baked dog cookies in there. A bright light shone at the end, beckoning to me like the promise of a butcher bone or a belly rub. I’ll never forget my owner’s tears as she woke me from that delicious dream, shaking me and sobbing, ‘My poor little boy!’
I was the king of the grooming shop for about a week after that. The only downside was the trip to the vet for stitches. Here’s another thing that bugs me — how come those wimpy vet techs always wear big suede gloves up to their elbows and safety helmets with facemasks like NHL goalies when I come to see them?
But despite what my owner thinks, size isn’t everything. My moment of glory came last summer when the neighborhood brats were playing soccer in the parking lot and the meter reader accidentally let me out of the gate. Those kids and I have a love-hate relationship — I love to terrorize them and they love to taunt me but they hate to see me walking on a leash because they know my owner won’t let me chase them.
This time they saw me coming and started screaming like a bunch of twelve-year-old girls at a Justin Bieber concert. In the ensuing melee, one of them kicked the ball into the street. As the youngest of the little loudmouths darted towards the traffic to fetch it, I yanked the leash from Kathy’s hand and used my small size and impressive power to body-slam that rugrat to the ground. I’ll never forget the squeal of brakes as cars and trucks screeched to a halt or the colorful language the drivers directed at me.
‘Rollie saved Jason’s life!”, yelled one of the tater tots. In a flash, their mothers converged, one comforting the kid who sported a skinned knee, another cradling me to her ample bosom. Kathy covered me with kisses as she proudly proclaimed, ‘He’s my little hero!’
For once, I didn’t wince when I heard that annoying adjective. I closed my eyes and grinned with both rows of teeth as she passed me along to the next adoring female. Recalling the years of heckling I had endured at the grooming parlor, I felt a bit smug. “Eat your heart out, all you oversized oafs,” I mumbled to myself. Being carry-on baggage ain’t such a bad thing after all.