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Full Service Salon For Your Pampered Pet
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Funny Dog Antics

This fiction short story should give hope to anyone that has a "grouchy greta!"

“Grouchy Greta”

Greta pushed her short four legs through the mounds of powdery snow. Not an easy task, as she already had deeply embedded snowballs lining all the fur of her legs and skirt. She waded deep, burying her beard and face completely with a series of muffled snorts and powder-filled breaths. Her black and silver cropped ear tips were all that were visible above the churning snow, like periscopes of a submarine emerging from the sea. “Whadja find down there – what, nothing to growl at?” asked her owner Anne with a giggle. Greta’s small schnauzer head popped out of the snow like a jack- in- the- box, dripping loose ice crystals, the white silhouette of her black body frozen in place, a pose of preemptive attack clearly readable despite the snow mounds that covered her.

It was the middle of December and this was her first snow experience, and she loved every minute of it. Greta, an eight month old miniature schnauzer with more spunk than Anne had anticipated was a fun pup, full of all the happiness and playfulness that a baby schnauzer offers, but her grouchy side was a SERIOUS challenge! Greta growled at everybody, using every octave of growl or howl, possible. Whether she was happy or mad, she sounded like a grouch! Anne had tried everything she could think of to break the habit, as growling at people to say hello was not well-received by her friends, or by anybody for that matter. Anne thought walking among strangers might desensitize her to the need to growl. Or at the very least, desensitize the passersby to Greta’s grouchy behavior. Eventually, Anne hoped, Greta would stop growling when she saw familiar people. It was an arduous and draining task to try and train the growling and howling out of Greta, but Anne wasn’t giving up! She wasn’t going to own a mean dog! “Grrrrr” Greta growled and sprung out of the snow and onto Anne’s boot with the lightning-butt springs that schnauzer’s have. She took a mouthful of puffy snow pants between her teeth and starting running, not getting in one full stride before losing her tooth hold and rolling her snowballed body over on the walking trail. Anne laughed, delighted with Greta’s puppy antics, reveling in this moment when her schnauzer was acting exactly like a regular schnauzer should. Looking ahead on the trail, she saw the outline of two people walking toward them and her laughter morphed into a sigh. ‘And we’ll try this again,’ thought Anne to herself, watching the approaching trekkers with hopefulness and worry, and not necessarily in that order. They lived in Sandpoint Idaho where they were taking advantage of the freshly plowed walking trail that lined the edge of the town. A trail that was well-liked and just as well-used by the townspeople, most of them being dog owners. Greta caught sight of the two strangers ahead, her little lips puckering to form a perfect ‘O’, pulling her snow-encrusted whiskers forward, like a bristle brush in front of her nose.

An hourglass shape of schnauzer stubble, as slim as a pencil lifted on her back, her hackling instinct, well-developed. “Wooo” she said from her mouth, a high sound somewhere between a growl, a purr and a yodel. She was already intensely protective, alerting Anne to the oncoming humans on their path.

“Ok, Greta, here’s a chance to practice being a civilized dog. Can you try not to growl at them? They will tell you how cute you are, you know.” Greta looked up at Anne under her long, speckled eyelashes overshadowed by silver eyebrows. A knowing older than her eight months flickered inside them. Her eyes glimmered from her Momma to the bodies approaching. She considered what Anne wanted, even DOUBLE- considering it…but, she just COULDN’T do it. Her lips pursed, her ears pricked forward and the black ridge on her back stood at perfect attention. The strangers now directly in front of them, noticed the developing snowballs fluxed into Greta’s legs. “Oh, look at the snow on her legs! What a cute puppy!” said one of the women, eyes sparkling at Greta’s baby body, “Is she nice?” The woman extended her fingers towards Greta’s head and bent down.

“Drrrrrrgrrrrrr,” growled Greta, watching them. She made no move to bite. The woman pulled her hand back quickly, and stood up. “Oh, I guess not!” she exclaimed in surprise taking a step back. Anne smoothed down Greta’s freshly hackled back explaining to the women that Greta growled at everybody when she was happy AND when she wasn’t. “She just hasn’t learned how normal schnauzers are supposed to act when they meet people,” explained Anne. The women looked at her unconvinced. “Really,” said Anne trying to sound convincing, “she will let you hold her, but she will make those funny growl sounds in the beginning,” she paused a minute trying not to sound as bewildered as she felt, “Do you want to hold her?” Anne hoped that as more strangers handled Greta the less her need would be to growl. Owning a growling puppy was SUCH an embarrassment! Thank God she didn’t bite!

“Well, if you promise she doesn’t bite,” said the woman, looking at Greta wistfully. She tentatively reached a hand out to the puppy and Greta growled two octaves lower, but let the woman pick her up. Greta stretched her neck up to smell the stranger’s scent, completely covering the woman’s nose with her silver beard. Anne held her breath, ready to lavish praise on her young pup. Was it possible that Greta would start developing some manners? Would Greta finally understand how she should act? She wondered hopefully.

“Drrrrrrrr, drrrrrrr,” growled Greta softly, then paused and grunted twice, breathing in the woman’s breath again. Greta arched up her nose to the sky and with her mouth forming a perfect ‘O’ again, she howled and yodeled at the same time. The woman laughed and said, “Well, you definitely don’t have trouble expressing yourself, do you? My name is Sally.” Greta dropped her nose down, switching from her yodeling to a humming. “What do you call that?” asked Sally with a toothy smile, “Howldeling?” Anne burst out laughing. “Well, I have never put a name to that sound, but I think it is closer to growldoling. Most people just think she’s rude.” The woman’s companion piped in, “I don’t think you have a growler here. I think Greta is a SINGER!” Greta, Anne and Sally turned their attention to Sally’s friend. “Hi Greta,” she said, “I’m Lucy.” Greta started in immediately with a medium octave yodel, “ldrlrlrlrlrlr, rrrrrrrrr.” All the women laughed in unison, easing the tension that Anne was feeling over owning such a strange-acting dog.

“You see?” said Lucy. She plucked Greta out of Sally’s arms just to prove her point. Greta yodeled higher, and then dropped down to low holding tones. “You have a singerrrrrrr!” sang Lucy in mimicking high and low tones. Lucy, who appeared to be about 45 years old, loosened the red scarf around her neck, and cleared her throat dramatically. She broke into the holiday song, "Jingle Bells", and everyone was surprised when Greta followed suit, not in words, but in sounds. Greta was able to mimic every note that Lucy sang, with her neck stretched long like a trombone, and her little mouth pursed in her perfect ‘O’ position. Anne was in utter shock. All of this time, she had thought she had a misfit grouchy grouch. She couldn’t believe it. Her baby dog was a singer!!! A GREAT singer in fact! She watched Greta as if seeing her for the first time. Her body was quiet in Lucy’s arms, only her little mouth and neck moved and twitched as she found each note, entirely focused on trilling in unison to Lucy. And, she was doing it and loving it! She was singing along to "Jingle Bells", using all the sounds that Anne had heard over the last five months! Every last growl, howl, and purr that she had scolded Greta for repeatedly now sounded like a flock of angels singing praise in a strange and ethereal language.

The song ended and Greta was ready for more, so Lucy immediately started again with I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Greta never skipped a beat or a note. She kept her neck stretched up towards the sky, trilling, growling, and yodeling with all her might, staying in perfect tune. A crowd began to gather from each side of the walking trail. In the four minutes that Greta and Lucy had been singing, several dozen people, and a group of young children, had approached them, forming a loose circle around them. Cars that were close to them slowed down to have a look and a listen. Anne could hear people whispering to each other in amazement, pointing at the singing dog, and shaking their heads. And then, something amazing happened.

A child’s voice joined in with Greta and Lucy. It was a little girl’s faint voice that was beautiful and pure and sweet. The crowd parted ever so quietly, revealing a girl, about five years old, bundled in winter clothes and boots, her hands stuffed deeply into her coat pockets. She stood next to an older couple that were clutching each other and had begun to cry softly. The little girl only watched the puppy as she sang, unaware of anything else around her. The look of wistful sincerity on her face while she sang the words “and mistletoe….and presents under the tree,” brought tears to Anne’s eyes. She didn’t know why. She only knew that she was witnessing a miracle. The only being that the girl was even conscious of at that moment, was Greta, and her singing. Lucy beckoned the singing girl towards them with her hands. The little girl walked to them, standing next to Greta, singing softly. The crowd listened to the singing trio, mesmerized by the experience. At the end of the song, there was not a dry eye among them, except for Greta who carefully and efficiently shimmied herself into the little girls arms, both of them completely unaware of her snow-packed legs. Instead of growling and howling like she normally would do when meeting a new person, she licked the little girl once from her chin to her eye, and stared into the little girls eyes. “Hi. I’m Cassi, and I like your singing,” said the little girl to the dog.

The older couple that had been standing with Cassi rushed up and gave her a big teary bear hug. “I didn’t know you could sing so beautifully!” said Cassi’s grandmother.

“Momma was singing with this dog, she wanted me to sing, I did,” said Cassi, smiling at Greta, “It made her happy”. Greta gave Cassi another long kiss on the cheek, and jumped into Anne’s arms. Greta did not make another sound. Cassi’s grandparents continued to wipe away the tears that were pouring down their cheeks. “My Granddaughter, she motioned to the girl, lost her mother…my daughter,” she paused to steady her voice, and clutch her husband’s hand, “just 6 weeks ago. She hasn’t spoken a word to anyone since then.” The crowd gasped. Anne blinked twice, comprehending what had just transpired. Greta was quiet, and relaxed, ears perked forward. Cassi’s grandfather wiped the tears off his cheeks and asked Anne, “How in the world did you train this dog to do such an incredible thing?” He put his arms around his granddaughter’s shoulders, squeezing her tight to him. She looked up at him, smiling sincerely for the first time since her mother had died. Anne took a step towards Cassi’s grandfather, gulping back the knot in her throat. “Would you like to meet her? We call her ‘Grouchy Greta’”.

Copyright DuAnn Lustig-Chambers 2011