am a small person and I walk small dogs. When my little puff balls and I take to
the road, we are stopped at every turn by smiling people making smart remarks
like “Watch it! Here come the guard dogs!” or “Just who is walking whom?”
Little children love my tiny trotters and their eager fingers poke at Donald’s
eyes or grab Amy’s curved tail as if my pets were in a display case at Toys-R-Us
instead of taking the air with me on the other end of a leash. I walk along the
boardwalk in constant jeopardy of causing unintentional injury when one of my
darlings gets frightened and snaps at an admirer. As it is, Dorothy will bark at
any animal that comes near me as if she were 100 pounds of muscle instead to 8
pounds of fur and flab.
Not long ago, I had the pleasure of baby-sitting a very different kind of dog.
Jack is a strapping, black wolfhound, taller than I and twice my weight. He is
an imposing presence and needs his exercise even more than my little ones. So it
was that I took him with me when I walked with the others to the beach. Jack is
very mild and well behaved and never ever barks. We all trotted along my
customary route like a trained cotillion in perfect step. The only thing missing
was the music.
Walking with a wolfhound is a very different experience from sailing down the
path with tiny animals that look like playthings. Not one person made any kind
of remark as we walked by and several crossed to the other side of the road.
This experience made me realize how many pre-conceived notions we have about the
relationship of size to temperament and how very wrong we are not just with
animals but with people. I do not want to discuss how many total strangers have
patted me on my head, or even, when in a party mood, pinched my bottom. They
think of me as a wrinkled version of a Barbie Doll with no brains, expensive
taste and an elaborate wardrobe. I have to admit I have accumulated quite a
closet-full of vintage attire in my 74 years, but I like to think I know enough
to brake at a red light and comprehend the book I am reading. At my age, my
extravagances are in the realm of hearing aids, diapers and Medicare
My mother was a red head even shorter than I. She was adorable: Tiny feet, cute
little shape, manicured nails and snapping blue eyes. The minute you saw her,
you wanted to hug her….But beware the fool who touched my mother without her
permission. Hell knows no fury like my mother after a hard day at the beauty
shop or the dress salon. My father never dared to treat HER like his toy poodle.
Her personality was far more akin to Hitler on a rampage than Betty Boop wanting
to be loved. No tradesman risked cheating my mother; they were too afraid of her
acid tongue and her vitriolic attitude. She was like a charming tchotchke with
On the other hand, my father was a big, husky man who never raised his voice,
and walked away from every conflict. He was philosophical in the face of
disaster and when a tradesman bested him, he would shrug and say, ”Oh well, it’s
My miniscule mother, on the other hand would call the Better Business Bureau,
report the man to the police, write a letter to an editor and send out warnings
to all her friends never to patronize the villain again.
When I was a child, I idolized Carol May Reinstein. She was half my size and had
the demeanor of a princess on parade. I would beg my mother to go visit her. I
made my way across Islington Street (looking both ways and biting my lip for
fear I would be mowed down by Mrs. Berlin in her electric car) to Carol May’s
house at the end of the street. I’d ring the bell and Carol May would emerge in
all her splendor. “Hold out your hand!” she’d say and slapped me as hard as she
Now that I am older, I realize that Carol May is very much like my little
Dorothy. Dorothy is a solid cluster of fur with a pink tongue who knows full
well that she can control the world with her precious visage. My mother and
Carol May knew that too and used their size as a weapon to control their world.
Big, blustery people have no need to intimidate people because their very visage
I miss Jack. I know perfectly well that had a rabid pit bull or drunken Hell’s
Angel attacked me, he would have instantly sat down and begged for a biscuit.
Yet, I have to admit, for someone who has always felt insignificant, it was very
rewarding to trot down the street with an animal so large he made others pause.
A patrol car saw us out on the beach the other night and actually turned around
and went the other way. No one messes with big guys. Maybe that’s why they don’t
HAVE to bite.