Wicked Atticus By Clarissa Worley Sproul

Photo: Tamara Bauer
I never thought I’d holler at the top of my lungs at any animal—least of all my sweet little Atticus. For all the two years I’ve had him, he’s been my little baby. He’s the little Whippet (yes, that actually is the name of his breed) who ate from my hand and snoozed in my sheets (at least up until I got married) and followed me around like the world depended on it.

Well that all changed when we got our Great Dane puppies. In sheer playfulness, with a big dose of jealousy, Atticus made sure those little pups knew who was boss. He’d clip their ears and they’d roll over fast and then he’d kind of snort at them and walk away. You could just hear his thoughts, those wimpy dogs, what a piece of cake. 

Now as annoying as this was to me, I wasn’t hollering just yet. First because the puppies were little and rolling over didn’t take much out of them, after all they were barely two inches off the ground; and second, because the puppies were a bit pesky and often deserved a little reigning in. 

The hollering actually surfaced last week. The puppies, now with a good two hundred pounds between them, are as big as they are clumsy. They are also known (their breed) for breaking limbs and throwing hips. And so it was that last Thursday when I came out of the house to find Atticus, truly a shrinking violet, not even half their size, nipping their ears and sending their huge bumbling selves to the ground in a roll, I freaked.

It might have seemed fun to watch, but I was having visions of three-legged beasts and giant vet bills. And here was Daisy, Dane number two, flinging herself onto her back while running full blast across the slope of our yard. This could not be good.

And so I hollered. And I hollered. And to no avail...it was like Atticus was addicted to the power of it all and couldn’t stop himself. Here he was this skinny little indoor pet bringing two mammoth beasts to their knees (actually their backs) and just by reaching for their ears. 

And as I hollered, the vision of it all seeped into my life. Here was this little dog ruling a species that could swallow his head in one bite. Yes, Atticus was no match at all, and yet, it seems that the Danes had no idea how much bigger and more capable they were now. They may as well have been ten inches tall, they way they responded.

It makes sense if you think about it. Daisy is wired to drop to the floor when Atticus nips her ears because such events took place when she was too small to do otherwise, and also because she has yet to stand up to Atticus and realize her power to do so. She’s trapped in teeny-tiny puppy behavior and can’t seem to shake it.

And how about us? Here we are full-blown adults and yet we respond to events a lot like Daisy. We don’t think we’re free to break through our childhood fears and the patterns of coping that we learned when we were too small to act on our own behalf. Not only that, we probably haven’t exercised our power to act or to stand up and say no, or whatever it is we know we need to do, and so we play the game and act the part of a victim in situations where we are more than capable of taking charge.

Honestly, I can’t wait for the day when the Danes have had enough. I can just see it now.... Daisy will slow down just enough to notice that the dog chasing her into submission is weak and small. She’ll stop in her tracks. She’ll look down at her intimidating assailant and grin her big doggie grin. Game over.

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Clarissa Worley Sproul writes from the Pacific Northwest.
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