Born: June 19,1995, Dundalk, Maryland
Died: June 3, 2010, Baltimore, Maryland
Breed: Mexican short-haired Chihuahua (aka "Taco Bell dog")
Occupation: Detective , Back-up singer for rock band, Flying Wonderdog
Favorite food: Potato stix
As far as flying wonder Chihuahuas go, Gretal was the bomb. 0f course, I’m not quite certain there were any other flying wonderdogs or not. Perhaps possibly one day I will learn of their existence, maybe even through this very website.
She lived to the ripe old age of 15 despite thyroid problems and growing an enormous crystal inside her kidney the size of a golf ball. The vets next door still have it and are keeping it on display in a jar on a shelf. They’d never, needless to say, seen anything like it before or since.
Gretal the flying wonderdog was a gift from my now husband on the 5th year of us meeting and getting together as a couple. I wasn’t even expecting anything. I was just told one Saturday morning to get dressed, we were going to get my anniversary surprise. The next thing I knew we were in Dundalk pulling up to this small salmon pink house that belonged to these two sweet smiling old ladies. And there she was the last puppy left, all 1 and a half pounds of her, flanked by her older Chihuahua parents. Gretal was such a dear tiny little thing, just 9 weeks old. She was born on June 19 which would make her a Gemini, very apropos as sometimes she’d be such a sweet little angel and at others such a hellcat monster.
That day, we took her on a whirlwind tour around Baltimore, carrying her all over our neighborhood of historic Fell’s Point, to later that night bringing her with us to an outdoor cabaret . She was so tiny and cute everyone immediately fell in love with her and were besides themselves at how precious she was.
The night was brilliant, from Blaster Al Ackerman doing a mind blowing spoken word set, to the Haus of Frau, a local drag queen troupe, rocking the mike with an hilarious original skit, to the group Mecca Normal blowing up the stage and the night. Mecca Normal were one of my favorite bands at the time, being one of my five favorite "go to" cassettes rattling around the Ford Festiva when I’d drive to my babysitting job in Towson, or when running around doing day to day errands.
Mecca Normal started out strong with “Throw Silver”, and you’ll never believe what happened next about half way through the song. Gretal the wonder Chihuahua to everyone’s awe, surprise, and disbelief took to the air, flying towards the stage and the music, rocking out with the band.
Everyone, out of the 60 or so people there in that beautiful outdoor garden where the event was held under the stars and the full moon, started clapping and cheering and shouting things like, “Rock out little dog!” and “Go girl go!”
This weird scene went on for the next ten or so minutes while, in the chaos, I started to worry about getting her back. My friend Denny, a sometimes-member of Haus of Frau, but not an actual drag queen, came over, sensing I was about to cry I think, said, “Don’t worry. It’s all going to work out.” At 6’7” his style of dress was more that of a flamboyant rock star, kind of 70’s roller disco mixed with David Bowie’s spaceman phase, with a little Kiss thrown in for good measure. Denny, standing 6’10” in his silver platform boots, marched in front of Mecca Normal and snatched her out of the air like some good looking hipster King Kong.
And then my hero Denny, with his big red blonde curly white boy afro and his white star shaped sunglasses, started making his way towards us with our tiny little Gretal puppy cradled in his arms. Needless to say, this was the first time we discovered Gretal the Flying Wonderdog had the power of flight. Those sweet, darling old ladies had never said word one.
Some of my friends would tease me that Gretal the Wonderdog spent the first two years of her life in my lap with occasional intervals in other peoples laps, that is when she wasn’t flying around the rowhouse dive bombing the cat Princess, or our other dog, a boxer named Junior, the whole time with her cute little bouts of yipping, her version of tittering laughter.
Gretal was very capricious where her flying was concerned. It wasn’t just something you could get her to do on command. The spirit had to move her. When Gretal was moved to pure joy, like when getting together with friends at parties, or when hearing live music like when the Dirt started having band practice in 1997, were the times she would really fly. It was so cute at the Dirt’s band practices, she’d be flying and harmonizing and letting out a series of barks and yips that almost sounded like singing. That first inaugural practice was when the Dirt decided to make Gretal a backup singer. Yes, she really was that good.
The Dirt is me- Mary Knott- words and lead vocals, Jenna Wade on guitar and bass, and Mike Bell on guitar, drums, and everything else but the kitchen sink and maybe even a little of that sometimes, and don’t forget Gretal the Flying Wonderdog providing backup vocals. As I’ve said, "we are the Dirt". We currently have a video up now on You Tube featuring Gretal - “What Do I Look Like?,” with “I Tried Everything.”
As I said, it was very hard to get Gretal to fly on command so during our first gig, at the Moose Lodge in Highlandtown two years later, Gretal didn’t join in with the band until our next to last song “Johnny Come Lately” and then she sort of hung in there for the Dirt’s noise classic “Jen’s Got a Hangover”, with a series of hilarious guttural barks reminiscent of a hangover.
A gig about year later in Philadephia at the Foxhole was memorable for a far different reason, for it was then that we discovered Gretal’s sleuthing abilities. On that evening, Mike Bell was in a tizzy as a fifty dollar collectable Neil Young bong lighter and a pair of Sonic Youth tickets had gone missing from his guitar case. Somehow Mike got the brilliant idea that we could incorporate Gretal and her flying abilities to see if we could find just who had committed the theft. His instinct had been right because outside Gretal all of a sudden started swooping down and barking at a guy named Trey and his friend Leo. And what do you know, when Mike and I went down to investigate, Trey still had the collectable lighter in his hand. Mike was livid and barked, “Hand over that fucking lighter or I’m going to kick your ass!” As Trey is sheepishly handing over the lighter Mike demanded, “Okay now the Sonic Youth tickets. I’ve got a hot date that night and I’ll be darned if I’m missing it because of your dumb ass.”
Gretal had a very strong sense of justice and right and wrong and that, combined with wanting to be like every other cartoon band that also solved mysteries as a sideline, made us realize that this was our calling.
If I had to recount every mystery Gretal helped us to solve in her lifetime this memoir would go way beyond the time I’m allotted here, so I’ll just name a few:
“The Mystery of Red Rock Mountain”
“The Strange Case of the Big Foot Family”
“The Intruder in the Minivan”
“Zombies - Devils or Pubcrawlers?"( we told her the answer but she needed to do this one on her own), “Who Killed Kurt Cobain?”
“The Mystery of the Missing Groceries”
“Who Destroyed the Outdoor Swing Cushion?" (it was the other dog).
The list goes on and on and Gretal proved to be a great asset as she had an 80% solve rate. She went as Columbo three Halloweens in a row and as Sherlock Holmes and additional two.
Gretal the Flying Wonderdog was some character, and she is sorely missed by everyone.
~ Mary Knott
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