Written for David Heyes as part of his "Fizz at 50" project. "Gerty Goat Scuffer" (in case you wondered) is one of many nick-names we had for a much loved family dog - officially named "Heavy Hetty" from a character in an imaginative children's book of that name.
In my youth as a composition student at the RAM, I discovered that walking a dog for an hour a day is the anti-dote to the long hours required as a composer, "sat you yer bum" writing at a desk, and (in those pre-computer years) writing endless parts out by hand. First of these 'best friends' was a glorious Gordon Setter called "Sophie", (my first love), who accompanied Pat and I on our honeymoon across Scotland. Thirty years later, we were privileged to enjoy the company of three therapeutic beasts; "Merlin" (a prize winning Pyrenean Mountain Dog), "Gael" (an over energetic Scottish Border Collie) and "Hetty" (a unique cross between a Pyrenean Mountain Dog and a St. Bernard - something of a "kennel-maid's Accident").
Hetty (see picture) is unfortunately no longer with us now. She had an extraordinary puppy-hood that left her with titanium plates holding her back legs together. Hetty was surprisingly active though, right through to the age of nearly 10 - speciality: chasing Pheasants in the grounds at Strathmashie - but she became progressively hampered by arthritis, and 'scuffed along' on her vast hairy pads with a swagger. She also used to remind our children of a mountain goat. Songs have been written about her, but this is the first instrumental work that she has inspired!
The pervading thematic motive of the piece (heard from the outset), cheekily alludes to an (over) famous Saint-Saëns work for double bass (but no insult is intended to Hetty!). The increasingly roving tonality and unusually sudden shifts of key, combined with the use of jazz chords, combines to present a short but heartfelt tribute to a unique animal that provided untold pleasure to all she came into contact with, simply by just being "herself".