Archive for the ‘Others’ Pets’ Category

I’d love to support the notion that all dogs are created equal. Puppies are all cute, of course, and cuddly and playful and just – oh! so lovely! And to some people I guess it is the same with babies. And so the saying goes that to begin with, we’re all the same, with all the same potential for fun, love, joy, sadness, hate and evil.

Well. I’m not so sure. Was Ted Bundy a sweet baby? How about Stalin, Mao, Hitler, fat, little Kim Jong-Un, Margaret Thatcher, Putin? Were they cute, cuddly babies? If so – at what point did they change and start showing their true colours?

I know I started with dogs and moved on to versions of tyrants here. It just struck me today when I witnessed a really bad dog-attack in a dog park here in Vienna. I am extremely fortunate to live in a city that is almost custom made for the co-existence of humans and dogs, a place where you can take your beloved pooch to restaurants and pubs, where there are designated, fenced areas provided for people to let their dogs run around free, play and socialise. A city that even has entire forests and wetlands dedicated to dogs and their people. And just because of that wonderful appreciation of dogs, I can never leave this place. I was meant to live her, in the most dog-loving city in the world.

All those who know me would probably agree that I have a set of far softer spots for dogs than I have for people, and that I am willing to let my own dogs almost get away with murder just because they’ve got me so completely twisted around their little paws. I know Thomas thinks I’m way too soft. He keeps telling me “he’s a dog!” about whatever dog I’m busy spoiling at the moment, as if I didn’t already demonstrate just how aware of that I am in my efforts to make my wee munchkin the most happy pooch in the entire world. And why shouldn’t I? What dog, as us city dwellers know them, was ever given a choice of where and how to live? With any luck they will have a good life with people who love them, but that is definitely not a given.

Let me see if I’ve managed to get back to where I started. Tabula rasa and the dog. Well, being who I am, I – by principle – support the notion that basically dogs are cuddly and sweet and blahblah. Right? And then some dick-head comes and ruins it all by taking an entire BREED and throwing it into the fighting pit, and TADA! we have an aggressive breed with aggressive owners and lots of draconian laws are passed punishing dogs and owners en masse, people who would never DREAM of forcing their dogs to fight and dogs who are equally clueless about the use of their shiny whites. And I sit there and get angry with the cowardly tossers who do such a thing to sweet, cuddly dogs who only want to be loved and – and – you can see where this is heading, right?

All dogs are created equal.

It’s just that. Some dogs are created a little more equal than others. And since the implementation of various restrictive laws because of young men owning dogs of a particular kind because they count as “cool” and powerful and aggressive and great guard dogs, I have been the number one advocate for the re-education of people on the origins of the American Staffordshire and Pit Bulls and all those related breeds who have been forced – totally against their real nature! – to be aggressive and partake in illegal fights and whatever. I would so like to believe that those powerful breeds are nothing but chubby teddy bears. That small dogs are only yappy because of their yappy owners. That Labradors are sweet because their owners are sweet.

I’ve been blessed with a wonderfully sweet and quiet dog for the past six years, Mischa – a mix of Husky, Alsatian, Labrador and possibly something else. There is not an evil bone in his body. So imagine my shock at getting Hades and Pluto, two Chinese Crested who YAP! And sometimes snap at strangers, completely without warning and for no apparent reason. Mischa was already the perfect dog when I got him as an 8-year-old dog. Now I actually have to raise two dogs, get them to BECOME the kinds of dogs I like – because they are not naturally born teddy-bears… Admittedly, Pluto is close, but Hades still has a little to learn from Mischa in that department. And they both yap. Pluto at any and every noise outside the flat, Hades  – just because.

Want to hear about the dog attack?

I had taken Mischa, Hades and Pluto to the doggie playground in Volksgarten, just off Heldenplatz. Already there were a variety of dogs, including a majestic looking tall, slim curly coated dog and an American Staffordshire. The Staff came over to greet me, Mischa and the little ones. He was incredibly powerful, all muscle, but seemed friendly enough. But then something invisible took place between the curly coated dog and the Staff and everything turned ugly. Really, really ugly. When the curly dog’s owner tired to intervene, the Staff took no notice. His jaws locked around curly’s right front leg and he started to twist. The screams of pain from the curly dog were chilling, and at this point the Staff’s owner ran in and grabbed the dog – but to no avail. He punched him to get him to let go, but no. I was just waiting for bones to snap when the Staff finally let go and instead attacked curly’s owner. The Staff’s owner finally got him to stop and calmed him down – red mist seemed to dissolve from the dog’s eyes and he was all docile again. The curly dog limped away in shock and I called him to me, calming him and comforting him. His owner was down with ugly bites to his leg.

I think the rest of us were collectively expecting the owner of the Staff to leg it with his dog. But we were happily proven wrong in our assumption about Staff-owners. He first called emergency services while holding the dog firmly. Then he put a muzzle on him and tied him to a post and attended to the other dog owner’s wounds together with a couple of other people, while I continued to reassure the wounded dog. The Staffordshire-owner’s hands were shaking. He was totally devastated and told me he was shocked, deeply shocked, and now also afraid of the dog.

An ambulance arrived, police arrived, and as things were dealt with and I collected my three (who had all behaved impeccably throughout!) and left, I turned to look at the Staffordshire who looked back at me – and I thought I was looking into the eyes of a dog with only a few more hours to live. A dog that could descend into red mist at the drop of a hat – a loaded gun. Is that what certain breeds are after all?

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Well, you may think that it has something to do with Orion’s death. And you’d be right. But he has in no way lost his appetite so no, he is not grief stricken to the point where he is refusing to eat. If he were, I’d be seriously worried. All it is is that he can no longer steal Orion’s leftovers.

Not that we are not all grieving, Mischa included. He is still searching for Orion in Votivpark and the dog zone on the edge of Arne Carlsson Park. And wherever else we go. I’ve seen him stare attentively at greyhounds, his tail going up and wagging in anticipation, only to sink down again at the realization that it’s not Orion. But his appetite is completely intact, and given the chance he still gobbles up any kind of crap he can lay his greedy little snout on. But with Orion’s passing, the opportunities are fewer and farther between. He now shamelessly waddles up to any dog owner and sits in front of them doing “Menchen” (“human” – both front paws up, balancing on his butt – well, sort of balancing on his butt) in the hope that their pockets will open up and reveal a horn of plenty of dog snacks. When they’ve never met him before they’re not quite sure what to make of it. When they know him, they cuddle him and proceed to pop treats into his mouth. Mission accomplished and not even remotely impossible.

Thomas and I are still absolutely dazed by the last few week’s worth of deaths. Gerard, then Orion and then Don. Oh, I guess I didn’t tell you about Don. Uncle Don. Not my real uncle, but Don Fenner who directed Christmas Carol the first time I came to Vienna in 2000 to play Tiny Tim at the International Theatre. Uncle Don who tried so hard to placate me – and succeeded – when I fell out with Marilyn (Wallace/Close) over the treatment of another actress and very nearly walked out in the middle of the run, even in the middle of the show (at the time, Pygmalion, spring 2002). Don. Don is gone.

I found out because Marilyn – I’ve never really revealed much about my time at IT – let’s keep it that way – has a dog-walker called Sam, and I passed him walking her dog WinnieII (all her dogs are called Winnie, it seems) and he shouted after me. Then, in a dramatic voice (are all who have something to do with IT total drama-queens??) that Don has died! and if I had “anything to say to those people” I should do it NOW! (background church bells and sounds of chains in a deep, hollow dungeon). Then he told me that Don had died  around the 25th May and been found “yesterday” which would have made his undiscovered and lonely corpse about two weeks old and his cat halfway starved to death.

I called Laura, the longest running IT actress and the one who would know, to find out what had really happened.

He had not turned up one night to run lights, so Osas, the barman/right-hand everything man, ran over to his flat to find out what was wrong – as Don did not answer his phone. Osas found Don dead in bed, most likely only hours after he had died peacefully in his sleep, and the poor cat ran and hid when the ambulance came to pick up the body. The short version thereafter is that the cat was picked up by the animal shelter in Vösendorf where they refused to release it again on the grounds that the interested parties were only friends of the late Don and not relations, Don’s body was handed over to medical research following his own wishes, and the cat was eventually handed over to his long-standing friend Ellis following the winding up of lots of red tape for its release.

Not wildly dramatic but even so: Don’s passing leaves another hole that just can’t be filled.

Oh, and just to top everything off, the International Theatre has finally been dealt its final blow and will not receive any more funding. It closes on Sunday, last show tomorrow night, Saturday 30 June 2012. Vienna is left another cultural institution short. No more Christmas Carols. There goes my chance of a glorious comeback as The World’s Oldest Tiny Tim.

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The truly ABOMINABLE Snowy

I am so insanely tired I barely know my own name right now. I know I’ve not written much lately, and that in spite of taking last week off to recover from our holiday spent obeying The Finger. I guess I simply did not take the time to sit down and write but played FarmVille on Facebook instead and other useless things.

But today it was back to the grindstone. And that would all have been well and good if I could have one last night of decent sleep. But that was not to be. All because of the fluff called Snowy. That — that — THING which I got THIS (imagine my fingers very, very close together) close to strangling in the middle of the night.

Not  because he is a bad dog.

Not because he was noisy.

But because he spent the entire night doing backflips in and out of bed, then the back stroke, then a kitten imitation where he sank his paws into my face trying to extract milk — or perhaps my brain — total waste of time as it was already seeping out my ears, then made a giant leap out of bed to sprint around the entire flat and then take a flying leap back in, landing on my stomach. At five he made it perfectly clear that he was DESPERATE and sank his paws into my face again to leap off the bed and take up position in front of the main door. “I need to go out, you stupid woman!”

I got up. Put on a coat over my nightie feeling really guilty for having — tried to — ignore him all night when he clearly was in need of a pee.

Outside he did — exactly nothing. He kept doing that for a while. Then he started darting from invisible spot to invisible spot as if they were the most earth shattering celebrity news he’d ever sniffed and dribbled two-three drops of pee on each. Then he ran and leapt around for a while just because it was fun. And then — then he pooped. The smallest friggin’ poop in the history of mankind. After which he went back to being Maltese Terrier on speed, bouncing around as if five o’clock in the morning was just the best time ever to be outside and I could feel my face crumbling with lack of sleep and my heart grow cold as I looked at the piece of white fluff and thinking — he would have been cute if I didn’t so want to KILL him.

Do you think he settled down once I managed to drag him back inside, having spent 1/2 hour of precious sleeptime watching him do exactly NADA? Nope. He kept practising for the next Olympics where he is clearly going to compete in a biathlon combination of gymnastics and 200 metre butterfly.

Orion – next time we see you — he’s ALL YOURS.

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Sorry about the silence. Just returned from our “holiday” and while away I only occasionally logged in to see if there was still a world out there. Hi world! Now I need another holiday to recover from this one which was generally dominated by Ulla-the-Finger-Gundersveen’s demands which generally consisted of “paint this and move that”. So we did. We managed a couple of escapes, once to have fresh shrimps at Aker Brygge in Oslo and once to visit the Kon Tiki museum and meet friend(s). In spite of all my efforts the latter was limited to one in the end but he was well worth it, as always. And with that cryptic remark I shall return us all to the dusty heat of Vienna. Not too hot and dusty today but we have been promised a return of both by Friday.

We drove all the way to Norway and back which means that the last three days have mostly been spent in the car with few breaks (with friends in Germany twice — why do some Germans drink WARM beer??) and culminated in a collection of dogs on the way. We had Mischa with us, left Orion with Thomas’ parents, and coming back I picked Snowy up from Adrienne’s where he had been while Howard et al went to the US on holiday. It’s my turn now and I am to have him until they get back in early September.

Dangerous intruder

Snowy had an unfortunate introduction to his stay with me, though. We had left Orion and Mischa in my flat while picking him up, and as soon as I walked in the door with Snowy, Orion picked him up and shook him like a rag doll. Luckily, I got Orion off him before he managed to cause any damage and banished him to the hallway until I could ascertain that Snowy was ok — shocked but ok — and then Orion had to wear his muzzle. Orion could NOT understand what he had done wrong and found the muzzle highly unfair. After all, he was just guarding his flock against dangerous intruders. Right? RIGHT?

The other unfortunate thing is that Mischa is a living hoover. All food belongs to him in his mind, though some arguably belongs to Orion when he does that thing with his fangs and makes that noise, but otherwise All Food In Heaven And On Earth Belongs To Mischa. So he got two dinners last night, while Snowy got none. Apart from what I managed to hand feed him while Mischa was looking the other way. Something he rarely does.

Snowy is not the kind of dog that likes to wolf down his food. Maltese Terriers just don’t do that sort of thing. He likes to take a wee nibble with him to a carefully chosen spot where he takes dainty little bites until it is gone, then return for another. Well, Snowy, you’re in for a long six weeks of STARVATION that way. And I still don’t know if I can have you at work all day to give you the chance to be alone with your food.

It’s very strange having a small white dog. I’m so used to Mischa’s bulk, and Orion’s lanky giant strides, Snowy’s cartoon dog-run and smallness has me constantly nervous that I might hurt him just by picking him up. And for some obscure reason I found myself putting on a nice dress, pearl necklace, make-up and high heels and tip-toed down Mariahilfer Strasse to work with him. That’s just not me. I’m the scuba diving (soon!) biker chick! Not some preppy pearl wearer. Snowy, what is happening to me??

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Orion update

Thomas (with my consent) has decided to get Orion. He has spent eight of his ten years at the Tierschutzheim and deserves a retirement home. And — it seems he likes Thomas and even Mischa. A short — and boring — movie of their first meeting will follow once I get my act together to edit it (that thing about time again).

Yes, we know eight years is a long time for a dog to spend locked up in an animal shelter. Yes, we know there will be a lot of work to do. We also know we are not gods.

But we’re damned close.

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I have three articles hanging over me for translation from Norwegian to English and I keep running out of time. Thomas and I — with the additional help of Thomas’ sons Brian and Pascal — finally repainted the living room (which looks fan-bloody-tastic), but there is still a lot I would like to do here and I keep running out of time. And the whole thing of running out of time has become a constant theme in my life.

At work my cup of work runneth over all the time. I have lots of little niggly things to do that all need to be done yesterday and then there are deadlines to meet, and they just have to be met, and then I need to walk Mischa, get a dress fitted, ride my bike in readiness for a long bike trip to Germany in May, do my tax returns for some European country (I’m getting confused here — where do I tax to and why?), eat — oh my NED I haven’t eaten today! — remove the forest on my legs, groom Mischa, do the dishes, learn German, shave my armpits (ok, that’s a lesser problem), shop! the fridge is empty again! apart from that cheese which has turned into a little colony of weirdly squeaking little beings of some kind and have to be hosed out, and then there was that thing about clean clothes and a wash basket full of anything but clean clothes.

Today I had an appointment with Humpty Dumpty who gave me the all clear after the operation — I am fit as a fiddle, as normal as women can be when they’re essentially nuts — and can go ahead and have a baby if I want. Right.

And after that Thomas and I headed out to Wiener Tierschutzverein (the animal protection league) to meet Orion. A dog Thomas found on their list of dogs up for adoption last year but was too late to get. Orion was, however, returned by his new owner and the time had come for Thomas to meet him. And since any addition to Thomas’ life also has to get on with me and Mischa, I had to see him too.

Orion is 9 years old, like Mischa, but that is more or less where comparisons have to end. We were taken by the dog handler to a separate area where he could be off the lead and there he ran around like a giraffe on speed, ecstatic to be out of his pen. We ignored him as much as he ignored us at first and talked to the handler about him. Got some background, a description of his personality, a little information about his return to the dog-home — and then we convinced her to take his muzzle off so he could play properly. And before long he brought the toy back to Thomas to throw instead of to the handler. Small victory number one. Then he suddenly ran to me with the toy. Small victory number two. And he kept running to me, probably because Thomas was still busy getting background and I was paying more attention. And then I motioned for him to bring the toy to Thomas instead which he immediately did. So for a dog that’s been institutionalised for a long time I’d say he did really well.

When we got back, Mischa suddenly looked like a small, fat dog… Orion was a good 15-20 cm taller than Mischa, and slim! and moved as if on springs. Very elegant. Alsation mix with “Windhund” — a Greyhound-type dog. But not the cuddly type like Mischa. We’re hoping that opposites attract and that the two will get on when they meet. And we hope Orion will decide that he wants to be with us. Because it is his decision. Not ours. It is important that he feels safe with us so we can work through whatever problems he might have and provide a good home for him to spend his twilight years.

That said, Mischa needs a groom and a bath (yes Mischa, you heard me — a bath!) because we are going to a confirmation on Saturday and right now he’s somewhat mucky and smelly. And of course it’s spring so he moults a lot. Ok, world’s oldest puppy! Groom time!

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I went over to Karin’s to pick Knickers up on the 20 January. Karin is in Abu Dhabi for a couple of weeks to be with Alex, Livia and the kids. And I offered to have Knickers in the meantime.

Knickers is a Border Collie. And she grew up with Mischa as a sort of surrogate mother and father, so they know each other really well. And their personalities are such opposites they almost come full circle. Mischa is slow and lazy, Knickers is on some as yet unknown energy source. A kryptonite version. Mixed with speed. In short, she is the Austrian version of Coco.

Thursday was fine. Thomas had her in the morning and somehow managed to wear her out and then delivered her to my office at about 2pm. And she was sooooo good and slept and didn’t bother anyone. She did go crazy on the way home and when I let her off the lead on the church square the did about twenty laps around a tree so fast she was just a blur and Mischa took position near the tree and occasionally lunged at her as she passed just for the sake of it.

They both slept soundly all night and all was well.

But Friday was another story. Her main energy outlet was Mischa who rapidly turned into a grumpy old man who regularly lost his rag with her and not just snarled, but snapped at her and sometimes hit the mark. This usually happened when I was in the other room and I just heard a loud yelp followed by Mischa coming out looking a little guilty while Knickers took all of a nanosecond to recover and was getting ready to badger him again.

Since her arrival she has demolished two if his toys, she gets to his bed before him and plonks herself down with all the abandon of a teenager. He just sighs and looks for somewhere else to lie. When he does he can be sure she will be sneaking up on him to nibble his neck, bite his ears, do all the things to him that puppies do to their mums. He screws up his face in an angry snarl and snaps. But rarely gets her as she’s just too fast.

Knickers doing a great job of tearing Mischa's rubber stick to pieces.

On a walk along the Danube she set several world sprint records, some of them enthusiastically in the wrong direction, while Mischa gave up trying to keep up. She ate a few sticks before we were able to get them from her and seemed to have an absolute ball. At one point Thomas felt so sorry for Mischa he sent her off chasing a stick and then threw another to Mischa, in an easy arch towards him. It landed on his head, but only after he managed to accidentally move his head right into the path of the stick.

After this he took to staring at me whenever Knickers was bugging him, followed by a sigh so loud and laboured he was shaking with the effort.

Funnily enough, it is not a problem feeding the two together. Knickers braces herself for his interference by placing her paws firmly on the floor and fluffing herself up like a cat to look bigger and he doesn’t even dare sniff her bowl while she eats. But as soon as she is done, marked by her racing off in search of something to tear to pieces (she has been good, she has only torn his toys apart, not mine), Mischa dives into her already empty bowl and gives it a thorough polish while sneaking me accusatory glances to make it clear that SHE GOT MORE THAN HIM and I’m probably trying to starve him to death. And then he waddles around miserably again, looking as if Knickers and I have totally ruined his life.

Thomas and I decided over the first weekend that it was better for both dogs if Knickers stayed with him as his shift schedule allows her to have company all the time and my colleagues can relax with the knowledge that I am not about to open a dog rescue centre. And Monday, when we met for lunch, Mischa actually looked happy to see not only Thomas, but Knickers. And she was ecstatic, of course, but not as irritating as she can be. And in the pub (Gasthaus) they were extremely well behaved both of them and quiet and loved by all, just as it should be.

By now Thomas is not looking forward to returning the bundle of energy and I must admit that even though she has spent more time with him than with me, I will miss her too. And I think even Mischa will miss her even if he does elbow her out of the way and clings to my legs when she is around if she gets too cuddly with me. Well, at least that is the emotion I ascribe to him. As so many ‘single-women-dog-owners’ I allow myself to think of him as capable of human thoughts and feelings. Yes, I do know better. No, I don’t want to hear about how dogs really work. He is my baby, and I decide what he thinks. Thank you.

She’ll be returned Thursday evening. And then all will be back to normal. I guess. Until next time. Mischa — that was a warning. *grin*

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I tried. I really tried, and it turned into two weeks of hell. Then I caved, went to my doctor, cried, and am now back on full dosage of anti-depressants with an agreed time frame and fully supported slow cutting down and cutting out over the summer months.

I’m not going to go into the details of how I felt and blahblah, there are enough people around who already do that and it’s not all THAT fascinating. And I don’t feel all that sorry for myself. I just feel a little silly. And that’s not the world’s best feeling either but it’s better than being dead. (Insert melodramatic music here.)

Christmas was good. Had a quiet dinner with Thomas on the 24th, and on the 25th we joined forces with his kids, the oldest boy’s girlfriend, and Louise with partner and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening which ended in a somewhat painful to the ears evening of karaoke. And two dogs that did their best to ignore each other once they’d established their hierarchy. Mischa is not hugely taken with Louise’s partner’s little West Highland terrier. Sorry — that got complicated just because I tried not to use names so from now on I’ll call him Robert. Louise’s partner, that is. Not the Westie. His name is Mickey.

A few days later we (Thomas, kids Mischa and I) went to visit Thomas’ parents. Mischa adores them because they are so easy to train. They have a small house with a garden, and when he goes to the door and barks once one of them immediately opens the door so he can go out. When he a few minutes later wants to come in again he only has to bark once more and the door is opened by his obedient servant. Again. He finds this highly convenient and wanders in and out as much as is doggumly possible. I think Mischa would have liked a house with a garden — or possibly a forest — and lots of snow for Christmas. And his own butler. Instead he got a load of doggie dental sticks because his breath smells. The snow we got came and went within a week and only left a mess on the roads and salt in his paws. He looks truly miserable when that happens, limps sadly up to me and looks helpless.

Of course I managed to get a bladder infection while in Carinthia. One evening we decided to check out the local watering hole which was a short walk away. Thomas and I being photo-nuts have similar cameras, and suddenly we decided that we had to take pictures of the same thing using various long exposures and we fiddled around with this for so long I must have gotten much colder than I realised. By the next evening I was in such agony a visit to the nearest hospital was needed to get some antibiotics. This is one time I thank my lucky stars I’m a European and that medical service is available to all. Still not the most exciting way to start the new year unless you count the fun of mixing antibiotics, pain killers and Champagne as a good way to celebrate. I do. I could of course have stayed off the booze. Hah! Got you! I’d never do such a silly thing.

Now, to my enormous surprise we’re already in 2010 and I am still rubbing my eyes with disbelief at how time flies. So before it disappears altogether I am going to take His Hairiness for a walk and think about the world and the many people out there that are far worse off than me — that always cheers me up immensely — and see if the homeless guy who sleeps between the recycle bins is still alive.

Happy 2010!

PS My hair is still ugly. But longer, and now back to that desperate red that some of us middle aged women resort to when we can’t afford surgery.

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I had great plans to write this post AGES ago. Just about the time I came back from our board meeting in Romania. Which now seems a lifetime away. September. Last month. When it was still summer. Sigh.

Anyway: our board meeting took place in Cetate in Romania, on the farm of Mircea Dinescu. He’s nuts. And I say that with not a small amount of admiration. It was amazing and wonderful and I want to live there! If it wasn’t for one thing.

Farm staff with puppies. The puppies were thrown the odd tidbit which they then fought over.

Farm staff with puppies. The puppies were thrown the odd tidbit which they then fought over.

The dogs.

Romania is drowning in stray dogs. Belonging to the farm itself were around fifteen dogs (it was hard to count them to be honest), and in addition there were several strays that roamed the area in search of food.

I am fairly convinced there are more dogs in Romania than people. Neutering is an exception, and I can guarantee there is not a dog anywhere in Romania as spoilt as your average working dog in Austria.

My personal little favourite with a sore eye

My personal little favourite with a sore eye

I fell in love with several of the farm dogs. My favourite among the adult dogs was a quiet male Border Collie cross with an eye infection. The Dr. Doolittle/Florence Nightingale in me burst forth and I spent my entire time there trying to nurse its eye better using Chamomile tea to gently wash it several times a day. He was understandably sceptical, not being used to that sort of attention, but it didn’t take him long to accept it.

The other love was for seven puppies, especially the runt of the litter who may well be dead by now… I know, that’s not a cheerful outlook. But it is very, very likely. She simply could not compete with the others for food and was already too weak to fight for it if the other puppies decided they wanted what she had. Yes, I fought valiantly on her behalf while there (i.e. hand feeding her while keeping the others at bay). I am fairly sure I only managed to put her death by starvation off with a day or two.

The little brown one at the back was much smaller than the rest

The little brown one at the back was much smaller than the rest

I still couldn’t be angry with the other puppies. They merely did what’s natural, and they were all incredibly sweet. If poorly fed, full of vermin of all sorts and mucky as hell. I couldn’t stop cuddling them and playing with them and… if it had been at all possible I would have put them all in my suitcase and taken them home with me. I would have loved to see Louise’s face. 🙂

As it were, I took to my senses. It takes about 5-6 months to clear one dog for the trip, with all the papers, inoculation, blahblah. A weekend is just not enough. Funnily enough. But at least now I know why there are so many Romanians in Austria who sell puppies out of the back of cars — totally illegally; no paperwork, ill, traumatised and sad. At least the dogs on Dinescu’s farm received food and a minimum of care. And to his credit — when the Danube one year flooded the farm and Dinescu and his wife had to evacuate, he returned with a boat to rescue the dogs. Widely broadcast in the country’s media as eccentric and unheard of behaviour.

Ready for play

Ready for play

On our return journey via Bucharest I saw a badly injured dog outside the offices of our host. She had been hit by a car, survived, but now lived with two broken, incorrectly healed legs on one side, limping painfully and slowly between the shade and a bowl of water the parking attendants had given her. The number one road-kill in the country is, of course, dogs. I lost count of the carcasses on the side of the road, and no one brought them to my attention knowing just how sentimental I am about dogs.

On the morning we left the farm I was a little late coming down to the waiting bus. The others were already seated in the silence of the misty pre-sunrise morning, but the moment I arrived so did two of the dogs. My sore-eyed Border Collie friend whose eye had finally cleared up, and one of the puppies flipping herself over on her back in enthusiastic submission.

You have no idea how close I came to scooping them both up in my arms to take them with me. Damned close.

Romanian wiring

Romanian wiring. Apropos of nothing.

[you can click on the images to see a bigger version]

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The holiday in Norway

I’ve lived in the 15th district since February, and though the district itself leaves a little to be desired I absolutely love living here. Mainly because of Louise and the flat and, well, Mischa, of course. I just had to mention the obvious there, right?

When I went to Norway in July, Mischa went to stay with his old family which was back home on holiday. By placing Mischa with them when I go away myself he sees that the connection to all that was is still there. But even they discovered that Mischa has made his own choice, and towards the end of my holiday I got the message from Livia that Mischa was depressed and when would I come pick him up, again? So the same day we returned I went there. As I entered the Hof (an Austrian backyard surrounded by buildings) they let only Mischa out to meet me. It was the quietest of reunions, as if he wanted to demonstrate his depression: he walked towards me with a slowly wagging tail, then leant against me and just stood there. “Don’t leave me again.” Of course, I have no idea if that is what he was thinking. Perhaps he just recognised me as peace and quiet after three weeks with Knickers and four kids.

Me in the train cell. Keep in mind that I am 152 cm only. (Photo: Thomas Schluet)

Me in the train cell. Keep in mind that I am 152 cm only. (Photo: Thomas Schluet)

Our holiday went to Norway via Hamburg and Copenhagen. Hamburg didn’t really count; we didn’t stop to take in its beauty, not even of Reperbahn. We took the train with our bikes from Vienna. We had a sleeper for two, and it’s the most insanely small space I’ve ever been in with two beds (?), seats (when not beds), table-cum-sink and freely improvised storage space.

Table w. sink. For your inconvenience.

Table w. sink. For our inconvenience.

As we could not leave the luggage on the bikes the way the car drivers could, we were not just cramped by our own presence, but also by a load of motorbike cases. And just to help the situation, the night train to Hamburg did not (does not) have a restaurant car where we could enjoy a beer while waiting for bedtime. Which was never 8pm for me. Also (I’ll get past this soon, I’m sure) the AC system on the trains require that all windows stay firmly shut with the result that you get boiled alive while being denied the relief of an open window. Please bring back the old-fashioned trains with no AC but windows that can be opened! Admittedly not as bad as being transported per cattle train to Treblinka. I did not just draw that comparison. You are imagining things.

I did observe an elderly couple who’d clearly done this before and knew how to enjoy themselves. Within minutes of leaving the station the wife was standing in the narrow corridor swigging glass after glass of wine while enjoying the landscape. We only discovered how expensive the wine was (which had to be ordered from an overworked stewardess) once we were captive on the train. A mistake we only made once.

Lene gave us the master bedroom while we were there. We noticed that the painting in our room was missing an essential part. Insects.

Lene gave us the master bedroom while we were there. We noticed that the painting in our room was missing an essential part. Insects.

That aside, I was nervous about the long ride, but it all proved a doddle, as Colin says, and we arrived in Copenhagen at a lovely house my cousin Lene and her former partner Ray were looking after. The house came with a garden, barbecue and a dog which did all the usual doggie stuff: begged for food, jumped on the bed, and humped me.

Things to do in Copenhagen: walk down Strøget, eat giant ice cream cone, visit Tivoli. We had to visit Magasin and Nyhavn on the return journey as we simply ran out of time. The last time I was in Denmark was for my grandmother’s funeral. This is the last picture ever taken of her. She was 94 and had no idea who I was:

My grandmother from Odense, H.C. Andersen's city.

My grandmother from Odense, H.C. Andersen's city.

It’s also been years since I saw Lene. She speaks this amazing semi-cockney English with a slight Danish accent, and Ray who is English has also developed an accent and chucks the odd Danish word into his sentences. Lene has lived in England, and she has also spent a considerable amount of time in Israel where she worked in a kibbutz. I had forgotten just how much fun she is and spent a lot of time laughing. Ray said that listening to us talking Danish/Norwegian together was like listening to two people singing to each other.

The drive through Skåne in Sweden was tiring. The landscape is flat and offers no protection from the wind. No problem for Thomas who rode a big sturdy bike, but for me on my little Ninja it turned into a bit of a battle to stay on the road.

Ine (waking up with a start): "What was that??" Dad: "Det var en elg." [that was a moose] Ine: "Fucking hell! Stop the car!" Dad (peering out through a hole in the windscreen): "Nono, this is fine, I'll take her straight to the SAAB garage in Halden."

Saab after sudden meeting with moose

My last memories of driving through Sweden was with my parents on the way back from visiting grandma for the last time. I had been the driver most of the day so when dad took over I promptly fell asleep. I woke with a start when a moose jumped out of a ditch and hit the car. The moose lost and had to be put down, but the car was a little mangled. Of course, the Swedish police could not contain themselves and had to crack jokes about Norwegians going moose hunting in Sweden, and then they gloated that it was a good thing we drove a Swedish car or we would have been killed like the poor family of four who’d driven the same stretch the previous week in a VW Golf. Such consolation at a time like that.

No mice this time. Don’t think we would have fared equally well with our bikes.

Kaisa and Thomas staring out across the lake Fisjeløysa (Fishless) in the rain.

Kaisa and Thomas staring out across the lake Fisjeløysa (Fishless) in the rain.

First few days were spent with Hanne (my sister) and her family at their mountain cabin. My vain hopes for good weather failed miserably, but we did manage to drag ourselves out for a wet walk and scare poor little Kaisa when we meet some horses that wanted to say hello to her. Stig (brother-in-law) did his impersonation of a true Norwegian to perfection and served a mish-mash of alcoholic beverages that he pressed upon a pressable Thomas. It was this thing of opening a new bottle of high-octane booze and throwing away the cork that did it. It’s a Norwegian thing. It also impressed Kevin when first confronted with this. We’d given Stig a bottle of Jamiesson whisky which was emptied the same evening. Cork gone, no choice. We lived to regret it.

Dad and Thomas painting. And painting. And -- you get the picture?

Dad and Thomas painting. And painting. And -- you get the picture?

From then on we did even less. Well, we painted my cabin. Which is now a much bigger cabin. It was really strange; the tiny little cabin was still there with the “outline” of the new exterior walls around it, not yet filled in with floors and walls and in short the rooms that are going to be there. It’s my favourite place in the whole world and I have every intention of retiring there. Even if it means getting some sort of chair-lift installed to get my arthritic bones up the rocks to get to it. I am trying hard to forget what winter and snow will do and how I am likely to freeze to death and be found many months later when my corpse thaws out and starts to smell. OK, so the anti-depressants are only working so well. Fine! Get off my case!

We managed a couple of trips to civilisation as well — Oslo. That is not to say that my parents don’t live in a civilised place, I’d be far from making that claim! But… I lived there for all of six months before I gave up. In the course of that time I experienced the unpleasantness of taking the last train there from Oslo with a drunken middle aged man with some bizarre inferiority complex. He spent the trip shouting abuse at me eloquently spiced up with a string of less flattering names until a Real Life Hero, a young man doing his army service, had enough of listening to it, picked the man up bodily from his seat, carried him out to the exit and said very, very quietly while dangling him in mid-air “you are now getting off the train”. Once done with the task he returned to his seat, nodded unceremoniously and resumed reading his book.

Sadly, there were not always knights in uniforms around to do gallant deeds.

Another thing that had me somewhat miffed was when the local paper claimed me as “theirs” in an interview when I directed the local review. Six months was all it took. And by then I didn’t even live there any more. I guess they were desperate for fresh blood to end the frequency of large ears and crooked noses.

Meeting old classmates from AGES ago. Not telling. Am feeling old and tired.

Meeting old classmates from AGES ago. Not telling. Am feeling old and tired.

Oslo was as always lovely, though. And meeting people I had not seen in over hrmff years — some of the guys I went to primary and secondary school with — was just amazing. Including my first kiss… another Thomas. Ahh, the memories!

Anyway. It was a memorable holiday for so many reasons, not least because it was without Kevin and with Thomas instead. But that is something I will come back to at a much later stage. Because it’s —- complicated.

We remembered to get wine before getting on the train in Hamburg, and while we waited to board the train we had the best beer I’ve ever, ever, ever tasted. And experience had shown us how to bend and squeeze ourselves into the cell and even get a little sleep. In the heat which was just as unbearable as the first time.

Now, as I write these last few sentences, I should really be in bed instead. I am supposed to get up in about four hours to get ready to go to the airport. We’re having a board meeting in Romania and I’ve been looking forward to going there for months now. But I can’t sleep. And the only reason I can’t sleep is because the plane leaves at 7.15 in the morning and there’s sort of no point in even going to bed when it’s like that. So here I sit. Sleepless in Vienna. Waiting for the hell of a much too early morning and what is likely to be a much too long day. Before a back-to-back board meeting in a country I have been wanting to visit for the longest time.

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