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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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