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While at work yesterday I read that the government district in Oslo, my birth town, had more or less been blown up and that at least 3 people had been confirmed killed. Since then my childhood paradise, Norway, has been torn apart by the most incomprehensible crimes imaginable. A good-looking young man turned his frustrations into death and shot more than 80 people dead at a political youth camp on an island north-west of Oslo, and he is believed to also be behind the bombings.

Not a bad-looking guy, is he? Anders Behring Breivik

The gut reaction from many was to separate the two and at least see the bombing in Oslo as a Muslim extremist terrorist act. But no. In peacetime, one of “our own” lost his every last marble and turned into a mass killer. And he killed a yet-to-be confirmed number of young people, slaughtered them, more than 80 of them. And the bombs in Oslo could have killed so many more than they did, including my own friends and family.

There are people killed in terrorist actions every day in other countries. But the big difference here is that these are countries that are already experiencing political and often religious upheaval. Not that THAT is a great comfort to those who lose their friends and family members, but at least it’s not as unexpected and more easily explained.

And there were no terrorists in Norway. Ok, I’m being naive, but my country of birth has always been a safe haven for me. I’ve lived in London and got used to the many posters encouraging vigilance and asking people to report any unattended luggage anywhere in case it were a bomb. And people did — and do. The moment someone noticed a bag that seemed ownerless on a bus or the Tube, the busdriver was alerted, or emergency break was pulled, and the bus/Tube was emptied of people and police contacted. I’ve been there. I’ve been one of those telling the busdriver about a suspicious bag, causing a total traffic jam in London’s busy streets.

But this? This is unprecedented. And I can’t understand what this good-looking young man was thinking. Did it ever even occur to him that there would be a time AFTER his killing spree? He clearly expected and wanted to live since he was wearing a bullet proof vest. But what will he have to live for now? He will be locked up for the rest of his life (actually, Norwegian law has a maximum penalty of 21 years — but if he is found mentally ill he can be put in an institution with a the likelihood of not being let out again). And there will be no forgiveness coming his way from a collective Norwegian population.

But now, Life, as it should be for all of us, is calling me. Thomas has prepared breakfast and Mischa is right next to me, a little confused about my grief and constant bursting into tears.

This one will take a long time to get over.

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For a while there I got so wrapped up in the consistent pain in my foot I just couldn’t write about it. Because — who wants to hear about nothing? For a long time there it was impossible to spot ANY improvement at all. I was just in pain. Inside the foot. Each time I tried to put some weight on it it was like a knife went up through the foot and into the ankle. Have you ever read The Little Mermaid?

“I know what you want,” said the sea witch; “it is very stupid of you, but you shall have your way, and it will bring you to sorrow, my pretty princess. You want to get rid of your fish’s tail, and to have two supports instead of it, like human beings on earth, so that the young prince may fall in love with you, and that you may have an immortal soul.” And then the witch laughed so loud and disgustingly, that the toad and the snakes fell to the ground, and lay there wriggling about. “You are but just in time,” said the witch; “for after sunrise tomorrow I should not be able to help you till the end of another year. I will prepare a draught for you, with which you must swim to land tomorrow before sunrise, and sit down on the shore and drink it. Your tail will then disappear, and shrink up into what mankind calls legs, and you will feel great pain, as if a sword were passing through you. But all who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating gracefulness of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so lightly; but at every step you take it will feel as if you were treading upon sharp knives, and that the blood must flow. If you will bear all this, I will help you.”

I’ve spent two weeks as a mermaid with legs. PAIN! I almost ended up limping again. But that did not help neither the pain nor the walk so I kept forcing myself to walk normally, if slowly.

Today is the first day I can say it’s better. And: I can now almost lift my weight off the ground when going up on half-toe on the left leg. THAT is a major improvement. I still feel as if there’s a lump in my foot, I still have two numb toes, and turning the leg out still makes me feel crackles of shocks up and down the outside of my leg, but strength wise things are vastly improved. And that, my friend, is good news for you. Because it means that EVENTUALLY I shall shut up about it. In about a year’s time when the nerve is completely healed. (You didn’t see that one coming, did you?)

Good thing: the exercises I dug up from my dancing days are toning my legs nicely and I put it down to them that so much of the former strength has returned. Thank you, dance teachers, for torturing me into never forgetting those. I still have nightmares about some of the exercises we did.

I go back to work tomorrow. Because I’ve been on sick leave for so long I received a letter from WGKK (Wiener Gebiets Krankenkasse — social insurance agency) calling me in for a check-up with their doctor to see if I was worthy of all the money spent on me. Whenever I have to deal with something official I feel as if I’ve done something unforgivably wrong, though I am never sure what, and I attend whatever I have been called in for with a huge amount of trepidation and the look of a guilty dog. So also this time, and the doctor started out with the statement “So, you’re on sick-leave.” “Yes.” Why?” “A major prolapse in my lower back.” At this point I probably sounded as if I was telling truly tall tales. “Yes, but you only got conservative treatment, therapy and such, right?” At this point Thomas felt compelled to take over as I was by now reduced to a gibbering wreck close to screaming “YES! I DID IT! IT WAS ME! I’LL SIGN ANYTHING AS LONG AS YOU STOP TORTURING ME! I’M GUILTY OF ABUSING THE EMINENT AUSTRIAN SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM! I’M A BAD, BAD FOREIGNER! WHERE DO I SIGN?!” He calmly said: “She was operated on the 30 May.” With shaking hands I pulled the surgery report from my bag and handed it over. The doctor read it in silence. The atmosphere changed completely and with smiling admiration she said “For my sake you can stay on sick-leave for another month. I’ll see you again then and we’ll see.” I felt as if I’d won a contest for worst-injury-and-most-deserving-of-treatment-within-the-social-healthcare-system.

I still start work again tomorrow. My nerves can’t deal with this stuff.

Last Sunday, Orion nearly drowned. Thomas and I needed a break from the work of reorganising the flat so we joined the barbecuing hoards of Romanians and Bulgarians on the shores of the New Danube for a day in the sun. Once shade was set up I refused to move an inch so Thomas set off with the two dogs to do some watersports of throwing stuff in the water for Orion to fetch. Next thing I hears was Thomas shouting “INE!!!!” which left me in no doubt that my services were required and headed in the direction of the shout. As I reached the incident scene I found a dripping and shaking Orion staggering out of the water towards me, Mischa confusedly leaping here and there and barking and wanting to jump into the water, and Thomas far ashore swimming towards a small orange Frisbee. It is important to rescue the orange Frisbee when your dog has nearly drowned trying to do the same.

Orion may nearly have drowned, but I still took a picture of these precious ducks that swam up and down the Danube while we were there.

Turned out that Orion’s legs had simply gone stiff when he jumped in and he was suddenly unable to swim. So he sank instead, panicking and desperately trying to stay afloat, only his nose showing above the surface. As Mischa’s confused excitement was less than helpful, Thomas yelled for me and dashed in to rescue dog and retrieve toy, and I arrived at the point Orion was able to reach the bottom and scramble ashore.

We were all watched attentively by a large group of eastern Europeans and a few Chinese who found the rescue operation great entertainment on a sunny day.

The result of being rescued means that now Thomas has reached new heights of Godliness for Orion. Thomas is God, and I am Godette. Not quite Goddess, but I will do.

As I write, Thomas is busy doing “various” which includes: writing an article about a Moto Guzzi Stelvio “we” test-rode yesterday. (Thomas rode, I was the pillion cum photographer with Thomas’ camera (and he is not happy with the pictures — oh well).) In the evening we went to a “Bierfest” with lots of bikers and I ended up with a migraine which I can only put down to having had a coffee too many. I’ve not had proper coffee in years, and not had a migraine in about three years, and lately I’d started drinking coffee again because in spite of all the years of getting used to not having it I still miss it and it all seemed to be just fine as long as I stuck with a couple of cafelattes per day but the add on of a Corretto and a Coke Zero turned out to be a shitty idea and today I’m just a useless wreck.

Other “various” includes drilling a hole through a 70 cm wall to pull Internet cables into the living room. I love it when he swings his power tools… 🙂 Now he’s preparing dinner, another of his many talents, and I feel cared for and loved and a little tipsy from cooling down in the 35°C heat with a succession of white wine spritzers. I’m on my third. Actually, I just finished my third. So I will soon be on my fourth unless I take to my senses and start drinking the very good Soave undiluted.

The dogs are knocked out from the heat though Orion still finds the energy to follow us around like a restless ghost — Mischa only has the energy to lie in the middle of the way wherever we try to go. I.e, all is well in the city of Vienna.

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My irritation at having a non-functioning foot has resulted in — more pain. And I can blame noone. Though I wish I could. I’ve been pummelling the foot relentlessly, forcing it to move the same way as the right foot.

On Sunday Thomas and I walked all over the first district starting with the “Kirtag” (church day: from the old tradition of having a market outside the main church for Pentecost) in front of St Stephens Cathedral, then doing a bit of a circle and adding the City Hall which also had a Kirtag even though it is not a church and… with every single step I forced my foot to move normally. It didn’t influence my speed in any way as I had to consciously think about every step, but at least it proved to me that there is at least a minimum of contact.

Next day: pain. However, this did not stop me from continuing to pummel the foot with exercises and dog walks. And a second Kirtag round with Thomas, his sister Pat and her husband.

Tuesday we did a round of errands in the first district again and ended up doing an unintentional pub-crawl on the way home. Don’t ask me how a pup-crawl can be unintentional. The details are a little fuzzy.

Today: PAIN! and strict instructions from the physiotherapist to give it a rest.

My greatest challenge is myself. I hate having a non-functional foot. I want to run. I want to dance. I want!

I’ll shut up now.

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Can somebody please tell me what on earth teenage boys are for? I just don’t get it. They seem like the biggest waste of space and time and money and most other resources EVER. Poor things.

I am sure you are just dying to hear how my prolapse operation went. Well, I’ve no idea: I was out cold through the whole thing. Ok, I’ll try to be serious.

I checked in to Hartmannspital on Sunday 29 May. The hospital is run by nuns and is one of the most Catholic environments I’ve been in since the B&B I stayed in when I met Kevin in Ireland in 1993. Crucifixes all over the place and nuns coming to your bedside in the morning offering spiritual guidance.

Can't help it but I find this as a symbol for a religion somewhat uninviting.

In the afternoon my surgeon swung by to check on me. Like straight out of a doctors-and-nurses soap he strode into the room, his semi-long hair moving in the breeze from the open window, wearing leathers and carrying a crash helmet, smilingly greeting me. How cool! The guy who was going to cut me open was a sexy biker surgeon! I could live with that.

As mentioned, I can’t remember anything from the operation, except that the porter wheeling my bed to the operating theatre was very nice, Charlie from Kenya. I can’t remember waking up, but I do remember vaguely that Thomas was there and that we talked about something for the briefest of time. According to Thomas I spoke German only. That may be cause for concern. I refuse all responsibility.

Radio stations: religious monotonous reciting from bible, classical music and Ö3 -- dull pop-station. Great.

I was very soon on my feet. Once more, I refuse responsibility. I had to pee, I was not given a catheter and I was damned if I was going to use my bed as a toilet. Seriously: I am completely unable to consciously open the valves while lying down. In a bed. I was brought up far too well for that. So as soon as the nurses who only had a bed-pan to offer turned their backs I was out of bed and in the toilet so fast you wouldn’t know I’d even gone. But, boy, did I! Phew!

I was of course not allowed to. I was supposed to lie still for 24 hours. Well, their own fault. And luckily, it has not caused any problems. After all, I have YEARS of bad-back training and was able to get up without bending my back a jot. I know exactly how not to move. Being naturally lazy helps.

I had this room to myself mostly. Lucky, as I had a hard time sleeping and ended up reading half the night. "Momo" by Michael Ende. And "Accordion Crimes" by E. Annie Proulx.

Just after the op it was initially hard to distinguish between post-op pain, muscular pain, scoliosis pain and — whatever. It was just a little confusing and — painful. And then came the disappointment that my left foot was still not entirely cooperative. I.e, I STILL can’t dance Swan Lake. And that is truly disappointing. On a positive note it no longer hurts to sneeze. Yes, that counts too.

I was out of hospital by day 4, picked up by Thomas and greeted with suitable chaos by Mischa and Orion who each respectively had resorted to depression and diarrhoea to express their feelings about my absence.

Since then the left foot recovery has been pretty unspectacular. I’ve started physical therapy, which includes electro stimulation of the nerves in the left leg and foot. I run out of energy really fast and noticing improvement is about as obvious as watching your hair grow. I’m sure it’s happening but I’m still looking for the roots to show since the last time I dyed it. I’m sure you get the metaphor.

The metal clamps that held the wound together in my back were removed yesterday — they looked sort of cool but guess they were not really suitable to keep as body piercings. Thomas came with me and the two sexy bikers launched into bike talk, of course, having the nurses nervously tapping their feet at the thought of all the other patients the sexy surgeon still had to see before they could all go home.

Wondering about the teenage boy outburst? I’m having a small disagreement with Thomas’ oldest son, B, about behaviour. It’s a pretty basic disagreement and I have a strong feeling that us twain are unlikely to ever meet. Nuff said. I fear that if I say more this post will just turn into a major moan about teenage boys. I am clearly not suited to deal with them.

At least I can still sneeze without pain. And turn over in bed without kicking Thomas. Too hard. That’s improvement.

I wonder if kicking B would hurt?

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Donkey

This is how I feel these days. I hoped I would be able to enjoy having my parents and sister here, that a long weekend would help me get some energy back, that I would relax a little. Just a little. But it seems I am asking too much. I think about work non-stop, wonder how I am ever going to catch up with the enormous load I have hanging over me and which has grown to insurmountable heights over the past couple of months, the work I was promised would be eased with the aid of an assistant, an assistant which once again has been taken from me because Someone Else’s Work is Far More Important and Has To Come First and the assistant therefore has to work on That All Important Work instead. And in the meanwhile the load on my cart is so heavy it has lifted my feet off the ground so I don’t stand a single chance of getting anywhere near my destination.

I’ve reached the stage where I am as tired on Monday as I was on Friday, where my evenings, nights and weekends offer no rest, where I dread going to work, where I work while having lunch in the futile hope that it will make a difference, where my working methods are inefficient and tiring and I am unable to concentrate because at the back of my mind is the constant thought that if I do THIS, I am not doing THAT which also had to be done last week. Even the thought of looking for a different job is exhausting, but I’m not sure I have a choice any more.

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So, for the second time in my life I split up with someone out of sheer self preservation. Wrong. Third. But the third one, which is really the second one, is a very different story. Here’s the story of the most recent split, and the most devastating:

When I met Kevin I had just split up with Erland. I was head over heals in love with him, but our second year together was not good and I finally realised that I had to get out of the relationship were I to retain any sort of personality or dignity. I split up with him in spite of how I felt for him. And I cried. For more than two years I cried. Then it got better. And now, 17 years later it’s ok.

I’ll never forget him or how I felt. He will always have a piece of my heart.

Oddly enough, it was a similar story with Kevin, it just took so much longer. Love kept me going (I am doing this from a “me-point-of-view” as I can’t tell you anything about what Kevin thinks). Weeks after we first met he informed that he was not even remotely interested in having kids. I replied that at the time, neither was I but that this was likely to change. And so we agreed that when I started to get broody we would part ways.

I was always a very sexual person, but Kevin stated that other things were more important. For me it got so bad I even asked his permission to get a lover. He thought I was joking. I was. Sort of.

We split once, when we lived in Edinburgh. I think he was depressed. We didn’t talk much, and I lived a fairly independent motorbike life. He was always invited to both bike runs and parties but made it clear that my “hairy biker friends” as he called them were not his cup of tea.

In general, my friends were not his cup of tea. They were anything from “boring” to “dull”, apparently. His friends were not, so we had a good time with them. Except that he didn’t have many friends in Edinburgh and didn’t make any new friends while there so he either had to suffer the company of my dull hairy biker friends or be on his own. He was on his own. At this point he became an archetypical unemployed actor who spent his days playing golf when the weather permitted or listened to Radio 5 in the flat. And I was his landlady so we always kept the guest room looking as if it was his room in case social services came to check. I hated that. But at least he was an interesting, unemployed actor with interesting, not boring friends. In London. Bummer.

We split. But it didn’t work out. I missed him insanely, holding his hand when going for a walk or on the way to the pub, kissing him good morning, nuzzling his neck, his smell, his laugh, the warmth of his eyes, his jokes. His sarcasms. His one-liners. Sharing our favourite radio programme (I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue). He had been engaged by a small theatre in Vienna, conveniently coinciding with our split, and we talked on the phone every day and then he asked me if I wanted to join him there, going back on stage as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol.

We had the most wonderful reunion, he was so alive, so happy, his eyes were shining and yes! he wanted a family and commitment and to live! We got engaged. There is nothing more romantic than being in Vienna at Christmas and getting engaged to a man you love so much it hurts.

We moved to London. None of my dull hairy biker friends were there, but some more of his interesting actor friends were and he was willing to get temp work when not working in the theatre. I went from one horrid job to the next, all interesting in their own way, all pretty exhausting and soul destroying. But we were financially better off than ever and eloped to New York in 2003 where we married. I always had a feeling that we disappointed a lot of people with that, especially my dad though mum took it in her stride and approved whole heartedly.

After three years in London I hit the wall with frustration. My job was going nowhere, I was going nowhere, Kevin was only doing temp jobs of the shittiest kind and going nowhere with that. The family plans never materialised and when I occasionally broached the subject I was met with Kevin’s favourite mantra: “This is not a good time.”

We moved again. This time to Vienna. Turned out that by now we had more friends there than in London, including shared and acceptably interesting. Kevin got us a tiny flat in the best district of town, Josephstadt, where we squeezed in all our belongings and felt like true bohemians. We had had a falling out with the small theatre — it never pays to be honest, one should always remember to lick ass, no matter what people say or do to you, but that’s another story — so we both ended up teaching English.

And that was the beginning of the end. Because even though I enjoyed the new challenge, and even though I was still in love with Kevin, the mantra, the ever present mantra that prevented us from discussing things that bothered me, built a wall of discontent in the flat. The much too small flat. As bohemian as it was, the walls started closing in on me, the view across the narrow Hof to our neighbour’s bedrooms started to get to me, no matter how many of my things I got rid of, there was always stuff all over the place that had nowhere to go, and we could still not have a dog and family? No way. It was not a good time. Tick, tick, tick.

We moved. This time we stayed within both country and city and ended up in the 4th district.

It worked for me, but never really seemed to work for Kevin. Unfortunately, I was the one who found the flat and insisted on the move so it allowed for free vent of complaints for him. He didn’t like the district, he didn’t like the kitchen, it was too warm, he wanted it to be cheaper with an extra room… and in the meantime he still refused to discuss the future in any way, and though we still borrowed every dog we met for a few precious seconds the time was still not right for getting our own. When we were asked to look after Mischa over a holiday I was told in no uncertain terms that he would have nothing to do with it and that he would not help. When the issue of Mischa needing re-homing came up, he said that Mischa made him depressed and he didn’t want him.

Perhaps I paid too much attention to Mischa and too little to Kevin. I don’t know.

By this time I had given up trying to talk about things. The few times I did I could hear my own shrill voice turning into a self-pitying complaint and I hated it. I had no idea how to change the way I approached the issue of the future, my friends, a baby, how to make it clear to him that it was important to me. Important enough to be the right time also for him.

Instead I became the last thing I wanted to be. Frustrated in every way imaginable, negative, bitter, scatterbrained. Did I mention bitter?  I was unable to concentrate at work, I was moody — ok, so that’s nothing new, but I was more moody than usual. Things seemed pretty bleak. And of course, I had made new hairy, and one less hairy, biker friends who reintroduced me to biking. Very dull people indeed. Particularly the less hairy one.

Alongside this my periods became heavier and more painful and then came the Bad News about the myomas and my personal little world fell apart as the ticking of the time bomb started and I realised that without some serious help there would be no family for me. And with all the helpfulness of a well meaning Labrador Kevin told me it was not a good time to discuss the family issue, that he would support me through the operation, that was more important.

Was that nasty of me? Sorry.

Have I been going on too long here? Sorry about that too. Just getting things off my chest here.

I’ll try to conclude.

I went from bad to worse. I saw nothing but black. I wanted to go to sleep and stay asleep — forever. Then I lashed out at Kevin and slowly and painfully ejected him from my life. I had run out of time. And I needed help, badly. And this is where the boring hairless biker friend turned into a rock and Mischa became my sponge and my doctor became my drug dealer and together they got my head back on pointing in the right direction. Forward rather than down. It has so far taken them more than two years.

I suppose I am still fighting the battle.

And Kevin? He has told me to stay out of his life, to never contact him again. He has to pretend I never existed. I have ruined his life. But he will always have a piece of my heart.

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So we got back from Egypt (yes, there are stories from that too — later, my friends! later!) insanely early in the morning on the 26 December. Why do these charter holidays always have to have such inhuman flight times? I guess we should be grateful that we did get back, what with most of Europe being shut down as a result of a little snow — gee whiz! it’s winter! and it’s snowing! let’s all panic and shut down all the airports!! Anyway, we got back, landed on time and all — and what a time *sigh* and no sleep for about 24 hours as when we did try to sleep, first by the pool where we were constantly woken up by over-eager waiters helpfully offering drinks every ten seconds, then in our room carefully guarded by a do-not-disturb sign which the staff carefully ignored to check the mini bar x 2, insist on a second round of cleaning x 2, asking if we could change Euro coins x who knows how often. I was better off than Thomas: I refused to even open my eyes and Thomas was the one who sweetly dealt with it all.

Eventually it was time to head for the reception to await collection for the airport. There we sat with our brains sparking with the fatigue of no sleep looking forward to getting a snooze on the plain. Which we did not get due to a toddler having a long and hearty tantrum. Very good lungs on that kid. And vocal chords. No, I don’t get angry with toddlers or parents when this happens. We were all uncomfortable on this flight and probably felt more like joining the bawling. Recommendation: do your best to avoid FlyNiki (Niki Lauda’s airline). They’ve squeezed in extra rows with the result that if you are of normal stature you are likely to lose your kneecaps if the person in front of you decide to recline his/her seat. Thomas can now bend his knees both ways.

Finally, kneeless and sleepdeprived, we hit the tarmac at Schwechat and staggered out into the freezing, dark cold together with grumpy fellow passengers and (still) screaming toddler, muttering about the cold and the absence of both warmth and sun. It is a hateful awakening coming back from sun and sand and sea to a wintry Europe.

We hurried home, dumped our suitcases and hit the road, driving through the now grey morning to collect Mischa from Karin’s place and on to Klagenfurt to collect Orion from Thomas’ parents. Orion was thrilled to see Mischa gain, Mischa was his usual somewhat subdued self at seeing Orion. I think he finds Orion’s bounciness undignified. Or something like that. Or he just prefers to be an only dog and would like to see the bouncy castle just GO AWAY.

After a brief break and a meal and hectic retelling of our Egyptian encounters, we headed back in the direction of Vienna. And yes, we are almost at the near-death point now. We were both aware of being sleepy and so I had set my mind to keep an eye on Thomas and keep him awake and take over the driving at the first sign of him not coping any more. But all this alertness was so tiring I fell asleep from the effort. Then, in a tunnel, so did Thomas. And it was suddenly not a very good idea to have both of us asleep at the same time. While driving through one of the many tunnels.

I’d say we were extremely lucky to get away with two damaged tyres and rims and nothing else.

And I would hereby like to send a great big thank you to our overworked guardian angels and warn them that they will have to stay on the alert for years to come. We are likely to need their help at regular intervals. Though hopefully we will not be sleepdriving again any time soon. We’ll find something else idiotic we can do. Just to keep them on their toes.

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The dog that rolled in poop

I’ve spent the better part of the week bragging to Gerard about what a good dog Mischa is, how he never rolls in poop in spite of forever rolling over whenever he can and such and so. And Mischa was on his best behaviour the entire week.

But now I’ve had a shitty — in every sense of the word — morning because of that dog. First I overslept. Then I found the bathroom drains clogged. Then Mischa ROLLED IN POOP. And to make that last thing even worse, I gave him a thorough shampoo last night so now he smells of Head-and-Shoulders WITH POOP. And I can’t friggin get rid of it. I’ve scrubbed his harness, his muzzle and various bits of his anatomy while gagging, but there is still this hint of poop following him around.

Clearly someone cursed me after my good hair day. Well, I CURSE YOU RIGHT BACK!

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Arson and theft

This is the sight that met me as I arrived at work this morning. In the street outside the office. This is what you can find also in the safe Vienna where you can also find nutcases who get so worked up about motorbikes being parked in non-designated areas that they just HAVE TO set them alight. And if you are siding with the arsonist: the law allows bikers to park wherever the hell they can. Btw, it’s happened twice before according to the local resident gossip, and they know who he is.

Is there some way of booby-trapping bikes so the arsonist only sets light to himself in the end...?

Last night I fell asleep in front of the TV between two large dogs. Orion has settled in as a family dog a lot faster than I expected. But he is still a little confused. He looks to Mischa for guidance about, for instance, cuddles. Watches intently as I sit on the floor with Mischa snuggling close, head against my chest, eyes closed. After a while Orion makes a little whimper and I say “Orion, come here” in a light voice. He immediately gets up and comes over, then leans against me with his head down and I cuddle him too. Then, confused at the unfamiliar closeness, he starts to growl. One can never hold him tightly in case he feels trapped, then he not only growls but also shows fangs. But I have learned to take his growling as a sign of insecurity, not aggression, and all I have to do is say “ssshhhhhh” softly and he stops.

When out with the two dogs they are like a pair of synchronised swimmers. Side by side they sniff all the same spots and pee in the same places. Yes, it has happened that one has peed on the head of the other when sniffing and peeing overlaps. But it’s fun to see them like that, not just because they shower each other in pee but because they move so differently. Orion is tall and lanky, moving with the grace of a gazelle. Mischa is built like a wrestler, with broad shoulders, narrow hips and short legs, and though not moving badly has to take several mincy little steps to each of Orion’s strides.

Occasionally they are like brothers, teasing each other by pushing each other into the nearest wall or flower box on the street then looking completely innocent. I think Orion gets a particular kick out of doing that to Mischa. And Mischa occasionally gets his revenge pinching Orion’s ball on the rare occasion when Mischa manages to get to it first. Instead of returning the ball he rolls over on the grass, dropping the ball, picking it up again and rolling some more. Orion does not take the risk of fighting Mischa for it. Mischa may be smaller, but he is heavier and will stand his ground.

Orion is also no longer aggressive with other dogs and has all but stopped growling at visitors. He is easy to control and, as mentioned, is mainly looking for guidance when feeling insecure as demonstrated by the growling.

But. There is one thing that we have not managed to control. At all.

Orion is a thief. A food thief. I’m aware that this is not revolutionary news when a dog is involved: both he and Mischa are permanently starving puppies feeling sorry for themselves for not being allowed to just eat cake. In general, Mischa does not steal. He is a little too clumsy to get away with quiet theft and gave up after a pancake raid a while ago, but Orion is a totally different story. If you leave the kitchen for more than a nanosecond, anything edible that was there is just not there anymore. He doesn’t even leave a trace. No glass knocked over, no slobber anywhere. The food seems to simply have been beamed into him.

We managed to briefly prevent accidental food theft by putting the not yet empty pan on the back of the cooker with its heavy lid on top. But now Orion has advanced to elevating himself up, hovering in mid air and lifting the lid off. No idea how he does this. He is too clever for his own good. We almost wish he would have an accident and get burned, but as a soft-hearted doggie mother I can’t quite bear that thought and would rather child-proof the cooker.

The main reason why it is so hard to solve this problem is that Orion has a digestion problem. He doesn’t produce enzymes to help him break down and digest food, so he has to have medication added to every meal in order to get anything out of eating at all. He can’t eat anything even remotely spicy and gets diarrhoea at the drop of a hat. So we’re trying very hard not to drop hats around him. But he is not helping. So: forget about suggesting leaving hot peppers or insanely spicy stuff out that will surely burn his tongue — it just might kill him and that’s one thing we’d rather not have happen — yet. Remember, the dog spent eight (at least) years in prison (that’s how I see it) and we would like him to enjoy life a little before he draws his final breath. He deserves it. But it is hard to forgive him when he gobbles up anything edible in the flat, raids the teenagers’ room for bags of crisps or cookies (last night), breaks into the cupboard under the sink to demolish the bin (this morning) and in general behaves like a starved concentration camp victim. And it’s very hard not to believe him when he sends you THAT look, the starving puppy look that says YOU HAVE NOT FED ME IN WEEKS!! You know. THAT look.

Thomas insists that it is possible to train him not to steal. I’m convinced we simply have to take the consequence of his stealing nature and not leave food out EVER — of any kind.

Funny thing is, I rather like that side of him. The thief. The thug. He has been inside for so long and been so unsure about settling into a new home — what if he were just sent back, like last time? But we decided that if we were to take him, it was for the rest of hils life. We do not want him to end his life in a shelter just because he is not easy to deal with all the time. He’s our kid. You don’t return kids. They’re for life. 🙂

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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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