It was my first summer in Vienna and I was house sitting in a gorgeous 4-storey home with an indoor pool, access to English TV, a life supply of 'Cola Lite', the Vienna Woods just one block away, two school project 'has-been' bunnies in a hutch out back, and one seriously crazy, red cocker spaniel named Annie.
Well, maybe she wasn't crazy, just very single minded. Either way, I was more than a little bit challenged to keep her under control. She would bark... and bark... and bark... all hours of the day and night, inside or out, sitting down or on a walk, at animate and inanimate objects alike. And walking her was always sure to be a harried adventure, as she walked me down the street, zig-zagging frantically on her leash wherever her nose dictated, occasionally slamming her head into a wall, but just shaking it off briefly and bouncing along her merry way.
Annie was so flabbergastingly, obliviously joyful, regardless of the situation-- that's what really made it difficult. She just didn't get it that it hurt when her head dented the concrete wall on the street, or when she was disciplined for being 'bad'. She was just too cute to stay mad at. One day while walking her and feeling especially irritated at her incessant barking and dragging, we rounded a corner and she took off, jerking the leash right out of my hand. I was quick enough to see what had her attention: a baby bird had fallen out of a tree and was helplessly calling out for its mother. "Annie! NOOOOO!" I called out in vain as Annie swooped in and sucked that poor thing down like an industrial strength vacuum cleaner. I, being a sensitive soul with a heart for animals, was horrified! And furious at that dog for killing a baby bird. How could she?!
I angrily grabbed her collar and scolded her-- to a response of eager, happy panting and a wildly wagging tail. Big sigh. "She is a dog after all; how can you be mad at a dog for acting like a dog?" But still. That helpless little baby bird... Next time I would have to just hold on tighter.
The next day the "Guests" arrived-- and invaded my lovely summer retreat for a few weeks. They were in-between apartments, while moving from Vienna to another country, and the family I was house sitting for, just amazingly generous and kind-hearted, gave them free reign of their home. Oh. my. god. There was a semi-bratty teenage boy and 2 beyond bratty girls about 9 and 11 years old, belonging to parents who had never heard about that little thing you do when you have made something dirty-- especially when you are a guest, for heaven's sake! There were dirty dishes stacked everywhere, goopy countertops and tables, pots and pans hung up on their respective hooks awaiting the next user with their sticky, oily mess, and heaps, stacks and piles of belongings that had yet to be sorted and packed for the move, which seemed to spawn themselves overnight.
But worst of all, the kids constantly left the front door open, allowing Annie her escape and making me run all over the neighborhood trying to catch her-- at least twice a day. (And let me tell you, cocker spaniels are faster than they look!)
At the end of the second week of their intrusion in my paradise, my sister also came for a visit. She is not one to put up with the slightest bit of attitude from anyone, especially not ill-behaved kids. She had told them to keep that blasted door shut a hundred times more than I had and they just ignored us-- even after explaining why we were saying it. Go figure. Anyway, one day I was on the first floor when I heard my sister scream all the way from the shower on the top floor, "YOU KIDS GET THE DOG BACK IN THE HOUSE NNNOOOOOWWW!!" So I ran outside, around the house, up the hill and into the back yard to see what was going on.