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.
You see, one of the neighbors had 2 little kids about 4 and 5 years old. That day it just so happened that their babysitter decided to take them into the back yard to play-- with their fuzzy, fat little hamster. The two uber-bratty girls of the cleanliness-impaired parents had decided to go outside to see what the younger kids were doing and... left the door open. ("But we didn't know the dog would go outside," they later whined.) What happened next, I can only tell from my sister's description, as I was too late to see it for myself.
As the 2 bratty girls, the babysitter and the 2 little kids were watching the hamster enjoy its respite from the cage, Annie stormed the scene, knocked the babysitter over, and to the complete horror of the little boy and girl, bit off the hamster's head, and ran off with her signature happy, hyper tail-wagging. My sister, 3 stories above, dripping wet, and sticking her head through the crack in the tipped window, choked out a furious howl that sent the 2 bratty girls running for cover. (In fact, they hid so well that we didn't even see them again until late the next day.) The babysitter, on her feet again, carried both crying children at once back into their house. (I suppose she came back later to fetch the rest of the hamster. I really couldn't say for sure.)
I went chasing after Annie, who now had a new agenda: the bunnies. She was running frenetic circles around their cage, barking incessantly, stopping occasionally to try to shake the fence down with her paws. I couldn't catch her! I ran and ran-- this way and that. Not once did I even come close. So I put the hose on her to get her to stay away from the poor bunnies. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Annie found this so delightful that she decided to roll around in the mud that had formed, making sure every part of her was covered. Finally I
realized what the only solution could be: Maybe I couldn't catch Annie, but I could catch the rabbits. So I picked them up and put them in the little WC inside the house. I could feel their tiny hearts beating wildly as I delivered them to safety. Annie, without anymore targets, returned to the door, wanting in. Ugh. I'll spare you the details of the bath except to say I had to throw my outfit away after that ordeal...
Things were very quiet in the house the next 24 hours. Then day 2, post hamster tragedy, I came downstairs to find the door left open once again. It was useless at this point to even try to talk with the guests. They were clearly living in a different reality. And so, Annie continued on, in her role as my emotional and physical endurance trainer, and I was off chasing after her once more.
The only thing that saved my sanity was knowing that in a few days, the open door would be my chance to claim freedom-- which I happily did as my sister and I left for a week in Italy. And the guests were left to deal with the dog and the brats on their own. Poor Annie-- and poor Theresa, the unfortunate housekeeper who would have to deal with the ooey gooey mess when they left.
As for me, viva Italia and its love of cats. :)