The Tower of London

28 Jun

My next stop was the Tower of London, conveniently located within walking distance from my hotel and enabling me to avoid any tricky mass transit. A tourist site, you ask? When you’re well-traveled and fancy and first-class? Yes. Because I was a tourist, and my friends and I could dress it up with fancy champagne and dinners, but come on. I think I proved in my previous post that I, at least, wasn’t fooling anyone to the contrary. And the Tower of London has ravens. Sign me up.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Older than my apartment building.

Older than my apartment building.

I’m not going to go into a bunch of traditional history on the place, because, well, Wikipedia that shiz. But it’s amazingly interesting and I hope I don’t have to be the one to tell you that. I had been there once before with my family when I was about fourteen and we took a great tour of the place, but this time around my friends and I had a very limited amount of time as we were due to high tea (how Londony can we get?). So we decided to basically speed walk through the place, bowling over small children and foreigners (of which I realize we were as well (foreigners, not small children) in order to see as much as possible in about forty minutes. Being an animal lover, the first thing I noticed was the wire mesh lions they had out front replicating actual lions that used to be prowling  the grounds. I paused to take about fifty pictures of these guys, which mystified my friends considering we were still outside of one of the most famous spots on the planet, but I mean, come on, guys, wire lions. Little did I know, these were the first of the wire animals we’d encounter on our journey.

My three new best friends

My three new best friends

The entrance: I like any decorator who incorporates unicorns in a classy way.

The entrance: I like any decorator who incorporates unicorns in a classy way.

Our attempt at a selfie with the unicorn crest behind us. As you can tell, we missed the crest entirely and we look GORGEOUS. Well done, us.

Our attempt at a selfie with the unicorn crest behind us. As you can tell, we missed the crest entirely and we look GORGEOUS. Well done, us.

Once inside the castle, we raced up tiny stone stairs that twisted up skinny spiral stairwells and looked out thin, rectangular windows. It’s really stunning to stop and realize that you’re touching stone and tile that is so amazingly old. It takes your breath away. So does trying to beat a group of French tourists to the site of King Henry VI’s death, let me tell you. But we managed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He became king at nine months old, the youngest person ever to become king of England. Seems like a lot of pressure if you ask me. I know I wasn’t doing much of anything at nine months, and no offense to Kate and Wills, but George doesn’t seem like he’s ready for that kind of commitment, so good on Henry VI.

I’ll pause here to provide you with the beauty shot of Tower Bridge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You’re welcome. But I don’t know why you’d want to see that when you can see…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An elephant! A wire elephant! Now, I need to admit to you, dear reader, that it was about this point in the day where I got a little wacky. There were signs that simply read “Elephant” with arrows leading us down stairs and around paths, and for some reason, I really thought there was going to be a real elephant in the Tower of London. And if you’ve been reading along with the postings about this trip and haven’t yet concluded that I am a real and true moron, now is where you will finally give up and decide that I am mentally deficient. Thank you for your faith and sorry to have disappointed you. I actually argued with my friends, telling them that NO I was sure there was going to be a live elephant at the end of these signs. And when we found the above wire elephant? I had a brain freeze and still thought maybe he was the entrance to where the real elephant was living. I honestly have no excuse for this other than possible alcohol poisoning. It wasn’t until we saw the below sign that my friends read to me very slowly like one would to a child that I finally understood our large wired friend was the only pachyderm I’d be seeing that day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It seems that King Louis IX of France made of gift of an elephant, as one does, to King Henry III, in 1255, to which Henry decried “Make a building without delay at the Tower for the King’s elephant, 40 feet long and 20 feet wide.”  Well. I suppose if that was in the year 1255, he’d be one old ass elephant to still be hanging around.

Next up was the Crown Jewels, which we almost left without seeing because the line was as long as the new “in” brunch spot in Soho, but we toughed it out and got to see some of the fanciest glittery-sparklies you’ve ever laid eyes on. This, however:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Was the only photo I could take or else I’d end up imprisoned in the Tower myself.

And wait! There’s more! One last wired friend! Sad Bear, who I named because he was a sad looking bear and he made me sad when I looked at him. Deep thoughts, I know. Just look at that ankle chain. Yes, I realize he is made of wire. But he represents a real bear who was once chained by his ankle at the Tower of London. And yes, I realize there are many other, worse atrocities that were committed at the Tower, to humans, but… he’s a bear. With a sad face.

 

Sniff. I can’t go anywhere. This chain is like a foot long. Plus, I’m made of wire.

Sniff. I can’t go anywhere. This chain is like a foot long. Plus, I’m made of wire.

And on that lovely note, we leave the Tower of London, because you have read enough and my friends and I had a tea to get to. What’s that you say? I promised ravens? I did! You are correct. But because I am strange and I love ravens, I am saving the Ravens of the Tower for their very own post. And unlike the elephant and all the other wire animals in this one, the ravens are decidedly alive.

Advertisements

Underground

4 May

The first photo of my trip on my “real” camera and not my phone is of  glasses of champagne, which is definitely suiting. This whole trip was a celebration. Though I’d be working many days while there, I was also going to be seeing some of my best friends in the world, visiting places I had always wanted to see, and watching one of my favorite people ever get married to an awesome man. Champagne was definitely called for.

It started with champagne.

It started with champagne.

London was my first stop. While there, I was staying across town from my friends, as I was in a hotel near my office. This left it up to me to figure out how to navigate mass transit. Living in Manhattan for more than a decade, this wasn’t something I was worried about. Look, they had friendly signs that said “Subway” and clearly marked the stairs to show me where to go.

"Go here, stupid American." Or, don't...

“Go here, stupid American.” Or, don’t…

“But wait,” I thought, “don’t they call their transit system the tube, or the underground, or something properly Britishy?” I dismissed my thoughts and figured they must cater to tourists and call it the subway in some signs. Sure, that made sense. And I proceeded to walk down approximately one million stairs, where I was faced with a tunnel about a block long. I walked through said tunnel, where I was confronted with one million stairs going up. Okay then, London, I’ll do you. I marched up the stairs confidently and found myself back outside. Confused and blinking like a mole in the not-even-that-sunny London sun, I looked around to get my bearings. This looked familiar.

Hm. This looks familiar.

Hm. This looks familiar.

I’m extremely ashamed to admit what happened next. I actually went BACK down the stairs, through the tunnel, UP the other stairs, came back outside again, turned around blinking and confused in the unsunny sun, again, and only then did I finally realize that in London, “subway” meant “underground passageway you walk through under the street so you don’t have to worry about getting hit by cars while crossing the street.” I think it is also British slang for “Americans are morons.” I then acted like I didn’t just cross the street underground twice and walk up and down two flights of stairs four times and swallowed my tourist pride and asked the next person walking by where the tube was, and I was on my way.

The London Underground. A cooler logo and name than NYC’s “subway.”

The London Underground. A cooler logo and name than NYC’s “subway.”

With the help of some abiding locals and my hotel-provided map, I’m happy to say that I did, eventually, find my way to a train, and ultimately, dinner with my friends.

Thank you, tube, for taking me to my friends and food. And more champagne.

Thank you, tube, for taking me to my friends and food. And more champagne.

 

 

First Class: My Trip Begins

25 Mar

After much waiting and planning, the night was here. I was off, ready to laugh euphemisms in the face and mix business with pleasure. I was going to visit and work from my company’s London and Dublin offices, while fitting vacation days in between for sightseeing in both England and Ireland and, perhaps most exciting of all, seeing my friends marry each other in a castle in Scotland. I lugged my over-packed suitcase and bursting carryon bag down my three-flight walk-up with a “Let’s get this started” attitude. And then I panicked, because the car sent by my company to pick me up wasn’t there.

“He says he’s right in front of your apartment, ma’am,” a bored dispatcher squawked into my cell phone.

“Well, I’m right in front of my apartment, and he’s not here,” I said, trying to quell my nerves. I am not good with being late. I don’t do late. Especially for things like international flights.

“He’s on the corner, he says. Black Expedition SUV.”

“Well I don’t live on the corner, and I didn’t order an SUV, I just wanted a regular car” I muttered and began to drag my bags down the street, sweating profusely. There was a black Expedition SUV just like he said, but as I limped my way over to it I saw that a man in jeans was sitting in the passenger seat with the door open, looking at me suspiciously. Not exactly the welcome you expect from a professional driver. I’d already over-committed in my walk towards him, though, and as he awkwardly stared at me I mumbled “Sorry, the car company told me to look for a black Expedition SUV…”

“Ah. Well, I’m not your driver,” he laughed at me as a woman came out of the nearby bodega with sodas and handed one to him. “She wants us to take her to the airport,” he said to her, laughing more.

“I do not! I just…” and then I saw the other Expedition, across the street, a whole block and a half from being in front of my apartment. “Never mind.” I hauled my luggage into oncoming traffic like the New Yorker I am and cursed at cars as if it was their fault they almost hit me and finally made my way. I started to relax, and decided to document that fact.

Image

The face of someone who was sent a much more expensive car than ordered and is not being charged for it.

When I finally got to JFK, I waited a few minutes in a long line to check my bag before I saw a sign for premium economy check-in. Since it was a long, overnight flight, my company sprang for premium economy. I asked the JFK worker standing nearby, “Should I be over there if I’m flying premium economy?” Sometimes, I like to ask dumb questions.

“Of course!” he smiled and came over, took my suitcase for me, and led me to the quickly moving line. Am I still at JFK? I thought? This guy is carrying my luggage for me? I was immediately whisked through line, and after the usual dance of taking things in and out of pockets and feet in and out of shoes at security, I was on the plane before I knew it. I seated my economy ass in my seat in ‘prem econ,’ which was what I was now calling it in my head like it was some sort of college course all my friends took while I was taking Poetry by Lovers or something else ridiculous. I was handed a tiny mini wee glass of Prosecco and I suddenly felt the urge to hide the Doritos I bought in the airport from my dashing seat-neighbor. For shame.

I watched with limited curiosity as a bumbling couple barely made it onboard before the flight attendants closed the door. They were probably in their late thirties, and they stood in the aisle staring at their tickets, seemingly annoyed at not being seated with each other. Actually, the man looked relieved; the woman looked annoyed… at life. She made a dramatic show of getting her things out of her man’s bag, asking him where her water was and this and that. At least, I thought she was; I could blessedly barely hear her as I already had earplugs in my ears due to a recent double ear infection, and I wasn’t looking forward to feeling what take-off was going to do to me. I’m totally cheap though and bought the pharmacy brand, so I could hear her a bit. And the next thing I knew, what she was saying was “Now I need to find my seat,” and she marched right over to me.

“That’s my seat,” she informed me, as if she made it herself.

“Excuse me?” I said, slowly. I was acting like English was not my first language. I struggled to get my hand out of the Doritos (really? I couldn’t wait until we left the ground?) while simultaneously trying to sit my baby Prosecco glass down and get my earplugs out of my ears. “I have a ticket for this seat,” I said, sounding a lot less positive about that fact than I actually was.

“Well, so do I.” Was she really standing there with her hand on her hips, challenging me? People actually stood like that? Well, game on, lady. You are not getting my Prosecco shot glass.

“Well, I suggest you get a flight attendant then to take care of this, because I am not moving.” You go, me. You sit there with your orange stained fingers. She huffed and puffed and got a flight attendant, who asked me to produce my ticket. I felt like I had won the lottery when I saw that I was indeed in the correct seat (I had completely started doubting myself as soon as I saw the flight attendant headed towards me). And the challenger, little miss You’re In My Seat? Admitted that she was flying standby when she was given the same seat as me. Information that would have been useful five minutes ago when you were trying to scare me out of my comfortable little pre-booked spot, lady.

Flight attendant: “OK, unfortunately, this seat has been double booked. Ms. Prozac, if you’ll just get up and come with me, we’ll get that taken care of for you. Ms. Azzhole (shockingly, not her real name), you can have a seat.”

Me: (Loses it, gets squeaky voice) “ME?! I have to get up? I have a ticket for this seat! Why do I have to get up? I’ve done nothing wronnnnnng!” (Yelling like I’m being dragged to jail for a crime I haven’t committed, seeing my one chance at a nice plane seat being taken from me. They were moving me because of the Doritos, weren’t they?)

Ms. Azzhole: (Smirks hautily.)

Flight attendant: Someone will get your things for you, miss, I promise you will be comfortable.

Defeated, I follow her solemnly… forward. What’s this? Forward. Why are we going to the front of the plane? There’s nothing up front but… I quickly turn to look at Ms. Azzhole settling down in the seat she fought so hard for and say “Are you taking me to FIRST CLASS?” as loudly as possible, and the heavenly flight attendant confirms that yes, in fact, she is, and she’s sorry for the inconvenience. BooYAH, lady. That’s what you get for sucking at life.

I’d like to say that I acted like a normal human being in first class, but instead I admit to committing the following indiscretions:

  •          I giggled with happiness for at least the first half hour
  •          I stared at a grown-ass woman who sucked her thumb the whole flight
  •          I found myself saying things like “crisps” and “loo” even though I hadn’t even made it to the UK yet and I am decidedly not Madonna
  •          When asked what kind of wine I wanted, I asked if they had white. Really? REALLY? Not if they had Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc, but white. I was assured that they did. Many varieties, in fact.
  •          I tried to turn my seat into a bed without help even though it says to ask for help. I needed help.
  •          I took the following photos. I don’t know why they are all purple.

 

Image

Thumbs-upping myself because I am cool.

Champagne in a glass larger than a shot glass.

Champagne in a glass larger than a shot glass.

Image

Chips that are not Doritos. Oh. I mean ‘crisps’.


Image

Dinner and a movie. I wish I stole the mini plane salt and pepper shakers. But stealing is bad.

Image

Cheese plate dessert.

 

All told, I arrived in London happy, well-fed, and fairly drunk. I filled out the customs form incorrectly, likely due to the amount of alcohol they kept handing me on the plane (it’s their fault!) and had an unintentionally contentious back and forth with the customs agent about my hair color as it was a very different shade on my passport. Apparently “That’s because I’m a spy” isn’t a funny or witty reply, however commenting on how a woman dyes her hair isn’t exactly proper British decorum, either, now is it? Regardless, they let me into their lovely land and the shenanigans continued from there.  Next stop? London.

Back Again

24 Mar

It’s been too long since I’ve posted here, and I’d like to change that. Here’s hoping I can start start this back up again. I’ll be back soon with a post about an amazing trip I took with some of my best friends to a few of the most beautiful places in the world, and I have the photos to prove it. Coming soon…

Image

 Sláinte! I took this shot from the top of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

(All rights to this and all photos taken by me on this website are reserved.

Please email for permission prior to re-posting.)

Redrum

18 Feb

 

“No, it’s not too scary; you’ll be fine if you watch it with me.” Unsure, I followed my brother’s friend into the TV room where my brother was already sitting. The two nineteen year olds, home from college for some holiday, were unhappily stuck watching ten year old me while my parents and my brother’s friend’s father were out to dinner. I happened to have had a crush on my brother’s friend for just about the entirety of my ten years, so while I didn’t quite believe him that I wouldn’t be scared, I talked myself into watching the movie with them. And what was their movie of choice? The Shining.

Yeah, totally appropriate for a ten year old.

Yeah, totally appropriate for a ten year old.

Now, I was a child with a wild imagination. I was also a child who used this imagination to concoct all kinds of demons and monsters and murderers, and those demons and monsters and murderers liked to live in my closet and under my bed and in my walls and an inch from my face if I closed my eyes and just about anywhere else I could think of. This movie would not have been on my parents’ approved list.

Pretty soon into the film, I was scared. Horrified. Terrified. So terrified, in fact, that I blocked most of it out and to this day I don’t remember or know much of anything about the film other than all of the “REDRUM” parts (murder spelled backwards for anyone smart enough to have avoided the damn thing). What I do remember was that 1) My massive and amazing dog Oliver (see below, For the Love of an Asshole Dog is about Ollie) protectively sat next to me the entire time, allowing me to wrap my fingers tightly in his long hair, and 2) That I refused to leave or complain about the movie because I didn’t want to look like a “little kid” to my cool brother and his way cool friend.

Oliver in all of his snowy glory.

Oliver in all of his snowy glory.

At some point towards the end of the film, my brother slipped away to call his girlfriend. The film ended, and his friend told me it was time to go to bed. I didn’t want to let on how scared I was, and he told me he’d send my brother in to say goodnight as soon as he was off the phone, so off I bravely went, with my massive protector Ollie at my side. I changed into my pajamas and got into my big bed, and Oliver got in with me. My crush came in to say goodnight, and on his way out he clicked off the lights, plunging the room into darkness. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to scream and ask him to turn the lights on, but no, I was cool, dammit, and this hot nineteen year old was bound to notice, right? I lay in bed stiff as marble, fighting to not hyperventilate, clutching my Pound Puppy, Kelly, with my huge, real, dog lying across my legs with his massive bucket head plopped on a pillow. And then, just as I started to relax, I heard it. So faintly, so quietly, like a breath barely breathed.

“Redrum… redrum.”

I shot straight up in bed. Oliver sat up with me, startled by my movement. I threw my arms around his neck and listened, and heard nothing. “You are losing it.” I told myself. This is in your head, you did NOT hear that. I laid back down. And just as I was falling  asleep…

“Redrum… REDrum.” This time, Oliver sat up first, and I was so scared, I was frozen in a prone position; I couldn’t even sit up straight. I knew that since Ollie sat up first, it meant that he had heard it, and if he heard it, it had to be real. My heart was going crazy, and then I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye, from under my bed, a hand was coming up, straight for my face. The last thing I remember before I passed out was Oliver barking and lunging as the hand clamped over my mouth and nose.

I woke up downstairs on my kitchen floor, looking up at two panicked teenaged boys. “Holy shit, dude, we almost KILLED her. Our parents are going to fucking KILL US.” Yes, I had actually passed out from fear because my brother had hid under my bed and scared me, I believe, more than anyone had ever been before and has ever been since. If there was a way to scientifically prove that, I would. I don’t know how long I was out, but the entire incident was enough to panic the two boys. I obviously don’t have photographic evidence of this, so I will let these cats demonstrate the looks on their faces when I came to. My brother is a redhead and his friend has black hair:

Brother stand in.

Brother stand-in.

Friend stand-in.

Friend stand-in.

Let’s just say that they were both nice to me for a very long time afterward, and the incident turned “redrum” into a word that Oliver never forgot. As I wrote about in For the Love of an Asshole Dog, if you so much as whispered “redrum” around Ollie for the rest of his life, he would come running from wherever he was and he would take you the hell down. Good dog. And that, my friends, is the story of how my brother and his friend almost scared me to death.

Oliver and me.

Oliver and me. Don’t even whisper “redrum.”

The Puppy Thief

22 May

(As in: The Thieving Puppy, Not a Person Who Steals Baby Dogs)

Here’s a short little tale about a cute puppy, an irate owner, an innocent housekeeper, and jumping to conclusions.

Once upon a time, when I was young and working at an animal hospital, a woman came blowing into the office in a tornado of perfume and yelling and puppy paws. “I need help immediately!” she yelled, in the way one does when they think they are the only important person in the room, not in the way one does when they are running into a vet clinic with a sick animal. Hearing her, I walked my teenage self to the front and saw a well-dressed woman holding an adorable Labrador retriever puppy. He was so cute, you wanted to talk to him in baby talk all day long and rub his fuzzy ears because they were sure to feel like silky, palm-sized yellow chicks. And kiss his wet nose. I wanted to kiss his mini-little wet nose.

I can do no wrong. My cuteness trumps all things.

“How can I help you?” I asked.

She looked over at me, gawky and skinny and younger looking than I really was, and dismissed me with: “Not you. I need someone who works here.” Yes, lady, I am just hanging in a vet’s office, offering to help mean women out in the middle of the summer for the fun of it. Actually, I suppose that was what I was basically doing, but that’s not the point.

“I do work here, how can I help you?”

“Fine, here,” she said, leaning over and placing fuzzypuppybuddy in my arms. “He has an upset stomach, or something. Do whatever you need to do with him; I don’t know what’s wrong, but I can’t stay. I’ll come back in an hour; I need to fire my maid for stealing.”

Gratuitous cuteness.

“Wait! What’s your name? What’s his name?!” I yelled after her, but was answered only with the ringing of the bells we had hanging from the door as she stormed out. “Well, hi.” I said to the bundle in my arms. “Your mama is an ass. Sorry. Let me see here.” I walked into an empty exam room and put my cute new friend on the metal table. “You don’t feel so good, huh?” I looked at his tag and learned that my new friend’s name was George, and was happy to see that his owner’s last name and phone number were also on his tag. By now, the vet had come into the room and asked me what was going on. “I’m not sure, Dr. Vet. His owner, Mrs. Rude, just like, threw him at me and said he was sick and that she had to go fire her housekeeper. Or something. Upset stomach.”

“Oh, she is a handful, huh? Always nasty, for no reason.” He told me. He examined little George and found his stomach hard and distended.

“She said we could do whatever we wanted, test-wise.”

Warning: Your brain may explode from cuteness overload if you look too long.

“Well that’s good,” said Dr. Vet, “because he needs x-rays. “ In the x-ray room, we put on our heavy, lead-lined vests and I held little George down while the vet took x-rays of his belly. When we were done, I sat down in a chair with him in my lap and pet while the vet developed the films. A few minutes later, I heard laughing coming from the x-ray room, not something you hear every day in an animal hospital.  “You have got to come in here and see this!” he yelled. I went back out, and there, clear as day, was an x-ray of George’s belly, with two rings in it; one big diamond engagement ring and one plain wedding band.

Apparently, George was not alone in his taste for diamonds, because this is not his x-ray.

“George!” I yelled, looking into the sweet chocolate eyes of the puppy in my arms. “Did you do that?!” He looked up at me innocently and burped. “You have a VERY expensive belly, my friend.” And with that, the vet went to call our thieving puppy’s owner in hopes of saving her from firing her poor, innocent housekeeper for stealing her jewelry. And I enjoyed imaging her reaction when he told her how the jewels were going to come out… suffice it to say, it was the opposite of the way they went in.

And all the characters lived happily ever after, and I liked to think that every time that woman looked at her rings she remembered where they had once been.

Diamond dispenser.

Photos borrowed from: thedogtrainingsecret.com, hightest.com, askspikeonline.com, wedinator.com, thedogsofsf.com

For the Love of an Asshole Dog

15 May

Oliver was the best dog in the world. He was my best friend, constant companion, and impenetrable bodyguard for years. He was huge and had hair that went down to the floor. He let me put it in a little ponytail on the top of his head, a fountain of tawny fur that would stick straight into the air, mimicking his expressive black ears that turned like weather-vanes towards interesting sounds. He could fetch with the best of them, and held two tennis balls in his mouth at all times when he wasn’t eating or drinking, always ready for someone to play. You could even practice soccer with him; he’d sprint around the yard with me or my brother while we worked our best moves and fake outs, and then he’d dive in and pick up the soccer ball in his mouth. Yes, a regulation-sized soccer ball.

Oliver was a Briard. Which is French for “Awesome Dog.” (This is a fake-Ollie but real Briard.)

I did everything possible with him, and he tolerated me something amazing. He let me use him as a full body pillow while watching television sprawled on the floor with him in front of the T.V. He let me put braids in his fur that then got knotted up and needed a groomer to remove. He ate the green stems of strawberries I fed him (actually the only thing he wouldn’t eat was grapes). And he sat patiently with me when I sold lemonade and pet rocks on the corner (probably scaring away more customers than attracting them). He danced with me, standing on his hind legs with his front “arms” on my shoulders, and he was actually just about the right height.

The Fire Incident (aka Totally My Bad)

I even once lit him on fire with a friend of mine by accident. We were lighting tissues on fire, watching them disappear into a puff of smoke in a second (Great idea, kids! Try this at home! Also: Sorry, Mom & Dad.) We ran out of tissues in my bedroom and got some from the bathroom. Not realizing these were the newfangled kind that had lotion in them, my friend and I lit a tissue and it burned slowly but steadily towards my hand. Panicking, I ran to the bathroom to drop it in the toilet, but Oliver, a herding dog who was always guarding me, followed. My hand got hot as the smoldering tissue got smaller, and I freaked and dropped it and it landed right on Ollie’s back. Whoosh, his fur caught on fire the tiniest bit. My friend and I quickly patted it out, and other than the acrid smell of burnt hair, Ollie was no worse for wear, but still. I lit his fur on fire and he still thought I was the coolest, and he didn’t tell on me. That all said, Ollie did have some asshole-ish tendencies.

The Shining Incident

When I say he protected me, I mean it. And while I loved it, he sure was an asshole to anyone he deemed a threat to me. He was a herding dog and I was his sheep, and no one was going to tell him otherwise. He regularly got between me and my brother, father, or friend if we were joking around or playing a little rough. He barked warnings to strangers in a deep herding dog voice, telling them to back away from his person. Sometimes he got impressively, though somewhat dangerously, protective: just ask the family friend who thought it’d be funny to torment me by whispering “redrum” to tease me after I was scarred for life by The Shining. Oliver, who was upstairs and asleep, somehow heard this and bounded downstairs. He knocked that guy clean off his chair and onto his back on our kitchen floor. Ollie then stood on him, holding him down, barking a ferocious bark in his face until he was pulled off. That’s right; no one could mess with me when Ollie was around. And in case you couldn’t conclude this on your own, The Shining is absolutely horrifying to a ten year old.

I’m 32 and it freaks me out to even look at this.

The Tongue Issues

Then there was his whole choking on his tongue bit. He’d lie on his back, his huge legs splayed every which way, chomping on a tennis ball or sleeping. And then all of a sudden you’d hear the most Chewbaccian noises (noises Chewbacca would make are Chewbaccian. I’ve decided.) that scared everyone in hearing distance. I’d calmly walk over, reach into his huge mouth up to my elbow, and pull his tongue out of his throat. Do I think he was really choking on his tongue? No… but with Ollie you could never be sure, so I stuck my hand in that huge, hot, slimy mouth and helped my boy out whenever needed. I think he did it on purpose just to get me to gross out all my friends by getting shoulder deep in his huge throat.

The ‘You are My Sheep, Little Girl, Get That in Your Head’ Incident

His herding dog tendencies could be a problem also. When I wasn’t doing what he wanted or walking where he wanted to go, he’d bite my ankles in an effort to direct me, or he’d head-butt me behind my knees to knock me on my ass. He also didn’t understand when he couldn’t go places with me. I remember one night when I was walking out the door to go to a sleepover, sleeping bag in hand. Huge Oliver heard the door open and came bounding towards me. He grabbed the hood of my coat and pulled me backwards into the kitchen, far away from the door, and wouldn’t let go of the coat. His little sheep was going nowhere on his watch.

Where’s my person? (Note: this is also an Ollie lookalike, not the original recipe).

The Let’s Go to the Videotape Incident

Then there’s the videotape of the time baby Ollie and I were running around the yard and my dad was trying to get me to train him. Ollie was just a puppy, albeit a large puppy, and he was all over me. He was biting my ankles and legs in quick little painful nips; he was jumping up and accidentally scratching my hands. I didn’t know how to control him, and the tape shows me running and Ollie chasing, ripping my coat, biting my hands, etc. as my dad yells from behind the camera, “Tell him ‘no’! Smack him on the butt!” The video then goes dark, and comes back on a few seconds later. We are now on my deck, with a whimpering me staring into the camera with a shredded winter coat, scratched cheek, bloodied hands, and baby Ollie sitting innocently next to me. “What did you learn today?” my dad asks.

“That it’s not mean to tell him ‘no’ and that I can’t keep him unless he’s trained,” I say through tears. That was the start of Oliver taking two puppy kindergarten courses. He was not a star pupil and had to repeat a grade, but he won for class clown and most popular, by far.

And last, but not least…

The “Don’t Let Go of the Leash” Incident

As I’ve mentioned before, I had my own dog walking business for a few years when I was growing up. I was annoyed that although all of these people trusted me and paid me to walk their dogs, my parents wouldn’t let me walk Oliver alone.

“But I walk big dogs all the time! Maisie is big!” I’d plead.

“Maisie does not weigh more than you do. Oliver does.” My mother would logically and infuriatingly point out. But finally, once Ollie was more trained and I was used to commanding him to listen to me, my parents relented. I was so excited. The last thing my mother said to me on our first solo walk was “Whatever you do, DO NOT LET GO OF HIS LEASH.” Got it. Duh, Mom.

We were doing well, two best friends, sniffing the grass on a pretty spring day, not a care in the world. I chatted to Ollie as we walked, and his intelligent eyes and big, twitchy ears gave the impression that he was listening to every word I had to say. Until he saw a squirrel. A squirrel he needed to herd. He started pulling me, walking fast and then faster. I pulled back, yelling “Heel! Heel, Oliver!” in my most authoritative voice, but he was deaf to my pleas.

The actual asshole-animal of this story. Screw you, Squirrel. Are you trying to get me killed?

As much as I fought it, I had to break into a jog and then a run to keep up with him, screaming “Ollie, STOP!” as I flailed along behind him. But I was not letting go of that leash. He charged on, oblivious to the fact that I was tethered to him. He was getting that damn squirrel. And then the inevitable happened. I tripped. Bam, I face-planted on the grass and was on my stomach before I knew what happened. But I am stubborn and was still holding on to that damn leash. So Ollie, without even breaking pace, pulled me along the grass of neighbors’ pristine yards. I was flat on my stomach with my arms out in front of me, eating grass and dirt and bumping along at full excited-dog speed. I was nothing more than a mild weight to him, and we flew along, me screaming the whole way. It wasn’t until a neighbor came running out towards us that Ollie was distracted enough to stop. I don’t remember much that happened next, other than 1) I think my mom, who had been secretly watching us, came running up and 2) My neighbor, who had happened to look out his window in time to see a little girl being dragged full speed by a massive dog, was laughing so hard he couldn’t stand up straight. “Why didn’t you just let go?” he asked me.

I could write a book about my adventures with Oliver, and maybe one day I will. For now though, I’ll stop here, with the smell of grass and springs past in my mind. Sometimes when I’m falling asleep at night, I think I feel the weight of him across my legs, which was the way he used to sleep with me; my legs under him so he’d wake up if I got out of bed. Those who have known the love of a great animal will understand the relationship Oliver and I had. I cannot imagine having grown up without him, and think of him regularly to this day. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of sharing your life with a loving and infuriating animal, if you can find it in your heart, perhaps you should stop by your local shelter. You never know what shape the best friend you’ll ever have in your life will come in. He might just be covered in fur and choke on his own tongue.

The real Oliver, seeing me off to a dance. That broken arm came from soccer and was not a dog-drag related injury.