I’m still alive, but I might not write for a while. Not that I’ve written in ages anyway. I can’t concentrate on anything long enough to write a post that makes sense. My mind jumps continuously from project to project to project: the garden, my work, school, the house, the committee I’m on, the committee I’m almost on, revsion, the company I almost no longer work for, the dog, the aquariums, the plans for the new pond, the plans for a porch, catching trains, eating, cleaning up, tidying up, going out, (not) going swimming, getting home in the dark, spring, bulbs which need planting yesterday, garden, …
On top of, or maybe next to, all those thoughts, I have manflu*, for the second time this year. The first time, I was off work for almost a month. This time I’m working through it, at least so far, which I suppose makes it less manflu-y, and more normal cold. Much as I would love to hide under the duvet, I can hardly phone in sick again! I’ve only been back at work for, what, 5 weeks? 6 weeks? Especially when a colleague is already off work with his own manflu. Maybe someone will send me home if I cough at them long enough.
I’ll leave you with a picture of spring:
* legitimately, if my latest hormone test is anything to go by. I figure if I have to have crazily high levels of testosterone, I might as well be entitled to manflu instead of normal colds…
Some of the stones aren’t really stones at all. Some are slippery. Some are tiny, some are close together but most aren’t. The ones that are, generally don’t lead across the river, just along the middle.
It might be deep, it might not be, it’s too frothy to tell. (Wrote this last week. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t finished, but I’m not sure where I wanted to go with it, so I’m posting it as is.)
It’s a long one, folks – I hope you have good biscuits..
“Ah! You’re here to pick P up. Come in!”
I have no idea whether the receptionist phoned ahead or whether it was pure good timing that there wasn’t a queue and that the carer who met me at the gate knew who I was and why I was there, but it’s quite a walk from the reception to the RehaCentre and it was still cold (duh!) so I was happy. She ushered me into the surgery/meeting-room and joined me as soon as she’d fetched the paperwork.
Just as we’d both sat down and started unpeeling layers and spreading out papers, another carer rushed in and told us we had to leave because ‘those people’ were back, ‘the ones that complained last time’.
We bundled the papers back together, put our coats and gloves back on and headed back outside to the only other table – outside, against a wall, overlooking the main gate. Not a bad place to sit in summer, in winter it was a little bit nippy… But hey – it wasn’t going to take long, right? All I had to do was sign some bits of paper and I could take P home. Easy. Right?
We settled down on our mismatched wooden chairs, and began again.
It was a bit too windy for spreading papers out, so ‘my’ carer started by explaining the intricacies of the adoption process. Unfortunately she was whisked away before she got very far – she was needed elsewhere.
For the next hour or so both carers were involved in a long and presumably complicated process involving three cross people who may or may not have wanted to adopt a dog, but had been ‘made to wait’ (for at least a minute and a half while we’d vacated the meeting room, and for an unknown length of time on their last visit – I’m going to guess way less than ten minutes) and had no intention of doing anything remotely helpful – like listening or thinking.
Meanwhile, I sat outside, at my mostly windsheltered table, and watched the carers to take it in turns to rush backwards and forwards between the meeting room and their other duties; bringing dogs to various visitors, answering questions, returning dogs to their respective kennels, taking loads of laundry from A to B, fetching leads and harnesses and bowls and blankets, letting me know they’d be there for me soon. Amazing. Multitasking at its best.
(The home, or at least as much of it as I’ve seen, is well run overall, but probably understaffed. Especially when some people demand more attention than they’re due.)
– start waffling rant –
I don’t mind waiting. Especially if there’s a good reason for it. Even when it’s cold. I have a good coat and thick socks and my skiing gloves. I’m unlikely to actually freeze to death if I sit outside for an hour. I have a phone, I can read, write and take pictures. No problem. I probably wouldn’t be doing much else if I was on a train. I spend a lot of time on trains, waiting to get to new places, and although trains are generally warmer, the stations generally aren’t. Getting a dog is kind of like getting off a train at a new station. You got on the train with the intention of getting out at whichever station you chose, but you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to find when you get there.
– waffle over –
I do mind other people minding waiting. Especially if there’s a good reason for them having to.
Good reasons in both cases are things like the level of dedication the staff show. Not only to the dogs themselves but also to the people who come to look at / pat / collect them. Like recognising us (and probably every other potential owner) right away from the second time we went. Like knowing who we are, which dog we want to visit, what who’d said to whom and when. Fantastic. That’s hardly a reason to complain to the management.
– Rant over –
Adopting P was remarkably simple when it finally happened: listen to this, read that, sign here….
I was issued with a pallet of dog food, a bag of medicine and a list of instructions for both.
And a dog. Obviously. But she didn’t come with instructions.
It wouldn’t be Germany without doubled up paperwork. Once the carer and I had signed all the various papers, I had to take them back to the reception…
…where “those people” were arguing with the receptionist about the idiocy of the 5 day rule* and about having had to wait, again!, and about wanting to see the management. And not just the idiot they’d been fobbed off with last time…
Turns out, that was the top manager – so his boss didn’t exist regardless of how much they wanted to see him
HAH!! That told them.
They muttered and grumbled off to berate him again, finally freeing up the desk for me to smile, tell her what a great job they all do and hand over the forms to be copied. 🙂
P and I went for a walk before driving home. I wasn’t sure how she’d react to being in a strange vehicle, but I figured it would be better if she was tired first. Or at least not quite so bouncy – I’m pretty sure she can’t be worn out by a half an hour’s walk. If nothing else, it meant she didn’t pee in the van.
She’s too short to see out of the van’s windows, and I didn’t think to lift her onto the seat, so she spent most of the journey balancing on her back legs, with her front paws on the windowsill. I couldn’t see her in the mirror, but I heard the scratching and panting. I probably turned to make sure she was ok at every traffic light or give way sign all the way home. Braking in/on slush is ‘fun’ anyway, braking on slush when you’re trying to concentrate on not sending a brand new dog flying is a little bit daunting.
We both survived unscathed though :).
I wasn’t sure how much newness she could take in one go – people, car, house – but walking in unknown snow must be the same everywhere, so I took her for another walk in the snow when we arrived, before I even let her into the garden.
Then, we went home and lived happily ever after.
Or the beginning.
Or something like that.
* The way the adoption works, you have a 5 day trial run.
On the fifth day, you have to take the dog back to the home for a complete check up by a vet. They make sure you haven’t been mistreating it, and, assuming you haven’t, they hand you all the paperwork (proof of ownership, immunisation info, vet reports etc).
If they declare you unfit, or anything else goes wrong (you decide you really can’t cope with a dog / your landlady complains about the barking / whatever) you can leave dog at the home and get your money refunded. You can still take them back after the 5 days, but it’s more complicated.
Sometimes you get to the point where you have to change something.
Until then, you can cope and cope and cope.
That moment. The one that changes everything, can be tiny. One you might overlook if it didn’t happen at the exact right time.
There’s a special combination of attitude and exhaustion and hope and dread and longing and probably magic involved, that works with the circumstances and the strangers and the people you think you know, to produce a spark, to set all the balls rolling in new and exciting ways, to shake up the customary and create something amazing.
Revolutionary, if only on a small scale. A personal scale. The only one that really matters.
The newness, when it arrives, washes in, like the tide on a lumpy beach. Some parts flood completely, in one go, others take longer, the waves lapping longest at the shore of commitment and duty until they too relent and give up the fight ready to join the party.
Sometimes, after months of indecisive hesitation, you just know, and act, and relax.
And breathe. As if you’d somehow forgotten how to before, and only now remembered.
The kind of remembering which is more like relearning. Or learning for the first time.
Fresh. Deep. Exhilarating.
Again and again and again.
Tomorrow, or on Sunday, I hope to finish the Dog series. This post needed writing today, otherwise I would have waited until afterwards.
Surprisingly, both I and the van arrived, undamaged, at the rescue centre. (We didn’t even get lost on the way). I found a decent sized parking space and headed for the reception desk.
Receptionist: “Good morning, what can I do for you?”
Me: “Hello! I’m here to collect P”
R <smiling>: I’m going to assume that P is a dog..?”
Me: “Yup. I have a Form, if that helps…”
In Germany (and maybe elsewhere) Forms (capital F) are like magic wands. Unfortunately, the magic they do best is producing new Forms..
This one was no different.
I filled in all the spaces, wrote on all the lines, ticked all the boxes and made sure to dot my ‘i’s and cross my ‘t’s. I even signed my name in the allocated space without practicing first* 😉
When I’d finished filling things in, I handed all the paperwork to the receptionist to type up or photocopy or staple together** and went to browse the animal accoutrements of which there were several racks.
I wanted to pick up a brush while I was there – even if they were [probably] more expensive than in a normal pet shop, the excess would hopefully help fund the home.
A few minutes later I was back at the desk, armed with a double sided brush and a comb with rotating teeth.
I don’t know very much about dogs, but I know this breed is not only very fluffy, they also have 3 layers of fur which moult independently…. Getting both was probably still overkill but P is a very fluffy dog and I am a very sneezy person, so I decided better safe than sorry.
In the meantime the receptionist was finished. I paid – the brush and comb were about half the price of the dog – and went to find a loo. I always need to before I do anything scary. I hadn’t been aware of being scared of picking her up, but bodies know best I suppose. Or I’d drunk too much that morning. Either way.
I headed towards the Reha Centre.
* presumably due to repeated passport applications
** whatever German receptionists do with paperwork
In the morning – a very dark, but also very white morning – Tuesday appeared.
I was going to pick up a dog, on my own, in the aftermath of the heaviest snow of the year.
Berlin is not known for its snow. It does snow, but not much and not often. As a result, people who drive in Berlin are generally not accustomed to driving in snow and tend to do strange things. I learned to drive in Berlin, and since then we’ve only had very mild winters so I have next to no experience of driving in snow at all.
DB phoned his parents and asked if he (=I) could borrow the van. It’s a 4 wheel drive and apparently better on snow than my car.
That has to be a good thing, right?
Right. The less sliding about the better.
On the other hand, I’ve hardly ever driven it. The first time I did, in a mission to help DB juggle several cars between various workplaces, workshops and houses, it was evening, and getting dark fast.
Halfway home the dashboard lights died, so I drove in unknowing darkness – unable to see how fast I was going, whether I was about to run out of fuel or even what time it was. Once I was out of a streetlit area, I realised I was out of headlights too. DB was way ahead of me, and my phone had helpfully run out of battery so I couldn’t pull over and phone anyone to say where I was. Not that I really knew where I was anyway. As a passenger I look out of the windows. I look at art on posters and electricity boxes, I look at peoples’ gardens and the animals in fields. I don’t look at signposts or road junctions, and certainly don’t memorise them. I decided I didn’t really fancy parking on a fairly well travelled road in the dark with no lights and no hard shoulder or layby, so I carried on going (I’m still not sure what’s more frightening – stopping with no lights or driving with no lights ;)).
I made it home, slowly.
The second time I drove the van, it was also dark. The difference was that this time I had lights. I also had 3 drunken males and a piles of bicycles to distribute across Berlin.
I made it home that night too, but not before I’d reversed into a signpost*.
DB’s dad brought the van round and DB went to work.
I finished putting away the last few things (amazing what you can oversee) and hung up a picture I’d rediscovered in the dog-proofing sort out.
Then, fully appreciating the pointlessness, I washed the floor. I wanted the inevitable first-day pictures (and hordes of dog lover visits) to take place without being embarrassed by the state of the house/floor. Also, it’s easier to prove find out how grubby a dog is when you start from clean.
(This is a good place to issue a slight disclaimer for the last post… quite a lot of the things I sorted were things I’ve been meaning to do for a while – sometimes I need a more pressing reason than just because…)
When everything was ready, I looked up the dog’s home’s address and had a more-or-less** leisurely breakfast.
There I was, breakfasted and with a van and a clean house and a newly programmed SatNag.
Off I set.
* please note – when delivering drunken people to their homes, DO NOT believe them when they tell you there is room to turn a van round in front of their house. Such foolish belief could lead to reversing down a steep sloping drive and back onto the road…..or into a signpost…
The second walk was on a Sunday. On the following Monday DB phoned me from work, excited like a little kid who’d been invited to a birthday party.
Turns out the RC had not only received the blood test results, but the vet had also been and pronounced P fit – as long as she continued to take her medicine.
DB suggested he leave work early to pick her up immediately but they turned him down – they’re closed to the public on Mondays so although the RC staff were around, the secretary/reception desk staff/people who deal with the paperwork weren’t.
DB had to work all week (duh!) but I was still home on sick leave (more on that later) so he’d told them I’d pick her up as soon as they opened on Tuesday….Was that ok?
– !!! –
DB went back to whatever he’d been working on and I set about rearranging the house.
We have lots of open shelving, and although nothing was unwrapped I figured having food at dog-nose-level was probably not a good plan.
Dog-proofing the house turned out to be a bigger job than I’d anticipated and involved emptying and refilling boxes, tubs, packets, jars, shelves and cupboards. Things were piled on the floor, carried from one room to another, thrown away, poured or tipped together, reorganised, rediscovered, redistributed.
Just as I’d reached the middlest, messiest stage of the process DB arrived home. He took one look at the carnage, fought his way to the sofa and stayed there, feet tucked up well out of range of vacuum-cleaner, until the coast was clear and the house was tidy.
On the way home from the first meeting, DB had thought-out-loud about adopting P even if his parents wouldn’t. After the first walk, the idea was firmly fixed in his head.
A second walk, the next day, sealed the deal. P was going to be rescued whatever his folks said (and they weren’t making dog rescuing noises). DB set about making arrangements and talking to the staff about finalising the adoption.
We couldn’t take her home immediately because she has ‘stomach problems’ and had been fighting with diarrhoea for a month or so. That explained why she was in the RC at all and why it had taken so long to arrange the first walk after the first meeting.
At the time of the first walk she’d been diarrhoea-free for a couple of days but they were waiting for the results from a series of blood tests.
We left with the promise of a phone call when they knew what the vet said. We shouldn’t hold our breaths – it could still take a couple of weeks before she was considered fit for release.
The day of The Walk arrived. Finally.
DB and I got there half an hour earlier than his father and C, to give us time to sort out the paperwork – that was DB’s job because he’d spoken to the rehab centre (RC) most, and his dad didn’t want to complicate things. DB’s mother stayed home with a cold.
As soon as the official part was over, we left the RC and wandered towards the car park. That is, we would have wandered if P hadn’t been tugging so hard on the line. Instead, we were dragged towards the car park.
When she wasn’t dragging DB along, she stood immovably still, sniffing frantically – a wall, a leaf, a clump of longer grass…anything and everything.
Freedom muss smell good to a dog.
DB says sniffing is, for a dog, like reading newspapers.. (and peeing on things is like writing articles or blog posts ;))
DB called her a couple of times as we walked, to see if she knows her name (and responds to strangers). Every time he called, she’d come running back to us, stop briefly at my feet, look up at us until she was patted before bounding off again. DB thought that was most unfair since he had the lead and was doing all the calling.. 😉
DB’s dad pulled into the car park as we got there – talk about perfect timing!
C was completely uninterested in getting to know anyone and mostly ignored P. He marched past her and spent a long time reading newspapers at the other end of the field. Seemed a little bit pointless, but at least they didn’t fight I suppose.
Once all the papers were empty, he deigned to join us for a phone shoot.
It took 3 of us a good 10 minutes to get both of them to face the same way at the same time – and stand still long enough for a blurr-free photo..
DB’s dad didn’t stay much longer after that..something to do with getting back to his wife.. it seems he’d gone out to pick up cough-syrup.. Besides, it was far too cold to stand around with no gloves taking pictures.
The rest of the walk was uneventful. I took over holding the line partway through and tried getting her to “heel”, “sit”, “come”, “slow down”, with varying degrees of success. DB said it was much too early to expect her to listen and or respond. She did stop pulling so much though – presumably dogs home walks are shorter than mine!
We handed her back before the home closed, and headed back to our home for dinner.
A few days later we were back, well before closing time. We were welcomed into the rehab centre and P was brought in to see us.
DB took a couple of pictures, but nothing spectacular – P isn’t the most camera friendly dog (and DB was too busy filling in the forms necessary to be allowed to take her for walks to wait for opportune photo moments ;))
The blurry pictures were enough to convince DB’s dad that he had to see her for himself. Also, it seems not all dogs are willing to live with each other and it’s Very Important to test the water and let them get to know each other beforehand.
DB’s mother was still not convinced, but by then she’d already admitted that P was a cute dog, so she didn’t object too much. (Not that I spoke to her – that’s second hand information…).
Several weeks and phonecalls to the home later, a date was organised for the following weekend. All of us, plus C (DB’s dad’s dog) were going to the home to take P for a walk.