Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Karma of House and Dog-Sitting in Mahone Bay: the Toulouse way

Some of you might know that I offered to house-sit for some friends who have a house right by the water in Mahone Bay, a lovely sea-side resort town in Nova Scotia. The house came with a young cocker spaniel-poodle (cockapoo) puppy, Oli (short for Oliver). I thought, “Oh, Boy!”... Walks along the beach, playing fetch and rough-play (like I wouldn’t do with a cat…) Toulouse wasn’t so enamored. He agreed …though with some reserve (he’s a great sport!).

What neither of us realized was that Oli was about to change our lives…

Mahone Bay is a very charming and cheerful village along the water in a protected bay (from which it gets its name—go figure… knowledgeable smile). Oli’s house was located right on Main Street in the midst of colorful shops, cafés with al fresco dining and convenient amenities. I had the best of both worlds: the mild resort-style bustle out my front door and a back balcony that faced the scenic bay to the sound of clinking boat masts and the gentle ocean surf.

We soon found a routine that suited Oli and me: of walks in the town, meeting the colorful locals on the street, stopping for café crème (well, close to it, Toulouse would say) at Eli’s Café then a wonderful homemade lunch of soup and scone at the Biscuit Eater or Joanne’s Café, and a final walk in the forest and run on the local beach.

Toulouse really liked that part because Oli came back all pooped and would go lie down while Toulouse and I sipped Lillet and wrote on the computer (What? You didn’t know he could do that? How do you think he writes his blog, Toulouse LeTrek, or writes to all his 200+ fans on Facebook or Twitter? He uses his nimble paws, of course. Toulouse is very talented and knows his language better than I—all six, I might add. He’s my editor, after all… ). Sometimes, Oli needed a bit more play before lying down for the evening so he and I would tussle over a doggie bone or one of his decapitated stuffed toys. It gave me some exercise and much entertainment. But should have warned me…


We were just getting into a very groovy routine when Oli did “the ultimate puppy” and decided Toulouse was one of his new stuffed toys. It happened in less than a minute. I’d gone into the kitchen to make some coffee to go with the Lillet and heard Oli crunching on something. It turned out to be Toulouse’s nose! By the time I got to Oli, he’d ripped off Toulouse’s nose! Oli was working on his eye but I snatched my injured friend out of his grasp.

Then karma set in…

After taking Toulouse for major nose surgery and stitches at my good friend, Doctor Hectorine Roy near Liverpool (she’s locally renowned for her excellent quilting and sewing skills), Oli had an accident on the forest path. An old broken bottle found him and sliced the upper pad of his left paw almost off. A friend of Oli’s and I rushed him to a vet who sedated him and gave him stitches then wrapped his paw in a bandage.

As Toulouse recuperated from his operation at Doctor Roy’s with Lillet and café creme, Oli chewed off his bandages and got to his stitches. More karma, Toulouse would say. I took Oli back to the vet to right things, get more bandages, and…yes, you guessed it—to ensure that the bandages stayed on this time—by putting the cone (of shame) on Oli. Well, things weren’t so good for Oli but they were looking up for me. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life (sorry Oli, but you are—like Toulouse—a very good sport too). When I took him for his first walk as “cone-dog”, he invented the “cone-dance”, leaping into the air, twirling in mid-stride, pirouetting, and yelping and howling at this strange thing around his head. He raced backward like a thief only to stumble into something. BONK! Then he would lurch forward and complete his acrobatic show with a sinewy break-dance. I had to bend over, I was laughing so hard.

Oli was soon training to be a shovel, scooping up those questionable things he used to be able to reach before, only to have the item roll out. I thought, “BONUS!” Prior to that I used to spend most of my time convincing him to drop said items (you know, the usual puppy dreck: poo, dirt, decaying bird carcasses, garbage…). Now, I just watched him deal with it. And confess to more than a few chuckles.

On a particularly blustery day, he discovered that the cone acted like a sail, pitching him back and into a dead-halt. He’d rear up and sniff the air then twirl hard and—BONK—right into a telephone pole. Poor git (as Toulouse would say).

Oli was already popular with people because he was…let’s face it… very cute! But now that he was coned, Oli was even more popular with both locals and the international tourists of Mahone Bay, Lunenburg and Bridgewater. Ellen, a local of Mahone Bay, then gave me the best suggestion: why not mark up the cone like a cast? I seized the opportunity and purchased multi-colored markers and started to have some real fun. Toulouse, God bless him, was the first to sign. That was followed by Chris from Las Vegas. It continued on with various locals, people from Dartmouth, Halifax, Lunenburg, Germany, France and places in the United States. It included his good doggie friends, Joy and Fifi, as well as characters from all walks of life from Kenny, the local go-to man, to Stephanie who worked for a vet in Bridgewater.

I don’t know when I quite realized it but Oli had turned into a celebrity. Every day we would get stopped by some stranger on the street with condolences and to sign his now colorful cone. Cars slowed right down and I overheard people saying, “Look! His cone is all signed!”

I suppose one sad side-effect of the cone was that Oli couldn’t reach any other part of his body, not to scratch his ears (which I did for him) or get at his food dish (I hand fed him). He did eventually learn to aim his gear straight down in order to reach all-important items on the ground, earning him the title of “lampshade dog”.

That’s when I discovered the first tick. Engorged, it was the size of my little finger nail, and nestled very comfortably on the back of Oli’s neck. EEK! I frantically searched the internet for the best way to rid him of this nasty disease-carrying pest. One site provided an ingenious way of removing the pest without leaving offensive parts behind (the usual challenge when wrenching the nasty bug off your dear dog). It consisted of putting your finger on the tick (already a challenge for me. Yuck!) and rolling it in circles really fast. Apparently this makes the tick dizzy and after a while it falls off in an apparent stupor. I had to laugh but I just couldn’t do it. I’d be interested if any of you has been successful in this oddly inventive way of ridding an animal of that nasty obnoxious little blood-sucking parasite! I found two more ticks on poor Oli and wondered if they’d managed to lodge there because he could not reach to bite them like he’d bitten off Toulouse’s nose…

Ah well, that’s karma for you…







Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.

14 comments:

Rick LeBlanc said...

I love the Biscuit Eater. Yum!!

Heather Dugan (Footsteps) said...

The challenges of pet sitting! Ollie is darling and sounds like great company. I hope that Toulouse is also recovering well.

SF Girl said...

Yes, the Biscuit Eater is wonderful, Rick! It's worth a post all unto itself... Well, I'll let Toulouse tell you that one on his blog, www.ToulouseLeTrek.com. I'll give the link when he posts... :)

SF Girl said...

Heather, yes, a challenge indeed... but what a joy too! Ollie is a wonderful dog, sweet-tempered and great company. I miss him terribly...

Thanks for asking about Toulouse... He is recovering wonderfully too. Dr. Roy did a splendid job on him and he is pretty much his old intrepid self again... :-3

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Toulouse is indeed multo talents. Hope he recovers soon.

SF Girl said...

Me too, Jean-Luc... In fact we are currently sitting at the Grand Banker Seafood Bar & Grill pub, celebrating his recovery with a honey roasted apple and butternut squash soup with mixed salad and and iced tea (we're taking it slow...) :)

More Lillet later... :)

Toulouse says, "Ausgezeichnet!" ... (he's still thinking in Swiss...)

Toulouse LeTrek said...

I'm feeling great, Jean-Luc. Thanks for asking. We just finished shooting the first show of "Yoga with Toulouse" on Hirtle Beach yesterday. I'm very excited about the series.
Ton ami,
Toulouse :-3

billgbg said...

Barnes and Noble is in bankruptcy, all the States are broke and your biggest concern in the world is absinthe drinkers of two centuries ago.

It must be wonderful for you to be stuck in such a fantasy world.

What will you write about when they come to turn out your lights?

SF Girl said...

I'm sorry to hear that you're so miserable, billgbg...

Not everyone chooses to see the world through such a limited lens.

...I'm curious why you singled out one post on an interesting topic (absinthe) within a legion of posts devoted to making this world a better place? The post just prior, for instance was about green architecture and the one before about altruism...

So, yes companies are going bankrupt, there is economic strife—not just in the United States but throughout the world, there is war, greed, jealousy and prejudice, animal cruelty (we're on this post, after all), lack of compassion and integrity in our world. BUT... there is also incredible beauty, in nature’s intelligent design and in compassionate altruistic acts, in our ingenious ways to solve problems and work cooperatively, in human and animal kindness (go see some of my other posts).
We do make our own reality. First by daring to dream it, then by living it to the fullest. It's no fantasy. And no one—except me—is turning out my lights.

I hope you feel better soon. All the best to you,
Nina

Anonymous said...

Yes...apparently Barnes and Noble filed for bankruptcy in 2008...but just so you know...in a article posted in "On the News" dated May 25, 2010....there was interesting news regarding Barnes and Noble and the other big bookseller chain in the States, Borders. Borders received a much needed infusion of cash from financier Bennett LeBow and there was speculation that Borders might buy out Barnes and Noble - both of these bookstore chains are perhaps struggling but still afloat in 2010. If you are so concerned, go buy at book at Barnes and Noble!
Like the use/distribution of absinthe, economies ebb and flow and to take note of all that life has to offer at any given moment is good...

Baby Brie

SF Girl said...

Interesting news, Baby Brie... and wonderfully said...

Thank you :)
Nina

Pet Sitting Mckinney said...

Thanks for sharing this great article! That is very interesting smile I love reading and I am always searching for informative information like this! You are bookmarked!

Pet Sitting Mckinney

SF Girl said...

You're welcome, Pet Sitting Mckinney! Oli (Ollie) is a sweet thing. He and Toulouse have forged a wonderful friendship. You can find some of their correspondence on www.toulouseletrek.com. Search the "animal stories" categories.

Ciao,
Nina

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