Glitter and Guttertrash

Not really resisting the descent into urban gardening madness

Monday, November 15, 2010

Borrowed love

There aren't many cats in Berlin. It's a dog's city, for sure. You can take your dog everywhere (when I get off the plane I grin at the rows and rows of dogs sitting patiently beside owners inside the airport, waiting for their people to appear).

When I lived in the big hospital squat last year my room was on the same level as an enormous puppy, a great shaggy Swiss Mountain Dog, already a giant at four months old. She was the friendliest dog I'd ever met in Berlin, puppy-eager and sweet, and liked to hurl herself at my feet, legs splayed for a belly-rub. Adored by the household. She could bring a tense house meeting to a warm and fuzzy standstill just by existing. When I visited her in her new apartment this year she had grown massive, but still threw herself into a delighted wiggling mess at my feet, and throughout the summer proved that she remembered me by occasionally dragging her owner towards me across busy marketplaces, footpaths and intersections.

Other dogs: the grey-muzzled Boxer down at the wagenplatz, followed everywhere by the cry: "Zita, NO!" as she aimlessly knocked over shopping carts, beer bottles, and tins of paint in her aimless wanderings. The maudlin Greyhound I often dog-sat, plagued by a deep and depressive malaise at almost all times, until the occasional moments at the park where for 35 seconds he'd remember that he was a puppy once, and erupt into a foot-flapping, tongue-wagging sprint- then stop, a few hundred meters away. Drop his nose to the ground. And return to his sulk.

In the house in Brisbane that fulfils some function of 'home' when I'm there, there was a lovely crested cockatiel, miniature relation of a cockatoo, who bobbed his head and danced as I attempted to teach him how to whistle. I never succeeded at getting him to mimic me, but he certainly would screech would I stopped whistling. And in the two weeks spent teaching him, I became a much better whistler than I've ever been before.

Berlin, again, my last few days there this time around. I was in a tiny, dark warren of an apartment, borrowing a room from a friend. In the hallway, in a cage, lived a guinea pig. He didn't show many signs of wanting to make friends, but whenever he heard the fridge door open in the kitchen up the hall he'd let out the most unearthly, inorganic squeals and beeps, like a UFO landing. This seemed to be a signal that I should feed him slices of cucumber, which he'd tug out of my hands with his teeth and scarper back into his house to eat.

In Sydney I sit in my parents' backyard while their multi-coloured flock of chickens scratch at the grass around my feet (one, the oldest and sweetest, will eat mulberries from my hands). Like glossy-feathered dinosaurs with their proud carriage, tiny eyes and tiny brains, fierce reptilian dignity.

Last weekend I was at a picnic, and a rabbit appeared. A tame, soft, lop-eared rabbit. We couldn't find where she'd come from, and we couldn't find anyone to take her in, and we certainly couldn't leave her in the park to become fox food, so I took her to my friends' house for the night. A week later she's settled in as though she's always belonged there, all soft fur, curious whiskers, lively company. House-rabbit happy, nothing like the bored, vegetative lumps living in tiny cages that I met often as a child. I feel a little bit like her fairy godmother.


  • At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    aw my favourite post ever, on any blog. i especially relate to the squealing guinea pigs - they are like baby car alarms. adorable. thanks for sharing. made me smile, warmed my heart and made me feel all happy, while i sit here in a sterile office free of all that beauty. enjoy the little rabbit. they are angels. em x


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