Sunday, January 19, 2014

No Dogs Allowed...Belgrade Blues

Erin and me departed Innsbruck Austria under the cover of darkness and headed east. The sun had yet to make an appearance but I was anxious to get started as a long hectic day was planned. It was my goal to cross Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia before finding lodging in Belgrade Yugoslavia ( Now known as Serbia). Along the way we would romp in parks, admire breathtaking views, mingle with locals, and sample the native cuisine which Erin always found yummy. I knew we were short on time but if something appeared interesting then it was checked out and that included a herd of dairy cows behind a rest stop. They greeted Erin with a chorus of moos while pressing against the fence for a better view of her. Erin was curious enough to get relatively close to the fence though the cow's size eventually intimidated her and she retreated to a safe distance; I found it all so entertaining!

Belgrade was a much welcome sight after seemingly driving forever and priority number one was finding a hotel; my travel partner snoozing in the backseat echoed my sentiment. The moon casting her gleam helped me spot several hotels from the Sava bridge which cut through the heart of the city. Erin remained in the car as I entered the first hotel where an inquiry into room availability was made and the computer showed vacancies but then the bombshell was dropped...."No dogs allowed." I was stunned as he reiterated dogs were not permitted on the premises. This was the first time in dog-friendly Europe Erin was refused entry but undeterred I drove to the next hotel where surely a room awaited us. Nearby the same scene unfolded with a desk clerk explaining their no pet policy and offering his sincere apologizes for the inconvenience. I walked out with my head hung low mumbling to myself all the while wondering if this was some cruel joke.

A third hotel broke my spirit and walking back to the car I was nearly in tears with the thought of not getting a room for the night. I slammed my hand against the steering wheel and screamed out in frustration. The situation appeared bleak and thoughts of driving back to Slovenia crossed my mind but it was too far away and the isolated roads of Yugoslavia at night were too dangerous for an American and his dog. Erin sensed my sadness and climbed over the center console to comfort me; I hugged her neck and buried my face in her soft flowing coat wishing this was all a bad dream. I felt so helpless at that moment but my devoted friend lifted my spirits while repeatedly I uttered "I'm sorry Erin"and "I love you girl"

Upon arrival at the next hotel, valet parking promptly approached the car and agreed to keep an eye on Erin while I check on room availability. This hotel was much posher and refined than the others as evident by its interior and well-heeled clientele. Marble floors, elegant statues and paintings, upscale restaurants and boutique shops caught my eye as I strolled across the lobby to the reservation counter. Sensing this might be my last opportunity in Belgrade I requested the night manager help me instead of a reservation clerk. He inputted some information and found me a room for $300 plus for the evening which I accepted without delay. I had never paid that much for lodging before I was beyond desperate and would had gladly paid even more.

While my passport information was being entered into the computer system I ambushed him with news that there's a dog outside and as expected the no pet policy was recited. In a last ditch effort I offered him double the room rate to accept Erin but he spoke of corporate rules and how money is irrelevant. The manager suggested Erin stay in the car while I slept in the hotel, he mentioned security guards roaming the parking garage and how other dogs have stayed in cars without any issues. "She'll be fine" he insisted. She probably would have been okay spending the evening in the car but there was no way I could do that to Erin and the manager discovered my level of devotion when I told him "we would sleep together in the car on the side of the highway."

After thanking the manager for his time I took one last glance around the opulent lobby before starting the dreaded walk towards the car. "Wait" he called out and I stopped dead in my tracks. "Where is this dog of yours?" Together we approached the front passenger seat where Erin was sitting up looking so adorable. The manager in silence just gazed at Erin while she peered upwards at him, both trying to measure up each other. Finally he remarked the words that I'll never forget "that's a fine looking hunting dog" and then he praised Erin for her calmness and beauty. The manager stated he could never remember a dog being allowed inside but was willing to make an exception this one time. I wanted to hug the gentleman but instead shook his hand and thanked him profusely. We were escorted to the registration desk to complete check-in while uniformed staff took care of the luggage and car. The manager was thanked again for his kindness while I promised to keep Erin in the room until checkout in the morning.

Erin and me rode a private elevator to our spacious room where a massive bed with goose feather pillows and plush comforter awaited us; never had a bed felt so good and we just laid there with big smiles upon our faces. The marble-adorned bathroom had a large tub and a walk in shower enclosed in fancy crystal glass. The softest robe imaginable hung on the back of the door but unfortunately there wasn't one for their special doggie guest. The room had every amenity one could imagine but the best was on its way via room service. We were beyond starving after a long day thus lots of food was ordered; hamburgers and fries, pasta and garlic bread, chocolate cake, and a few cokes to wash it all down. Erin laid next to me on the bed where we feasted like royalty! I held her in my arms while smothering her with much affection and praise...I was so proud of her for saving the day and I certainly let her know it!

The following morning we took the elevator down to the main lobby where heads turned and people whispered; Surely all were shocked to see a dog allowed inside such a lavish establishment. Erin had a wide beaming smile and a show-dog gait as I believe she understood how special she was. My pride in her was evident while my demeanor said "Yeah I have a dog in this fancy hotel." These affluent people never expected to see a dog in a Belgrade hotel but that's exactly what they saw that morning and in a five-star establishment nonetheless. I'm eternally grateful for a stranger's kindness and still to this day dogs are prohibited but for one evening Erin achieved the impossible. One special dog indeed!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Are you Worthy of Love?

While relaxing in a German cafe with Erin I spotted this gem of a quote in the local newspaper. The words were read over and over as seemingly the author had us in mind when those words of love and devotion were penned...Never has there been a more faithful companion than Erin while I ensured she had much love and friendship. The quote was inconspicuously removed and slid into my wallet where it remained for nearly a decade. From that day forward whenever my wallet was opened I was reminded of Erin's unwavering loyalty, my responsibility to her, and the special creature that is Dog

A dog's love and commitment is a precious gift to mankind and they deserve the same in return but too often the dog gets the short end of the stick. Even when neglected, abandoned, and abused dogs maintain the ability to love and that says so much about the species as a whole...Their lifespan is short yet those days are spent enriching the lives of the human race so why would we not want to repay them. I was Erin's life while it's equally true that she was mine as my world revolved around her but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I'm confident I was worthy of Erin's steadfast devotion while these days I'm doing all I can to prove my worth to Cody!! 

This quote which I hold so dearly was written with dogs in mind but it could easily have been written about cats, bunnies, horses, birds, hamsters, goats or any other animal that puts a smile on our faces. The animal kingdom deserves nothing less than our respect, friendship, and love instead of being a prisoner in a cage or backyard with little social interaction!! 

Are you worthy of your animal's faithfulness and love?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mother's Love

Mother's Day is a time for reflection. A time to remember the sacrifices she makes, the wisdom she dispenses, and a love that never ceases to amaze!! I've been blessed to have a loving supportive Mom whom steadfastly believes in me even when my own faith is lacking, she picks me up, brushes me off and puts me back on track. The death of Erin was a devastating blow to my life...Everything I loved was suddenly taken away and for the first time I felt utterly alone. This was undoubtedly the most difficult period of my life but thankfully I had someone to show me the way.

I hadn't cried in front of my mother in eons but seemingly every night I was bawling on her living room couch...Streams of tears flowed down my cheeks while she sat close providing emotional support and a shoulder to lean on. Mom read bible verses, spoke of folks who loved Erin and the hearts she touched but in a state of shock I questioned her death and the meaning of life. Often no words were spoken, she simply watched me consumed with grief and sorrow. Her presence was all I required at times as I didn't want to be alone and she understood that so we just sat there and stared out the window until words and tears returned. I felt like a little boy scared and confused but Mom made everything better just as she'd done many times before.

A loving mother carries the burden of her children and I was fully aware that Mom pained as she observed me spiraling downward though she'd never admit it. She loved Erin like one of her kids as they spent much time together and while Mom shed tears a rock she remained for me. Intimate thoughts and feelings were shared and recollections of Erin brought a smile to our faces, dormant memories were brought to light and we agreed that she had the life that other dogs dream of. Mom offered encouragement, advice, and knew what buttons to push as I dealt with life without my fur angel...With her support I began writing as a form of therapy and ultimately this saved my life as I truly felt like giving up.

Mom always had my best interests at heart and that love was extended to Erin throughout the years. She often referred to Erin as her Granddog when meeting folks on daily walks and actually treated her as part of the family. Thick ham bones and slices of meat magically appeared in my frig as part of Mom's master plan to spoil Erin rotten which she did a great job of. My parents dog wasn't allowed inside their house but my mom insisted Erin accompany me inside much to the chagrin of Dad. Erin and me were so blessed to have an amazing lady watching over us and that love continues today with Cody.

A Mother's love knows no boundaries and no one knows that better than me!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hooked on Fishing

The water is calm except for the lure skimming the surface of the canal. Repeatedly it's cast outward then reeled towards me in an effort to entice the fish lurking below to strike but on this morning the only thing biting are the gnats. Erin has wandered off in pursuit of squirrels and other pleasures as she often does when we go fishing and before long I notice her heading in my direction. "Been exploring good girl?" With a wag of her tail she makes her way over to my side and it's at that point I notice something isn't right; there's a splash of vibrant color in a patch of brown fur. Upon closer examination I realize a yellow fishing lure has penetrated her flesh and is swinging like a pendulum upon movement. Concern and anger consume me as removal is attempted but it's much too deep to get out thus a flurry of profanity is unleashed on the world.

On cue my cousin emerges from an overgrown pathway with his head down and "guilty" clearly written across his forehead. All I desired was the truth and the incident would be forgotten but Matthew vowed innocence like a typical teenager when pressed on the issue. Sheepishly he stated Erin didn't wander down to his fishing hole, had no idea how Erin got injured and we both knew that was an outright lie so a barrage of questions and accusations were heaped upon him. With my disappointment made clear a call was placed to the vets office to inform them that I would be there shortly with Erin...Something tells me they were snickering when the conversation ended.

The bright yellow lure was quite an attraction for the vet's staff and folks in the waiting area...Guess it isn't everyday that a dog gets snagged by a fisherman. We were led to a small room where Erin was hoisted onto a stainless steel examination table for a closer look by Dr. H whom remarked that the hook would be out in a few minutes. An injection for pain plus a few snips was all it took to remove the embedded barb then he placed it in a medicine vial so I'd have a memento of the eventful day. Along the way he cracked a few jokes to lighten the mood which was helpful as I was stressed which was in contrast to Erin whom was happy-go-lucky as always.

Matthew saw the light with help from his mom and offered a tearful apology which was gladly accepted. The following day and many many days after we went fishing and thankfully something other than my girl was caught....It was an unfortunate incident but I'll always remember the day Erin got hooked.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Moment - Fracture

A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week or day or experiences . A simple moment….extraordinary moment… a moment where one can just be. A moment in time where I can pause…savor… and remember.

This Moment is a ritual found on Life inspired by the Wee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane of Samuel Michaels Photography. If you would like to participate….. then post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comment section and above so that I and others can visit you as well.