Sunday, October 30, 2011

One Trick and Many Treats

"Do you think this will fit her?"....I ask this of my mother while holding up a Georgia Bulldogs cheerleader outfit sized for young girls but in this case Erin would be the one sporting it. A doggie Halloween costume from the pet stores was too commonly seen thus thinking outside the box was required to ensure she stands out from the pack and I hoped my decision to dress her as a cheerleader would do just that. This was the final piece of the ensemble for Wag-O-Ween, an annual event held in historic Savannah to benefit The Humane Society for Greater Savannah but first a test fitting was needed to see if she'll tolerate the costume. Red, black, and white lace ribbons are placed in her long drooping ears thus she tries desperately to dislodge them but they remain firmly affixed much to her dismay. Next elastic bands that resemble pom poms are fastened above her front paws and like the ribbon she attempts to get them off but quickly realizes her efforts are futile so she plops down near Mom whom she believes will protect her from further abuse. Finally the red uniform is pulled down over her head while the front legs are awkwardly maneuvered though the arm openings but before long her scowl turns into a smile...."You look beautiful girl" and with that her outfit is removed (for a few days at least).

With Erin dressed as a cheerleader we arrive at the registration point to make the required donation, receive a map of nearly 100 businesses that will hand out doggie treats over a 5 hour span and then we began our trek through downtown Savannah to accumulate as many treats as possible. The route is plotted to visit the maximum number of participants in the shortest amount of time and we stroll along often in the company of other dogs dressed up as superheros, angels, dinosaurs, etc. There are many new scents throughout the historic district on this day so Erin stops constantly to inhale the lovely aromas and dogs being dogs she leaves her mark behind for those interested. In every direction there is a dog forced to wear a costume in order to score treats but the multitude of wagging tails reveals the canine world is willing to accept some humiliation for a bag full of delicious goodies. After a five minute walk the first orange sign signifying a participant is spotted and the first of several hundred biscuits is tossed into Erin's Wag-O-Ween bag.

A few establishments had employees outside handing out treats as dogs weren't permitted inside but the majority allowed them to wander in to collect their bounty and admiration before heading towards the next stop. Employees reached into bowls overflowing with goodies while Erin did everything in her power to charm them into giving her something extra and many times it worked as she received some biscuits on the spot. Those doling out treats remarked upon her beauty while wondering if she was capable of performing tricks..."Can you shake?" they ask of her thus the right paw springs upward in compliance. She would have gladly exchanged shakes for biscuits all day :) For hours we stroll along while the mound of treats in the bag steadily grows but this unusually hot and humid October day begins to takes its toll. Whenever possible we took sanctuary to escape the brutal heat and that wasn't too difficult as Erin befriended many folks along the route. A group of college students staffing a clothing store were totally smitten by Erin thus we hung out while they doted upon her and she in return followed them around the premises as if she owned the place. Eventually it was time to move on but not before she got her fill of attention and was told to return anytime.

Ocassionally I was put on edge as we entered art galleries, souvenir shops, and other places that had breakable objects; her sniffing nose got too close for my comfort but thankfully she never broke anything. There was much temptation for the dogs especially when the treat bowls were upon the ground and Erin shoved her snout into them for an extra biscuit whenever possible...Who can blame her?? The best was saved for last as we spent quality time at the bookstore and coffee shop with long time friends whom ensured Erin receive ample amounts of biscuits; costumed dogs that stopped by were met by a cheerleader whom was very tired but still displayed a broad smile. In time exhaustion overcame her to the point where she laid down next to a bookcase and drifted off to sleep dreaming of the bounty of collected treats; book browsing customers gingerly stepped over her sprawled body in an effort to avoid awakening her. She awoke after a brief nap and it was now time to head home after a fun-filled hectic day so we said goodbye to our marvelous hosts and made the short drive home.
I immediately removed her outfit after entering the house then she laid upon the couch with the intention of getting some well-deserved rest but before that happened I spread a portion of the goodies out before her and took a pic though she was now completely worn out. Within minutes she was in deep sleep and before long I fell asleep next to her as so many times before....A good ending to a fabulous day!!

The positive reaction for Erin exceeded my expectations for sure and she didn't mind one bit as attention was always welcomed with open paws. I felt a sense of pride upon seeing folks stop us in the streets to pay a compliment or ask to take a photo with her; she won many hearts on that day while our time together was very special and most memorable. The total treat count was near 300 with many of them gourmet or home-made variety, not too shabby for a few hours of going door to door.

RIP Erin!! May you always have biscuits!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pathway to Fun

The Old Bridge is a beautiful sight to behold with its numerous arches, twin white towers and elegant statues thus it is one of the most visited attractions in Heidelberg. Erin and I trod upon this German national treasure many times either while strolling along without a care or en route to a favorite destination on the other side of the river. Living a mere 15 minutes away provided us with the opportunity to visit this grand city whenever the mood struck and it usually did as the weather cooled and the hordes of tourists on buses thinned out. Before beginning our journey upwards we usually explored the narrow streets, parks, and squares of the city center where Erin greeted the locals, visitors, and fellow canines with a wag of the tail and much to her delight we always stopped to munch on tasty food from kiosks or one of many dog-friendly cafes.

On the northern bank of the river we begin our ascent to a magical place that has inspired countless philosophers, musicians, poets, and university professors for hundreds of years hence the name Philosophenweg or Philosophers Way. The cobblestone pathway is quite narrow in places while the green-tinted high walls gives the feel that one is navigating through an ancient maze designed for Heidelberg's intellectual elite. My legs burned as I made my way up the steep incline but any discomfort was well worth it for what laid ahead. Erin tugged at the leather leash in an effort to get me to pick up the pace; she would have gladly sprinted uphill to explore on her own but much to her chagrin she remained tethered for her own safety. Steadily we marched upwards towards our goal unless folks moving at a slower pace impeded our progress or someone wanted to lavish attention upon Erin then we became the ones who created a logjam for everyone else.

Reaching Philosophers Way it's easy to see why this beautiful serene location has provided inspiration to centuries of thinking men; high above the Neckar River the site provides amazing views of the old town and a river valley that stretches seemingly forever. It's difficult to not be affected in a positive way; there's no sense of urgency, no modern world influences just a deep connection to God, nature, and whatever else one holds sacred. There are many benches to relax upon thus we usually plopped down for awhile after the trek uphill; an endless sea of red roofs, a massive church that dominates the skyline and an imposing castle that looms over the city beckon for attention. Barges loaded with cargo plying the river, sculling crews practicing their sport, and boats of leisure cruising by were of interest and provided a much welcome distraction from the daily grind. My worries and stress were certainly shed upon visiting this revered place; given the chance I would've relaxed upon a bench for hours on end but ensuring Erin had a great time took priority as always.

While I embraced the moment Erin laid near my feet ready for something more stimulating to a dog thus she stared me down in an effort to make me feel guilty and it worked as usual. "Go see good girl"... She doesn't have to be told twice thus she springs into action and races further ahead on the winding pathway oblivious to the lovely scenery around her. Following her active nose she moves briskly with head slightly above the ground then suddenly stops to inhale the most wonderful of scents before continuing onward. Trails jutting off the main pathway are perfect for doggie exploration and Erin finds suitable furry critters to pursue from tree to tree until exhaustion gets the best of her then she plops down for a breather. Joining her on the ground we sit together in silence surrounded by a wall of trees; not a sound is heard except for sporadic chirping of birds in the trees above and it feels very surreal to find peace and bliss when society lies so close.

The pathway winds its way uphill like a snake slithering where around every corner lies another pleasant surprise; when it appears that all is seen another piece of natures puzzle is revealed. Views of magnificent homes perched hillside, manicured gardens and plots of land littered with gnomes are on display for those who venture further ahead and we certainly did our fair share of venturing. Exotic flowers, shrubs, and trees made the perfect canine playground while I took advantage of our surroundings to initiate hide-and-seek, a game we both enjoyed and played in many many countries. My fur angel always had a great time on Philosophers Way as there was plenty to explore, wildlife to stalk, and admirers willing to pay attention to her in addition to the quality time spent together. I have many fond memories of those outings in the hills above Heidelberg but Erin smiling beside me remains the most cherished. RIP Erin!!!