Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Senseless Waste

We have arrived once again to the hunting season in Tuscany. Oh joy of joys. That is me being sarcastic by the way.

  • Did you know that so far this hunting season 14 people have been shot dead by hunters.
  • The latest casualty was a nurse with a young family; he was out picking mushrooms when a hunter mistook him for a fox and shot him through the heart.
  • Last years season saw almost 30 people killed and 90 wounded.

Why is this allowed to continue? Could it possibly be because the Italian government are raking in the cash that the hunters pay in license fees? Is there not a better way to organise this?

And what about the hunting dogs? These animals that are kept outside in small kennels or cages all the year, brought out to go hunting and end up getting lost, or even killed because they have minimal training and handling.

Here is a link to a recent article on the Tuscan Hunters. Please read it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Excuses, Excuses....

Bad dog, naughty dog, on your bed. Yes, here I stand with my tail between my legs, knowing I have been very naughty indeed. I have commited a terrible sin and I have neglected my darling sweet little blog. That's the thing with blogs though, you can beat them, ignore them, scream at them and they will always be loyal to their master.

So why all of a sudden have I returned to my neglected audience? Actually to be honest the Boss asked me to do her a favour. Sorry to disappoint. You do realise that I'm not a baby anymore though, don't you? I had my first birthday back in June, I'm almost a grown up now. I really should be working right now, but I promised the Boss to help her out, so here I am you lucky things!

What could the Boss possibly want from Hostel Dog's Blog? I hear you cry! Actually it's quite simple and quite boring really and now I don't even know if I feel to help her after all. I know, I know, I'm here now, I might as well, but now I feel so guilty for drawing you all in here under false pretences as if I had some really amazing news for you; when in fact I've got somebody else's amazing news for you. And what do you care for the Boss? It's ME you are here to read about, why doesn't she write her own blog? I know, I thought the same thing, but to be honest she's not as good with computers as me and I think she'd probably make a bad job of it anyway. Plus she does do nice things for me sometimes, belly rubs and the like, so I suppose I should give something back to her once in a while.

And I guess it's nice for you to hear something from me, I know you must have missed me like crazy but I'm still her, all is going well, and I promise to post some new adventures soon.

Oh, before I forget what the Boss wanted me to do....She's set up some new business or other, which means that we're moving out of the B&B Maison at the end of this month and in fact we're moving out of Florence! We're off to the countryside, where she's opening a new horse riding place, you know the Boss and horses, she never shuts up about them, so finally she's got her dream and got her own stables. Great for her I thought, but also it's great for me; lots more time outside and I don't even have to be on the lead! I told you I'm all grown up now. So this new place it's called La Fiaba, it's in a small village called Iano (not too far from Florence so hopefully I can still see some of my friends after we move), and you can check out her website either by clicking on the link to the left (under 'More from Hostel Dog') or by clicking on the words 'La Fiaba' right there. Enjoy, or don't, I guess it depends if you like horses really.

Well as some might say 'that's all folks'; until next time when I will tell you all about the new addition to out family (I was NOT impressed at first, but actually she's kind of cute in an ugly sort of way. I'll tell you next time anyway), how the big move goes, what I've been up to over the summer (actually I'll tell you now; sunbathing, sleeping, and scratching - bloody fleas!), and, er, anything else interesting that happens. Also, I don't know if I'll have to think of a new name now. Farm Dog? Sounds terribly common and a bit uncouth to be perfectly honest. Perhaps I'll be famous enough soon to just be known as 'Dog', now that would be impressive. Suggestions welcome anyhow....TTFN!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Forever Friends

Well it's been a long time no blog, my major apologies to my avid readers (hehe!). I have been working on a couple of new blogs which I've got in the pipeline, plus of course I've been working soooooo hard at the hostel. And of course there were all the preparations and partying for Christmas and New year.  We're also opening up a new place so I've been supervising while the Italian Bear has been doing some lifting and carrying. The Boss has been doing a lot of 'admin' whatever that means, so has been taking up all the internet time, hence why I've been unable to update you all on my daily activities.

So apart from the move, what's been going on? Absolutely LOADS! So what am I going to talk about, hmmmmm. Now there's a good question. I think the general theme of this past month has been trust and friendships, so for me that's a great place to start. I have a few friends I meet fairly regularly at the park, one of my best friends even came to my house recently and we had SO much fun! My friendships are quite straightforward. I meet another dog I know, we have a sniff, we play for a bit then someone like The Boss goes and spoils it all by insisting we have to go back to work. It seems to me human friendships are a little more complicated. I personally think this is due to the lack of sniffing, I mean, what can you really tell from a person from just a hug or a handshake?? Nothing really, but when you give someone a good sniff you can tell an awful lot; where they've been, what they ate for lunch, if they need the bathroom (maybe you don't want to know that!), how confident they are, whether they are happy to see you, if they are relaxed or not....and when you put all the information together you can usually tell if that person is friend or foe. With humans you have to work so much harder to figure out if you can trust that 'friend' or not.

If I were to meet another dog who was wagging his tail, ears pricked forward, maybe sitting or lying down, how annoyed and scared would I be if that dog then turned around and bit me when I got close! But you humans do this so often. Ok, you dont have a tail to wag, but I have seen you send out all the 'right' signals. A nice smile, a hug & a kiss, making cups of tea, 'please sit down', blah blah, then when the person isn't around it's all 'I can't stand that so-and-so why do they keep coming around?', maybe because you make them cups of tea and tell them they're welcome??? You guys are strange. If you don't want them to come, don't smile, don't kiss them, don't give them hot drinks in your best china cups and most importantly don't tell them they can come around 'anytime'!! The worst part of this behaviour I've seen is not only do you call people names behind their back, but when do something you know will hurt that other person without them knowing! Ok, so it's a great way to get away with it, but do you really think it's a great way to live? I don't and I would hope anyone who reads this remembers the next time they give a friendly dog a pat on the head, how much that would hurt if he turned around and bit those manipulative little fingers!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stick it to the Man!

Being a dog, I have very sensitive hearing. Therefore it will come as no surprise to you that the other day, I overheard an extremely interesting conversation regarding Animal Rights. (No, I wasn't ear wigging, I told you - very sensitive hearing. Sometimes. When what I hear interests me in any case). At first I was like 'well that's nothing interesting, this animal writes' but as the conversation continued I realised I had completely the wrong end of the stick. (Which is an interesting phrase, and I can't possibly imagine having a wrong end of a stick, both sides taste pretty good to me.)

So, these girls were very passionate about Animal Rights, and so they should be. As it turns out, there is a European Law which gives us dogs (amongst some other animals of course) certain basic rights. These include: Freedom from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, fear and distress. As well as allowing us the freedom to express normal behaviour. All this sounds a bit ambiguous to me, but I'm all for it none the less. It also got me wondering, should humans have the same rights as us? I'm not really sure, but it seems fair enough to me. After all, they are technically animals too. So, shall we discuss this further?

First off, Freedom From Hunger. I don't know if this one exists for humans as we get so many backpackers coming through here telling me they are 'starving' and haven't eaten anything except a piece of bread and half a tomato in daaaaaayyyys and how they can't wait for dinner. Plus there is a man who lives under the bridge who I have to say is very thin indeed and looks like he really hasn't eaten anything in a long time. In fact sometimes, the way he looks at me, I'd swear he is imagining a doggy steak. He had better be careful, because I'm growing into a BIG girl, and already starting to get some seriously sharp teeth (so everyone keeps telling me, as if it's my fault!). SHOULD humans have this right? I think so, after all the more food they have to eat, the more they can share with me.

Freedom from Thirst. The way these guys polish off the free wine in here, you'd think they'd never had a drink in their lives! Humans appear to be very thirsty creatures indeed, so I would say this is a right humans deserve.

Freedom from Discomfort. Well, if you're going to travel around the world carrying 40 kilos of CRAP on your back, you deserve to be in discomfort! If I had a €uro for every person who complained about how much their luggage weighed, I'd employ a very stern looking Rottweiler to guard the gates to the park and stop that nasty Teo from getting in (he stole my ball the other day and then BIT ME when I tried to take it back!). If you're going to purposefully create yourself discomfort then I suppose humans don't need this right. Personally, the comfier the better for me!

Freedom from Pain. I don't think this one applies to humans either, because they always seem to be in pain and whats more, they appear to enjoy it. They seem to be especially prone to headaches in the morning, usually accompanied by a stomach ache and an aversion to bright lights. Now, while I'm not exactly what you might call a 'morning dog', I certainly don't feel these kind of pains on a regular basis like so many of you humans seem to do. The Boss says it's self inflicted and they shouldn't drink so much, but if you stop them drinking is that not then restricting their 'Freedom from Thirst'? And how does drinking cause this anyway? In any case, it seems a lot of humans enjoy being in pain, because they're always talking about their latest (and often also long since recovered) ailment, with what it seems to me, a great relish.

Freedom from Fear. Again, I can't see this applying to humans. They watch scary movies, dress up as ghosts and zombies and witches to celebrate a notoriously scary day (The Boss was talking about it the other day), jump off bridges with just a piece of elastic tied to their ankles (apparently this was invented by New Zealanders, weird!), all in an effort to scare themselves. So, we can strike another one off the list.

Freedom from Distress. I can't even imagine what this one means! Is it different from pain or discomfort? Can you be in fear or in pain without being in distress? I think they're all interlinked, in which case I don't think you guys need this one either.

Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour. This one has truly got me stumped. What is 'normal behaviour' for humans? Every person who comes to the hostel is different in at least a tiny way from another person. How is it even possible to classify this particular freedom? For example, every single human that stays at this hostel sleeps at some point, so to me this would be normal behaviour. So we can say 'humans have the right to sleep'. Right ok, does that mean you have the right to sleep for 10 minutes a day? Or do we need to quantify this somehow, as it seems important. Italian Bear sleeps for about 5 hours a night, while The Boss is more like me and usually takes about 8 hours (or sometimes more!). Some of our backpackers will sleep about 7 hours, others more like 12!! We could average it out and say 'humans have the right to sleep for 8 hours every night', but is that fair? I sleep for a long time because I need that sleep. If I had to wake up earlier then I would certainly feel my 'right to sleep' was infringed!

You humans are just so weird, I really can't put my finger on what is normal behaviour for you! As I am in the incredibly lucky position of being able to observe hundreds of you guys every month, let me pass on some of my observations....Some of our guests eat meat, others only veggies. Some take showers, others obviously have no sense of smell. Some smoke cigarettes, others balk at the thought. We have coffee drinkers, tea drinkers, water drinkers and just plain drinkers! Some people spend their days taking up the space on my couch, others are out and about from morning until night. The sane ones love me and shower me with cuddles, some crazy ones are in fact scared of me! (I know, I scarcely believe it myself).

This is truly a tough one and I have to say even a child genius like myself is struggling with the answer. I'd like to say yes, of course you are allowed the freedom to express your normal behaviour, but until I can confirm exactly what that entails I'd like to provide a list including my opinion of some acceptable behaviours in human beings:

Vacating the couch when-so-ever your canine companion requires some much deserved rest.
Sharing all appropriate meals with your favourite pooch.
Realising that a pair of shoes can always be replaced, but my love cannot – chill out.
Daily exercise is good for all of us, so put on your walking shoes (if you still have them!) and come out for a leisurely stroll.
Throw the ball, you know you want to! Good, now, throw it again! Get the idea?
Snacks work better than smacks - ask your doggy nicely and you will get a much better response.
Us dogs are like living hot water bottles – a quick snuggle with us will warm you to your heart so don't hold back on the hugs!

Feel free to advise me if you think of anymore....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two to Tango?

Japanese people!! Just amazing! The girls are small and cute (like me!) and go all squeally when they see me, which gets me all excited so I run around like crazy and they squeak even more so I jump up some more and start barking and then...then they get all scared and The Boss comes over and shouts at me! Well excuse me, but if she didn't get me all wound up in the first place then there wouldn't be a problem, so why don't you shout at her?! Hmph!

Life is so not fair. Why can't things be straightforward? Sometimes I just don't understand at all. Like why can I play with Italian Bear's shoes, but no-one else's? Why does everyone get to eat yummy pasta and cheese and salad and sausage and tomatoes and mince, except me? Why is it OK for The Boss to pee in the house, but not me? (They have a special room called 'Il Bagno', but I have to go outside!! The cheek of it). How is it acceptable to torment me by leaving literally hundreds of perfectly chewable items lying around the floor and only allowing me to chew about FOUR of them!! When it comes to making a decision between getting told off for sniffing around in the bin and finding something delicious in there, it's hard for me to make the 'right' choice!

According to The Boss though, things are much more complicated when you're not a dog. Decisions can be the difference between a great experience and a horrific once, between being loved and being hated, between being rich and being broke, even between life and death. One minute movement and your life is changed forever. Once she made a decision to go to Rome instead of Venice for her holiday and that's where she met the Italian Bear. This changed her life completely (In a good way she adds). She talks about someone called Fate and I find it a little confusing. Apparently Fate is someone that decides your future. So for example Fate would be responsible for the fact Japanese Guy accidentally dropped some delicious chicken on the floor yesterday, while I just happened to be in the vicinity of the kitchen table. So it wasn't Japanese Guy who gave me the chicken, it was Fate. Even though i didn't smell, hear or see Fate anywhere.

I'm not sure whether I agree with The Boss on this one though. Surely if Fate wanted me to have some chicken she would give it to me, regardless of where I happen to be at the time? But if I was not in the kitchen, how could I have found the chicken? At the same time, if it were not for Fate, would I have been in the kitchen at all? Or would Japanese Guy been a bit more careful with his food? Personally I don't think Fate is a solitary animal. Perhaps she is the leader of the pack. She lives amongst others such as Luck, Timing, Sense, Knowledge, Emotion and Ability. The pack works together on every scenario but Fate decides what the outcome of each play will be.

So what if I had made a different decision? Let's say Japanese Guy makes his chicken sandwich and sits down at the table. I come strolling into the kitchen and that sweet aroma hits my nostrils making every nerve in my body twitch. In my head I know I shouldn't jump up, heaven knows I've been told enough times! But that chicken is calling me! I can't stand it any longer so I jump up right at that panino....but wait, Japanese Guy wasn't expecting that and now it looks as though a bit of that chicken has got stuck in his throat. Help! I'm only a pup and I really don't think I can do that 'Heimlich Manoeuvre' thingy, what do I do??

Every scenario has hundreds of variables and thousands of potential outcomes, if not more. What puzzles me is why one outcome favours another. Is it really Fate? Is everything 'meant to be'? Or is it just completely random? Either way doesn't seem like a particularly good answer to me. When your life is touched by tragedy what explanation do you prefer? That everything happens for a reason and this is Fate. Or that life is totally random and sometimes seemingly unfair. When things work out for the best is that just a coincidence, or is it because Fate wanted it that way?

When something good happens we don't tend to dwell on the matter so much. However when it's bad news we always look for something or someone to blame. When I was happily munching on my gift of chicken I didn't care if it was Fate, Coincidence or Good Fortune. If things had been different and I'd found myself choking on a chicken bone, would I have been so willing to accept my Fate? Would you? Or would you put the blame on Japanese Guy for not being careful enough with his chicken? Perhaps the fault lies with the vendor for not advertising that chicken contains bones? Or what about the chicken herself, is she entirely blameless in this scenario? Maybe we should sue Fate herself, after all if it was her decision then surely the blame rests squarely on her shoulders....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

French Kissing

So, I've been working at the hostel for over two weeks now and in this time I've smelt loads of fantastic feet (I just love the smell of feet! And shoes, OMG the best invention ever!). I've smelt feet from all over the world; Mexico, Canada, Australia, Brazil, USA, Germany, Spain, England, New Zealand, Korea, Wales, Japan....the list goes on. But do you know which ones are my favourite? The French Ones.

Before you cry out in rage and dismay, let me explain a few things.

I'm an Italian dog of German descent working for an English Boss and an Italian Bear (Maybe he's not really an actual Bear, but he's big, hairy, cuddly and roars at me when I'm naughty so I think he might be one). I know I should hate the French. I've heard all the stories about how rude they are, how they snub speaking English, or if your French is less than perfect they refuse to even acknowledge you, they eat weird and disgusting food, they smell of garlic, they're unhelpful, they're unfriendly, have no sense of humour, blah blah blah.

Well, I disagree. All the French people at our hostel have been amazing. They either speak English fluently or apologise profusely for their lack of understanding. When The Boss digs deep into the bowels of her brain and recoups her most basic of French, they respond with warmth. When the Italian Bear sold some French guy's beds to some Mexican girls, the French actually THANKED him for letting them sleep on the floor! Their food is yummy and they even have cheese that smell like feet! My two favourite things in one, amazing! They always fuss me and kiss me and don't mind a bit when I steal their shoes, and they spend hours chatting to The Boss and The Bear. They're quiet, they don't complain, they always pay on time without having to be asked....The Boss even went so far as to say they might be her favourite breed of guest (but she asked me not to tell any English people she said that).

So is this blatant racism against the French warranted? It's hard to say, mostly because I've never met the French on their own turf. Maybe the people we get here are different because they're travelling and staying at a hostel? Or maybe these are a new generation of French people who have realised the error of their ways? Without having a good sniff of every French person's feet, I couldn't tell you. But what you do realise from working here in the hostel is that you can never judge a person by their nationality alone. Nor can you tell an awful lot just by looking at their clothes, listening to their stories or checking their passports. No, it's much more complicated than that. Something that takes a certain talent to uncover. I believe there exists a phrase 'Never judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes' but in my opinion you don't need to walk the mile, you just need to give those shoes a good sniff, mmmmmm!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Stranger I Never Met

Something really strange happened the other day. In fact it was something awful. At the time I didn't feel to write about it, but an idea has been forming in my canine brain.

Have you ever stopped to think about what happened to all the strangers you never met today? The people that could have touched your lives, but didn't. Often we meet people we never could have guessed we would. Here at the hostel of course I meet new people every single day, the vast majority of which I would never have met were I not here at the hostel. Some of these chanced meetings could lead to life long friendships, true love or simply remain amazing memories. When we meet people like this we sometimes think of fate or destiny. But what about those people that should have come to the hostel, but then for whatever reason, didn't. What happened to them, why didn't they come? Were we destined never to meet after all?

At the hostel I know that I should have met these people, thanks to the handy reservations list we have! But lets say I'm out for a walk. I meet a guy with a shopping bag meandering up the road. Then two little old ladies out for their evening stroll stop to tell me how beautiful I am. Then I see a group of Chinese girls running across the road. Another man comes jogging past me. A young couple holding hands don't see me because they're too engrossed in each other to notice the world. A girl who stops to chat because her new Boxer puppy arrives at his new home tomorrow, what a coincidence!

I met all these people because they happened to be walking along the same road as I, at the same time. But I will most likely never know who else planned to have been walking that road too, and for some reason they didn't arrive. Were they just late? Did they choose a different road at the last minute? Or did they get lost? Perhaps they got sick, or worse? Maybe they met a long lost friend and got chatting about the good old days? The reasons, as well as the people, I may never know.

So to all the strangers I never met, but should have; take care of yourselves, because it only takes a second to change the world. And not always for the better.