Oh, To Be In The Alps!
One of our more unusual canine visitors in the past year was Otto. A St. Bernard isn’t at all unusual, but the timing of his visit was nearly disasterous for Otto. Last August was an unseasonably hot month up here in the mountains, and guests from Roswell, Georgia. really picked a bad time to bring their 225 pound St. Bernard with them for a long weekend. This guy was huge! Even before going on my legendary diet, I couldn’t relate to a dog of this size and girth. Otto was hot, he was tired, and he was truly larger than life. Even though he was only six years old, Otto was beginning to share his old-dog, sour, telltale odor with the rest of the world.
Visably beleagured by the heat, Otto managed to leave a slimy trail of drool from the outer edge of the gingerbread portico, across the driveway, and all the way up the steps to my water dish which he virtually inhaled once he discovered it. I decided to let him off easy by curling my lip, showing my fangs, and issuing a short growl that said, “Watch it, you’re treading on thin ice, buddy.” Not much in the way of hospitality, I guess, but it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Being naturally curious, I also needed some more time to observe young Otto in his downhill doggy spiral.
His owners, a German couple, the Volkmanns – with no children – had burdened Otto with a wide red leather collar to which was attached a small, polished oak keg complete with a polished brass spigot (undoubtedly conceived by some well meaning Swiss), to hold a quart of brandy and bring a grand rescue to some hapless skier lost in a deadly avalanche.
But on this particular August afternoon, it was ninety degrees, and Otto was definitely not at the top of his game or in any mood to rescue any skier. In fact, he was actually in some distress himself. When Otto tried to walk, he didn’t amble, he didn’t saunter – he staggered dejectedly and somewhat painfully across the wide porch, praying for a shady place to collapse. Between the heat and the long road trip from Roswell, Otto found himself a bit dehydrated and totally out of his element. He appeared to be most uncomfortable with the Swiss rescue paraphernalia strapped around his neck. To add insult to injury, Otto’s mood began to deteriorate even further as two older men began to laugh at his Swiss regailia; one of them commenting, “What’s he gonna do with that outfit, put out a fire?” Otto sighed and looked like he wanted to die.
In my idyllic canine mind, over the years I have come to believe that there always seems to be a bright side to every situation. But now, for poor Otto, things couldn’t get much worse.
Mid afternoon, Otto’s ‘salvation’ arrived at Faded Glory in the person of four-year-old Emily Hayes, a guest from Augusta, Georgia. That afternoon, Emily and her parents had arrived for the weekend to occupy room #6 (the large, vintage Victorian Suite at the head of the stairs on the left). As she crossed the porch, little Emily stared curiously at Otto but continued walking and carried her own pink vinyl luggage dutifully up the stairs, trailing after her parents, with Isabel leading the way..
It wasn’t long before Emily reappeared on the porch with a small pink carry case containing a tiny pink plastic tea set. Emily enthusiastically announced to everyone present that she wanted to hold a “tea party.” She again gazed thoughtfully at Otto who was panting quietly, hesitated a few seconds, and then darted over to Isabel and whispered something in her ear. “Well, I don’t know,” was Isabel’s halting response. Isabel quietly got up and went over and spoke briefly to Robert Volkmann. “Sure!” he responded, “that would be fine, and Otto wouldn’t mind it a bit.” His wife, Stella, who had undoubtedly overheard the request, nodded instantly. Volkmann rose from his chair, went over to Otto, released the wooden tankard from the red collar and then disappeared with Isabel through the front screen door of the Inn.
Forty-five minutes later, Otto was standing tall and panting happily as Emily Hayes proudly rotated the small brass spigot on the cask hanging from Otto’s neck, dispensing red KoolAid to her new friends, Ashley, Susan and Cody.
All of the adults present had hastily abstained, and gratefully continued to sip their own somewhat stronger drinks, but they were most fascinated with the scenario playing out before them. Shutters clicked and flashes sputtered as grownups proceeded to capture the happy children on film. Otto was enjoying his one afternoon of fame, and four small children would long remember this hot summer afternoon ‘teatime’ at Faded Glory Farm.