Category Archives: pets

donkey horror movie

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Here are some strange pictures and a strange birthday party story for you (yes, that is grass in his shirt):

Owen was invited to a birthday party the other day by a friend in his class. The classmate’s mother just told me the address and the party time, but she didn’t tell me anything about what was happening at the party. When we arrived at the address to find a donkey stable, I was a little curious. Although I was invited to stay at the party, I made up a big excuse about having something important to do and drove like hell out of there. For me: Donkeys + Birthday Cake = trouble.

When I returned to pick up Owen and his friend Diego from the party, they were not at the donkey stable, so I sat and waited. After about 15 minutes, I saw the gang of kids and the few parents who stayed, walking up a dirt road toward the car. When Owen saw me he started running and as soon as he got close to me he screamed, “That was like a donkey horror movie!”

Apparently, the family rented a donkey for a few hours to carry a birthday picnic into the forest and after they loaded up the donkey with bags of food and a cake, they set out for the walk. About halfway through the party and right after they had eaten the cake, a thunder-storm rolled in. A huge clap of thunder sent the donkey bolting into the forest, carrying all of the party supplies. What happened next was hilarious – especially if you weren’t a parent chaperoning the party.

When the thunder clapped and the donkey ran, the kids panicked and, according to Owen, they started running and screaming through the forest in absolute hysteria. Of course, this didn’t help the situation. Not sure the dark sky and heavy rain helped either. Evenutally, the parents got the kids under control and had a talk with them about remaining calm, but the donkey was long gone.

Since the group needed to get back, they started walking and eventually started seeing things on the trail that had fallen off the donkey’s back as it ran. The group followed the trail of party goods to a clearing where they eventually found the donkey comatose on the ground, too scared to move. After some coaxing, they were finally able to get the donkey up and the group realized that in his frenzy, he had torn the pack bags. When the group emerged from the forest, they were holding all of the party goods in their arms and the parents of the party boy looked fairly pissed.

Other than a huge scratch across Owen’s face right under his eye, there was no lasting damage from the donkey party, but the experience was accurately summed up by Diego as we drove home.

He said:

“I told my mother all morning I didn’t want to go to the party, but I really wanted to eat the cake, so I decided to go. After seeing that donkey, I know I should have stayed home.”

Well said, Diego.

Below you can catch a glimpse of Owen’s favorite nighttime reading book. Also, not sure where in the world this would be “See on TV.”

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the very good and the somewhat sad

I know I’ve spent some time writing about the great French products that contribute to the high quality of life in France (think: wine, cheese, bread), but one thing I have spent less time talking about is the outstanding people who live here.

Fontainebleau and the surrounding villages, are a mishmash of French natives and many other people with interesting lives from around the world.  As well as learning many new things about France, we’re getting an education about many other places where our friends have lived (Happy Diamond Jubilee, Your Majesty!).  I’d like to think we’re teaching people something too – in fact, a friend here recently wrote me a text that said, “Just reading up on Vermont.  If the capital only as 7,500 people, where on earth do you guys live?”  I guess this proves that a place cannot be measured by the number of inhabitants alone.

Prior to moving here, I was at a stage in my life where I thought that it was somewhat difficult to make new friends.  It’s not that I was looking for new friends necessarily, but the opportunity didn’t arise very often that I had the time/energy to meet up with people I didn’t already know well.  But what I learned since living here is that I’ve still got it – as in, the ability to make new friends, which s lucky for me since this could be a very lonely place without some friends.

Our area in France is somewhat transitional by nature (people are here on short-term contracts, there is a rotating group of business school faculty, etc), but meeting new friends is made easier by the fact that people here welcome outsiders readily.  So that’s the good news.

The bad news is that because this place is fabulous but somewhat transitional, there is also a constant stream of people leaving.  And sometimes those leaving people have become friends of ours and watching them leave really sucks.

It’s hard to say goodbye to people we have known for only a short time, but with whom we feel so comfortable that it seems we’ve known them forever.  If there is one upside to our most recently relocated friends, this would be it:

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Meet Ollie, our temporary pet who we’re watching while our friends get settled into their new lives in Australia.  Ollie will be joining them there sometime in the near future, but until then, he’s living with us.

Oh, and he doesn’t really like cats all that much so Justin‘s reign as the king of our household is being threatened.  Welcome to life in a monarchy, little cat.  Here is Justin sitting on his throne, otherwise known as the bidet.  Nice.

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france has changed me

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Here’s a good story for you:  When I was a young child, we had a cat named Mittens.  Although I loved that cat, I had terrible allergies and eventually my parents made the decision to give the cat away to alleviate my need for weekly allergy shots.  My parents knew that I would be heartbroken, so they gave the cat away without telling me and they decided to wait until I noticed that the cat was gone to talk to me about the need to do so.

My mother walked around on pins and needles for a day, and then a couple, waiting for me to notice that the cat was gone.  I didn’t notice.  In fact, it took me TWO WEEKS to notice that the cat was gone.  By the time I finally realized it (when a friend was visiting and asked to see my cat), any amount of anguish my parents felt about their decision, was erased by the amount of time it took me to realize the cat was missing.  In fact, when I was finally told that my cat was gone and I broke down in tears, my parents laughed in my face.  I kid you not.

As an adult, I don’t really have any major problem with cats – as long as they’re owned by other people.  I’m a dog girl, plain and simple.  Since we moved to France and had to leave our dog in the US (heartbreaking), I’ve had a recurring dream that I would find a little stray French mutt that needed a good home.  No dice, sadly.  Since French dogs are treated very well, it would be extremely difficult to find a stray.  Cats on the other hand are a dime a dozen around here.  They roam the backyards walking along all the walls that separate the backyards and fight with each other at night.  Since we’ve moved in here, we’ve had the distinct feeling that if they chose to all gang up on us, we would be dead meat.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, a small scruffy looking cat walked up to me in my back yard as I was hanging out.  This is unusual because most cats here are not friendly at all and despite being surrounded by hundreds of cats, I had yet to have a meaningful interaction with one.  I petted it and that was pretty much all I planned to do.  Until it started meowing at me and it appeared to be hungry.  So I did what any person would do in the face of a starving, scruffy cat.  I gave it some milk.  And that, my friends, should be the end of the story.  But of course, it isn’t.

The next thing I knew, the kids came outside to see the scruffy cat and Owen went next door to tell our elderly cat-loving neighbor, Mme Mossot, the woman who rescued the kittens from our yard in the fall, that we found a friendly cat for her to take in.  When he came back from her house, he was carrying a big bag of cat food.

Shit.

Apparently our elderly friend recently took in two more friendly strays and was completely maxed out.

We fed him for a day and then Owen asked the big question, “Can we please keep him?  PLEASE?”  My response was, “We may be able to keep him if he lives outside in our yard and never, EVER, comes in our house.”  As an adult, I’ve been tested for allergies and it would appear I have outgrown my cat allergies, but I’ve always used it as a good excuse never to get a cat when my kids would ask.  It’s been kind of a little secret between me and my allergist.

But there are only so many chilly nights a dog lover can watch a scruffy cat sleep under a bush in the yard and not start to feel slightly insensitive.  Especially when the kids are saying things like, “He’s FREEZING to death out there!” or “How would you feel if you didn’t have a home?” or better yet, “How would you feel if somebody made you sleep under a bush every night when SHE got to sleep in a warm and cozy bed in a house?”  My kids are nothing if not persistent.

Even though my kids have compared me to Despicable Me’s Mother in the past and they know I have no love of cats, they were starting to wear me down, especially because they could see that I had no allergic reaction when the cat was around me.  But what really sealed the deal was Mme Mossot.  She showed up at our house to say “thank you” for caring for this scruffy cat and she told me all about her crusade to help homeless cats in town.  She nearly broke my heart with her stories of saving cats and I’ve witnessed her magic as she wrangled the wild kittens and found them a good home.  While she was over at our house, she stared calling our nameless cat “Justin” in homage to her favorite old cat who had died.  I was arguing to name him “Dog,” but I was out voted.  Justin he is.

I really think living in France has made me lose a bit of my mind.  I never thought I would own a cat, and you better believe that I would never have named my cat Justin – it’s a little too similar to the other famous Justin for my taste.  Just so you know, his name sounds MUCH better when you say it in French.  It sounds something like:

JUSE-ta

About the last person I wanted to tell about our cat was my mother.  I was hoping to keep it a secret until her next visit, but unfortunately for me, Owen was so excited, he had to get on the phone to tell her all about him.  When my mother heard that we now owned a cat named Justin, she had to rehash the Mittens story for me (AGAIN!) and then she proceeded to laugh her ass off.  Luckily she couldn’t laugh in my face, since we’re separated by a very big ocean.

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dear diary

If I kept a diary and you edited out the posts related to my dog, it would probably go something like this:

February 15:  Can’t believe we’re leaving VT and leaving Emma (our dog) behind! So sad!

February 16:  Wow, France is nice!  Can’t believe I don’t need to get up at 6am to let the dog out….

February 17:  Sleeping in is kinda nice…..

February 18:  I miss Emma.

March 1:  Going away for the weekend – luckily Emma’s not here because we’d have to find her a French dog sitter.  I wonder how you say dog sitter in French……

March 10-15:  I miss Emma.

March 16:  Sleeping in seems to suit me……

March 17:  Emma would have loved the hike in the forest we did today.  Miss her.

April 1:  Going away again – so excited!  Luckily no dogsitter this time either.

April 15-30:  I miss Emma.

You get the idea.  Although we truly miss Emma, she’s staying in VT with some great friends and having fun.  While France is a great dog culture (dogs can go in to restaurants, on busses and into the supermarkets), having a dog in France presents its own set of problems (how to travel with her or find a place to put her while we travel).  Although I’d love to have her here, she’s undoubtedly much happier in VT.  But Emma being in VT doesn’t really satisfy my dog fix…………….

Enter Herbie!:

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He belongs to our neighbors and stayed with us for the weekend while they were away.  What a great dog!  Made me miss Emma even more, while at the same time reinforcing how hard it is to have a dog when the road calls…………….. (I think I just made myself sound like a rockstar, either that, or a prostitute on the A6).