# 107: BOOK OF THE WEEK — “Hilde”

Kürthy, Ildikó von (2018). Hilde: Mein neues Leben als Frauchen.

Story behind the Book Choice

No, I am not a “new Frauchen” — Lucky, my dog, is 12 now and I am, well, not quite “new” anymore either... No worries, I am not going to turn this into a doggy blog, even though this is at least the second time that I am writing about dogs (maybe I am older than I want to admit if I cannot remember). But I just had to finish reading this book. It has been sitting on my bedside table for months and every night I plan on reading some pages but then it is too late and I am tired. So, my Sunday habit of reading a book for the blog is quite helpful. And this is all I am going to share about my bedside stories, just to be clear.

I have no idea how Hilde ended up on my shelf. I think, I gave it to my mother as a gift. Or she gave it to. The fact that the book was published only three years ago means that I should remember where and why I bought it. Is it not so weird that I always try to remember the circumstances of my book purchases? I mean, all this is totally irrelevant for the content that I am going to discuss, right? Still, I simply like to remember these things. Usually, my books have a story before I read the actual story they are going to tell me.

Anyway, I did manage to finish reading the book today and I am quite happy about it. Some people would say it is “light fare” (leichte Kost) but to me it is poetry. The language and the rhythm are absolutely unique — really hilarious. You pee your pants when reading some of these pages. And I guarantee that you would do so even if you did not have a dog. Of course, you pee your pants even more if you do. But as a dog lover and owner, you are also more touched and sometimes even choked by many of the stories Kürthy shares. You know, being the mom of a dog is many things but definitely not easy.

  1. Bad conscience

Reading lines like these is such a relief because they feel so true. Of course, comparing dogs with babies is like the worst no go ever, but, hey, please read before you make a final judgement. It is really so frustrating to find out that you will always — always — feel like your dog is somehow inferior to all the others. I mean, this at least applies to those of us who have a dog that did not cost 2,000 EUR plus and has its own family tree with names of famous kings and queens. As soon as you step outside with the leash in your hand, you find yourself — and your dog — in a competition that really knows no mercy.

Yes, this is my experience and my inferiority complex but let’s face it, this is why one reads a book like this one. You want to get some confirmation that you are not the only psycho in the dog school.

Just like Kürthy is writing, no book can really save you from this. I know no dog owner who has not read about dogs. Maybe today the sources are not books anymore but blogs and websites. It does not matter. You try so f* hard to gain expertise on your animal, you spend so much money on all the research, and you invest more time than efficient scholars put into a PhD — but it does not take you anywhere. Really, your dog will always do things that hit you completely unexpectedly. And exactly these things, I mean, the unpleasant ones, ruin your reputation as a capable dog owner in a way that you never regain your confidence —that is the thing that you never even had in the first place if you freak out so much.

2. Cemeteries

No worries, the book is a funny book. But it depicts life as you learn it in the circus, not in some perfectly fabricated soap. The clowns are the funniest people in the arena — not inspite of but because they are also the saddest characters. The book has so many deep human truths in it would be completely misleading to not show you one of these passages. And this one goes really deep. It is so true what Kürthy is writing there — as true as true can be from the perspective of one person. And maybe I am outing myself as a zombie now (well, I guess I did that already) but I do like graveyards in a way. Not only do I like taking a walk in “our” family graveyard. I like going on these excursions when I am in other cities as well. It is one of my compulsory touristy events to visit local cemeteries, usually. There is hardly any other location that reveals so much about a (foreign) culture as the places where the deceased find (un)rest.

This is how I spent many fascinating walks across graveyards around the world. Be it in Cuba, Jerusalem, or Berlin — I listened to the stories the tomb stones told me, the names they revealed, and the ceremonies and practices the family members shared. Kürthy is absolutely right in saying that the graves tell you many stories and I can hardly stop myself from going through the names and dates to calculate who died when in which period and at which age and for what reason.

I guess, this is the burden of a storyteller. Even the most morbid place turns into an imaginary wonderland.

The reason why I also chose this passage is because our Lucky produced a funny story in the cemetery. It was when he was just a few months old and he was not house-trained yet. “Not house-trained,” for those of you for whom this reveals no images in their minds, means your little buddy poops whenever and wherever but usually not where he is suppose to do so (outside, not on the carpet) and usually not at times when you are wearing clothes and it is daylight (you find many more details on these things in the book). So, this was still this period of his life and we went to visit the family grave — for the first time with Lucky. And then, magically, on our way there, in the middle of the cemetery next to a huge marble family gave and in the middle of a huge mud hole in the lawn (it was winter), he sat down and pooped.

It was such a relief!

We cheered and clapped and made complete idiots out of ourselves. But this was the firt indication of him reaching adulthood somehow — at least the first step. From then onwards, he knew how it worked — that you actually poop outside on some natural habitat. It was wonderful. He looked at us with a mixture of puzzlement, disdain and pride. I guess, he was thinking about taking us back to the animal shelter because our sanity could be doubted. But this is exactly the joy that only dogs can cause — you cannot beat this emotional roller coaster — never!

3. Consistency

We also tried cheese with Lucky. He loved it. He loves anything you give him that looks like food — cheese, chocolate, muesli, anything. But the moment when we found out that the treats had no impact on his upbringing — I mean 0 — we stopped the cheese-giving exercises. I mean, not that he never got any cheese again. In fact, he gets some every day for dinner (can I actually be legally pursued by some animal rights group for writing such things here?). But the idea that consistent cheese-treat exercises would improve his behavior and respect was simply an illusion. After all, just like Hilde in the book, Lucky is smart (that is another completely unproved assumption that you will hear every dog owner make). He knew that we had cheese and he knew that, if he behaved, he would get the cheese. But as soon as there was no cheese anymore, he also knew that it would not make sense to behave well. He never made it to the stage of showing respect without treats.

And I never made it to the stage of not giving him cheese just because of some stupid consistency rule.

He appreciates this.

Just like Hilde.

When it comes to the really important things in life, dogs are all the same.

Just like humans.

Reflection Questions

1) Did you ever read a book about dogs? If not, would you ever do it?

2) How do you think about my cemetery excursions?

3) What is an example of inconsistent behavior in your life that turned out quite positively?

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