I open the door and the dogs burst out as if a cannon has gone off. I cling to the door frame to avoid being knocked over in the rush. Most run across the terrace and down the steps to the garden but some wait for me. I think how nice it would be if I could simply open the door, let the dogs out and then go and make myself a cup of tea whilst they get on with their calls of nature. If only it were that simple. But there are always insecure dogs who won’t go down to the garden alone. So I go down – the puppy and Pixie, the little poodle, follow. It’s pitch black and three or four more dogs are waiting at the bottom of the steps for me to click the switch that lights up the trees in the lower garden. This is a five-star dog hotel, after all, and Monte Carlo dogs don’t ‘do’ dark.
Welcome to Pension Milou on Christmas morning.
Pension Milou website. But at Christmas, I have no choice but to turn several valued clients away. And still there are too many here.
Time to shower but first I need to move a few dog beds that pretty much cover the bathroom floor. I clear a space, put down a bathmat and take my douche. Sixteen pairs of eyes stare at me through the clear glass and when I’m done at least six tongues lick my legs, helpers in the drying process.Cosmo and Happy
Anthony is coming to lunch. I must clean up as he’s allergic to dogs and dust. Anthony is my computer guru so he’s pretty high up on the list of Important People in my Life. He’s seen me through at least three computers and over the years has become a good friend - he even calls me 'Auntie.' Poor guy – he has to take a pile of anti-allergy pills before he so much as sets off on the journey to me and in the spring it’s even worse when the mimosas are in flower.
Today though is a treat. It’s usual for me to spend Christmas alone. Well, as alone as one can be with 16 dogs. Normally Anthony, who is Canadian, flies home to spend Christmas with his parents and takes his dog with him. He’s always had bichons, who, like poodles, don’t cause allergy problems. This year he has a new puppy called Baka. (Anthony writes Haiku and Baka means ‘clown’ or ‘fool’ in Japanese.) His parents have moved from the country to an apartment in Toronto where dogs aren’t allowed and so Anthony can't take Baka with him. As he doesn't want to leave such a young puppy behind, his parents’ loss is my gain. He's coming to Pension Milou for Christmas lunch
Anthony is a self-employed computer programmer currently writing and selling his own anti-spam software. He also owns and operates the four computers, as well as the wireless network, at Stars ‘N' Bars, a trendy American-style sports bar on the port of Monaco. Great Eggs Benedict there – I speak from experience.
Over the years, I’ve learned so much from Anthony, not least, to try and write what I mean. I’ve learned, when I ask a computer-related question, to be precise and to think logically and sequentially when I explain the problem. This has helped my writing and I’ll be forever grateful to him for this - she said, wafting off in ten different directions.
We are ready. All seventeen of us await Anthony and Baka’s arrival.
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Next week: read the story of Loulou, who was found on the streets of Jakarta.