English Girl in Vienna

Cultural Commentator

So Now I Teach Dogs

Last night, in class the last student to arrive walked in with her dog. Then, she asked if it was ok for the dog to stay. I paused and said yes in a way which any Brit would know meant no. And I knew that she had asked a question that wasn’t really a question. It was a full class and space was limited and so the hound ended up next to me, very close to my feet. Close enough for a good kick. So I wouldn’t be tempted, I shuffled further round the table, closer to a younger male student who looked rather alarmed at his teacher wanting to sit right next to him. It’s not that I’m scared of dogs. It’s not even that I don’t like dogs, but who in their right mind would ask to bring a dog into an English lesson? Who would bring their dog to school? It’s a very un-Austrian question for me to ask. Perhaps the question should be ‘Why wouldn’t you bring your dog to class?’ because dogs are everywhere in Vienna. The Viennese love their pooches. Dogs are on trains and buses, on the underground and on the trams. One day I’ll probably see a dog on a bike. Once, on a three hour journey to Salzburg there was a dog in a bag on the table in front of us. Small enough to fit its owner’s overnight bag, it sat munching on bits of croissant it was being fed generally looking cute, but the one that was on the floor under the table panting, not so cute. Dogs have their own section in parks, called a Hundezone, which I refer to as the Poo Park. Dogs can be found in cafes and restaurants, even in pubs and bars long past when they should be tucked up in their kennels. Dogs can get into places that children and babies can’t. I’m slowly getting used to it, seeing dogs sitting on the floor drooling while the owners snack on plates of cold ham, used to seeing dogs lying round sleeping. And I’m happy to let sleeping dogs lie, but not, surely not, let one lie on my classroom floor.

And so, the hound, a smallish, whitish thing with a dirty coat lay on the floor and learnt some of the various forms we use to talk about the past. Well, he would have done had he listened instead of noisily licking his paws and making that dreadful clacking sound of a dry tongue working up some saliva. I constantly shot it looks, praying each time it wasn’t licking its bits; warning it not to even dare. He just raised his eyebrows at me then licked the floor.  

I was bothered for the entire lesson. The students didn’t even blink. Perhaps they did mind but were too polite to show it, all of them were very young and awkward with each other. Nor did they seem to notice how when the room started to heat up from having six people plus a dog in it, the smell of warm animal pulsed from the hound on the floor and filled the air we had to breath. I opened the window. I opened the door. I got cross when the owner asked to close the door again because of the noise from outside. I was in general cross at the owner, for being so besotted with the dog that she wanted it to speak English. And how did I show my annoyance? By rolling my eyes in a way that only I knew I was doing it and fidgeting, as is the British way.

Hundezone. Hang out for dogs.

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