Archive | February, 2012

Dog (3) – Scooping the poop

26 Feb

Vienna, like many big cities, has pooper scooper laws and–much as anyone who has moved or visited here recently is likely to doubt it–they have made a big difference. There is still a lot of poop on the ground, but there used to be more.

As with many things the Vienna municipal government has tried to motivate citizens to comply with the laws (a) by using humor and (b) by making it as easy as possible. In numbers: over 1,000 stands with plastic bags for the poop, which can be deposited in any of the 20,000 regular public trash bins, and 30,000 (humorous) signs to remind dog owners to scoop. (

The sign itself I find a masterpiece. (In fact is has even attracted attention in Berlin: The perky dog has a sign in his mouth that says: Sind dir EUR 36 wurst? A very clever play on words, reminding the dog owners of the possible financial consequences of failing to scoop. “Wurst” means sausage in high German, as in the kind you eat (think “Bratwurst”). In Viennese dialogue it has two meanings. If you say, “Das ist mir wurst” it means “I don’t care” (word-for-word translation: it’s sausage to me). At the same time, I’m sorry to say, “Wurst” is also used to describe precisely what dog owners should be scooping. So the little dog is asking, “Do you really not care about EUR 36?” and referring to the poop in the same sentence.

The overriding slogan for the campaign also relies on Viennese dialect, as if to say, we are all in this together: Nimm’ ein Sackerl für mein Gackerl. This means “take a bag for my poop” but, sadly doesn’t rhyme–and isn’t very memorable or motivating–in English. The “erl” at the end of both “Sackerl” and “Gackerl” in Viennese dialect serves the function of the diminutive “chen” in high German, so we’re talking about a little bag (“Sackerl”) for a little pile of poop (“Gackerl”–a very Viennese expression).

This phrase has even inspired a song, such as it is, which can be viewed on YouTube ( The verses are about the dispensers being empty and the trash bins being full so that Frau Huber has to bring her own bag and then has nowhere to dispose of it. This has not been my experience so far. Perhaps the song is a few years old?

One thing is probably no accident–that it is *Frau* Huber. My, granted not all together scientific, observations have suggested to me that it is middle-aged women who are most assiduous in cleaning up after their dogs. And I, at 50, have joined their ranks!


Dog (2) – Even strong men

23 Feb

What strikes me when I am out walking with Mylo is that even tall, strong men in power suits smile at him. Is it my dog? He is certainly worth smiling at. Or is it Vienna? I’m not sure.

Faschingsdienstag (“Mardi Gras” in Viennese)

21 Feb

There are aspects of life in Vienna that suddenly make you wonder if you, in fact, have landed in an Austrian village. Today it was the church bells ringing–briefly disorientating, as it isn’t Sunday. Then I realized that today is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, known as “Faschingsdienstag” in Viennese dialect. (“Fasching” is Viennese for “Carnival” and “Dienstag” is “Tuesday”.) Pancakes, anyone?

Having a dog in Vienna (1)

18 Feb

Well, I have finally done it. After several years of talking about it I have finally adopted a dog, Mylo, who was rescued from a killing station (Tötungsstation) in Hungary and has been with me for two weeks today. (This means he–and I–have already survived 10 of the coldest days in Vienna this winter.)

It’s a valid question whether it is fair to have a dog in a big city, especially when you live, as I do, in an apartment without a garden. And yet, to condemn everyone who lives in a city to a dogless condition also doesn’t seem fair. It may not be in the UN Declaration of Human Rights that people have the right to a dog, but a good dog can add tremendously to one’s quality of life–provided, of course, one likes dogs and walking (in all weathers)! And Vienna is not at all a bad city for a dog to live in.

Most newcomers notice very quickly that the Viennese very often are more open to dogs than to children. This means that even a badly behaved dog might get a smile on the street where a badly behaved child never will. It also means that it is still possible to take dogs into some shops and many restaurants. For example, Mylo and I had coffee together last week in the Roth Bar and did some errands together this morning–we went to the newsagent’s for the Saturday paper and my weekly instant lottery ticket and then on to the pet store for a few things.

There are dog parks (not unique to Vienna, I know, but I have two within 10 minutes’ walking distance). Dogs are also allowed on public transportation, although Mylo and I haven’t tried this out yet. He’s still adjusting to life in the big city. But I fully expect to be back in the Vienna Woods, from now on with my dog, taking the tram out of the city, in the next week or so.