The Germans and their dogs

Dog Handler Licence or: Grannies to Give Away!

Heimtierausweis; Copyright: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

Heimtierausweis; Copyright: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

Dog Handler Licence
(in German)

Read by Osman Engin
WMA, 12:48 Min.
In Germany it is easier to borrow a granny than a dog. A satire by Osman Engin.

My 17-year-old feminist daughter, Nermin, is a good-hearted person. I do not know who she has got that from. Lately she has been dead set on borrowing a sweet little dog from an animal shelter and going for a walk around the area with it. At first sight there is nothing objectionable about that as long as I am not forced to take the mutt for walkies.

“No, Dad, you don’t need to”, she reassures me. “You see, I want to prevent the poor animal from being psychologically harmed in any case. But you do have to drive me to the animal home so that I can borrow a darling dog that has been neglected by horrible people.”

So I drive with Nermin as far as the other end of town in our Ford Transit so that my daughter, unhappy as a matter of principle, “can make, if not herself, then at least a hyper-depressed creature happy in this unjust world, one that has been viciously thrown out by heartless people this cold wintertime”, as she puts it.

Of course she does not accept my objection that such a dog surely can’t be overly depressed in an animal shelter because it is simply unaware that in this “unjust world the women are oppressed, there are evil nuclear missiles and I don’t separate the rubbish properly.”

At the dog school; Copyright: Picture-Alliance/KEYSTONENow we have already arrived and the woman in charge at the animal shelter explains to us how ever so pleased she is that young people nowadays are so fond of animals and it is absolutely no problem to borrow a dog. Nermin only needs to become a member of this club. And also the annual membership fee is a mere 90 euro which must, however, be paid up front right here and now. This naturally does not make me so very happy, unlike Nermin, who shouts: “That’s just great, Dad! That stops any stranger from having the chance to get at our animals!”
“But the fact that this allows strangers to get at my hard earned cash doesn’t interest you, that’s for sure”, I snarl.
“But Dad, it’s all meant for the poor animals!”
“I know, nobody thinks about poor Osman anyway. I don’t bark, I don’t bite, I’m house-trained and still nobody loves me”, I moan and, blubbering, lay the beautiful banknotes on the table with a tear in my eye.

The friendly lady explains to us that now everything has been taken care of. Nermin, she says, still only needs to do the obligatory three-day seminar in order to obtain a so-called "dog handler licence". There she will learn how to handle a dog correctly and and she will be taught how dogs think, sense things and feel. Nermin agrees to this right away. They have to make somewhat more of an effort with me and use their powers of persuasion. I have just this minute paid 90 euro and now I have to cough up another 150 so that Nermin can learn how mutts think and feel. Which I very much doubt, since she is yet to learn how her poor old natural father thinks and feels after nearly 18 years. And – linguistically speaking – I am able to express myself a lot better than any dog!

“Dad, Dad, come on and be a sport, please, please”, she begs me.

Well, what did I say? She did not even notice how much her annual membership fee and the costs for the seminar hurt me! On top of that she even wants me to pay everything twice.

“Dad, it really wouldn’t hurt you to show these magnificent creatures a little bit of understanding and love. Believe me, it’s something you can learn really easily. I can’t stand by anymore and watch you always cross the street in a panic when a granny and her pug walk towards you, as if the sweet dog was going to bite both your legs off on the spot!”
“Nermin, then it’s not me you should send to the seminar, it’s these bloodthirsty fighting dogs, so that they learn not to attack poor harmless people passing by! Besides, incidentally I have to work so that my loopy kids can pursue their crazy hobbies and squander vast sums of my money on such rubbish like a dog handler licence”.
“Do excuse me, I really wouldn’t like to interrupt”, the lady says, interrupting us, “but our doctor is here right now. If you wish, you can have your vaccinations done now!”
“What sort of vaccinations do you mean?” Nermin asks in a surprised tone.
“My child, so you don’t infect our poor cute dogs with some nasty illness or other”.

The five jabs that Nermin gets in her backside hurt me more than they hurt her. The reason for this is that I have to pay up yet again. I take the opportunity to explain to the head animal welfare officer that I basically do find the idea with the dog handler licence not only typically German but also very sensible, and ask her if all the tramps and punks hanging around the front of the train station – who, after all, constantly kick, shout at and maliciously tease their poor animals as and when they like – have to do this dog handler licence too.

No, of course dog owners who live with their pets night and day do not need to do this. After all, they know their four-legged friends. Only those who look after the dog for a couple of hours need professional training. The very same thing goes for child care workers and school teachers. They have to learn and study for years so that they are allowed to look after someone else’s children. But every tramp, male or female, every Hans and Franz, every Else and Ilse, every Osman and Eminanim can produce as many children as they want, since there is no handler licence for this.

Afterwards we drive away again without a depressed dog – it is me who is depressed now instead. You see, Nermin still has to do the week-long seminar.

One week later Nermin gets the certificate in the post, which proves that she is a state-approved dog trainer.

“Dad, I can hardly wait, I’m about to burst with happiness”, she shouts with joy. “Let’s drive straight to the animal home so that I can finally borrow a dog. I’m going to freak out in a minute! This is just mental! Far out!”

So again we drive to the other end of the town. The lady in charge at the animal shelter is delighted that my daughter managed an A grade in the final exam at the end of the seminar. However, since Nermin is still a few weeks away from coming of age, both parents have to give their consent and fill out this twelve-page form in duplicate.

Osman Engin; Copyright: Osman EnginI, for my part, sign all the documents while we are still at the animal shelter in front of the dutiful lady, who has first checked and copied all my proof of identity carefully so as to ensure that I really am the natural father of this girl and not maybe a mass animal abuser hunted by Interpol throughout the world. When just one week ago I had to hand over half my monthly wage right here, she did not care a fig about whether I was Nermin’s father or only an actor taking on the role of her missing father so that this girl could pinch an innocent dog quite illegally. That time she only made a thorough check how genuine my banknotes were.

Of course the entire documents have to be signed by Nermin’s natural mother too. The lady consoles Nermin by saying that she would not have taken a dog for a walk today anyway because she, of course, has not yet passed the very important expert psychological assessment. It is imperative that my daughter go and see a psychiatrist, who has to give detailed written confirmation that she does not have a tendency in stressful situations to take out her anger on the charge with which she is entrusted. Before Nermin takes out her anger on this impertinent lady, I drag her outside.

My wife Eminanim is willing to sign the documents only if our daughter gives her a solemn promise never to come closer than two hundred metres to our flat with her dog-to-be.

After also having passed the expert psychological assessment (it is all merely a question of money), Nermin insists on us returning to the animal shelter so that she can finally borrow her longed-for dog. In the hope that Nermin can pass her driving licence just as successfully as this dog handler licence in a year’s time, I chauffeur her to the other end of town yet again.

The person in charge of the animal shelter is filled with enthusiasm about the fact that we managed to turn up with all the necessary papers.

“Many people don’t even pluck up enough courage to complete the little bit of red tape”, the head animal welfare officer says, full of praise. “Just tell me how are they supposed to be able to cope with a sensitive animal? Wasn’t so difficult after all, was it?”

My daughter is pleased all the more and can hardly wait to be able to take a look at all the dogs to find her Mr Right.

“Sorry, my child, it’s not as simple as that”, she is stopped in her tracks by the nice lady.
“Why ever not?” we both ask, rather blankly.
“You’ve got to take the next dog in line. Each dog has to wait its turn”.
“Okay, any dog is fine by me. Just give me one now”, Nermin literally begs.
“It doesn’t work like that either, child. We follow very clear guidelines here!”
“But why not?”, I ask, this time a shade more shocked, although the lady can’t necessarily have meant me with the word “child”.
“Well, we’ve got very long waiting lists now. Don’t say you think you’re the only animal lover in this town?”
“Fine, I’ll come back tomorrow”, Nermin chortles in despair.
“Look, we’ve got another one hundred and twenty-seven people in front of you on the list who’ve all been waiting a very long time already to have the chance to take one of our much sought-after dogs out for a walk”.
“I just don’t believe it”, Nermin yells and starts bawling. “I’ve been slaving away for weeks to fulfil the damn prerequisites! I attended the seminar, I went to the psychologist, I got myself vaccinated against distemper. What else do I have to do?”
“I presume you’ll have to be patient for about another eight to nine months, my child”.
“Whaaat? Eight to nine months? Have you gone mad?” my otherwise very patient child blurts out in the end and begins to wheeze.
“I find a nine-month wait isn’t so very bad”, I say, trying to calm things down. “By then your sister Zeynep will definitely have produced a sweet baby who you’ll be able to go for a walk with”. With these words I drag Nermin outside very quickly before she takes a bite out of the lady.
“Dad, I’d been so looking forward to taking a sweet dog out for a walk today”, Nermin sobs.
“I know, my child, the poor dogs are surely just as sad as you are”, I console her and put my foot on the accelerator.

Taking the granny for a walk; Copyright: Colourbox “Dad, please can you drive to the right quickly and stop in front of the building over there”, Nermin shrieks suddenly and points her finger at a house, in front of whose door two old ladies are walking past with their dachshunds.

Nermin, have you gone round the bend? You can’t just simply nick the poor grannies’ dogs off them. After all, you do at least have a fairly intact family – at least on the surface -, but these old ladies have nobody on this earth except their mutts. They would meet a wretched end if you were to abduct their dogs!"

“Dad, you’re nuts, what do you take me for? This here is an old people’s home. If I can’t borrow a dog, then at least I want to take a granny for a walk”.
“You can’t! Come on, you have seen how hard it is to borrow a dog, haven’t you? But if you want to look after a person, you have to have studied for years! They’ll never allow you to do that! You’re going to have to wait till I’m really old to do that”.

But she jumps out of the car and runs off. I run straight after her. I have to reach the silly child before she is chucked out of the old people’s home.

Surrogate granny; Copyright: picture-alliance / Godong At that moment I hear the person in charge of the old people’s home call out: “They’re all sitting there, choose one you like”.
“What? Can I choose one right away? Don’t I have to sign any papers beforehand? Do training or have any vaccinations?”, Nermin stutters, herself surprised over so much obligingness and trust.
“What sort of papers? What for? Take one of our ladies with you straight away!”
“Don’t you even want to see my ID?”, Nermin asks.
“What for?”
“But you can’t just do that! You just can’t treat the old ladies with so little respect”, I interject. “We’ve really to ask them if it’s at all okay with them”.
“My God, now don’t make such a song and dance about it. Feel free to take one granny with you, or even two”.
“Can I even take a handful of them?”, Nermin asks somewhat timidly.
“No problem, take as many with you as you want”, she says patronizingly.
“And then how long can I stay away with them?”, Nermin asks, disconcerted.
“I couldn’t care less! As long as you want. If you don’t feel like keeping them any more, then just bring them back and park them in front of our door”.

Osman Engin
(born in Izmir in 1960) is a German satirist of Turkish descent. He became well known both through his writing and his radio work. The university-educated sociologist has been living in Germany ever since he was twelve years old and now resides in Bremen. To date he has published three novels and ten short story collections, including West-östliches Sofa, dtv edition, 2006.

Translation: Guy Skuse
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion

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October 2007

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