Monday, June 30, 2008

Painting the cat

The hallway rug was gone when I got home from work Saturday night. The wooden stairs are now exposed and Albie also painted the second railing. He also painted Pip.
Although Pip was probably too curious for his own good.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Playing the blonde card

Being blonde isn't always a bad thing.

Two nights ago, our photographer had left for the night and we just heard over the police scanner that a bad accident had happened. I sent our Torrington reporter out with the point-and-shoot newsroom camera.

A few minutes later, we got more details. Some guy in a pick-up truck had taken down two utility poles and was trapped in his car because the wires were still live and nobody could go near him.

I ran into the photo room, grabbed the camera bag and rushed out.

Once I got to the scene - it was almost 8 p.m. - I struggled to get the bag over my shoulder and half-ran towards the roped-off area with the bag dangling against my knees (our photographer is really tall). I pulled the Nikon out, fiddled with some buttons to get it on, and then started shooting.

Right next to me was a bearded man with a similar camera but a longer lens. I looked in the bag and found a telephoto lens, bent down on the ground to disassemble the camera, then tried to screw the bigger lens on.

Oh, you have the same camera as I do," the competitor noted.
"Uh, ok," I said. "But I don't know how to use it!"

The lens finally snapped on. I tried taking another couple of photos. They were better - closer - but still really dark.

"They're too dark!" I whined. "I'm not a photographer. I don't know what I'm doing!"

The beardman calmly hung his Nikon over his left shoulder and reached out to grab mine. As he started setting the shutter speed, I waived my arms in the air.
"Our photographer left!" I said, with a slight degree of desperation.

"Here you go," he said and handed me back the camera. "You're all set."

I got my shots and went back to the paper. Then, I got a call about the murder. Luckily, it was too dark to even try to get anymore photos.

Viva Espana and yay for Fernando Torres!

Like a true Swede, I've followed "Euro 2008."

I saw Spain beat Sweden in soccer (football) a couple of weeks ago, and I immediately took a liking to Fernando Torres. The 23-year-old plays for Spain and Liverpool. His blonde locks and quick legs are difficult to miss.

Today, Torres scored the goal that won Spain the championship title. Since Sweden was kicked out shortly after the only game I saw them in, I figured I'd root for Spain instead (sorry, German friends). I felt bad that Spain hadn't won since 1944.

The games have been broadcast on ESPN, one of the stations we get in high definition, and the logo has been a five-second clip of Swede Henke Larsson kicking a soccer ball.
Today, the ABC network showed the final. I didn't realize how spoiled I've been with widescreen and HD channels until I tried to catch the end of the first half of the game at the gym.

Not only were the scores and statistics freakishly small, but I could barely even see the players dash back and forth on the tiny screen. I cut the workout short and immediately rushed home to see Torres and his teammates become European champions.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What's wrong with people?

After several nights of less than optimal sleep, I headed from my morning job to my real job. A few minutes after settling in at my desk, I find out that we have a very disgusting story as the lead for Saturday's paper.

Someone in our area has shot and butchered a 5-month-old baby cow in a farmer's backyard. The farmer is now offering a $500 reward for any information leading to a conviction.

Unfortunately, charges would be larceny, trespassing and tampering with private property - all pretty much misdemeanors. There is no charge called "severe, cruel and stupid animal abuse" - regular animal abuse is also just a misdemeanor.

Reading the story, I almost cried when the farmer described how he found the mommy cow standing over bloody pieces of her baby.

A few minutes later, I checked the AP state wire and saw a brief about a stolen puppy that's been found. Should be happy, I thought. Wrong. I mean, the puppy was found alive, but it was stolen from a well-known humane society and found in a plastic garbage bag in a dumpster at a construction site.

What is wrong with people? I can't even begin to fathom what could make someone be so cruel.

Of course, the calf story got bumped to number 3 after some guy shot another guy outside a local motorcycle club (1) and another guy drove his pick-up truck through two telephone poles causing 2,500 residents to lose power for a few hours (2).

You know, just another day at the office.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Friends for a lifetime

It's easy to get caught up in life and forget to stay in touch with friends. But you know who your real friends are when you can get together after some time apart and pick up just where you left.

I can't write much now since I'm busy catching up with friends, but there will be more later on this topic, I swear.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cabinets have paint!

After my friend Andrea went to bed last night, I had time to put a coat of paint on the kitchen cabinet. The goal is to have the upper cabinets finished by July 5, when we are having Albie's family over for a cookout.


Swedish is a very difficult language.

Years ago, I tried to teach some college friends to say "seven" (sju). Or when I got really carried away, I taught them "seven seasick sailors were singing on a sinking ship" (sju sjösjuka sjömän sjöng på ett sjunkande skepp).

A bunch of us got together last night to celebrate that my friend Andrea is in town. She got married and moved to Florida last year, and this fall she is moving to Japan.

While sharing a pizza at American Pie, one friend says to another, "try to say seven in Swedish."

The friend says, "Oh, I can't."

They all look at me, and I say "sju." (Can't even begin to describe it phonetically).

Andrea says "what?" - clearly not remembering earlier lessons at 3 a.m.

"How do you do that???" she yells, exasperated. "That's, like, impossible!"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Garden in bloom!

Lots of rain and then some sun seems to have done my shadowy wildflower garden some good. And a third lily popped out of the ground the other day.

No blooming lilies yet, though, but I'm excited that they are growing at all. It said on the package that they need lots of sun, so I was a little worried. I just really like lilies, and I figured it was worth a shot. Now, I can't for the life of me remember if the lilies are perennials or annuals... will they come back next year, or do I have to do it all over again?

I know I'll have wildflowers at least. And supposedly they multiply and get taller.

Don't yell hi

Going through the process of getting a new car, I was relieved each time I made progress with an ID card, loan or license plates.

"It's almost done now!" I thought.

But I had to remind myself of the old Swedish saying: "Don't yell hi until you've crossed the river." ("Don't count your chickens until they've hatched.")

It made me think of more Swedish idioms, and how some lack good American equivalents. Many are based on nature, animals, food or working outdoors. Here are some examples:

Go like the cat around hot porridge (oatmeal) - Beat about the bush.

Be hot on the porridge (oatmeal) - Be very eager.

Now you are out riding your bicycle! - You don't know what you're talking about!

Small pots also have ears - Children will hear and understand more than you think.

The lazy one would rather kill himself by carrying too much than make two trips

Here is your pay for old cheese - It's payback time!

He has gnomes in the attic - He is out of his mind

Cows rarely jump backwards up into apple trees to snatch pears - complicated way of saying it's not gonna happen, it's impossible

I wasn't born in a mud room - I'm not stupid, I wasn't born yesterday

Throw the ax in the lake - To give up

Now the boiled pork is fried! - Now you're in deep shit!

He has planted his last potato - He's done (i.e. "I'm getting revenge now")

That's not much to hange in the Christmas tree - It's not worth much

He was caught with his beard in the mailbox - Caught with his pants down, caught by surprise

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Salty licorice

A delightful present awaited me at work Wednesday. My friend Z., the photographer with four dogs, had picked up a bag of salty licorice at a specialty boutique in Litchfield.

Licorice to an American is supposed to be sweet. It is either red or black, and is usually only sold in strings or as wheels. In Scandinavia, ammonium chloride (salmiac) is often added to the licorice root or plant, creating a very salty candy.

The best part of this candy, in addition to the flashbacks to my Swedish childhood, is that I get to see disgusted looks on people's faces as they try it.

"What's that?" our calendar editor asked on Wednesday. "Can I have one?"
"You really won't like it," I said.
But she reached out and grabbed one anyway. Two seconds later, she was spitting it into a garbage can.

Later, the Winsted reporter stopped by my desk as I was taking a candy.
"Here," I said, moving the back closer to him. "Try one. They're Swedish, and they're delicious."

He grabbed a handful - I cringed.
"Eh, perhaps you should start with one," I said.

He put three of them back and dropped the fourth one on his tongue. I didn't even see it land there before he screamed "Ech! What the heck is this??? It's absolutely disgusting!"

My boss has been tricked into eating the salty licorice twice. The first time was when I was new and she was curious and had to try it. The second time was a year later as she - without wearing glasses - mistook the candy for something else.

"Is that chocolate?" she asked - desperate.
"Sure," I said, and put a few pieces in her hand.
Before I knew it, she had started chewing. She quickly realized the mistake and made gagging noices.

The best, though, was when I worked in Milford. Our freelance photographer had a habit of digging through my desk drawers for snacks. I purposely left the bag of salty licorice overnight. The next day, he was furious when I got in.

"What kind of crap do you keep in your desk?" he wanted to know.
I just smiled.
He never went in my desk again.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My new car

Today - finally - my car was ready. This is from our parking lot at work, with the nice after-rain sunset reflecting on the car's trunk.

A guy interested in buying my car also came over today to see it, touch it, smell it and listen to the engine. His only concern: having to replace the switch for the back-up light. Everything else he'll take care of, he said.

It's not a done deal - still can't find the title for the car and have to wait for a duplicate in the mail from Vermont DMV - but I am feeling pretty good about it right now. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Anyone wanna buy a car?

The long process of finding and buying a new car now seems to be over. I bought a car on Monday. However, I have yet to receive it.

First, there were problems with the insurance. Since I had initially declined to add Albie to my insurance (he can't drive a stick-shift anyway), the car dealer refused to register the car for us now that Albie had to co-sign for it. Oh, I didn't tell you about that?

Well, the bank refused to give me a loan since I don't have an American driver's license yet (just the Connecticut ID, which is all that is required to register a car). Without this license, I am apparently very likely to escape back to Sweden. If I had said license, I would of course be bound to this country for life and would never, ever be able to skip out on my loan payments. Make sense?

No, not to me either. Anyway, calls were made, papers were signed, and a good time was had by all (as we like to say at the office).

However, my new car was nowhere to be found. Some guy from the service department had apparently scooted over to Beacon Falls to get the emissions testing done while we filled out papers. Turns out, since a new alternator for the car wasn't scheduled to arrive until Tuesday morning, and since that caused the battery light to blink on the dashboard, the test could not be completed.

So, after being two hours late for work Monday and spending three hours at the car dealer's, I still had no car.

I stopped by again today, wondering how I would be able to drive two cars home, but that problem was solved by the fact that my car still wasn't ready. The wrong part arrived, the engine needed to be reset, the mechanic took the car home overnight... I got all sorts of explanations.

In the meantime, I spent two hours detailing my old car - Windexing mirrors and windshields, vacuuming behind and under the seats and scraping leaves and pine needles off the engine. Someone is coming to look at my car tomorrow after I posted an ad on Craig's list. And this is what I had intended this blog post to be about.

Oh well. I am I'm hoping to drive my new car to work tomorrow. And it better have a full tank of gas.

Monday, June 16, 2008

'Nice to meet you'

There are many polite phrases you have to get accustomed to - "nice to meet you" is one of them.

After you meet someone for the first time and you are parting ways, you say the required phrase.

At work, we have a reporter who insists on saying "nice to meet you" after she gets off the phone with people. It drives me crazy! After a long interview for a feature story, she'll say "Ok, it was very nice to meet you!" before hanging up.

I cringe in my seat across the room.

"You didn't meet them!" I want to yell out. "You just talked to them on the phone! It is NOT the same thing!!!"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Garden updates

I haven't posted much about the garden lately, but that's because I really haven't done much out there. It seems the garden has been growing on its own, however, and as long as I keep throwing some water here and there, green things are popping up.

My wildflower mix is about 2 inches high now, and a few days ago I noticed that my two lilies have shot through the muddy ground to show off some impressive 6 inches or so.

A couple of weeks ago, when it wasn't too hot to be outside, I also built a little area for our grill. Since we haven't been approved to extend the deck yet, I just wanted to get the grill off the patio so we can maximize our space.

I also bought two cheap rugs at Wal-Mart. Instead of spending $150 on fancy "outdoor" rugs, I bought two cheap ones that seemed to be made from the same fabric. So what if they only last us through this summer? Next year we'll probably have a deck anyway. I was just so sick of seeing the ugly grey concrete - and it was nasty to walk on too.

My new ID card

I've finally become a Connecticut resident.

The thing is, I have to get a new car. I've known it for a while, but the process is so complicated I keep postponing it.

When I got the A/C fixed last week, the service place told me my front ball bearings are bad, my battery is really crappy and my tires are worn down because of the ball bearings.

I got new tires about a year ago. Last year, I probably put $1,500 into my car to keep it running. This year, it was the radiator and then the A/C, which is optional, but I just cannot live another summer without it. Then, of course, I have to pour about a quart of oil into the engine once a week because it seems to be burning off.

My car's got almost 170,000 miles on it, and I know it's time to let go.

So I started investigating a new car, used ones vs. new ones, leasing vs. buying. The problem is, I've never been an official resident of the United States. I'm here on an H1-B visa, which gives me a temporary permission to work and stay in the country. When I was studying, I had my car registered in Vermont because I didn't officially live in Connecticut or New York.

Now, however, I am here for real and it's time to get everything straightened out. The only problem? I can't register my new car in Connecticut unless I have a CT license, and I can't get said license until I take a driving test in my CT registered car.

Speaking to some dealers, however, I found a loophole in this Catch 22. If I get a CT ID card, I can register my new car here. Then, I can use my new car to take the driving test to get my new license.

So, above, dear friends, you see the first step to me becoming a permanent Connecticut resident (I've whited out personal information to protect against identity theft). And I'm going to test drive my new car tomorrow before I make a final commitment!

Friday, June 13, 2008

More weather photos

I took these Tuesday night in Norfolk, Connecticut. Our photographer had car trouble, and around 7:30 p.m. we found out he hadn't taken any storm photos all day. I grabbed Albie's car keys and started driving around. The town of Norfolk was entirely without power, so I figured it would be the best place to start.

The kitchen problem

We've been having problems with our fan above the stove since we moved in. It didn't really seem to work.
Even when I had it on a high speed, it didn't suck up any of the steam from boiling potatoes or the smell from frying bacon.
Albie and I decided it was just too old and it should be a priority to get a new one - preferably a stainless steel on to match our new stove.
Last week, I got home from work one night to find that Albie had already been to Home Depot to pick up the hood we had chosen at a previous visit. He took the old one down, and both fans were on the floor in the dining room.
When I walked into the kitchen to look at the empty spot, I immediately realized what the problem was - we have no vent.
So this entire time, the old fan has just been (slowly) sucking up air and blowing it right back into the kitchen. There is nowhere else for the air to go. No wonder it never really worked!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Big Project

I'm very pleased to announce that my friend Beth and I did everything we set out to do during our organizing spree this weekend. An entire room was cleaned out at her house and we found room for (almost) everything.

While my friend usually needs a little nudge to get going, she really impressed me. Each morning, she was up at the crack of dawn, and after sending her husband off to work, she started throwing things out and putting things away until I got up four or five hours later.

Above, Beth is going through some old e-mails. To the right is a shelf I built in her laundry room for extra storage. We had some difficulty getting it in because of two door frames, but we finally managed to squeeze it into where it belongs.

Important papers and costumes were placed in safe plastic containers, since the basement room has a tendency of flooding every once in a while. A lace curtain hides the storage area from view, and we were able to fit a twin-sized bed into the room we just cleaned.

We took all the bottles and photos off this antique piano and pulled the piano out to clean the floor behind and underneath it. Of course, we also polished the piano with wood finish!

It's a new room, and Beth should be proud of all her work!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Americans and their carpets - updated w. photo

I believe I've ranted before about wall-to-wall carpets.

When I stayed with my host-family during my first year here, a pink carpet covered the floor in the bathroom. A few times, the toilet would flood, and it just created a really nasty situation. That rug had to go.

A friend who visited her sister in England came home to tell me there were carpets in the kitchen of her sister's apartment. Just imagine the unsanitary conditions there!

But this one might take the cake! My friend Beth and I were cleaning out a bedroom off of her kitchen. When moving a computer desk, I noticed a window behind it.

Standing in the middle of the room, which had no carpet on the floor, I exclaimed "Your windowsill is covered in carpet!"

"Yes, I know," Beth calmly replied, while we were both looking at the dusty soft rug that may at one point have been a dark pink.

"It's been that way since we moved in," she said.

Now, why would anyone do that?

Later that day, I cut and removed the carpet. It went straight into the trash, and the room was left with a perfectly fine, white wooden window sill.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My home is a Dutch hostel

So I was on my way out the door today, but decided to check my e-mail before I left the house.

My aunt had sent me a message. "Our childhood home has been turned into a hostel," she said, and there was a link to a video on YouTube.

The link took me to a slideshow in Dutch. It's basically a commercial for the town of Kopparberg and a new hostel there - the house I spent the first 15 years of my life in.

After the video, I was directed to the home page of Kopparbergshuset. Several photos show what's been done with the house since my grandmother moved out. It looks really pretty, but I wish I could see more!

What did they do with my childhood bedroom, for example? That tiny L-shaped area right outside the bathroom must have been a challenge! And how did they redo the old-fashioned bathroom with butterfly wallpaper and a huge water heater taking up most of the room?

What about the four huge closets in each corner of the house on the second floor? Did they turn those into tiny bedrooms like I always wanted to do?

Is someone still picking wild raspberries, rhubarb and red currants and making them into jams and juices?

I am dying to find out.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Unable to understand

On tomorrow's date in 1953, the U.S. Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Thompson Co., ruled that restaurants in the District of Columbia could not refuse to serve blacks, according to the Associated Press.

That was only 55 years ago!

I've said it before, but I will say it again: it is very difficult to grasp that things I learned about as a kid in history class happened so recently.

Movies and TV-series about segregation in the United States always seemed to me like they were depicting events that happened hundreds of years ago. I keep forgetting that America as we know it barely existed a couple of hundred years ago.

Friday, June 6, 2008

An outraged blogger

Gas prices have risen with almost $1 per gallon in less than a month here. It's amazing to think that when I first came to the United States 10 years ago, I would get gas for $1.13 a gallon - or, for 98 cents a gallon if I was in Vermont.

Last week, I got so lucky because I found gas for $4.17. The Sunoco station down the street from my house charges $4.35.

One of my friends wrote a great piece about this, from an American point of view. Read it here.

Tired, tired...

Working a lot extra this week plus have lots of stuff to do at the paper. On Sunday, I will drive down to New York to help a friend organize stuff in her house.

Getting my a/c fixed in my car tomorrow. This weekend, we're expected to have temperatures in the 90s. Blah!

More updates to come another day. Now... sleep.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Serenity and relaxation

If house sitting for four dogs and two bunnies seems stressful, you are totally wrong. My friend's house is located in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut, with beautiful views over Massachusetts mountains.

Part of the property is a farm, with two lakes nearby. The house is set off from the road with a long, winding driveway, and not a soul can see you when you undress to hop into the outdooor hot tub on the deck or wash off in the outdoor shower.

I was only there for two days, but it was totally worth it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Years of Viktoria

This year, I’m turning 30. With that comes lots of contemplation and questioning.

The other day, I made a “Chinese calendar,” where I named each year of my life based on what was most significant that year. In chronological order:

1978 – The Year of Me.

This is the year I was born, and I’m certain pretty much everything revolved around me for those around me.

1979 – The Year of Firsts.

First smile, first tooth, first bath, first tears, standing and walking for the first time.

1980 – The Year of Complete Sentences.

This is when my communications career began.

1981 – The Year of Singing.

Starting at age 2, I would sing along to songs on the radio, and my favorite was a song I then thought was written about my hometown, Kopparberg (Kopparbergsvisan).

1982 – The Year of Illnesses.

I was a very sick child. Around this year I had scarlet fever, measles and whooping cough.

1983 – The Year of ABCs.

I learned how to spell, and how to write.

1984 – The Year of Baking.

I used to get up early to bake with my grandfather every morning.

1985 – The Year of Starting School.

Big step for a little girl in Sweden.

1986 – The Year of Hot Water.

After moving in with my grandparents, social services demanded they install a hot water heater so I no longer had to take baths in a barrel on the kitchen floor.

1987 – The Year of Standing Up for Myself.

It was second grade. My friend was being bullied, sometimes I was, too. I put an end to it with some violence and some threatening. I was 9, but I was strong.

1988 – The Year of Skiing.

It was my first time on the slope. It was scary, but oh so exhilarating.

1989 – The Year of Family Vacations.

I remember going to Skara Sommarland, in the south, and Leksand Sommarland in the north (kind of like two old-fashioned Six Flags with water parks).

1990 – The Year of NKOTB.

Their music was my life.

1991 – The Year of Losses.

My grandfather, who was like a father to me, died unexpectedly. At the end of the year, my great grandmother – whom I had visited several days a week after school – died as well. Their deaths hit me hard.

1992 – The Year of Writing.

On my new travel typewriter, I wrote poems, short stories and detective novels. I also created a newspaper about cats with one of my friends. We had one subscriber (who has kept each and every issue she received)

1993 – The Year of Crushes.

From the crush on my homeroom teacher to almost every other tall, blonde kid in my school, this was as tough year. I was in love all the time, and – of course – it was all unreciprocated.

1994 – The Year of the Big Move.

I spent three months during the summer living with my boyfriend, then I packed up my things and officially moved away from home to the Big City, where I was starting a new school learning about media and communications.

1995 – The Year of Creativity and Certainty.

I knew I was in the right field. I knew I wanted to work with “something media.” I made drawings, created storefront displays, filmed videos, acted in plays, wrote articles, took photos and produced radio shows. And I knew I was fairly good at it, too.

1996 – The Year of Music and Love.

Parties every week, singing, playing, drinking… Plus, I was in the first real relationship of my life. I felt like a grown-up for the very first time.

1997 – The Year of Traveling.

I went to London for vacation, Germany to broadcast radio and Athens to be a translator for my then 8-year-old cousin when she met her father.

1998 – The Year of Leaving Things Behind.

I stepped on the plane and left for the United States to start my new life as an au-pair. As you all know, it was only supposed to be for a year...

1999 – The Year of the Au-Pair.

My life pretty much circulated around my host family, the boy and his father. But there were fun times with other au-pairs – traveling, partying, and sometimes just walking the beach.

2000 – The Year of Yonkers.

I moved out and started my own life in an apartment in Yonkers, N.Y. I took college classes and partied in Irish bars down the street with my Swedish roommate Sandra.

2001 – The Year of Newspapers.

During the spring, I ran the student newspaper at Westchester Community College. During the fall, I went to New Orleans for a newspaper convention, collected an award, and then went to Quinnipiac to be the Lifestyles Editor for their student newspaper.

2002 – The Year of New Friends.

My roommate Andrea and I became close friends, and I started hanging out with Kristen, Kristen, Lauren and John. Through them, I made several more friends along the way.

2003 – The Year of Starting a Job.

I graduated college and interviewed with many newspapers for a real job as a reporter. I finally became an assistant editor and started earning a real paycheck.

2004 – The Year of Visa Problems and Back Pain.

This year was a disaster. I was miserable every day, from February to August, and then again from September to December. The visa papers weren't getting approved, I wasn't allowed to work, I wasn't getting paid, my back started hurting like crazy and I racked up thousands of dollars in debt... It felt like the year would never end. Which, luckily, it did.

2005 – The Year of Albie.

We met in January when I started working in Torrington. We started dating a few months later.

2006 – The Year of the Broken Washer.

Living on a farm was great, but when our washing machine broke, it changed everything. All I can remember from this year (except for going sky diving in October with Albie) was dragging laundry to the barn, the barn apartment, to Vermont and to friends’ houses.

2007 – The Year of Babies.

We had ducklings living in our bath tub on the farm the year before, but this year we had ducklings in the pond outside my window and three new foals were born. One of them was Leo, a brown baby I had to help bottle feed during his first week when his mommy didn’t have any milk. And of course, Albie and I got Pip and Sophie in October - our new kittens.

2008 – The Year of the Condo.

We moved in during 2007, but this was the year we really started working on making our home look more beautiful.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Scary big dogs

My grandmother is afraid of a lot of things. One of them is horses, which is why she never let me go to riding school when I was a kid, even though all my friends go to go. When I moved to a farm a few years ago, she thought I was crazy and constantly worried I would get kicked by a horse.

My grandmother is also scared of big dogs. This weekend, I went to dog sit the above crew (plus two bunnies) while their owners went out of town for a wedding. Sadie the St. Bernard was there, as was Lilly the Newfoundland, Peppi the pug and Lucy the Bernese mountain dog. (If you don't know much about dogs, all three breeds except the pug are huge dogs that can knock you over with the swoosh of a tail, if they wanted to).

I first dog sat this crew a couple of summers ago. When I told my grandmother about the dogs, she was - again - very concerned for my safety. I was, after all, going straight from the dangerous horse farm to these three giant, monstruous dogs.

Now, Sadie, Lucy and Lilly are all extremely well behaved. They do not go outside unless you tell them to. They do not touch their dinners until you give them a signal, and they never ever jump on you (unless, of course, you stretch your arm straight out, pat it and say "give me a hug").

To calm my grandmother down, I had to send her pictures of the three big dogs rolled over on their backs with their bellies in the air. They do it all the time when I brush them, or even when I just look at them, sometimes.

"See?" I told her. "Does this look like a scary dog to you?"
She relaxed a bit, finally realizing I must know what I'm doing.

I just don't understand what is so scary. I mean, I was terrified of dogs when I was 4 after beeing bit by a little dachshund (tax), but after spending time with well-behaved dogs, my love of animals overpowered the fear.

To me, St. Bernards represent safety. Growing up, I always heard of them as rescue dogs from Switzerland, who work as part of a team. And in "Peter Pan," a St. Bernard is there to protect the children at night.

The Newfoundland is just a big, fluffy mess. And the mountain dog, she's as sweet as can be. In fact, she is so annoyed with the other two that she mostly goes off by her self to do her thing, like moping in the driveway or sleeping behind a recliner.

Of course, if you don't train big dogs, they can be a hassle. But these dogs? Piece of cake!