I’m lucky they didn’t fling me in the pool. My aunt and uncle, besides the venerable parrot, favored large dogs (I mean dogs that outweighed me) who my uncle trained in German as to foil evil doers, I presume. I’ve been talking quite a bit about my aunt, but my uncle was the perfect consort to the sardonic beauty. Very tall, very handsome, very bronzed by the sun, very lean from daily tennis matches — very, very wry sense of humor. And combative. Did I mention that every conversation between them was something of a debate? As far as I could tell their views on everything from politics to religion were in perfect accord, however, they liked to spar. I remember being young (about seven) and sitting in my mother’s lap in tears after a lobster dinner to celebrate my uncle’s birthday, confused and startled by the way my aunt and uncle had feinted and jabbed, become loud and then dissolved into laughter. I’m sure there were cocktails involved, and wine with dinner, I just wasn’t used to the decibel level. I remember my mother’s soft skin, and her perfumed cheek next to mine, and her gentle voice explaining that was just the way some people talked to each other.
My! That was a tangent… Weren’t we talking about dogs? My aunt and uncle had dobermans, that took after the mastiff side of the family. They were HUGE. When I started visiting them regularly in the desert when I was in college these animals ran the roost. My aunt and uncle slept in a bed like a boat, otherwise known as a California King. It spread across their bedroom, looking out toward the mountains, in a swirl of high-end linens and more pillows than I had ever seen in my life. And, the dogs slept with them. More often than not when you walked past their bedroom during the day the dobermans would be stretched across the pillows, napping. If my aunt and uncle left them on their own too long they would return to the house to see their pillows had been shredded and the feathers would be floating in frothy white drifts on the surface of the pool.
I tolerated them, what choice did I have? They were so much bigger than I was. Until, they ate my shoes and I found them in the shallow end.
“Böser Hund!” I shrieked and grabbed one of their great cow-like heads and jammed what was left of my soggy sandal under its nose, raving, “Nein! Fritz! Nein!” Fritz looked at me benevolently and sauntered into the kitchen, his enormous paws clicking briskly on the tile floor as he crossed to lap at his water dish.
P.S. The home pictured above was designed by Donald Wexler for Dinah Shore in 1965, it sold in February to Mr. DiCaprio for $5.2 million — in case you’re curious.