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by Jan Rifkinson

A Close Encounter
An Amsterdam Adventure

In the early 60's I was traveling around Europe and decided to go to Amsterdam; I loved it. It was fall. I was staying in a very tiny hotel whose rooms, well they weren't really rooms, rather cubicles -- rectangular in shape, longish narrow spaces. There was enough room for a bed @ one end and dresser @ the other. One would have to weave through the room to get to the door which flowed into a long hallway. A turn to the right led you to the bathroom. A turn to the left led you to the living/dining/drinking/registration room.

You had to be out of your room by 8am.

All the maids and barmaids @ this place were very special hookers, young women who had married and had been abandoned, divorced or otherwise separated from their GI husbands. They were pretty, very sweet, and quite professional in their hostelry duties but if you wanted, you could set a date for an evening @ their place: a home cooked meal, music, talk, a warm bed, hospitable company and breakfast the next morning. This was a real "Dutch Treat" :-) :-)

Many of the streets in central Amsterdam had been turned into what we now call "pedestrian malls" and one could walk to many parts of the city without worrying about getting hit by a car. And there were plenty of places to walk to like along the canals, to the Rijksmuseum, Ann Frank's house and many other places.

In those days in Amsterdam, one could buy lunch from an automat which had been designed with food windows facing the street like ATM's are today. These little cubby holes behind glass windows contained some pretty good food and one could have roast beef on a bun (small), dessert and some milk or soda for about a buck ($1US). As a daily routine for kids like me traveling on a nothing budget, we walked the sidewalk looking through the windows for lunch. It was also a good place to meet old and new friends.

On this particular day I was on my way to the automat for lunch. It was a little later than normal, about 2:00pm and I was walking "against traffic" so to speak; everyone was going back to work. Just ahead of me as I walked upstream, the crowd parted like the Red Sea and a large; I mean large, jet black, hairy, serious looking dog with very tiny ears on a massive head, walked nonchalantly down the middle of the street, looking neither left nor right, clearly on a mission. He walked alone. Everyone looked @ him out of the corner of their eye but no one talked, patted or otherwise engaged this huge thing. I was stupefied. I had grown up with dogs, loved them, but I had never seen anything like this before. I stopped short as this thing walked by me. The crowd at the other end of the street parted to let him through and then closed in after him as he disappeared into the crowd. I wanted to follow him to see where he was going but I had a date @ the automat.

So I proceeded to the automat and had lunch for a buck. So did my date. Did we go "Dutch treat"? You decide.

Having made plans to meet my date again after she finished work at American Express, I retraced my steps because I wanted to shop for some little things; I still have one of them. I entered a small crafts store shaped like an upside down "L". There was a long glass counter running along the left wall. Craft things hung all over so there was lots to look at. Towards the end of the glass counter I spied something on the wall so I walked to it in the open space left between the counter and the end of the room. As I reached for the object, I heard a rumble. It was a noise I didn't recognize at first but as it continued (we're talking seconds here) I realized it was a growl. In surprised, near panic, I looked around and saw a large, I mean large, black hairy heap on the floor under a desk looking at me in less than a casual manner. Slowly I backed up to the other side of the counter. I had met my first Bouvier.

I engaged the store/dog owner in conversation about his dog's breed, characteristics, history, etc. He was very happy to tell me all about his companion. Why was he walking down the street by himself? Well, his owner explained, he's with me in the store all day but goes home to lunch around 12:30 and comes back whenever he's finished. Sure.

I paid for my purchase and continued on my quest while thinking to myself: sometime, somewhere, somehow, I'm going to get one of those dogs. And I did. Bogart arrived in 1972. At the time, about 500 Bouviers were registered with the AKC.

* * * * *

My special friends Truman & Sabrina



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