May 31, 2019
Hi, Sis, I hear the house is full of puppies again. Now we are really part of a huge family, 12 brothers and sisters by my count. Mom has sure been busy. I wish I was there to play with all of you. Instead, I am at the end of the earth where dog play is not encouraged. Every time I'm about to meet another dog the owner asks if I'm male. Well, I think it should be obvious, but because I am, they refuse to let their dogs near me. Dogs usually aren't neutered here, and so they're afraid their male dog will fight with me or I'll fight with him. I don't really know which. Interestingly, new research concluded that neutered dogs are more aggressive than non-neutered dogs. Who knows? All I know is I'm a lover not a fighter. I'll be very happy to come back to California to go to the dog park.
Of course, I won't be returning until our house sells, and there are lots and lots of houses for sale here. Many of them though aren't really what you would call a house. They are ruins, a pile of rocks, but people buy them and they pay 100,000 euro for them. There is one lady who is interested in buying our house, but it would need an annex built to meet her requirements. So, this is a long shot. But, more people are coming to see the house in June. Everyone who comes likes it, but there is always a problem. Mostly they don't like the fact that our little tiny white road bisects the property.
I think November has returned in Poggio San Marcello. Fog covers the hills and obscures the valleys. Everyday there is wind, rain and thunderstorms. I don't really mind the thunderstorms, but I miss the sunshine. Those little lizards don't come out in the rain, so it isn't any fun here in the rain.
It hasn't been much fun for me anyway lately because I was sick again - or at least I stopped eating again. So, I had to go to the vet. This time Jim and Maree took me to a different vet recommended by Luca's old vet who now practices in England. When the vet ran tests, he saw that my kidney values were a little high. Hopefully, when I go back next Tuesday they will be back to normal. Maree isn't sure whether all of this is stress because of all the people who have been by the house lately - I do really stress out jumping up and down and barking a lot - or if maybe it is a reaction to the heartgard or something else. The vet doesn't seem to know either. He recommended a hypoallergenic diet which I haven't tried yet, but I am a fussy eater anyway so I probably won't like it. In the meantime, I am eating people food when I decide to eat (lamb, steak, chicken and sweet potatoes which might be my new favorite food).
In the midst of all of these visits to the house, I had a grand adventure, but I don't think our neighbor Fabrizio was too happy about it. Every time Fabrizio arrives, I jump up and down and bark at him the entire time he is at his house. Fortunately, he never stays very long because he just comes to do some clean up or to check his solar panels. He doesn't live here. And when it is time for Fabrizio to leave, I run along the fence barking like a maniac and jumping up and down. (Did I mention that I can jump higher than the fence. I think I'm going to try out for the high jump in the doggie Olympics.) Well, on this day, when Fabrizio started to drive past our house, I jumped at the fence and one of the slats fell off. I didn't waste a second. I was through that gap in the fence and running at his car. I ran right out in front of his big SUV. I was going to stop that beast one way or another. Right about now, you are probably thinking that was pretty scary. Well, I wasn't scared. Obviously, I don't really understand cars. Are they a type of big dog? Some of them do seem to have a big, deep growl. Fortunately, Fabrizio saw what he described as a little white ball of fluff running toward him (that was me by the way), and he stopped the car. Once that car was stopped, I wasn't about to let it start up again. Every time he started to put his foot on the gas, I ran back in front of the car. Maree came outside to try to catch me. HA!HA! Like I would ever let that happen. I led her on a wild chase around and around the car. So here she was running around - still in her pajamas I might add - trying to grab me so Fabrizio and his father in law, who was in the car with him, could leave. But I was just having a great time running, darting to the left then the right, and then if the car started to move, I would run right back in front of it. Finally, Maree called Jim to help. Well, that was no better because he couldn't catch me either.
Fabrizio and his father in law meanwhile were in the car laughing at this debacle and all of my energy. But eventually, Fabrizio's father in law thought he could be more effective than Jim and Maree in capturing me, so he got out of the car with an umbrella. He pointed the umbrella at me. I thought this was a good game, and so I followed him and the umbrella which he would poke in my direction periodically. Eventually, he led me about ten to fifteen feet or so behind the car. That was Fabrizio's signal to go, and he floored the gas pedal. Maree was frantic thinking I was going to be squished all over the road as Fabrizio raced down the street. I started running, and by the time Fabrizio was at our neighbor's house, I had almost caught up with the car. I am very fast. But, when I got to the neighbor's house, I decided to turn around and run back home. After all, the man and the umbrella were still there to play with. At this point, I had lost sight of Fabrizio's car, and now his father in law started walking up the road to find him. This big adventure made me kind of thirsty, so I went in for some water. That kitchen door closed behind me as fast as could be. A few hours later, Jim was out in the yard with tools and screws fixing the fence. That fence is rather flimsy, so I am sure that one day I will be able to knock part of it down again unless Jim strengthens the entire thing. I'm ready for another car chase, but Jim and Maree are not.
In all of this ugly weather here, there is not much happening. But Maree did chance an encounter with the health care delivery system. She had an appointment with a doctor in a big medical center in Ancona for a checkup. So I had to ride in the car for forty five minutes to get there and then wait in the car with Jim for an hour and a half doing nothing, just twiddling my nonexistent thumbs. Maree said the medical part of the experience was good - but if you are modest, it will be a shock as they don't believe in any of those disposable cover-ups here. It's all au naturel just like at the vet. The worst part of the experience apparently, was trying to pay the bill which, just as so many things here, was bogged down in a bureaucratic morass.
After seeing the doctor, Maree was told to go and pay and then come back for her medical file. She was not given an invoice from the doctor to pay; she was supposed to tell the cashier what she was paying for. The "cassa", where you pay the bill, was half way across the medical center. When Maree arrived there it looked like entering the post office or bank with a row of tellers. She took a number, and when it was her turn, the cashier couldn't find her appointment or a bill on the computer. Finally the cashier asked for her codice fiscale (basically social security number). Apparently, the number they had on file was expired and did not match Maree's real number. Now the cashier was confused about how to proceed. She finally handed Maree the bill and told her to go back to the doctor and have the doctor sign it and then come back to pay. It was a long hike from the cassa to the doctor, and Maree trudged back there with the document for signature. The doctor's assistant took the paper and disappeared. In the meantime, the doctor appeared and gave Maree her medical record - patients keep their own records here - then they waited for her assistant to return. When the assistant returned, she gave Maree a document and told her to go back to the cassa and pay. But Maree would need to return to the doctor again to give the doctor the receipt so that she could copy the number from it. Again, Maree went off to the same cashier to pay. This time there were no problems - except of course, the language barrier. Bill paid, Maree followed the red line once more back to the doctor, waited for someone to appear from behind the closed door, handed over the receipt, waited for the assistant to take it and do whatever it was she did with it, and finally the receipt was returned to Maree. Now she was free to leave. Just in case you didn't know, this whole experience took place in Italian. The doctor did refer to her smart phone a couple of times during the process to do a translation.
According to the World Health Organization, Italy has one of the top health care systems in the world. The medical part was different than any experience in the US, but it seemed to do the right thing. The bureaucratic part, on the other hand, was crazy. Where is Kaiser when you need it?
Hoping all of your bureaucratic hassles are little ones.
Your Italian pal,
May 12, 2019
Happy Mothers' Day to Everyone, especially, Princess, my Mom.
This is my second spring. And it couldn't be more different than the first one. My first spring was spent in California dog parks with friends and daily walks. Now, I am relegated to a yard where nothing ever happens except when Fabrizio arrives next door, and I run and jump and bark at the fence. I bark and bark until he finally decides to leave. I have very strong vocal cords, and I regularly test their limits. Of course, there continues to be the lizards. They are entertaining, but there are so many more of them beyond the fence. So I continue to search for ways to get out of the yard. And I found a new one. It was great, Dino the Magnificent was back hunting his lizards, romping around the fields, exploring under the lavender bushes until Maree got smart. She brought out a very large, stale baguette, and when I saw it, I immediately had to have it. So, she threw it in the yard, and I ran after it. That was my mistake, because now I was back in the yard. And she had figured out where I was able to get out under the fence and closed the gap with an enormous planter box. I've been looking for a new escape route, but so far, I haven't found one. I guess I'll just have to dig my way out like those prisoners in the movies do.
During the past two weeks, my normal tranquil life has been upset by lots of activity at the house, and lots more opportunities to bark and jump up and down. I get sooooo excited when anyone comes to the door. I think I almost passed out from all of the excitement a couple of times. Jim and Maree are both really embarrassed to have a dog who is so ill mannered. But then again, I am pretty cute and cuddly.
Last week, the man who does the annual checkup of the heater came. Then Giuseppe came a few times. One time he brought Vito, Maree and Jim's friend from Puglia. (Maree and Jim visited Vito and his wife Anna in Puglia about four years ago with Giuseppe, Graziella and another of Giuseppe's American friends from Philadelphia.) Then there was a man who might be our new gardener - actually, he has come twice now. I think I like him. I got to jump all over him, and he didn't mind it one bit. Jim is so very happy to be rid of Mario our old gardener. He cut our olive trees back so much that everyone who comes to visit comments on it and says he ruined our trees. Our new gardener says they will never get big now, and someone else commented that it will take three years for us to get any oil. Maree, who is a real tree hugger, is devastated.
Several people have come to look at the house to buy it. First there was an Italian man. He liked the house but not road. Then there were the Dutch people. We don't know anything about them because Jim and Maree took me to the beach in Senigallia for lunch and a walk while they came to see the house. That way they didn't have to endure my naughty behavior. Then there was another Italian lady from Milan. She really liked the house and said she would have made an offer if there was an annex for a caretaker. We're putting her in touch with Giuseppe to see if he can convince her he can build her an annex. Giuseppe is a master builder and knows his way around the byzantine bureaucracy that is Italy. And, he works fast. Another person is scheduled to see the house later in the month. I sure hope someone buys it, and I can come back to my friends and the dog park. Italy is pretty, but I miss my California life and California weather.
Maree has been assiduously working on her book about Italy and buying the house here. She'll be sending it out to friends to read and comment on within the next few weeks. I'll be glad when that is done then perhaps she can spend more time with me. Maybe I wouldn't be so bad if I got more attention. Then again, maybe I already get more attention than any other ten dogs combined. I am a very high maintenance guy.
We had Easter at Giuseppe and Graziella's house with Giuseppe and Graziella, two of their children, a Dutch couple who live in Le Marche about half of the year, and Jim and Maree's German friends, Udo and Renate, who just arrived from Germany. I was on my best behavior just sitting on the floor next to Maree. Everyone seemed to love the lunch, but I didn't get to try even a bite of it. Graziella made a quiche like appetizer to go with the antipasti platters and marinated vegetables, then there was pasta with a pesto, followed by a Marche style meatloaf, a Moroccan chicken dish and vegetables. Graziella always likes to try new recipes, but Giuseppe is not enthused about tasting non Italian dishes. Maree made an orange almond cake that she took for dessert.
This past Monday night there were a lot of candles lit in our house. No, it was not a religious holiday - Easter Monday was the week before. It was because our electricity kept cutting out. It all started that morning. Jim went out to the box outside and flipped the switch, and the lights went back on for a minute. But as soon as he got back in the house, they went off again. This kept going on for about an hour. Then Jim noticed a message on the box that when translated apparently said that we had 15% power. Hum, in Italy when you don't pay your bill, they start cutting back your power instead of just turning it off. Of course, there is never any written warning about this happening, so now we could run a few lights but nothing like the washing machine, dish washer or microwave. Jim tried to call the company to see what the problem was. When he looked at their on line site, it didn't show that we had any outstanding bills, and we had paid the last bill we received. After trying to call about ten times and never being able to get through, Jim was frustrated and gave up. It was now after business hours. So he tried to find more information on line. Unfortunately, the company's customer service website was not functioning.
The next day, he asked our friend Cristina for help. She finally got through to the company and learned that we did indeed have an outstanding bill. When Jim put on his detective hat, he discovered the bill had been sent via email and went directly into the SPAM folder. There is a bank site that apparently lets you pay utility bills on line, and he tried to do this. The site asked for a codice number, and Jim tried every number on the bill and none of them would work. So, that afternoon he tried to go to the bank, which is open for one hour in the afternoon, to pay the bill. Well, on Tuesdays, the bank does not do money transfers for bill payments. Jim was directed to the COOP, a major super market where you can pay your utility bills. Arriving at the COOP, however, Jim was told they only do the bill payments in the morning. So, Jim returned home and tried again to go on line. The customer service site was still not working. After three days, the customer service site was finally working, but Jim couldn't pay the bill there because he didn't have an Italian credit card. So, finally, he found an IBAN code for the utility company (did I say this is a new utility company that we have only had for a couple of months and there is no IBAN number on the bills). And with this he was able to complete a bank transfer and pay the bill on line.
What can I say. It's Italy. You have to love it or die of frustration.
Hoping your frustrations are small ones. Ciao from Italy.
Dino, a California dog hoping to return home soon
I am Maree, the voice of Dino - or at least I am the one who does the typing. For more information about me and my life in Italy, you can follow me at theproseccoproject.com.