Dear Santa Paws,
It is Christmas eve here in Italy, and the fog is rolling in again in Poggio San Marcello. My yard now looks very spooky - more a Halloween setting than a Christmas card. The naked trees are waving their branches in the wind, their dark frames silhouettes against a gun metal grey sky. I sit here by the door not sure whether I want to go outside or stay in. This morning it had been nice and clear, but the fog rolls in very fast here and very unexpectedly. I am pretty sure there was no fog in the weather forecast for today, so I hope you will be prepared.
As I watch the fog obscure the hills and valleys, I am starting to wonder if you will be able to find my house in this weather. Does your sleigh have fog lights? Is it pulled by reindeer or sled dogs? If you have reindeer, does Rudolph have a special nose light for the fog? Even in good weather, it is hard to find my house. There are no street numbers on any of the houses on my street. And there are actually two streets that run parallel to each other (well as parallel as any streets could run in Italy) that have the same name. Amazon deliveries sometimes never arrive, so I hope you have good and up to date GPS. Well, honestly, I hope you have something better than GPS because sometimes GPS does not work in Italy according to Jim and Maree.
When you do arrive at my house, will you come down the chimney? I hope you will find another entrance because the fire is burning there now and I think it will still be hot. But I guess as all things magical, it will not matter to you. You must go down lots of hot chimneys on your voyage around the world to give presents to all of the good little dogs - and big dogs too. I am leaving you some dog biscuits and a greenie by the Christmas tree. I want you to know that I hold the Christmas tree sacred and I have not touched one ornament or branch on the tree. Well, if it was a real tree I might have had a harder time resisting it, but since it is artificial, I have shown a great deal of self restraint. I hear it is almost impossible to find a real Christmas tree here.
Santa Paws, I have been very excited all week about your visit. I think I have been a good boy this year, or at least I have tried to be a good boy. So I hope you reward effort not only outcome. You know, sometimes it is hard to be good when there are so many things to get into and chew up. And when you have so much free time. But, I have abstained from chewing furniture and shoes and books - things that my predecessors have been blamed for. I did, however, chew the siding on the house in California. But I was only a baby then, and I am so much more mature now. Well, mostly more mature. I have tried a little of the stone from this house, but I don't like it near as much as the mulberry leaves and branches. You know, it is hard to be good when you are in need of exercise and attention.
Both Jim and Maree have been sick over the last week, and so I have pretty much had to fend for myself except at meal times. Unfortunately, the doctor told Maree today to stay home instead of going to Christmas lunch at our friend. Graziella's house. I was so looking forward to seeing her dog, Ercole, again. At 12, he is rather old for me to play with, but he seemed nice the one time I met him. So, we will just be home alone for Christmas day. I hope you can bring me something to alleviate my boredom. Something very chewable, tasty, and interesting. Of course, the best thing you could bring me would be a friend, like one of my new brothers and sisters, but unfortunately, I know that another dog does not exactly fit into Maree's plans right now. And I might be somewhat jealous anyway as I do so like to curl up in a lap or snuggle up in the bed. Of course, last night I did a little more than snuggle up in the bed, I ate a tiny hole in the comforter cover. OOPS, I did not mean to let anyone know that I did it. So, Santa Paws, can this be our secret?
Even though Maree and Jim have been sick, they had to go to the police station twice this week to try to get their permesso di soggiorno. That means their permission to stay here, like a green card in the US. They had to take the receipt they received from submitting their applications at the post office a couple of weeks ago. When they arrived they were asked for their passports and their expired Italian documents, and then they had to have fingerprints. Well, that does not sound so bad, but Maree was a little nervous as in the US, the FBI rejected every set of fingerprints she submitted. So, she was not expecting a good outcome. Here instead of paper and ink, they did the fingerprints using a electronic device, so you can tell if the print is acceptable right away. The woman had to redo lots of Maree's fingers many times, but finally she did get readable prints. The very next day, we had to go back for more fingerprints and whole hand prints. These were done by a different person with a different machine. I don't understand why everything could not be done at the same time, but apparently, that is not the way it is done here. Again, a number of fingers had to be done several times, but I guess they were finally good enough as we were able to leave. During this entire ordeal, I was very good. I just sat like a perfect gentleman next to Maree and Jim and I never made a sound. I was anxiously awaiting my turn to get my paw prints. Well, that never happened. I am rather put off however that no one asked for my paw print. I guess they don't care if I have a criminal background. Well, what they don't know won't hurt them as they say. And besides, there is nothing to find our anyway, Santa. Really, I belong on the good dog list.
Santa Paws, I hope you have a good journey this year. Watch out for those Apennine Mountains just west of us as you come in to land at my house. And be prepared for a hot fireplace. I'll be listening for your sleigh bells.
Merry Christmas to All,
Your Pal, Dino
I finally understand the true meaning of your name. I have seen snow!! Not just one time but three times this past week. The first time I saw it was at my home in Poggio San Marcello. There were some flakes mixed in with the rain, and when I stuck my head outside the door, I rapidly turned around and went back inside. I thought those cold, wet drops were annoying as they fell on my head. Then, suddenly, there was no rain just lots of those white flakes calmly floating down to the ground. It was rather peaceful and pretty. It snowed pretty hard for a few hours. When it started to stick, I went outside and licked it up. YUMMY!!! I like the icy cold feeling on my tongue. It is almost like eating frozen green beans (my favorite) without the green bean flavor. It had a more earthy flavor. Maybe that was because I was getting a little dirt with every mouthful. Anyway, we did not have much snow that time. It only lasted a couple of hours, and it was gone.
My second snow experience was in the city called Bologna. I had to take a train to get there. I do not like trains. When we got on the train, we got on at the wrong end of the train, and it was about to take off, so we had to walk between the cars. Walking between the cars is loud and scary when the train is moving. I did not like the strange noise of the wheels on the tracks going clackety clack and the whooshing sound of the doors between the cars when we tried to open them. We went from car to car, and it turns out that our car was the last one on the train. So I had to endure going through lots of doors - whoosh, whoosh, clackety clack, clackety clack. Gee I hate that sound. I was starting to feel like Walter MItty and his "ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa." Unfortunately for me, this was no daydream. I started to shake. I think I shook the two hours to Bologna. Unfortunately, the next day I had to get back on the train again. I hate trains.
Bologna was sort of a bust I think. I did not see one slice of bologna. I actually think they call it something different here, mortadella. Well, I did not see that either. But I did meet lots of friendly dogs, and I tried to play with a couple of them. That was the best part of the trip for me. The second best part was the snow. It was Maree's birthday, and we walked a ways to a nice, well-established restaurant. Much of Bologna center has covered walkways, so we walked under the cover of arches, and we watched the large snowflakes drifting down into the street. It was very pretty. Even though it was snowing quite heavily and sticking to the ground by the time we returned to the hotel, in the morning there was virtually no sign of the snow. I really don't understand this whole weather thing I am realizing. Why is it colder here than California? Why does it snow one day and it is sunny the next? What is this thing called fog?
While there was no sign of the snow in Bologna, when we returned home to Poggio that morning, unfortunately by the train, there was about 8 inches of the white stuff everywhere the eye could see. We were supposed to stay in Bologna for another day, but unfortunately, Jim was sick. So we never got to the French Christmas Fair. Gee, I really wanted to meet those French Poodles. Oh, well, I guess I will just have to wait for our trip to France. I sure hope it is not by train though because even the prospect of French Poodles does not outweigh my now growing phobia of trains.
Riding in the car as we drove the twists and turns in the road up to our little house, I was rather freaked out. Where was the grass? What is all over the tree branches. It keeps falling onto the car making loud clumping noises. Every time something hit the roof of the car, I jumped. The landscape did not look like anything I remembered. All I could see is white humps and dips. The hills and valleys had lost their contours, so I was not sure where we were. I really don't like not knowing where I am. It makes me very nervous. But what was even worse is that as we got closer to home, it became quite foggy. Between the fog and the snow covered ground, the world was veiled in white and very spooky looking. I was beginning to feel like I was in a Scooby Doo movie and that the ghosts and ghouls were about to appear before me. Actually, I have never seen a ghost or ghoul and I am not sure what they are, but I am sure that I would not like them.
On our way from the train station in Senigallia back to Poggio, at least the roads had been plowed quite well. So that was not a problem. Well, it was not a problem until we got to our street I should say. Some of our street is a municipal road, but before you arrive at our house, it becomes a private road. From that point on, the road was not plowed. Jim was ready to just stop the car and walk down to the house, but Maree encouraged him to try to drive through the snow -- after all, we have new snow tires so what else are they for??? It turns out that snow tires actually work -- sort of. After a tiny bit of tire spinning, we made it to our parking spot in front of the house.
I was very glad to be home. Home is the place I like best, and I don't understand this need to go traipsing all over the place to see different places. What does Bologna have that I don't have at home? Well, there were a lot of dogs I will give it that much. But, in general, there was a place to sleep and food. What more do people need in their lives? People should be more like dogs, I think. Our needs are very few, and they definitely do not include the need to wander all over the countryside looking for the best tortellini in brodo - whatever that is.
At home, I had my first attempt to try to walk in the snow. When I stepped into the yard, I was in snow up to my belly. I had a very hard time dislodging my legs. They were encased in the snow and stuck. I pulled and pulled and finally got one free and then another. I learned that if I ran, sort of with a jump, I could get through the snow more quickly and without being so stuck. But it took trial and error to finally figure out how to move through the snow with any dignity. Eventually, I decided that I liked the snow. It is fun to eat and dig in. I dug through it and found one of my toys. That was like a treasure hunt. Next time I go out, I will have to use my nose and see if I find anything else. Of course, by tomorrow or the next day we probably will not have any snow left as the temperatures are rising. But, I guess there is still a lot of time for more snow this winter.
As the cold is settling in, I am definitely missing California weather. There I don't need to wear this stupid coat they bought me with little elastic bands round the back legs that make me look like I am walking bowlegged. Oh, the embarrassment of it all.
Happy Holidays, Snowy to you and all of our family.
Your brother, Dino
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.