Well, the weather has certainly taken a turn here. I can no longer complain about fog and rain and cold. We are having a heat spell. I don't think I am built for the hot weather. It would sure be nice to be able to take off this thick fur coat of mine, but I am not supposed to be trimmed or to have my coat shaved because I have an undercoat and very pink, delicate skin that would burn in the sunshine. (I am so delicate, such a little Prince.) I'll just be doing a lot of panting I guess. The house is not air conditioned here like in California, but so far those thick stone walls have kept the indoor temperature very livable, and the cool tile floors are just right for stretching out on and cooling off. We do have a standing air conditioner that we can use if it gets too hot. Jim and Maree say it works good. I hope they're right.
With the change in the temperature, we finally had a warm night. We went to Alessia's restaurant for dinner and sat out on the patio where I could lay down in the grass next to the table. That was the best time I have ever had at a restaurant. There were lots of kids running around, running past me. And I, much to your surprise I imagine, was a perfect gentleman. I didn't run at them or jump or bark. I just stayed there in my position, stretched out in the grass and watched the world go by. What a great life!!!! While I hung out, watching, sniffing the air, and getting some pets I might add, Jim and Maree indulged in a dinner of polenta with truffles and frito misto of calamari and shrimp. We didn't leave the restaurant until almost midnight. I hope I get to go hang out in the grass there again soon.
We went for a tour and wine tasting at Colonnara winery this past week with our friends Renate and Udo. Renate and Udo are from Munich and they have a vacation home nearby. Our friend Cristina works at the winery now and she took us around for the tour. Her husband, Massimiliano is the President of the winery which is a cooperative of growers. His grapes make all of the biologico (organic) wines. Our tour took us down into the cool wine cellar where they store the sparkling wines and where the red wines age in the barriques. Maree likes it down there with the scent of wines and all of the riddling racks. I liked it there too because it was cool and I got carried around during the tour. We took an elevator the size of a 12 by 15 foot room to get down to the cellar. That was pretty weird, but then again it was an adventure.
After the cellar tour, everyone went into the tasting room, and I just had to lay down and wait. It seemed like a very long wait. I think they tasted every wine on offer. First there was Luigi Ghislieri, a methodo classico sparkling wine, which has been one of Maree's favorites. It is bottle aged for three years. Then there were white wines, Verdicchios and a Bianchello, then there were red wines Cabernet, and another one that I don't remember. Oh, and there was a rose too. At the end, they tasted a methodo martinotti (charmat for those of you more familiar with the French term although the Italians assure Maree that they made sparkling wines first). The table was weighted down with bottles. When they were done, I don't think anyone walked a straight line back to the car but me. I should have been the designated driver. Fortunately, lunch was only five minutes away.
Back home, I keep learning new things. For a very long time I never jumped up on the furniture myself. I had to be invited and picked up. But, eventually, with a lot of coaxing, I learned to jump up into the car. Well, once I mastered that, the couch and the bed were easy. I started with the couch though just to check out the response and see if it was okay for me to jump up there. Of course, I only do it when Maree is there and I can hang out with her and play. The bed took a little longer. I think I liked being able to sit there looking up longingly at it until I was picked up and put on the bed. I especially liked it when I would wake Maree up at 1:00 am with a little woof so she could put me up there. Somehow I think something in my life will be missing now that I can do these things on my own. I don't think I'll have quite as much control, and I am all about being in control. Maree and Jim have not figured out how to break me of this idea, and they have tried.
On the house front, it looks like we will be here for a while, so if anyone wants to visit, they should do it. We have someone coming to see the house on June 20. The woman from Milan is still interested, and she will be coming back to visit when she has time - so who knows what that means. In the meantime, Maree is going to start more marketing on her own with fliers in our friend's bed and breakfasts and the local restaurant. Maybe we can pick up some interest that way.
Brian is off to Japan for a week for work. He arrived there on Sunday. He is looking forward to the Ramen whatever that is. Maree wonders about Siobhan all alone there with the three little boys. Siobhan seems to have this Mom thing well in hand though, and she is home schooling Charlie. He is five and doing 3rd grade math on his own for fun and writing signs that he posts around the house. My favorite sign says "Stop Chickens." I would like to stop some chickens. I think that would be a fun game, but no one will let me near enough to catch them.
Speaking of animals, I saw deer outside of our fence the other day. It just ran by the yard on its way into the forest down the hill. I stood there looking and made one little, quiet growl. I didn't want it to hear me in case it was mean because it was very big with big antlers, and I don't think I wanted to make it mad at me. It was the second time I saw a deer within a week. A few nights before one jumped right out in front of our car when we were coming home from a dinner. Some nights I can smell the scent of the deer and the wild boar. I just stand there in the yard, nose up, smelling. Then I run and bark like crazy. I think that scares them away. I wish that my barking would also scare away the deer ticks. Maree says there never were deer ticks here before, but they are here now along with the deer. And, unfortunately, my long, luxurious fur, seems to have a magnetic attraction for the ticks.
Longing for a little bit of rain,
Your friend in Italy,
Dino the hot and thirsty
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,
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 just came home from my first vacation. Really, I am a little confused by the concept. I thought vacations were the time to relax, get away from it all, sit by the pool or on a beach and drink those colorful drinks with umbrellas. And where were the little poodles in their bikinis soaking up the sun? But obviously, Jim and Maree don't understand the concept because that is not what my vacation to Sorrento was all about. Instead, it was a marathon of movement by foot, by train, by bus, by boat and by the car. And I hate cars, trains, buses and boats.
We started out on a cloudy Sunday morning driving through the mountains through one tunnel then the next and then a longer tunnel and more tunnels where finally we arrived near Perugia and headed for the autostrada toward Naples. Jim had the GPS, but she was nothing but an annoyance with that incomprehensible British accent and inconceivable bastardization of every Italian place name. We knew how we wanted to go to Rome, it was the fastest way. But she had her mind set on taking us down the coast, an extra 100 kilometers, and she wouldn't relent. For the first ninety minutes, she kept trying to get us to turn around and go back. She even told us to make a u turn in a tunnel. Well, without her help, everything was going fine until we arrived near Naples and the Google directions said to follow the signs for Castellamare di Stabia. By this point in time, the GPS agreed. Maree, being rather literal saw one sign, and we followed it. But then there was a second sign to Castellamare di Stabia, and the GPS said to turn right and follow the second sign. Maree seeing the sign agreed with the GPS. So we took the right turn and ended up in the town where we turned around, but there was not an entrance back to the highway. So eventually we ended up going back through the toll booth in the wrong direction, taking an exit where there was no entrance to get back on, and riding through the worn out streets of Naples in a neighborhood where I know if we parked the car it wouldn't be there when we got back or at least parts of it would be gone. I did enjoy looking at all of the graffiti on the walls there though. Some of those Napolitani are pretty creative. Well, by this time, Jim and Maree were confused and bickering about whose fault it was that we ended up in this weird and somewhat scary place. Maree hates to be lost or even a little bit off of the track. Jim on the other hand likes to wander, but he didn't like wandering around this place. Neither did I. Eventually, we found an entrance back to the right highway, and we were on our way again to Sorrento passing through the same toll booth for the third time.
We continued now just following the signs and started the very windy trip around the mountains, through the tunnels, and finally into the stopped traffic of Sorrento. I was now feeling kind of sick, and eventually, those treats I had when we stopped for a potty break ended up in Maree's lap. Fortunately, she was prepared with a towel covering her lap, so no one freaked out. After being taken on a very circuitous route by the GPS, we finally found our hotel, parked our car in their parking lot, and left it there for the duration of our trip - until of course, we were going back home.
We spent days walking the streets of Sorrento. I think my feet are still sore. I have never done so much walking. Well, actually, I don't do much walking on the leash. I pull and try to run as fast as I can to get to the next destination which might be any doorway that is open. All of that pulling makes me cough. I sound like a giant pig snorting and people give me strange looks. They should try being walked on a leash and see how they like it.
But Maree couldn't be happy just walking the streets of Sorrento, so we got up early on Tuesday morning, took the long walk to the bus station, and boarded a bus to Positano. It seemed to take forever to get through the traffic of Sorrento, and then we began the trip through the never ending curves of a very narrow road overlooking the sea. Of course, we didn't see much of it because the bus was stuffed like a can of sardines with people in the isles bumping into Jim who had the aisle seat every time we went careening around a turn. Finally, we were in Positano, well, sort of in Positano, but the bus doesn't actually take you down to the town center. It stops up top, so now there was the interminable walk down hill. Maree had found a restaurant she wanted to go to, and the restaurant was way down the mountain. We walked and walked and walked. It wasn't easy because the road was very narrow and there were no sidewalks. I kept trying to walk in the middle of the road, so it was a constant struggle of wills - Maree vs. me as we went down the hill. When we arrived at the hotel where the restaurant was, we were told they closed the restaurant for a couple of days. So now, we had to find another place for lunch. They recommended a place just up the street with beautiful views, and we climbed back up the road to the restaurant. The food was not bad, the prosecco was drinkable, and I enjoyed lots of treats and the view. After lunch, we continued the walk down the hill to the town center and the beach. I continued to battle Maree and the leash the entire way while cars came whooshing past at speed.
Now, I hear Positano is a big tourist attraction, but, really, I don't get it. The beach is small with small black pebbles not nice white sand like our beach in Senigallia. And nothing is flat until you get there. I guess the view of the houses and other buildings built into the hillside is pretty awesome though. We spent the day walking around and I kept on the lookout for other four legged friends, but there weren't many there. It was probably because there was no grass anywhere. How can a dog live in a place without grass? There was grass in Sorrento, but it was all behind little fences so my kind couldn't go on it. I just don't get the point in that. That meant that all of the dogs I saw there, and there were a lot of them, had to use the little poles along the street and from the smell of them, they used them quite often. When it was time to leave Positano, Jim and Maree decided they didn't want to walk all the way back up the hill, so instead we took a boat ride back to Sorrento. Did I say I hate boats? I had never been on one before, but I hope to never be on one again.
All of this vacation was getting to me, so I decided to go on a hunger strike. I stopped eating my food. I kept eating treats though. Who can resist treats? And Maree had the restaurant make me a steak dinner which I enjoyed. But dog food. Who eats dog food on vacation? People don't eat the same thing they eat at home on vacation, so why should I? I want the taste of Sorrento not the taste of can. Sometimes I think people are very dumb. They just don't understand about being a dog. You see, we are the superior species, and as such, we expect to be treated with a degree of deference and catered to. Sometimes we just have to make a point, and I did make a point. I was on strike. Mentally I was carrying around signs saying "NO MORE DOG FOOD." "NO MORE TRAINS,BUSES AND BOATS." "REAL FOOD FOR REAL DOGS."
Well, my strike was not working so well because two days later, I was on the train. Did I say I hate trains? We got off the train at Pompeii to see the ruins. Because we heard it was so big and easy to get lost, we signed up for a tour. Well, about fifteen minutes into our two hour tour, the tour guide left us in the dust. We were following her and then suddenly there were about four other large tour groups coming toward us and merging into our group. We couldn't see the red umbrella. It disappeared from view. We thought we saw a member of our group entering a building, so we went to check it out, but it wasn't our group. By this time, we had been parted from our group for so long, we knew we would never find them. So we were on our own. I didn't mind because there were lots of little lizards that I could chase at my leisure, and I could go where I wanted. So now, I was Dino the Magnificent archeologist uncovering the lizards of Pompeii. They were much more exciting than all of the dead stuff. I also met two of the dogs of Pompeii. They were big and dirty but friendly. I liked Pompeii more than Positano because the lizard hunt was the most fun part of this vacation. But we were lost in Pompeii trying to read the map full of street names which never appeared on the streets. Finally, Jim figured out how to navigate with the map, and we found our way out of the park after our self guided tour. Pompeii was a pretty amazing place. I can't believe that people actually dug all of this stuff up. I think it was a job for the dogs.
The next morning we got packed and headed home. I wasn't looking forward to the six hour car ride. Fortunately, we didn't get lost, and even though it took us ninety minutes to get out of the Sorrento traffic and we ran into some construction and stop and go traffic in Umbria, I didn't get sick. When we finally pulled up to the house, I truly understood the expression, "There's no place like home," and I was ready to click my heels three times. I sure hope there aren't any more vacations in my near future.
Back Home at Last,
Your Pal, Dino
Happy April fool's day. Well, it was April fool's day here as I wrote this, but it wasn't yet April 1st in California. I am still confused about how this time thing works. But apparently, I live in your future. And I didn't even need a time machine. Really, though, I don't even like the car, and so I don't think I would ever want to try a time machine.
It was another beautiful day in Poggio San Marcello. Maree planted flowers in pots on the patio over the weekend, so the yard will look nice when people come to see the house this week. It took her a while to decide what to plant because she had to find plants that wouldn't poison me since I eat every green thing I see, and I like to eat flowers too. Well, she picked some basil, rosemary, sage and impatiens plants. I am not interested in those herb things. They all smell. But the flowers are nice. I am trying to restrain my appetite though since I know she worked so hard planting everything. So far I have only stolen two of the flowers, but I can't promise that more won't go missing.
We spent time at the beach again on Sunday. It was so pretty and warm and I had a nice walk -- well, not really walk because I never walk when I am on the leash. I just pull as hard as I can while Maree tries to keep up with me and the harness chokes me. I sound like a dying pig as I pull Maree along, and people all give us weird looks. I do have a brain, but sometimes I guess I don't use it. It was very thirsty business pulling Maree across the arid desert, and we finally stopped to get me a drink of water at a restaurant on the sand.
For me, Saturday here was a better day than Sunday, however. I was the great explorer, Dino the Magnificent, looking for signs of long extinct species. I ran out the front door, nose to the ground, and was hot on the trail. I saw something hiding under the rocks and running for cover under the lavender bushes. I was in hot pursuit. Wait a minute, if they are extinct, how could I see so many of them? Oh, well, no time to worry about such small details. I ran up the road, and through the fields. I could hear Maree's voice in the far distance calling my name. But, I was a great explorer, and no one calls a great explorer home until he has completed his mission. So, I just ignored her and wandered further and further away from the house through the olive grove and the fields clothed in small daisies. I liked the smell of spring. The soft grasses under my feet. The pale green leaves on the trees. But mostly, I liked the scent I was following. It was everywhere. It surrounded me. I was euphoric. But I was out of luck.
I was having so much fun trying to catch those little lizardy things, but they eluded me. Time passed as I wandered through the fields and our neighbors' yards. Jim and Maree were getting worried because I ran further and further away, but they knew if they pursued me I would just keep running. That is my favorite game, after all, running away whenever they try to capture me. So, they kept calling me and I kept ignoring them. I am not deaf, but I am not the kind of dog that grovels at their master's feet. In my house, I am the master, or at least I think I am. Well, anyway, after about an hour of pursuing my quarry, I was hot and thirsty. I didn't know being an explorer was such hot, dry work. So I finally ran back in the house for a quick drink of water. That was my mistake because Maree and Jim were quicker. The minute I set foot in the kitchen, I heard the door slam shut. I was trapped. I guess Dino the Magnificent had returned home from his great adventure, and he didn't even bring back a trophy. Oh, well, next time I'll be sure to bring one of those lizards back as a memento instead of a tick.
I did make another new discovery earlier in the week though. I heard Maree ask Jim, "What hasn't Dino eaten?" Well, that was a challenge, so I had to find something new. I was upstairs in Jim's office with Maree who was trying to reset the router for the computer. When she turned around I was gone. She knows that is not a good sign, so she followed me down the stairs where I was, of course, chewing on something. She traded a treat for what was in my mouth, but it was a little too late. I had already eaten the Sim card for the dongle that provides our internet connection. I wonder if that's why I've been hearing voices? They are in Italian though, so I don't know what they are saying. Well, all things come to pass they say, and I sure hope this does too, and that is no April fool's joke.
Jim, Maree and I will be off to Sorrento in two weeks. I know it will be an adventure Who knows what things I might discover in Pompeii, but I am already worried about that long car ride. And then, there is the stroller. I almost forgot about the stroller. I heard Maree tell Jim she bought one for me, so they won't have to carry me through all of the buildings in Pompeii. And maybe if I am in a stroller they can go inside museums too. What is a stroller anyway? Is it like a car? Maybe I can just eat it and be done with it. But I guess I won't know until Amazon delivers it.
Wishing all of my friends a beautiful April and Buona Pasqua from Italy. Until my next adventure,
Dino the Magnificent
It is officially spring according to the calendar, and the weather here agrees. We have had some nice sunny days. And while the March winds persist, there are signs of spring everywhere. Some of the trees have dressed their dour brown branches with bright green leaves, and others are full of pink or white flowers. And while I am enjoying the beauty of the trees, I am much more interested in chasing the butterflies and the little lizards. Yes, lizards. They are providing me with hours of entertainment. They like to sit in the sun just outside of the front door, and I sit inside and watch them. I try to get their attention. I wag my tail, wave, and tap at the window, but they just ignore me. They are so intent on their sun bathing. Sometimes, they walk off in the direction of the yard, and I run out there hoping to meet them. But so far they have avoided me. I can see them on the other side of the fence, but I just can't seem to make my paw reach underneath far enough to get one. Some day, I think I will capture one. But then I don't know what I will do with it. After all, the fun is in the chase. I certainly don't think I would want to eat it. They don't look very appetizing. But then again, neither do the mulberry tree branches and I like them well enough.
Our weather was so nice last weekend that we went to the beach on Sunday. After Jim and Maree had lunch, we went for a long walk in the sand. I was beginning to think I might be the only dog left on earth here since I so rarely see any, but I finally found where they have all been hiding. They have all gone to the beach. There were lots of dogs: big dogs, little dogs and all sizes in between out for a Sunday stroll on the beach, and I got to say hello to most of them. I wish I could have been off of the leash to wrestle and run with them, but since I don't come when I am called, that is not going to happen any time soon. This was my second time on this beach in Senigallia, and this time I went near the water. It was such a beautiful color all sapphire blue, but I didn't go in. I think with my long coat, I am not much of a swimmer, and I should avoid the sea. But maybe one day, when it is warmer, I will dip my toes in. I am looking forward to going back to the beach again, but I still hate going in the car. The calm balm Maree bought doesn't do anything for me, but it does smell nice like lavender. She is still hoping to find something to help me relax in the car before our six hour drive to Sorrento next month.
Maree and Jim have decided to go to Senigallia for Sunday lunch every weekend between now and June, assuming the weather is nice. When June arrives, I am not allowed on the beach any more until mid-September. There wouldn't be any room on the beach for me to run around anyway. In the summer, the beaches here are wall to wall lounge chairs and umbrellas, and you can barely walk between them. Senigallia is a mile long white sand beach and it is divided into sections. Each section has a manager that provides the chairs, changing rooms, and a play area for the little kids with slides and swings. Some areas even have volley ball courts. But no one wants dogs leaving their mark on the sand during the summer, so I will have to be content just looking at it from a restaurant window once June arrives.
Last Saturday night, I met more of Jim and Maree's friends here, Euro and Patrizia. They have a house close by, but now they have another house in Lugano in Switzerland where they live most of the time. Lugano is just across the Italian border and is apparently a very Italian town. We met Euro, Patrizia, and their son Enea in a little restaurant in a town called Mergo. Jim and Maree remember Mergo because they stayed in a small bed and breakfast there when they made the offer on their house in Poggio San Marcello. We ended up being at least 30 minutes late to meet at the restaurant because I didn't want to go. So, I ran around the house under the table, in between the chair legs, around the couches and the coffee table. At one point in time Maree even crawled under the table to get me, but I am just too fast and very agile. I was having a great deal of fun, except for the fact that I knew when they caught me I would be going in the car. And it was dark and I hate the car even more in the dark. Well, eventually, they were getting rather mad at me, and they decided they would leave me at home. I have never been left home alone. I don't know if it is because they worry that I will be so upset or if they are worried I might destroy something, or maybe they think I will actually eat something that could be really bad for me. I imagine it could be all of the above. Eventually, Jim and Maree both went outside and shut the front door and locked the shutters. I heard the car engine start. I think I was getting the idea that this was not a game with them, and I started barking and jumping up and down. Finally, I let them pick me up and put my harness on. Once we got to the restaurant it was not as bad and I expected. I got some pizza crust and a lot of attention from several young children and their parents. I just hate not knowing where I will end up once I get in the car. And I don't think that recent trip to the Vet helped at all.
By the way, Jim is recovering nicely from his fall. The bruising is almost gone and the size of his hand is getting back to normal. Looks like he will be able to drive to Sorrento in April. Sigh. And Maree is always busy working on her book about Italy and buying the house here. I probably would not be such a problem if I got more attention. All I want to do is play all day. Maree would like to take me for walks, but since it is such a big issue to get my harness on, she has pretty much given up. Even though she tries to trick me, I always know when she is thinking of putting that harness on. I can read her mind, but don't tell her.
I hope you are having good dog park weather back there in California. I understand that we will be returning in October for a visit, but, hopefully, the house in Italy will sell before then and we can return for good. I am so looking forward to going to the dog park again. Say hello to all of our friends for me.
Ciao from Le Marche, Italy,
Your BFF, Dino
I think I am becoming an Italian dog. I get a lot of attention here when we go out to restaurants and other places. Everyone says I am bello. I know that means beautiful. I am also learning some other Italian words too like no, which I hear all of the time, and vieni qua, which means to come here. Even though I know what they mean, I don't often obey. I still have quite a mind of my own. I think this whole subservient position that dogs have been put in is unconscionable. It is almost like slavery and if I were in charge, I would make sure that dogs had equal rights - that's right - dogs on buses, dogs in schools, dogs in restaurants and stores. And none of this dog house thing. Why not live in the real house and sleep in a real bed? And I wouldn't discriminate based on breed or color either. We should all be treated equal - with maybe the exception of pit bulls. I am a little afraid of them. Oh, well, maybe someday I will run for office. I think I could do as well as some of those folks back in Washington now. I just don't understand how there can be a person in the White House who does not like dogs. Isn't that un-American? You know those sayings, "As American as apple pie and dogs". "A chicken in every pot and a dog in every home." HMM, I think I'll start developing my campaign now.
This week I was sick, you know the vomiting kind of sick. Maree got worried since I eat everything in the yard from branches to grass to anything that grows out there, so we went to a vet. This was a new vet that Maree and Jim had not been to before, but she was a lot closer than the vet they used to take Luca to. Well, she spoke no English, and she spoke very fast and in a sort of nervous energy way. She gave me two shots. One to stop the nausea, and the other to stop my brain from wanting to vomit, at least I think that is what she said. That shot, I could have done without. It really hurt and I am ashamed to say that I yelped like a coward, but I didn't try to bite her and I even let her pet me afterword. What can I say, I don't hold a grudge; nothing to be gained. The vet recommended that Maree and Jim throw out all of the food they are giving me and just cook for me which they do sometimes anyway. She also said no treats. NO TREATS, I thought. Is she mad? Well, apparently Maree thought she was mad too because I have still gotten some treats, and whether I will only get food cooked at home is still to be determined. The bill was only 67 euro including the two shots, medicine and the visit. I am feeling a lot better, but I want no more of the medicine that vet sent home with me. It tastes really bad. Maree will have to try to catch me if she wants to give it to me, and I know she can't do that. I still give Maree and Jim a run for their money every time they want to put my harness on to take me out. I make quite a game of it going in and out under the table, under the chairs, running around the couches. I know after a while they get tired of the game, and so eventually I let them have their way, but when I do, I hang my head and look very, very sad to make them feel guilty for doing this to me.
It's March already, and as the saying goes, "It came in like a lion". While it has been warm, in the mid-fifties and sixties, the winds have started. It blew so hard the other night that it blew the benches around the yard, and brought a lot of branches down. I don't mind the wind however. I like the feel of it as it blows my long fur. I just don't like it when it blows dirt in my eyes. Spring is in the air. The trees are starting to bloom already, and I hope the wind doesn't blow all of the flowers away. Our almond trees are full of little white flowers and there are some pink flowers in our neighbor's yard. The grass is filled with little daisies. I find them quite tasty. The warmer weather has brought out a lot of flying things too, and I love chasing after them and jumping up and batting at them with my paws to try to catch them. Maree says I play with them just like a cat. There it goes again comparing me to a cat. I still don't know whether to be insulted. One day recently, I caught this furry little flying thing on the door. I tried to bite it. I didn't like it, and I ran over to my little bed and started rubbing my nose on it. Maree wasn't sure if I got stung - apparently this little flying thing is called a bee and it has a stinger. She gave me some Benadryl just in case.
I am not the only one here who has been a little under the weather - whatever that expression means. Jim tripped and fell in the Oceano parking lot last Saturday. Oceano is a little shopping center. It wasn't his fault. The foot on this barrier jumped out and grabbed him. He injured his hand and shoulder, but as he described it, an angel came to help him replete with golden ringlets caressing her face. She made sure he did not have a concussion, but at first she thought he did because his Italian didn't sound right to her. Then she found out he was American, and it was okay. She wanted to take him to the hospital, but he refused. His hand, which was really swollen is now getting better, and he has some bruises, but I guess he is okay. Jim says he is giving up gravity for lent. Maree has had to do the driving though, which Jim doesn't like. She drives just like an Italian, and Jim is always telling her to slow down. I think she should slow down too because I am getting bounced around in the back more than when Jim drives. Jim hasn't quite figured out yet that he is just supposed to pay attention to me in the car and not Maree's driving. That is what she does when he drives and then she is not as freaked out. For me, it actually doesn't matter who is driving, I still hate the car. I am not looking forward to a six hour drive to Sorrento next month.
I had to ride in the car to Jesi a couple of times recently. That is where Maree and Jim have to go to get their Italian green card equivalent. They had an appointment at the police station back in December, and still have not heard anything, so Maree was worried and decided they had to go back to see if there was a problem. One issue was that when she looked on the web site, it said Jim's application was not on file. So, we drove the forty minutes to the Jesi police station. A few minutes after arriving, one of the people approached Maree and asked what she needed. She started to explain, and he said, that on this day it was only for people with appointments and we could come back the next day or Monday. So on Monday, we went back only to find that there was a sign saying that on Monday it was only for people with appointments. Well, this time, Maree was not going to leave without asking her question. So we waited, and finally, a woman police officer who remembers Maree and Jim from years ago, was available and we approached her window. Maree told her the problem, and she looked up Jim's application. Apparently, it was not filed under the number on the receipt we had but a different number, and it was there. She then proceeded to say that now the office in Rome is very busy and it could take four months to get the cards. In the past it took only three weeks. Well, Maree and Jim can't get their health care cards until they have the green cards, but the local doctor sees them anyway and does not charge anything. By the way, we happened to be at our friend Alessia's restaurant a week ago and there was a big party for our local doctor. He had just gotten his psychology degree. He is also a lawyer apparently. Maree says she just wishes he would get a degree in English because he does not speak any.
Well, I think that is all of the news from here, Sis. I hope you and our parents are well. I understand that Mom is pregnant again and there will be more brothers and sisters coming soon. Wow, we will be part of a very big family. Take care.
Your Italian brother,
It has been nearly four months since I visited you at your home, and we wrestled in your yard. I hear you have grown since then. I am no taller but I may be a little wider. It's hard to tell with all of this fur. Maree says she thinks I am heavier every time she picks me up, but fortunately we don't have a scale, so she can't confirm her supposition. I am glad of that because she would probably have me on the scale every day and then on a diet and what fun would that be? Do you think rose bushes have a lot of calories because I have some of that every day. I pull large branches from the plant and munch on them. I am not too fond of the pickers though, but that does not stop me.
Life has been somewhat busier here lately now that the sun is shining again. It is still cold out, and I love the cold weather. At night I just lay out on the patio and look at the stars and listen to the sounds of the wild boar in the fields below. When I hear them, I am glad that there is a fence around my yard, but otherwise, I would rather roam free. I keep knocking the fence down one slat at a time when I jump up and down and run to chase any car that comes by. Well, I don't exactly run; I hop like that jack rabbit I saw. Jim has had to repair the fence at least three time so far.
A week ago, we went to the beach in Senigallia on a sunny, but cold day. First, Jim and Maree had to visit the bank there to get a new bank card because we never received one in the mail and our old one was expired. So we went to the old central district and walked through the town which has a lot of clothing stores. The bank is a very old building and to enter it you have to go through a glass booth one person at a time. Jim carried me into the booth, the door closed, and then another door opened into the bank. I don't like this little glass booth. I don't exactly know what claustrophobia is, but I might have it. In the bank, it took a while for the man to figure everything out so that Jim could have a new bank card. I sat on the floor being the perfect little dog. I knew something was happening here, but I didn't know what it was and I was anxious to get out of there. After answering a lot of questions, Jim was eventually handed a new card. He is still trying to figure out all of the codes to use it online however.
Once back in the car, we drove to the southern part of Senigallia to a restaurant on the beach. Of course, I had to wait until Jim and Maree had lunch before we could go for a walk. It was different walking on the beach here in the winter. No one else was there, and a bulldozer had pushed a lot of the sand back to form a barrier so the waves did not destroy any of the buildings along the beach. Little tiny shells covered the beach. They had an alluring smell, and I tried to roll in them much to Maree's dismay. So, my walk was not too long, but I liked it. I don't think I am afraid of the water, but I wasn't allowed to go near it. That's okay, it looked pretty cold anyway. My biggest regret is that we weren't there long enough for me to dig a big hole. I know that sand would be perfect for digging in, and it is one of my favorite past times. Oh, well, next time I am on the beach I will just start digging the minute we hit the sand.
It seems that everywhere we go there is a restaurant or a winery involved. We have dinner at our friend Alessia's bed and breakfast a lot. And last Sunday we went for Sunday lunch which is a big occasion here in Italy. There was another little dog under the table across from us. As soon as she saw me, she wanted to play. She was just a youngster, only six months old, and she liked to wrestle, so we started to play between the tables. No one freaked out! Imagine that! We did manage to keep the noise and craziness to a minimum, and we didn't knock anything off of the tables. Of course, I was hoping that some of that fish I kept smelling would hit the floor, but it remained safely plated on top of the tables. This was the most fun I have had since we moved here. Now I can't wait to go back to Alessia's, and I hope that doggie will be back. Unfortunately, she lives in Ancona which is pretty far away. One little boy who was about two years old kept coming to try to pet me, but he was a little shy when he approached. I was good around him. The little boy's father was very impressed with my behavior toward his son, and he commented about how calm I am. Hah, that was pretty funny. Alessia, who was standing nearby, immediately disabused him of that fact. Well, I can be calm when the situation calls for it, but at home I am a little terror - or so I am told.
Honey, I hope you had a happy valentine's day. We went to the restaurant affiliated with the Moncaro winery for lunch. It is an upscale restaurant at the end of a little white road. It serves principally fresh fish. We were seated at a table where I had a lot of room to stretch out and not be in the way, but I could watch everything that was going on so I could be sure there were no bad guys around. They immediately brought me my own small, green doggie dish full of water, which was nice, but they didn't bring me any fish. I had to survive on dog treats. But I enjoyed the views from my position on the floor. I hope we can go back when the weather is warmer and sit outside. I think I will like that.
The big news around here is that Maree has been searching for a hotel in Sorrento, and she finally booked one. Well, she booked one after she cancelled two others, one because it did not permit dogs and the other because she misread the price and instead of 650 euro for the five nights it was 650 euro a night. She was so relieved that it was a reservation that could be cancelled without a penalty. I am not so enthused about going to Sorrento because it will be about a six hour ride in the car. Although I don't get car sick anymore, not even on all of the twisty turny roads here, I still don't like the car; and I shake a lot when we are driving. I guess they call this travel anxiety. Maree bought something called Calm Balm and has tried it on me. The jury is still out as to whether or not it is working, but I know she is anxious to find something before we take the drive to Sorrento in mid-April. While I don't like the car, I am rather interested in seeing Pompeii while we are there. I hear that there has been a lot of digging there, and I am looking forward to helping. I have a lot of experience which I think will be helpful.
Honey, I hope to hear from you soon.
Your pal in Italy,
It has been a while since I have heard from you. I hope you are having fun with our friends at the dog park. I am still all alone here in my yard, but the other day I had an encounter with a hunting dog. He was a big dog like a blue tick hound. He came up to the fence, and we rubbed noses. He jumped around like he wanted to play. That didn't last long, however, because his owner called him away. Sigh. I do want someone to play with here.
I finally discovered what all of those holes I have dug in the yard are good for. Now I take all of my treats outside and bury them. Burying things is almost as good as digging the holes. And I have found that the added dirt makes them taste even better. But I must admit that my nose is pink and little sore from the activity. Jim and Maree have taken to calling me Rudolf - I think it has something to do with a song.
There has been more snow since the last time I wrote to you. But it was a very wet snow and then the rain started and washed it all away. I was disappointed. I love to go out in the yard and lay down in the snow. I am pretty sure that we will have more snow before the winter is over, and I am excited about that. But now the weather has finally gotten above freezing, so it won't be for a while.
I have a new nighttime activity. I go outside on the deck, even in the freezing cold, and just sit for hours staring out into the darkness. I know there are creatures out there. I can hear them walking through the grasses, but I can't see them. Sometimes I think I see little eyes staring back at me, but then they disappear into the night. Fortunately, these creatures, whatever they are, don't come in the yard. I am not sure if I should be afraid of them or if I will like them, so I stay close to the door just in case. I hear there are wild boar out there and porcupines and foxes and sometimes a deer. But there are not many deer here. I think the hunters have killed most of them. But somehow, the boar manage to elude them. Speaking of the hunters, they seem to be here all of the time now in their orange vests, carrying guns. They walk around like they own the place tromping through our property with great entitlement. They park their cars everywhere even sometimes blocking our road. I am pretty sure I don't like the hunters. Even when I don't see them, I can hear the gun shots in the distance. I am a great sentinel, and I let Jim and Maree know they are around. I can bark at them for hours non-stop. I chase along the fence when their cars go by. Fortunately, there is no one around here for my barking to bother, but Maree says she hopes I am not like this when I return to California or the neighbors will be complaining. Even after hours of barking I am not hoarse. I think I was made to bark.
There is one little creature out in the dark that keeps me company on the patio some nights. It is a tiny, furry grey thing. I can smell it when it is near. We play a game of hide and seek. I chase it and try to get it. But it is so small it can disappear under small cracks in the stones. I am fast, but I think this little thing could be faster. I haven't actually caught one yet. Apparently, after we go to bed, these little creatures like to come in to the house through a little crack in one of the stone walls. Jim has caught a couple in a trap. Now he is determined to fix that little crack in the stone wall to keep them out. I first noticed these little grey furry balls when the weather got really cold here. I guess they are just searching for a place to stay warm and dry.
Jim and Maree's favorite activity here seems to be going out for lunch or dinner. We have been to several restaurants since I last wrote to you. A few weeks ago, we met some of Maree and Jim's young friends for Sunday lunch. First we drove to Osimo on the autostrada and met Olimpia at a cafe, so we could follow her car to the restaurant in Loreto where we would have lunch. Osimo is a hill town surrounded by walls. The streets were very narrow and made of small stones that are hard to walk on. We met Olimpia at the Cafe del Corso right in the middle of the center of town. Maree had a glass of prosecco while we waited, but she complained to Jim that it did not taste like prosecco, and she didn't drink it. Gabriele was still home taking a shower after soccer practice with his son, so we went back to their house to get Gabri, Santiago and Ginevra and her boy friend. Gabriele and Olimpia have a big dog, but it did not seem to like me much, so I couldn't get too close to the fence. And I was disappointed.
At the restaurant, we met Fabrizio and Elinora and their two boys and Silvia and Gianfranco and their two sons. In total, there were 16 people at the table, and only one dog, me. I was trying to lay quietly behind Maree's chair, but then one of the waiters stepped on me. He was very apologetic, but after that I decided that maybe it was safer under the table. Gabriele ordered the lunch for everyone, and everything was served family style. First there were platters of fried stuffed olives, called Olive Ascolani here, fried mozzarella sticks, the most beautiful homemade potato chips, and fried eggplant sticks along with some seasoned croutons. Then there were platters of ravioli in a butternut squash and proscuitto sauce and tagliatelli in a porcini mushroom sauce. This was followed by heaping platters of meats - lamb, beef, and pork. At my space under the table, I kept hoping for some things to drop to the floor. It all smelled so good and my nose was working overtime. But, alas, I had to settle for some of my treats and a taste of bread. Lunch lasted until about 5:00 pm, and then we had a long drive home.
We have also been to the little restaurant in our town a couple of times. It has good pizza. Last week when we were there, Maree met an older man she knew from when they lived here before. He seemed to like me, so when I saw his pizza arrive, I stood up and put my paws in his lap looking so sweet and forlorn hoping he would share. Well, apparently this is not good restaurant etiquette, and Maree made me get down and told me no. I kept looking at the man though because I know he wanted to share with me. I had to wait until Maree's pizza finally arrived to get some. That was more fun than the other restaurant we went to where all I was given to eat were some of the same old treats I always eat. BORING.
Yesterday we went to the Moncaro winery for a little wine tasting. Actually, Jim and Maree did the wine tasting. I just had to lay down and be quiet which is very difficult for me to do. Next to where I was laying I noticed a box of wines that had stuff like Easter grass in it. I thought that looked appetizing, so I tried a few pieces. Actually, it is dry and tasteless, and I eventually spit it out. The people at the winery remembered Jim and Maree and Luca, my doggie predecessor, even though they have not been there for more than three years. The man even remembered that Luca had been named after an Italian guitar player. I tried my best to be noticed, so they will always remember me too.
I hope you remember me Louie. It has been more than three months since I left California. I am starting to feel like an Italian dog, but I miss my California home. I wonder if I will miss Italy when we return? I do think I will miss Italian dog food. While some of the dry dog food here is the same brands as in California, there is a much broader variety of different canned foods, and I am trying them one by one. My favorite so far is the lamb, but sometimes I like salmon. I had wild boar this week, but I really didn't like the taste much. Or maybe I just didn't like the idea of it because I know what a wild boar is and I feel bad that they are being hunted. There are lots of other varieties that for one reason or another Maree refuses to buy for me like horse, rabbit, veal, and deer. There is also all types of fish. I tried tuna one day, but I prefer salmon. I wonder which ones you would like Louie. As I recall, you seemed to like to eat anything.
Hoping to hear from you again soon. As we say in Italy, Ciao, a presto.
It is a new year, and I have some New Year's Resolutions. First, I am going to dig the biggest hole in the yard ever. I am well on my way to making this resolution a reality. Second, I am going for the Guinness Book of World Records for most uninterrupted times jumping up and down, up and down. I think so far I have hit about 40, but I am continuing to try to improve that number. I jump higher than the counter top on each jump. Maree has suggested that perhaps they misnamed me, and I should be named Tiger. Frankly, I am not sure I understand the reference, but apparently it has something to do with Winnie the Pooh, a bear. Maybe he is like you Snowy Bear? My final resolution was to learn how to get out of this fenced in yard. Well, I have already accomplished that one. It was somewhat by accident. I was working on my first resolution and digging a hole near the fence, and suddenly I saw an opportunity. I knew that if I just crawled on my belly I could get under there and be free. And so I tried it and sure enough, there I was in back of the house with no fence impeding my movement. Well, I was out there munching on some grass when I saw a big dog up the road. That was my mistake. I started to bark, and Maree apparently recognized that the bark was not coming from the fenced in yard. Next thing I know, she is at the gate yelling for me to come. Well, I had a decision to make. Do I go for the dog or come back into the yard. As I was trying to decide, Maree went into the house and brought out my favorite treats. Gee, at this point in time what could I do. I ran back into the yard for a treat. I still had my escape route. I grabbed the treat, devoured it, and as Maree was closing the gate, I scooted under the fence again. When she turned around, there I was in back of the house. It took her two days to figure out my escape route, and now it is blocked. But I have a plan for another one, and a new adventure, so stay tuned.
We had more snow here last week. It was only a couple of inches, but it was enough to play in for a day. I LOVE SNOW! I love the way it feels on my paws as I run through it. I love the cold taste on my tongue; and I love making tracks through the virgin snow. I like sticking my nose in it to find shoots of grass to eat. And I also like turning it yellow. Maree came out in the yard with me and threw snow balls. They were fun to chase and to eat. I ran around the yard in big circles with the snowballs in my mouth. My teeth were getting cold, so I had to finally drop them. I hope we will have more snow before the winter is up.
I told you in my last letter that we ran out of propane on New Year's Eve. Well, it took two days for the truck to come and put gas in our bombola as they call it here. So, we spent the night on New Year's day at our friends BNB. Jim and Maree were missing hot water for showers and gas for cooking. It didn't really bother me much. Jim made a fire in the fireplace and it heated the radiators, so the house was warm enough for me, but they needed showers. Just another way in which dogs are a superior species. We don't take showers every day. Just think of all the water we save and the energy we save. If humans would only follow our example there would be no water shortage in California and no energy crisis. Sometimes I think they will never learn.
Well, I seem to have gotten sidetracked here because what I really wanted to tell you is that last week on Friday, the propane ran out again. Apparently the man put very little in the tank and never returned to fill it. It happened to run out on the day it was snowing. Fortunately, Jim convinced the company to come that day to fill it. After all, it was their mistake that made it run out a second time. Actually, our contract says that they will routinely come around and check the status of the gas and automatically fill up the tank when it is getting low. Apparently, they are not doing a very good job. But at least we have heat, hot water and gas for cooking again. Hopefully this time, the tank is full.
Oh, Snowy, I found a new food for you to try. Pizza crust!!! Saturday we drove down the hill to a pizza restaurant. Fortunately, Jim made reservations because the entire restaurant was full. We had to sit in the front room which has glaring lights and funky tables. Jim was not happy because the light hurt his eyes. Once again, I was right where the servers had to walk, but I found that I was happy between two tables where I could just watch the parade of people go by. I did get in the way once when the two children at the table across the aisle wanted to give me attention. They were nice and I had fun getting pets from them. There were many large parties of people at the restaurant on this particular night. One group of people started walking past the table, and I noticed that there was something different about them. So I had to figure it out. As each person walked by, I walked close, lifted my nose in the air and took in a deep breath. I sniffed each one as they passed. I still didn't figure out what the issue was. Maybe they were aliens or something, but there was sure something about them that made me want to check them out more. The people at the table next to us were dog lovers, and asked if I was a Spitz. Maree told them that in America I am called an American Eskimo but that the breed is derived from the German Spitz. They then mentioned they have a volpino. The word translates as little fox in Italian. Apparently the American Kennel Club refuses to acknowledge the volpino because they are so similar to us - American Eskimo minis.
I kept a look out for more aliens and munched on some treats when finally the pizza arrived. I could smell it and I wanted to taste it. I decided that maybe if I made sure Jim and Maree remembered I was there that they would share. So I gently put my paws on Jim's knee. UH, OH. Jim has been suffering from gout in the knee for the past week, so that was not a good idea. I then tried my best, look at me I am sitting and being perfect routine. Well, that got Maree and she started to give me bites of pizza crust absent any of the filling unfortunately. But, I found that I really like the crisp, crunchy crust. It was browned to perfection. If you haven't already tried this delicacy, Snowy, I suggest you do. I am sure you will love it too.
Well, I better be off. There is a lot more yard for me to dig up today and more jumping to do. I hope to hear from you soon.
All the best from Italy,
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.