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
Happy New Year to All. My first holiday season in Italy has been a busy one. There were a lot of new people for me to meet, but, unfortunately for me, no dogs - well, almost none- and there were lots of new experiences.
Santa Paws must have thought I was good this year. I guess he overlooked all of the things I chewed up as a puppy - thank goodness. When I woke up on Christmas, there were presents all wrapped up in pretty paper. Trying to unwrap them was like a big puzzle. I started out slow and meticulous because I didn't want to destroy what was inside. I know, this is not very like me. I usually just rip things up at a fast and furious pace. All I can say is maybe I am growing up and learning patience. Or maybe not, because I managed to destroy one of my toys that day but I am still working on totally destroying the other two.
The good news is that Jim and Maree miraculously recovered from their illnesses on Christmas Eve, and we were able to go to our friend's (Giuseppe and Graziella) for a Christmas luncheon. We were among 12 guests who sat at a long table in Graziella's kitchen. The table was very festive set in reds and whites with red champagne flutes and wine glasses. I thought it was quite pretty. I do think red is my favorite color. It is the color of meat after all. The guests included family and a few friends - like us. Our friends Frans and Ingrid, originally from Netherlands, were there, and so was a British couple, Will and Nasim.
As lunch was ending, Will and Nasim invited us to have drinks with them on Thursday evening in their home in Mergo. This was my first trip to Mergo which is about 10 minutes from Poggio San Marcello. Maree was very interested in following up with Will on a conversation that had started on Christmas. It seems that his parents were the stars of the movie Born Free. They were a married couple who were approached to make the movie because the director wanted a couple familiar with each other who did not need to build a rapport with each other in addition to the animals. So the entire family, Mom, Dad, and three children under 6 years of age, moved to Africa for a year to make the movie. At first, there were two lions from a zoo who were to be used as Elsa. But it turns out they were rather aggressive and one attacked Will's dad. Then they searched for other lions. There were twenty different lions in all used in the movie, and some of these were provided by Haile Selassie. Eventually, Elsa was played by four different lions because each lion liked to do something different. One liked to ride on the roof of the car, another liked to swim, another liked the hunt. At one point in the movie when they were teaching Elsa to hunt so she could be reintegrated into the wild, Will's mom was attacked and suffered a broken leg.
The entire experience was a life changing event for the family. Will's dad started producing wild life films and they started the Born Free Foundation. (Here is a link in case you are interested in more information https://www.bornfreeusa.org/ ) The story of the making of Born Free was quite a story. I noticed that Will and Nasim, true animal people, also liked dogs. Nasim played with me a lot when she came to my house on Friday. That is when we learned that the Born Free Foundation has a monkey preserve in Texas and an elephant preserve in San Andreas, California. Will said that maybe one day we can go and visit the elephants, but it is not open to the general public. I am not sure about visiting elephants myself. They are bigger than the biggest dog I have ever seen, and I am not sure they are so friendly. Honestly, I hope dogs are not allowed.
We were finally able to get together with our friends, Cristina and Massimiliano, on Sunday night. I met them at Thanksgiving. We planned to met them in our little town to see the live Nativity scene. Who knew that this event would be so popular? Well, the line was like Disneyland, but it was not moving at all. While the people waited discussing what to do, I had a chance to play with two little dogs. I didn't want to leave. This was the most fun I had in weeks. But no one counted my vote when they were making the decision about whether to go stand in the line or do something else. So, we came back to my house, for some prosecco. I had some play time with Cristina's brother and his wife. They were fun too, but it is just not the same as playing with a puppy. They were very impressed with my ability to jump high, so I kept jumping up and down and up and down to amuse them. I find that people are easily amused by my antics. Oh, well, entertaining them was better than boredom. And it was some much needed exercise.
An hour later we were back in the car driving off into the darkness to find a restaurant. I always shake in the car at night. I just don't like riding in the dark when I have no idea where I am going. On this occasion, it seems, I was not the only one who didn't know where they were going. Cristina had made reservations at a restaurant that no one in our group had ever been to. It is well hidden. In the past Jim had tried to find it and was never successful. So, in the dark of night it took several 6 point turns on a narrow and winding road before we found it, but we did find it. The setting and the restaurant itself were really pretty. The room was painted red and had a nice fire burning. But, our table of six, which included Cristina's brother and sister in law, was the only occupied table in the restaurant. From Maree's perspective, she understood why no one else was there. First, there is really no signage and it is difficult to find, but secondly, the food was not up to the usual local fare. Of course, I didn't get to taste it. So, personally, I cannot voice an opinion. Jim's answer to the issue is that maybe it is a front for some illicit activity. I think he said this tongue in cheek, or I hope so.
Last night was New Years Eve here. I guess it was New Year's Eve in California too, but we got to celebrate 9 hours earlier. Maree and Jim had been invited to join 12 Dutch people at a tiny restaurant in Rosora. It was another restaurant we had never been to before, and Maree was hoping it would be better than the last one. When we arrived, it was so crowded that I was a little nervous. The spot where I chose to lay down was right in the way of the people serving food. So, I kept being pulled under the table. Do you know what is under a table?. Lots of legs and feet. Nothing very interesting to see or do unless you like chewing socks and shoes, which I like but I knew it would not be proper on this occasion. Sometimes I might find some discarded food under a table, but not on this night. The floor was wiped clean. I wanted a spot where I could see what was going on and that had a clear shot to the door in case of emergency, So, for the first hour it was a battle of wills - me laying down in the way of the servers and Jim and Maree trying to pull me back. Unfortunately, I lost this battle and finally laid down next to Jim in an out of the way spot after I was lured by lots of treats.
I was to learn that New Year's Eve in Italy is all about food and wine. The dinner goes on for hours. The food started to arrive at 8:30 pm and it continued until after 1:00 am. How can people eat this much, I wondered? And how can they sit at a table for so long? I was getting tired hanging out in my cramped place next to Jim, but no one let me go to stretch my legs. About the food, for starters there was a bruschetta and a cabbage and vegetable dish. This was followed by two pastas. Since the two pastas they were serving had tomatoes, they made Maree something different. She had pappardelle al cinghiale followed by ravioli in a squash and prosciutto sauce. Then there was salmon in an orange sauce and next quail in a truffle sauce. During the hiatus between the meat courses, three of the Dutch couples, who were staying in Frans and Ingrid's bed and breakfast, got up from the table and sang a song of thanks to Frans and Ingrid who will be moving to France in January. When the singing started, I thought about joining in, and I did get out two very weak notes, but then I stopped. What language was this song in? I realized I did not understand a word - it was not English and it was not Italian. I do know a few Italian words now and at least it does not scare me when people speak it. But this language was scary. The song did go on and on and on, and my ears were hurting. I was quite relieved when the singing stopped.
While the song had come to an end, dinner had not. After the pasta and meat courses, of course, there was dessert - a coffee mouse served with a chocolate spoon. At this point in time it was time to celebrate the New Year with champagne, sparklers, and music. There was a lot of hugging and kissing and clinking of glasses going on, but no one except Maree and Jim gave me a hug. I was feeling a little left out at this point in time. As everyone lit up their sparklers, music and dancing started up in a tent outside of the restaurant. It was very cold out there, but I don't think any of the people were feeling it after the bottles of wine and champagne consumed. While all of the people were saying, "Buon Anno Nuovo", that means happy new year in Italian I learned, more dessert appeared. There were cakes and candies and tangerines. But I was to learn that this was not the end of the meal. There was still more was to come. The final course on New Year's Eve here is always lentils with sausage. They are thought to bring luck in the New Year. Unfortunately, we left before the lentils because it was way past my bed time, and I was getting a little anxious with all of the noise of the music. I think I am not too big on loud New Year's Eve celebrations. Next year, I hope we stay home and watch a movie like Beverly Hills Chihuahuas.
Oh, I almost forgot. On New Year's Eve, in the afternoon, while Maree was in the shower to get ready to go out, we ran out of gas. She was not amused. Our house here is heated by propane, and there was no more. Jim called and left messages saying we needed gas, but so far no one has come. Fortunately, we have a backup heating system with a fireplace that heats the radiators, so we do have some heat in the house. But it requires Jim to do a lot of wood chopping. There is no hot water though, and any cooking will have to be done in the oven or microwave. I guess we can survive another day without gas. Nothing like roughing it on New Year's day. The worst part is the smell. There is an odor additive that appears when the gas is running out. The whole house smells of it. So Maree has the windows and doors open trying to get rid of the smell, but it keeps coming back. Lucky for me, I have a nice warm coat because the house is getting cold even with the fire in the fireplace. I hope this is not an omen of things to come in the new year.
Wishing all of my friends a warm and safe 2019. I hope to see you soon..
Ciao from your Italian friend,
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 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.