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When Tiamo had her litter, the pups averaged about one pound each with Dolce and Amore weighing in at .98 lbs and 1.5 lbs respectively.  They were so tiny you could nestle a single puppy in the palm of your hand and still wiggle your pinkie and thumb.  Within 48 hours they had doubled their weight.  We were impressed.

And slightly nervous…

 

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With Momma supplying the nutrition, each puppy easily grew two to four pounds a week.  By the time the little tykes had opened their eyes they had gained some solid substance.  They had outgrown our food scale we used to weigh them, and the palm of our hands as we held them.  It now took two hands to hold our roly poly’s.  We knew the puppies were healthy, which was a good sign.  It was also a sign of things to come.

When we added chow to their diets, Amore and Dolce  were tipping the scales at 14 pounds, give or take a few ounces.   With their fat bellies, they were nothing but huge balls of fur.  Now that I think back on those times, they were bigger than huge.  It was time to be scared.  But noooo, we were oblivious to our future.

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14 lbs. It’s all relative.  To a weightlifter, 14 lbs. is nothing.  They single-handedly lift weights many times that.  To us, fourteen  pounds is huge when it is all wiggly and squirmy.  For us, fourteen pounds is really twenty-eight pounds.  14 lbs. times two.  You never just get one dog on your lap, you get both.

Fourteen pounds can make your wrists ache. And your back twinge as you pick the pups up in your arms. And 14 pounds will soon be 100 pounds.  100 lbs. times two.  We were screwed and there was no going back.

When 14 lbs became 34 pounds in a little over a month later, we knew we were in trouble.  Our food costs doubled as they ate more and more, and our vet bills tripled.  And both girls wanted to sit on us or be beside us.  And there was Tiamo, our momma.  We were a household of dogs.  Our life was never gonna be the same.

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At six months Amore and Dolce hit 65 lbs.,  friends would comment, “Oh, my!” as one of the dogs would lean up against them, causing them to lose their balance.  “Just look at those paws! These are gonna be some big dogs!”  We knew that.  Yup, we knew that.

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Sixty-five pounds cranked up to 84 lbs by the time they had their first birthday.  We were never gonna return to normal.  Our  lives just became all about our girls.  Momma weighed in at 98 lbs. and here were two more fast approaching three digits on the scale.  Within the next year, we were going to be looking at 300 lbs. worth of lap-dogs. Two-thirds of which were still puppies. Yikes!

Over the next two to three years a Berner could easily add another 10-30 lbs onto their frame.  Well into their second and third year, Bernese Mountain Dogs will continue to lay down bone, put on width and substance, and their heads will continue to broaden.  Amore and Dolce were no exception to the general rule of Berners being slow maturing dogs.

Three years old, Amore and Dolce finally grew into their bodies but they were far from mature.  They still had their puppy on.  For over 36 months, Malcolm and I would look at each other and ask,”when will they calm down?”  “When will they grow out of their puppy phase?”  “When will they quit growing?” We were at the 200 marker:  200 pounds of puppy plus 100 pounds of chow a month costing us $200 every 60 days.  We were exhausted.

I can honestly say, to this day, they haven’t.  Grown out of their puppy years that is.  Well, not completely.  They take longer naps and have quit chewing shoes and books, but Amore and Dolce will always be our puppies.  Our girls.  And the best gifts we could have ever given ourselves.

At eight years of age, Amore and Dolce hover just under 100 lbs. each.  Dolce is slightly heavier from eating too many apples, Amore is slightly higher in height.  Both fight over who gets to sit on Malcolm or me.  We have resigned ourselves to dog hair in our wine and canine bodies in our laps.

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There is an old Swiss saying, “Three years a puppy, three years a good dog, three years an old dog and the rest is a gift.”  It’s an accurate description of Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Here’s to our 100 lb. gift(s) that still likes to sit on our lap!

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May

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It always amazes me how fast time flies.

As a family with only dogs and one fat cat, Malcolm and I find that most days merge into weeks into months into years as life speeds by.  Those days tend to be a blur of memories, mostly good ones, mostly happy ones, but mixed in with the fond remembrances are the harsh realities of life.

Earlier this week Malcolm and celebrated our anniversary.  As we reminisced our married life, memories of our early days brought forth giggles and laughs over old jokes, old adventures, and old ‘remember when’s. It also brought saddened smiles of other anniversaries.  Our ‘borrowed’ kid, Sam, and our first child, Tiamo.  One was our nephew, the other our beloved Bernese Mountain Dog.  Both were ‘firsts’ in our lives.

May is the month we honor Moms, congratulate Grads, and celebrate Anniversaries.  And May is the month we remember those who have left our lives but not our hearts……


 

Malcolm and I don’t have children – we have dogs.  Use to be three, now two huge, wonderfully sweet, spoiled brats.  Both of us were in our forties when we meet and married, well beyond the age to consider kids. But still young enough to fall into the pet trap.

Like most parents with real kids, Tiamo, our first Bernese Mountain Dog, was easy to raise and didn’t give us any trouble.  Much. We spent hours training her, socializing her, correcting her, loving her.

Santa Fe is a dog friendly town, permitting canines on leash most everywhere and we took her everywhere that allowed dogs.  She was part of our family, we were part of her pack. There was never a time she wasn’t with either Malcolm or I.

Tiamo would sit at our feet, under the table, while we sat outside eating lunch at the local cafes and bistros. She loved to watch the other patrons, always hoping there might be other dogs around.  She was so well-behaved, little nippers would climb all over her and she loved the attention.  She loved people and other animals, especially Thugs.

But most of all, she LOVED Sam.

Sam was our nephew and was loved like a son.  In so many ways, he was the kid we never had.

Sam at sunset - AZ

One freezing cold January day, Sam arrived in Santa Fe. He arrived shirtless, in shorts and wearing flip-flops. He planned to stay for a short weekend visit. He was passing through New Mexico on his way to life.

I had never “truly” met this nephew of Malcolm’s. He attended our wedding, but like most brides on the wedding day, I didn’t remember much. As for Malcolm, it had been years since he had any true contact with him. Short emails and such, but no one-on-one, face-to-face conversations. In truth, neither one of us knew Sam very well, and me not at all. Neither one of us knew what to expect. I have no doubt Sam felt the same way.

Sam was 23 years, not even a quarter of a century old, and traveling through his life. While both Malcolm and I were fast approaching the half-dollar mark and getting ready to slide down the other side.  Sam was just starting on his expedition, his life’s trek. We were winding down from ours. We were poles apart on where we all were in our lives, in age, in experiences, and in goals. Somehow we managed to find common ground and meet in the middle.

My plan was to cook up a storm, for in my experience, food solved all dilemmas. Sam was in his early twenties, an age when all males ate a lot, extra servings and seconds, so double batches were required.   I went to work in the kitchen.

Malcolm’s plan was to show Sam around town, drive up through the mountains, expose Sam to the wonders of Santa Fe. Malcolm gassed up the SUV.

Sam’s plan was to document life through his travels, videoing his journey, recording his thoughts. He had graduated from college and his young artist’s soul was begging to be set free and loose in the wilds. His jump off was Santa Fe. He had tricked out his truck and camper into a cozy living area. He jimmy-rigged a camera mount on his bicycle to record his wanderings, pulled some money from his savings and had a full tank of gas and ideas. Ready. Set. Go.

He never left Santa Fe. One week later, after living in his truck at the Wal-Mart parking lot, Sam moved into our household, taking over the guest bedroom.

I had someone new to spoil, while  Malcolm had someone new with which to impart wisdom and advice.   Not having kids, we loved the fact he came diaper free and with manners.  He was trained.  We bonded quickly and the three of us became a family. We loved Sam – Sam loved us. Sam was special. Unique. We “adopted” him without any hesitation.

When Malcolm was turning fifty, I surprised him with a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.  Born on Thanksgiving Day, Tiamo joined our new family when she was eleven weeks old. We all instantly fell in love with her, especially Sam. Although, I think he originally saw her as a chick magnet with four legs and fur.  I mean, seriously, what female under 80 and not blind, would not fall in love with a Bernese puppy! For that matter, Sam was a hottie. What female under 30 and/or blind would not fall for a tall handsome Texan.

Sam took part in Tiamo’s training.  He assisted in walking her, grooming her and teaching her to sit, along with other commands. Sam would volunteer to bring Tiamo to the vet when she needed her booster shots. He took care of Tiamo when we went away for travel and trips. Sam was Tiamo’s third caregiver. The two of them were inseparable.

When Sam later moved into town, I think he missed Tiamo more than he missed us.  I know Tiamo missed him something fierce.  She would go absolutely bonkers when Sam came to visit and wouldn’t leave his side.  Malcolm and I were ignored. For Tiamo, Sam was it.

Tiamo would have this goofy grin on her face when Sam showed up.  Her eyes would light up and she would prance around, showing off for Sam.  Sam always brought her a treat.  Something special just for her.  It got so every time Sam came, she would immediately reach for his pant’s pocket, nosing her muzzle, sniffing for her treat.   Sam never failed to disappoint her.

Tiamo was the happiest when the three of us were together.  Sam, Malcolm and I. Plus Tiamo. She would grab her toy of the week, gnawing on it while laying at our feet, listening to our voices as we caught up on our lives.  Her family together, Tiamo was happy and content.

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Tiamo

Sam loved the outdoors.  Even on the coldest of days, he and Malcolm would sit outside, watching the sun disappear behind the horizon, enjoying a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, discussing life.  They would pull up two old wooden rocking chairs to the edge of the portal, facing west, and observe the sky’s colors as they faded from brilliant blue to fiery orange to pitch black.  Tiamo at their feet.  They would still be talking as the stars turned on their lights, twinkling from above.  Tiamo was content to be with her “boys”.

Some nights, Malcolm and Sam would light a small fire in the clay Chiminea for warmth.  Other times, they would gently rock their chairs to the cadence of their conversation, low murmurs that would tease Tiamo into a soft sleep at their feet. During the summer months, Sam and Malcolm would take Tiamo for midnight walks after it had cooled down from the day’s heat.  Tiamo happily trotting along besides the two of them. Plainly said, Tiamo LOVED Sam.

When Sam was 27, he passed away. The first year, after Sam’s death, was the hardest.  Malcolm and I had to re-adjust our family back down to two with a dog. Along with Tiamo, we had to re-adjust to never seeing Sam again.  We all mourned.  We all missed Sam.  Like barbed wire twisted around our hearts, we felt every razor-sharp prong squeezing into our grief and sorrow.  Our hearts were bleeding, bruised and beat up. Tiamo’s was as well.

The following spring after Sam’s death, I started a memorial garden.  West of our covered portal, in full view of the day’s end, I planted flowery shrubs, bushes and flowers in every color to remind us of the sun winking good night.  Fiery reds and oranges, brilliant blue hues, twinkling whites and luminous purples. Cheerful yellows and soft pinks. Bright colors to reflect life’s wonder. Colorful shades of nature reminiscent of watching the sun disappear behind the Sandias as all of us conversed. A salute to our loved ones. A nod to Sam. We missed our Sam, but are so thankful he joined our life for what little time we had with him.

We have since laid flagstone, moved the clay Chiminea pot to the middle of the stonework and added more wooden rocking chairs. Birdhouses and yard art are scattered around to commemorate the joy of life.  Sam’s life. Bright colors surround the garden, flowers edging the stone’s perimeter. Pinon, pine trees and junipers providing the shade and adding a wind break.  It has become a happy place. It is a continual work in progress.

Tiamo was half way through her sixth year when Malcolm and I had to put her down.  Cancer.  Heart-wrenching.  Sad.  Deep. It was early May and we had two weeks to prepare for the finality of losing her.  We had been through the grief of losing Sam. Now we were going to go through the heartache and anguish of losing another beloved child.

There was no question that we would bury Tiamo at home in our Memorial Garden. A place where Tiamo would sit at Sam’s feet as Malcolm and Sam watched the sun set. Malcolm had chosen an area in the garden where Tiamo loved to lay while Sam and Malcolm chatted, solving the world’s problems.  Under a big juniper tree, he started to dig her burial plot.

As Malcolm prepared Tiamo’s final resting spot, Tiamo laid by the deepening hole and watched, silently giving us her acceptance of what was to come.   She was ready.  We were not.

We didn’t want to let her go. Memories of her as a puppy, remembrances of Sam “borrowing” Tiamo to assist him in picking up long haired co-eds, recollections of Tiamo sitting at our feet while on the portal, flooded our hearts. Our beautiful Tiamo was in pain. No more walks on the green belt, no more belly rubs at night, no more trips in the car. We knew it wouldn’t be long.

Our veterinarian had told us we would know when to bring her in. “When it’s time to stop the suffering, you’ll know,” she said, her eyes filled with sympathy.

Malcolm and I felt like we were playing at being God, making the decision about when to end Tiamo’s life, when to “bring her in.” “When it was time” turned into “then it was time” way too soon. With tears in our eyes and a heavy, burdened heart, we put Tiamo down. Again, Malcolm and I deeply grieved.

When we bring pets into our lives, we come to the understanding that, most likely we will outlive them by many years. Most likely there will be many other pets in between. We had already put Thugs down, our aging cat of nearly twenty-two years. Malcolm and I accepted that. Hate it, but know it, and know this is life.  This is the harsh reality we all go through.  Damn it hurts.

We buried Tiamo in her favorite spot, shaded by junipers and surrounded by color, facing west to watch the sun set.  She is deeply missed.

I would like to believe Sam and Tiamo are high in the sky, in their happy place together.  Tiamo has her “Sam” to play with, sniffing out an endless supply of treats from his pockets, prancing around in a field of soft green clover.  Sam has Tiamo, keeping him company while he enjoys the fresh air and outdoors.

We miss our kids.

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the mutt manuscripts

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Meet the girls!

Two of the most beautiful and very spoiled Bernese Mountain Dogs, whose adorable, funny antics will bring chuckles and smiles and sometimes a few tears as you read their tales.  True stories, hilarious escapades, and entertaining dog adventures, all chronicling their heartwarming and humorous capers, along with their playful frolics that often times land these fearless canines in the dog house.

Touching and tender, amusing and comical, these moving narratives and snippets of their lives impart bow-wow wisdom and show the loyalty and love between man’s best friend and their human care givers.

COMING SOON!

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flip flop

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Flip flop.  Yup.  That’s all it took.  A quick flip-flop.

From the moment we brought Tiamo into our lives, we knew there were some risks.  There were ‘things’ to look out for.  Large breed dogs characteristically have a higher tendency to have bad hip and shoulder placements.  Bernese Mountain Dogs especially, have a higher rate of having cancer.  And there was the dreaded and deadly stomach twist, something our vet had informed Malcolm and I to be aware of.

Berners’ typically only stay in our lives 7 to 10 years, their longevity is much shorter than other breeds.  Malcolm and I vowed to love Tiamo every minute, every day, we would be lucky enough to have her in our lives. Every day would be a blessing.

When Tiamo passed, we were heart-broken.  Our hearts did a tragic flip-flop turning upside down, inside out.  We understood the hazards, knew the uncertainly of her life span and were still willing to take the gamble that maybe she would be with us for seven years, or, if we were lucky, ten.  We would take whatever the creator gave us.

When cancer took Tiamo’s life, we became even more vigilant with Amore and Dolce.  I am constantly checking for swollen lymph glands.  Malcolm and I are attentive in watching for limps of pain from their hips or shoulders.  The slightest sign of discomfort, not eating, or an abnormally of behavior in either dog will put us both on alert.

The girls have certainly seen the inside of the vet’s clinic more than enough times.  We’ve been through two shoulder surgeries (Dolce), a stuck bone in the throat that required surgery (Amore), a swallowed rope, almost requiring surgery (Amore), another swallowed bone, more surgery (Amore), grass splinters in the throat, only a local needed this time (Amore), the plague (Amore), cactus spines in the paw (Amore and Dolce) and more.  For as many times as we’ve taken the dogs to the vet’s, Malcolm likes to joke that we have bought and paid for at least two F-250’s that Dr. Bob likes drives.  We know we have, at the very least, financially helped build his new clinic.

With each vet’s visit, it’s a hit to our wallet.  Canine health care isn’t cheap.  Each surgery lowers our saving’s balance.  Ka-ching!  Each time, Malcolm and I examine how far are we willing to go, willing to spend,  and willing to do.  Our biggest concern is whether or not the surgery or procedure will continue to bring quality of life to the dogs.  Will they suffer if we do, or if we don’t, do something.

What we learned is we will do anything when an emergency hits. As we all know, emergencies only hit when you least expect it, usually at night or on a weekend…..

Our night was progressing like normal.  I arrived at home from work at my usual time.  The girls were fed their dinner before Malcolm started our evening meal.  I set the table, Malcolm was at the stove, Amore and Dolce were watching for fallen scraps.  When dinner was ready, Amore laid down by my feet, Dolce behind Malcolm’s chair.  All normal occurrences.  Then about an hour later, I noticed Amore started to get agitated.  Whinny.  Making noise.  Acting weird.

“What’s going on with Amore?” Malc asked me as he walked into the room.

“Don’t know.  Something’s going on with her,” I answered as I observed her strange behavior. “I’ve been watching her, but can’t figure it out.”

“What do you think?”

“Ah, it will probably pass, it usually does.  She ate all her dinner and I just saw her drink some water.  She’ll most likely be fine.”  Eating dinner and drinking water are good signs.  She’d be all right.

“Well, let’s just watch it for a while and if she’s still acting up in the morning, we’ll take her in”

“Ok.”

Only it wasn’t okay.  Ten minutes later both Malcolm and I instinctively knew something wasn’t right.  We knew not to wait. Some sixth sense told us to take her into the ER Vet Clinic.  Now.  Not twelve hours later.  Not in the morning. Now.

Thirty minutes later, the night-time ER vet told us we either do surgery now or she’ll need to euthanize Amore.  Amore’s stomach had twisted.  Flipped-flopped an 180.  The vet needed our consent and Amore needed to be prepped immediately if going into surgery.  Time was critical.  What were we going to do? We had no time to analyze the situation.  No time to assess. The vet explained the consequences of surgery.  Amore had a 40% chance of not surviving the surgery.  Without surgery, no chance at all.

“How much is the surgery?”  The question had to be asked.

“Depends on what I find when I go in, how bad the stomach flipped and twisted.” Dr. Mourano replied.  “Best case scenario, around $3,500, worse case would be $5,500.  Then there is after-care. Maybe another grand or so.”

Both Malcolm and I gulped in a quick breath.  Tears flooded my eyes, running down my checks.  I turned to Malcolm.  “I’ll get a second job, I’ll work weekends!” I sobbed.  We can’t lose Amore.”  Malcolm’s eyes told me he felt the same.  We would do whatever it took to save Amore.

Malcolm turned to the vet, “do it!” he ordered.  We would worry aboût how much it would cost later.  For now, our worries were concentrated on Amore making it through the surgery.  For now, we worried about how much contamination was done to the stomach, how much collateral damage was done to her spleen, if they could keep her blood pressure from dropping, and we worried if her heart would make it though.  Ten p.m. turned into midnight as we waited in the empty lobby while the techs were keeping up posted on her status.  By one a.m. Dr. Mourano ventured out to the waiting room in her scrubs.  Her smile answered our fears.

“Amore did great!” were her first words.  “Her spleen was intact and still attached, and there wasn’t any damage to the stomach lining that needed to be cut away.  I tacked the stomach down so this won’t happen again.”  All I felt was relief as she launched into the surgery specifics.  I heard phrases like, “you were lucky you brought her in when you did”, and “her blood count is rising to where we want it”.  The rest was a blur.  Amore’s flipped-flopped stomach had flipped-flopped my mental state all to hell.IMG_0342

I had to be up in four more hours for work.  I had a huge meeting I was chairing four hours after that.  I didn’t care, Amore would be okay. Our family would be okay.

At five p.m. that next day, we brought Amore home.  She had over thirty staples and had to take all sorts of pills and medication. She had three of her four paws shaved for IV’s and hook ups during the operation.  She looked like a poodle.  She was on soft foods and no running, jumping or getting excited.  The drugs kept her sedated for five days.  Our little girl was not her usual self.

A week later Amore started licking her incision.  We tried the collar cone only to find it chewed and ripped up in the dog pen, so we safety pinned one of Malcolm’s t-shirts around her torso and back for tummy protection.  She loved it!  We had our Amore back.IMG_0350

We might be digging out of debt but we wouldn’t be digging a grave.

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jealousy

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Over the years, Malcolm and I have watched jealousy fits spike between Amore and Dolce.  One has a bone, the other doesn’t.  Dolce is riding shotgun in the car, Amore wants to be.  Amore is on the bed, Dolce covets her spot.  Paws hold down the toy, growls are disposed, fights ensue, each dog is sent to their timeout corner.  Detention is given to the misbehaving mutts.  Treats taken away.

We have watched Dolce tense and snarl when Amore comes to close to her bone.  We watch as Dolce tucks her bone under her paw, her head lowering just above.  A deep rumble emits from her throat in warning.  Amore antagonizing Dolce over the treat.  Dolce fighting back.amore and bone

We have seen Amore literally pushing Dolce off the front seat as they establish who will be riding shotgun.  Dolce scrunched against the car door as Amore thrusts her 100 lb. frame into the seat. Neither giving so much as an inch of chair up in ownership of the front, both fighting for supremacy over who gets to ride shotgun.

Riding shotgun!

Riding shotgun!

We chuckle over Amore keeping Dolce off the bed, refusing to allow her up on her reign of the soft mattress.  It usually takes Malcolm holding on to Amore so Dolce can jump up and grab a corner of the bed.

It’s a whole different story when the jealousy is between Malcolm and myself.  Oh yeah, we each sing a different tune then.

In the beginning, way back when we first had Tiamo, I wasn’t working.  I was an equal caregiver, getting up to feed our early riser, walking Tiamo around the loop to tire her for the day.  Malcolm had the evening shift. He would take her on another trek around the loop, and worked on Tiamo’s training. I gave her belly rubs and messages. Malcolm gave her rides in the car. Tiamo’s love was pretty much evenly dispersed between the two of us.

And then I got a job.

I still tended to the morning mutt chores, feeding the girls as I prepared for work.  I would give each dog some belly scratches just as I left to drive into town, leaving Malcolm with the girls for the hours I was gone.  Upon my return home, I had three eager dogs waiting for me to enter though the garage door.  Malcolm was like the proverbial housewife that hands over the baby when dad walks through the door.  He had the dogs all day, it was my turn to have ’em.

Slowly, as my days at work turned into years, I watched a pattern emerge.

I saw the girls getting more excited to see Malcolm than me.  I watched them scramble to head out to the garage as they heard the garage door pulling up, chomping at the bit to reach Malcolm before the other.  I only receive wagging tails once I am inside the house.  If we happen to stop at the store, I watch how vigilant both girls are, waiting for Malcolm to return.  Their eyes never leaving the front entrance of where he disappeared.  When I take them up to the grocery, I find them fast asleep in the back as I unload the cart.  I notice how Amore and Dolce look to Malcolm for guidance on our walks, running to him for treats, listening to him give commands.

I have to admit, there is a big, fat, ugly green-eyed monster sitting on my left and my right shoulder.  I am a little envious of this lop-sided affection.  Okay, I’m a lot envious.  Alright, alright, I’m flat-out jealous of how the dogs go to him first, how they go bonkers to sit by him, how they hang with him in the den at night rather than with me.  My pouts of “they love you more” are volleyed with “but I have  them all day” comments from Malcolm.  Obviously, my internal ploy to minimize their devotion to Malcolm isn’t working.

I’ve concluded Amore and Dolce might “favor” Malcolm just a little more…. but I love them more!  Ten times more! So there!

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Vanity Fair

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Vanity Fair.  A magazine worthy of the rich, the famous and the celebrity.  Glossy pages filled with stick thin models touting the latest from Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Dior and Armani.  Articles on Saudi Princesses and Hollywood Queens are filed in between regular columns and Editor’s Letters. And in the way back, literally on the last page of each monthly print, sits the Proust Questionnaire.

The Proust Questionnaire is a one page canvas of a world-known entity, known to us lessor folks as celebrities.  Once a month, a well deserved VIP wittingly answers prosaic questions such as “How would you like to die?”  and “What is your most overrated virtue?” and so on.

I’ve often asked myself how would Dolce and Amore respond to such an interview.

If VF showed up in the dog pen, here’s how it would go…..

Proust Questionnaire

Dolce and Amore

At age 4, Dolce and Amore were the youngest canines ever to be featured in a cookbook, for their role in eating whatever fell to the kitchen floor.  Almost three years later, the star’s of If It Falls On the Floor, It’s Mine! cookbook admits their lifelong yearning to own every bone there is.

Q:  What is your idea of perfect happiness?  Amore:  steak!  Then cheese, next would be green beans – woof!  Dolce:  A smoked bone, grrrrrr, mine!

Q:  What is your greatest fear?  Dolce:  Being left behind on a trip in the car

Q:  Who is your favorite hero of fiction?  Amore:  Ol’ Yellow  Dolce:  Tramp, with a bowl of spaghetti, yummm

Q:  Which living canine do you most admire?  Dolce & Amore:  MarleyDSC00656 and Giant George

Q:  What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Dolce:  Amore stealing my food or my bone

Q:  What is your greatest extravagance?  Dolce &  Amore:  Shoes

Q:  What is your favorite journey?  Dolce:  A trip to the grocery store!   Amore:  Running away from Papa Malcolm

Q:  What do you consider the most overrated virtue:  Amore:  Behaving

Q:  What do you dislike most about your appearance?  Dolce:  Panting, the rest of me is damn near perfect   Amore:  Drool, it’s so unbecoming

Q:  What is your greatest regret?  Dolce: Losing my bone to Amore

Q:  Which talent would more like to have?  Dolce:  Bone maker

Q:  When and where were you happiest?  Amore:  I’m always happy!   Dolce:  Woof!  Me too!

Q:  What is your current state of mind?  Dolce & Amore:  Happy in the land of enchantment

Q:  What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Amore:  Flunking obedience school – now that was fun!

Q:  What is your most treasured possession?  Dolce:  Woof!  Woof!  Woof!  BONES!!!!

Q:  What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  Dolce & Amore:  Being taken to the vet’s for our shots

Q:  Where would you like to live?  Dolce & Amore:  Right here with Mommy Megan and Papa Malcolm – woof!

Q:  What is your favorite occupation?  Dolce:  Afternoon naps on the couch   Amore: Running wild and driving Papa Malcolm crazy

Q:  What is your favorite thing to do together?  Dolce & Amore:  Sumo wrestling in the living room

Q:  What is it that you most dislike?  Dolce:  Bone stealing

Q:  On what occasion do you lie?  Amore:  When Papa Malcolm wants to know who did it

Q:  What is the quality you most like in a male?  Dolce:  Alpha dog   Amore:  His deep-barreled furry chest

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Rooh-tines

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“I have my rooh-tine,” Malcolm tells me as I ask him about his day.  He’s a southern boy and some words he drag-asses out.  Just as he likes to drag out the morning.  Me? I’m usually up and out first thing so I mostly miss the his ‘morning rooh-tine’.

“Fur-rst,” Malcolm informs me, “I mosey on out to the kitchen while the dawgs are clamoring for attention. Their tails are furiously whaagging, but they keep their distance until I’m able to pour some coffee and nud-ke it in the mic, warming it up.  Once they hear the beep of the microwave starting its radiation, they know I have 1 1/2 minutes to give them their morning L.O.O.O.V.E. and they zero in for the kell.”

“Ahhhh,” I coo. The girls are so cute trying to edge out the other when it comes to getting attention. The competition between them can be fierce.  Two hands, two dogs.  Each hand goes out to pet the girls.  But Amore is only interested in keeping the other hand off of Dolce.  And Dolce is only concerned with pushing Amore further away than an arms stretch.  The most you can hope for is for Dolce to stay on the right and Amore keeps to the left.

“Yeah, it’s phunny how Dolce and Amore know when it’s their time,” He continues.  Okay, now, I’m making fun of Malc’s southern drawl, which I love by the way.

“And then what?” I question.

“Well, then it’s S & M time,” he grins proudly.  S & M time? Is there something I need to know? Something he hasn’t told me yet.  Thirteen years of marriage and the things you learn about your spouse. I wait him out.

“Yeeep!” Malcolm chuckles. Sofa and Malcolm time.  DSC00491That’s when they know I’ll let them up on the couch, while I’m reading the paper.  Dolce waits along side of me while I position the pillows and get sit-u-ated.” Again, Malcolm draws out his words and his story.  Once I’m prone with a blanket and my coffee, Dolce leaps over my legs to the back of the couch and settles in for a nap.  Amore takes the spare space by my feet.”

Malcolm loves his dogs and loves having them next to him.  The coffee tastes sweeter when the dogs are up close.  The paper reads better when surrounded by Amore and Dolce.  The sofa softer.  And his day perfect, when all the elements of his ‘rooh-tine’ come together.

“Once the NY TImes is read, we all take a lit’ nap,” he finishes.

“A nap? You just got up!”

“Yeah, but its rooh-tine!”

Fast forward to a few days ago, when a special uncle of Amore and Dolce’s sent an email to Malcolm and I.  Uncle Dan is from D.C. and is especially fond of the girls. He understands how our world revolves around the dogs and he most definitely understands Malcolm and his ‘rooh-tines’. The email included a short poem his brother-in-law had written.  It is spot on.

Until I had a dog
I never knew how sweet a routine could be.
I hear her stir, subtly, and I think she hears me.
She eagerly waits for my door to open in the morning.
We both stretch when I emerge and her tail gently wags as I rub her head.

She paces while I fix my coffee, passing in
front of me as I discard yesterday’s filter.
She walks up and down the hall, and circles the island.
I can hear paws on the hardwoods.
When I spin the metal lid onto the glass coffee canister 
she comes back like a cat to a can opener.
She knows I have a piece of a banana for her before she goes outside.

I change her water and fill a bowl with a scoop of food,
leaving it on the washstand.
If I take too long she occasionally paws at the door.
When I let her in she goes directly to the washstand and
rears up like a stallion until I put it down.
Her tail wags wildly as she digs in, then slows to a stop as she
gets serious about eating, like she hasn’t been fed for days.

I take my coffee to the living room, plug my phone in to charge,
and grab a meditation book from the coffee table.
She patiently waits by my spot on the couch.
Then the sweetest part of every day happens.
As I sit to read she lays her adorable face on my leg.
I rub her head as I read and when I look at her she is watching me.

These are moments I can never take for granted.
Every day it is as sweet as the day before.
I never knew how sweet a routine could be
Until I had a dog.
 Written by Joe Thomas
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Brats

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“Get your elbows off the table!” my mother scolded.  She was always after us kids to mind our P’s and Q’s, reminding us to say “please”, “thank you”, and “yes, Sir”.  Dinners were lessons in the napkin goes on the left, the glass in the upper right corner, spoon to the right of the knife facing inwards towards the plate.  Reprimands of “don’t chew with your mouth open” and “don’t talk with your mouth full” were dispersed between the meal’s conversation.  My mom was big on manners.  Over and over and over mother would admonish our unbecoming behavior.

The lectures didn’t come to a stop when one by one, we matured into adults.  They just took a different slant.  “Take your feet off the furniture!” she would chastise my sisters and I when we would come to visit.  As the grandbabies started arriving, we were chided for our language, “not in front of the kids” mom would caution as a swear word slipped out of our mouths. I have no doubt we caused her many embarrassing moments with our inappropriate, or lack of, etiquette.  “You just wait until you have kids!” was mother’s final reproach to us.

My past regressions are coming to haunt me, cause now Malcolm and I have kids, or rather dogs (same thing).  And talk about embarrassing!

Tiamo was so good, so well-behaved, Malc and I just assumed her good manners would rub off on the pups.  Tiamo never begged or whined when company was over.  Tiamo never mis-behaved while out in public.  We had worked hard in her training, repeating commands, rewarding her good behavior.   She sat, she came, she heeled.  She stayed, she stayed off the bed and she stayed close to our side when walking.  She was damn near perfect!

When the puppies were born,  we morphed from a family of three to a fledgling football team of eleven.  Overnight.  Spring Training consisted of performing head-counts twice a day to be sure we still had our team intact.  On a sunny day, we exercised the puppies in the pen.  On a cold day, they ran amok in the house.  We held on tightly to the belief that when the puppies were traded to their new home-camp, they would receive the proper training.  That, once we were down to Mama, Amore and Dolce we would get to work on their end-game.

However, once we were down to just Tiamo, Amore and Dolce training halted.  Came to a complete stop, occasionally back pedaling.  The coaches had thrown in the towel.

Don’t get me wrong, we tried.  We tried really hard.  With treats, Amore and Dolce learned how to sit.  With arms of steel, a heavy ballast, and treats in our pockets, they learned to walk by our sides.  With a whistle and a treat in hand, they learned to come…  well, mostly come…. okay, sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t, mostly they don’t.   Everything else we tried was useless.  We tried the STAY command.  The DOWN command.  The OFF command.  The HERE and WALK.  The pat on the thigh, the out-stretched hand, the hand-held up and out.  We tried the clicker.  We tried separating them with individual workout sessions.  We paid for trainers, enrolled in behavior classes.  I tried to mimic my mother’s stern voice.  I tried the full name reprimand including the middle name like my mother when she was upset with us.   Nothing worked.

My famous saying to Malcolm was, “when the girls turn 6 months”,  they’ll be better with their manners.  They just need time, they are still puppies.  That turned into “when Amore and Dolce are a year old”, they’ll be more mature, better able to handle the training.  They needed to grow out of their puppy stage.  That turned into “let’s wait until the puppies are around 18 months”  before we expect to a see difference.  Then, I pushed the time frame out further.  “Maybe when they are 3 years old”, Amore and Dolce will be better mannered, more behaved.

They turn six years old in a month.  They only know “sit”, “down” and “off” and not very well at that.  And Amore still picks her nose.

DSC00411

 

 

 

 

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inch by inch

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There is an old adage, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”, that most of you have heard a million times.  In other words, be generous to someone and the person will demand even more.

This maxim aptly applies when talking about dogs.  Ya’ give em’ an inch and before you know it they have taken over. Completely. Then demanding more.

Especially on the bed.  It starts off innocently enough, curled up on the bottom corner of the king-sized bed. Before you know it, it ends up with the canine fully stretched out on their back, paws in the air, laying diagonally across the mattress. Taking over the bed.  Right down to their head on the down pillows.DSC01135

As a puppy, Tiamo was not allowed on the bed.  Ever.  It was easy the first three to five months or so of her life.  The bed was too high for her to jump on, she was too little to reach the bed with her paws.  She had her own spot in the bedroom.  We had purchased a large dog pillow and placed it on the floor at the edge of the bed by my side.  That was Tiamo’s pillow, her bed.  With us, but not on us.  As she grew, as her muscles developed, she tried a few times to jump up on the bed.  Repeatedly.  But, Malcolm and I held firm.  Dogs were not allowed on the bed.  Even though she tried, Tiamo knew her place.  And, it wasn’t on the bed.  For two years Tiamo never put so much as a paw on the bed.  Until I caved.

It was one of those weeks when Malcolm was out-of-town visiting friends in Atlanta, I stayed home to hold down the fort.  Missing my honey, I was lonely and wanted comfort, even if it was canine comfort.  I called Tiamo up on the bed.  She wouldn’t budge off her pillow.  She knew better than to climb up on the bed and here I was encouraging her to misbehave. I tried again to get Tiamo to jump up and join me.  No luck. The good news was Tiamo was well-trained and wasn’t going to jump on the bed.  The bad news was, I was determined to have her up on the bed with me.  I literally picked her up and placed her on the bed.  Tiamo immediately jumped down, afraid she would be in trouble.  Again, I  picked her up and set her on the bed.  Again, she jumped off.  By the third attempt, Tiamo realized she was allowed on the bed.  She tucked herself into a small ball, curled up on the corner of the large bed and nervously fell asleep.  Sometime in the middle of the night, she crawled down off the bed onto her pillow.  She was uncomfortable on the bed.  I should have stopped there, but noooooo.

The next night was easier.  I picked up Tiamo and placed her on the bed where she lounged, spread eagle throughout the night, softly snoring by my side.  By the time Malcolm returned from his trip to Georgia, Tiamo was a fixture on the bed.  She had a special spot down on the corner keeping my feet warm.

Throughout the years, her small corner property increased in acreage.  Tiamo started to take up more and more territory on the bed. DSC01136 Her motto became “possession is nine-tenths ownership”.  Tiamo barely allowed us to sleep on her bed with a thin strip of mattress on the very edge of the bed.  Sometimes with blankets and covers, sometimes without.

I noticed dogs do the same thing with our hearts as they do the with bed.  We give them a little space, a tiny corner in bottom of our hearts and pretty soon they are on their backs, spread out all over our emotions.   With their paws extended over our souls, dogs will fill up every spare inch available, laying diagonally across our love, getting a belly rub in the meantime.  They will inch their way, paw by paw into ours hearts, hugging our spirit, licking through our defenses.  It doesn’t take much time.  In just seconds, they can have us willingly wrapped around each one of their paws.  In just minutes dogs can make our hearts sing and dance and smile, bringing contentment to our lives, compassion.  “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”.

Thank goodness!

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betcha can’t…

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Betcha can’t eat just one

A few years ago, Lay’s Potato Chips threw down the gauntlet in a new advertising campaign:  “Bet you can’t eat just one!”  It was a clever slogan–and had a clever commercial to match.  But I think the line resonated so much because it’s true.  It’s quite difficult to eat just one potato chip.  You tear open the bag and, before you know it, you’ve somehow eaten the whole bag.  Even when you didn’t think you were all that hungry.

Popcorn, potato chips, peanuts.  It’s pretty hard to stop at eating just one.  They’re hard to resist.  These salty little snacks are downright addicting.  Just try having only one peanut or just one chip.  It’s not gonna happen.  Thinking that you are just going to have one handful of popcorn, turns into two and three and four grabs into the popcorn bowl until there is nothing left but salt and kernels.  Peanuts – try tossing just one peanut in the air to catch in your mouth.  Within minutes you’ve thrown a dozen or so nuts up high, tilting your head back and opening your jaws wide to catch em’ on the down swing.

I give a half-ass attempt in not keeping any chips or peanuts in the house and let me tell ya’, it’s really hard to do.  Along with ice cream, I purposely don’t add snacks to my grocery list.  And yet, somehow, I find my shelves lined with microwave popcorn and Planter’s nuts.  Cheetos, Frito’s and Ruffles fill the cupboards and there is Chocolate Chip ice cream in the freezer.  I blame it on the weekends.  And Malcolm.

Weekends are for errands, exercise and extracurricular activities.  It’s when Malcolm and I run into town to do odd tasks we can’t get to during the week.  It’s when we are able to swim and/or work out at the club and it’s when we have friends over for a get-to-gether.  Inevitably, as we are heading home on the freeway after running around doing errands or from swimming, Malcolm will look over at me sitting in the passenger seat, and with an expectant look on his face.

“Know what I’m thinking?” he’ll ask.

“No, what?”  Of course, by now, I should know what he is up to.

“I’m thinking we should stop at the store and get some ice cream?” Malcolm looks at me with hope in his eyes.  He senses my hesitation.  Before I can voice any veto, he continues, “You can pick out what flavor you want,” adding incentive for me to give the okay to stop at the store.

“All right,” I cave, thinking I’ll swim extra laps the next day.  “But I want Chocolate Moose Swirl and you have to go in to buy it,” I tacked on my conditions for bringing the forbidden ice cream into the house.

Other times, we’ll stop at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner and walk out with a bag of chips.  Midnight snacks include popcorn with Tabasco sauce and butter and during the summers, we’ll sit outside under the portal, cracking open the roasted shells as we sip our beers, eating peanuts.  Yep, it’s hard to keep snacks out of our household.

So the other day when we were driving home from swimming and Malcolm looked over at me with that same expectant look, asking, “know what I’m thinking?” I knew he wanted to stop at the store.  It was almost noon and I didn’t have much on hand for sandwich makings’.  I geared up for the big ask but I already knew I was going to relent since I was craving some Crunchy Cheetos.  I put on my “not-gonna-budge” face.

“No, what?”  I braced myself.  Since it was lunch time, I just knew he wanted the full spread.  Popcorn, potato chips and peanuts.  The three “P’s”.

“I’m thinking we should have another puppy,” Malcolm glanced over at me, watching for my reaction.  Unfortunately, I had just swallowed a big gulp of water.  My mouthful of water sprayed all over the dashboard.

“A puppy?” I croaked, mopping up the spewed water with my shirt sleeve.

DSC00596“Another kid?” I questioned.  Malcolm and I were late bloomers.  We didn’t marry until we were both in our forties and children weren’t truly an option.  Our dogs were our kids.

“Are you serious?” I asked.  (No, I did not shriek, I politely asked).  I had thought once or twice about having another puppy, another Berner, but had been hesitant in bringing up the subject.  I figured it would be a few years yet before we were ready for another dog. Amore and Dolce were still going strong.  When we had Tiamo, along with the girls, raising three dogs was a huge commitment.  Vacations were out of the question.  Weekend trips were a big hassle.  Finding a puppy-sitter we could trust, the expense of it all, took a toll on the joy of being away from our girls. A puppy would only add another layer to our lives.IMG_6953

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm sheepishly replied.  “This time it would be different,” he swore.

“Different how?” I wondered.  We would still be back to three dogs.  Three huge dogs.

“For starters, this puppy wouldn’t be allowed on the bed!” Malc exclaimed.  “It’ll be trained, like we trained Tiamo, not like the girls!”  I chuckled over that statement.  Amore and Dolce mean well, but they do have excitement issues.  Tiamo was so well-mannered, so well-behaved, we just assumed Amore and Dolce would be as well.  Even with training, Amore and Dolce are hellions only a mother can love.

“What brought this on?” I queried.

“I just want another one,” Malcolm said.  I wondered if this is how married couples discuss having another child.

“Don’t you remember all the chewed up shoes, all the torn library books, all the middle-of-the-night-keep-me-company times?”  I poked at his memory.  “You sure you want another child?”  IMG_7010

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm repeated.  “It doesn’t last forever.  They grow out of it.”  Dolce and Amore’s “terrible twos” lasted four years.  In dog years that’s 28 long years.

“When were you thinking of bringing on this addition?”  In other words, how many years apart do you want the kids to be?  Amore and Dolce are working on their sixth birthday and unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a short life expectancy.  The average life span for a Berner is seven to ten years.  Tiamo was with us less than seven years.  In Berner terms, the girls were getting up there.

“Well, not for another year or too,”  he answered.  I relaxed a little bit. “But you can’t just stop at one!”  Malcolm added.  My thoughts turned to the Lay’s potato chip “Betcha can’t eat just one!” Nope, you can’t just stop at one.  Even though the word “puppy” was added to the forbidden snack list, and is now part of the four “P’s”,  I know without a doubt, in another year or too, a puppy will be brought into our household.  Snuck into the house when my back is turned.

We exited the freeway at our turnoff, puppy conversation over.

ahhh, we didn't eat that much!

“Wanna stop and get some ice cream?” I heard from the driver’s side.

 

 

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It means “sweetheart”…

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February.  The month of love.  The month of romance.  The month every woman, of every age wants to feel special and loved and showered with purple hearts.  By a boyfriend, a husband, a lover, a friend, by a partner, by a sweetheart.  A special card, a dozen roses, a fancy dinner, perhaps some gourmet chocolates, even M & M’s.  Diamonds, jewelry, sexy lingerie, a stuffed bear.  All symbols of love and affection.  Hearts and flowers.  The colors red and pink and purple painted on the front cover of a card.  Love, hugs and passion. February 14th.  Valentines Day.  It’s more than just saying I love you.  More than just showing you care.  More than just arriving with a bouquet of daisies or a box of Russel Stover’s Chocolate. . . .

When Tiamo first came into our lives, we had a hard time coming up with a name for her.  we wanted something special, something indicative of her heritage (Switzerland) but also of our love for each other.  Malcolm and I spent our honeymoon in Italy, a country seeped in love and romance.  When we were in Bellagio, our hotel room looked out across Lake Como to the Swiss alps, miles away.  So we combined a little Swiss with a little Italian and came up with Tiamo.  One look at our new puppy, with her four snow-capped paws and her white-tipped tail, so reminisce of our view of the Alps, and we were in love.  Totally smittened.   She was a gift to Malcolm for his 50th birthday, but she didn’t arrive in Santa Fe until a few days before Valentine’s Day.  Tiamo translates to ‘I love you’ in Italian.  Each time we said her name, we were telling her we loved her.  Just as every time her tail wagged, or she nose-nudged us for a quick ear scratch, she was sending us love.  It was our own special Valentine’s Day gift, every day.

When we ended up with two of Tiamo’s puppies, we were back in the same boat.  We had a hard time finding names that “fit” our newest additions to the family.  To keep track of the litter, we identified them by the color of the collar they wore.  We had Butterfly, Pinkie, Cherry, Blackie, Burberry, Greenie, Apple and Little Butterfly.  We certainly weren’t going to continue calling our little girls, Little Butterfly and Pinkie.  New monikers were needed.  In keeping with our Swiss/Italian theme, we ended up naming the girls, Dolce and Amore.  Sweet and Love.

our little sweetheart!

Dolce, our little sweetheart!

Dolce is sweet; a more gentle, kind dog you’ll never find, she is our sweetheart. Evenings will find her curled up on my lap, snuggling against me.  You’ll see her tail thump every so often, her muzzle reach up to lick my chin on occasion.  Dog kisses.  Her eyes softened by our touch, a look of contentment crossing her face.  Dolce is our hugger, our snuggler, our little sweetheart.  She is our own special Valentine’s Day gift, every day.

Amore, our wild at heart gilr

Amore, our wild at heart girl

Amore is love; a wild, crazy, passionate dog full of heart.  She is the flip side of Dolce.  With bright shinning eyes, Amore screams passion, an all-out, from the heart, love.  Amore is our Dennis the Menace.  You can’t help but chuckle over her antics.  You can’t help but love her.  She is so full of life, every day with her is an adventure.  We wake up each morning wondering what kind of mischief will Amore get into today, what wild dog thing will she do.  She radiates with happiness and exudes joy, it literately pours off of her.  She is our own special Valentine’s Day gift, every day.

Tiamo, Dolce, and Amore has given us more love than we could ever have imagined.  Every day.  Not with flowers or chocolates or purple hearts.  Not just on Valentine’s Day.  They give us their hearts.  Completely.  Every day.

AMARETTO SAUCE

A perfect dipping sauce for fruits.  A perfect dessert for love.

  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 – 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs yolks
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp. amaretto
  • fresh fruit (kiwis, bananas, apples, rapes, pineapple, peaches, cantaloupes, strawberries, blackberries or honeydew melon)

Using the food processor, mix together the ricotta cheese and cream cheese until smooth.  Add in the sugar, egg yolks, heavy cream and amaretto.  Keep beating until smooth.

Pour into a 3-cup serving bowl.  Chill until ready to serve.  While the sauce is chilling, prepare fruit into bite size pieces.  Arrange on a platter and garnish with mint leave.  When ready to serve, add the accompaniment sauce.

Chi chi wow wow!

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Rug rats.  Carpet crawlers.  Couch climbers.  Those tiny little two-legged adorable tots known to mankind as kids.  In our case, kids that belong to someone else.  Malcolm and I don’t have children, we have dogs.  At one time we had three large, very demanding Bernese Mountain Dogs.  Now two.  Still just as demanding.  Like kids, they can be expensive.  No, we don’t worry about paying for braces, prom or college.  We worry about vet bills, boarding costs and bath time.

There is nothing a small toddler enjoys more than to run screaming through the house after bath time, a bare bottom streaking by as their parents chase after them with a dry towel trying to catch the slippery little hellion.  As my mother would say, “Chi chi wow wow!” exclamation mark, exclamation mark, producing giggles and laughs from the two-year old flasher aka grandkid.

Our girls pretty much do the same thing.  Run.  Bath time brings out all sorts of bad behavior and antics as Dolce and Amore try to avoid soap and water.

wet dog

wet dog Dolce

When Dolce and Amore were little puppies, we could give them a bath ourselves, usually in the kitchen sink.  Still small enough, we would put their front paws in one side of the double-wide sink, the back paws over the divider and in the other side, using the handy-dandy faucet nozzle to rinse them.  I can tell ya’, they didn’t enjoy their baths.  One of us always needed to keep a hold of them while the other washed, as they squirmed and wiggled their way to freedom.  There was more soap and water on us as we scrubbed them, then in the sink. Just like a little tyke, the minute we set them down from the high counters after their rub down, they would streak through the house.  Usually trying for the pen, where they could roll in the dirt.  After we wised up, blocking the entrance to the outside, Dolce and Amore would retaliate by jumping on the couch, rolling their still wet bodies over the cushions, leaving wet dog hair and fur in their wake.  UCK! plus more clean up.

When the girls grew too big for the sink, they graduated to the double-headed shower, large enough for both Malcolm and I, swimsuit clad, to bathe them.  That lasted two tries.  Amore learned to tolerate the water and the cleansing.  Dolce absolutely hates it.  There is no blocking a determined dog.  When Dolce has had enough and wants out of the shower, she’s gone, dog-gone gone.  The first sniff of freedom and she is shaking the water.  All over the bathroom.  Soap and water drops up to the ceiling and sideways.  Landing on mirrors, counters, and cabinets, there isn’t a dry spot available.  She is rolling on her back, leaving locks of her fur on the floor mats.  The one phase of grooming she does love is the rub down.  With lots of towels.  I mean a lot of towels.  Meaning a lot of washing afterwards.

After two attempts to bathe Dolce and Amore ourselves, we gave up.  Time for the groomers.  Well, that was a mistake.  Not only is it horribly expensive for a large dog, however justified it is, at the time, we had three Berners.  The total grooming bill after tip and tax was around $300 big ones.  Tiamo was used to going to the dog groomers.  Didn’t like it, put on the brakes when we entered the establishment, but she endured the process.  And when we are paying for just one dog, the expense wasn’t as hard to swallow.  Add Dolce and Amore to the invoice and we were eating rice and beans for the month.

The first time we brought all three girls into the groomers, they literally destroyed the joint.  Cages, brushes, and dryers went flying.  They did not like it, not one bit.  Dolce and Amore didn’t like the fur brushing, the blowers, nor the cute little kerchief tied around their necks.  We were not too nicely told that perhaps we might want to make other arrangements for their grooming.  Well hell!   Our big rug-rats were kicked out of pre-school!  PreSchool!  Shheeeee-it!  Now what?

Enter Tara, our puppy-sitting college student friend.  Silly her, raising her hand to volunteer to bathe our dogs, but what college student doesn’t want a bit of beer money?  Tara has been our life-saver.  We named the date, purchased the supplies for washing, grabbed all our towels for rub downs and pointed her to our huge shower.  Done!  Our shrieks of “get back in here” to a dog racing out of the shower, that A) does not listen, B) does not know what it means (what dog hears), and C) is meaningless to a 100 pound wet dog determined to avoid a bath, have turned into cooing “Chi chi wow wows”!  as Dolce and Amore parade past us sweet-smelling, with fluffy clean fur.

Yeeeee Haaaaw!

TATOR TOTS –  Chi chi wow wow style!

Get it?  Tator TOTS!  Ok, poor kid humor!  Truffle oil and minced black truffles make this appetizer anything but kid food.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for coating
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped black truffle
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white truffle oil*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Vegetable oil (for deep-frying)
  • *Truffle oil is available at some supermarkets, specialty foods stores, and Italian markets.

Bring first 3 ingredients to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Add 1 cup flour; stir over medium-high heat until mixture pulls away from edges of pan, about 1 minute. Transfer to medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat dough 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well between additions. Measure 1 1/2 cups dough and reserve (discard any remaining dough).

Place potatoes in medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Boil until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain. Press potatoes through ricer or food mill into large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups reserved dough, chopped truffle, truffle oil, salt, and white pepper. Using electric mixer, beat dough on low-speed to blend.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer dough to pastry bag fitted with 3/4-inch-diameter plain tip. Pipe dough in logs onto prepared sheet. Freeze until firm but not frozen, about 1 hour. Cut logs into 1 1/4-inch-long pieces. Toss in flour, return to sheet, cover, and freeze completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container; keep frozen.

Pour enough oil into large saucepan to measure depth of 2 inches. Heat oil to 350°F. Working in batches, cook frozen potato pieces until cooked through and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

For more delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

our paper boy

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I’m of the belief that dogs, especially those that belong to the Working Dog Group,  need to feel important.  They need to know they have a valuable function within the family dynamics, a job to perform  that is essential to their caretakers.  Dogs such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, were bred to pull small farm carts loaded down with heavy milk cans for the dairies.  Their deep barreled chest made them an ideal breed to work on a farm, driving goat herds to and from their pastures and drafting farm supplies from the villages.  While we don’t have a dairy for the girls to work on, I have tried to find appropriate chores for them to perform to feel useful.

On that note, I looked no further than our own paper box. newspaper-graphic-for-web

Tiamo was barely a year old when she started to fetch the daily newspaper.  At first she would just walk up the long drive with me to get the morning paper.  She would prance her way up the driveway, excitement shining in her eyes, hoping for a glimpse of a cottontail or a low flying bird she could chase.  I’d call her back, reprimanding her for leaving my side.  She’d hang her head, giving me her sorrowful look that was just shy of forgiveness and pretend to be good for the rest of the walk to the paper.   With the misbegotten belief that she was exonerated for misbehaving, Tiamo would try to play the “grab the paper and run” game on the return trip back to the house.  I had a habit of tucking the rolled up newspaper under my arm, leaving my hands free, usually in my coat pockets to keep warm.   Thinking of the paper as the golden prize to be had, Tiamo would jump high to nip at the paper under my arm, hoping to grab it and sprint her way to triumph.  She recognized my hands were otherwise occupied, staying warm beneath the folds of my jacket.  On the days Tiamo was able to lock onto the paper, she would run a victory lap around the house, many times dropping her precious load somewhere in the back forty, where I would have to go search for the paper under wet, dew soaked weeds  and stickers – not so much fun at six in the morning.  I knew I had to teach her respect for the printed word or we would have shredded bits of paper throughout as she tore into her prize.

And so our training began…..

Our paper usually arrived wrapped in a plastic sleeve to protect it from the elements, I figured the plastic would also shield the paper from Tiamo’s drool, if I could just teach her to carry the paper back to the house.  Using a leash to keep her close and her favorite treats to reward her, I trained Tiamo to carry our newspaper from the paper box at the end of  the drive, down to the house and drop it on the floor by the couch.  It took one week.  She had such a gentle mouth, she never tore the plastic protector, keeping the rolled paper pristine.  After a successful month of transporting our paper, I started unleashing her.  Tiamo never once strayed away from my side.  Fun and games was over, she knew she had a job to do.  A few more weeks of free range paper hauling and I taught her to reach into the bright yellow paper box, pulling out the newspaper herself.  I was no longer allowed to remove the paper from the plastic holder – that was Tiamo’s responsibility.  Doing so would result in a barking frenzy and a strong nose nudge under my arm to release the paper.  I was forever banned from getting the paper, nobody was going to do Tiamo’s job.  It didn’t take long before I didn’t even have to walk up the driveway with Tiamo.  I’d let Tiamo out the front gate and stay behind, keeping an eye on her as she ran up the drive, grabbed the newspaper from the box and jog back down to me, the paper gently clutched between her jaws, pride sparkling in her eyes.

Tiamo kept her job, even after her litter was born and Dolce and Amore became part of our household.  That was her task.  I never tried to teach the girls to fetch the paper – I always considered that Tiamo’s duty.  Besides,  I know for a fact, Dolce and Amore would have fought big time over who got to carry the newspaper.  With Tiamo’s passing, I walk the drive alone, grabbing the morning paper out of the now-weathered yellow paper box.  I’m back to tucking the roll up under my arm, my hands warm in my pockets.  Sweet memories of Tiamo attempting to snatch the paper out from my control often come to mind.  I miss our morning ritual – now a-days, the paper just doesn’t read the same.

Reading the newspaper with a strong cup of coffee seems to go hand in hand, and perhaps a slice of freshly baked coffee cake to sweeten the news.

RASPBERRY CREAM COFFEE CAKE
  • 2 1/4 cups All-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. Amaretto
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Cream Cheese Filling
  • 1 pkg. 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of a pie pan or springform pan.

Mix all the cream cheese filling ingredients until smooth and set aside.  Mix flour and sugar in large bowl.  But in butter, using a pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture and set aside.  Stir the next six ingredients in with the crumb mixture.  Spoon batter over the greased bottom of the pan and up the sides 1-2 inches.  Pour cream cheese filling mixture over the batter.  Carefully spoon the raspberry jam over the filling.  Mix the reserved crumb mixture and the chopped macadamia nuts and sprinkle over the top.

Bake 50 minutes or so, or until filling is set and the crust is a deep golden brown.  Let cool 15 minutes and removed from the pan.  Serve warm or cool.  Keep in the refrigerator to store.

Enjoy your morning!

 

For more delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

eureka!

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In my past life, I was a caterer, where I custom-catered small cocktail parties, fancy galas, annual dinners, intimate dinners for two and fundraising events for 750 attendees. Three file cabinets crammed with recipes and 237 cookbooks later, I closed my catering business, married the love of my life and moved to New Mexico. I swore I would never work nights, weekends or holidays again.

Little did I know how that would change the minute I gave my husband a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy for his 50th birthday.  Named Tiamo, the newest member of our family had us wrapped around every one of her paws. Every day was an adventure for Tiamo: there were cookbooks to chew, magazines to rip up and wooden spoons to carry from room to room. Friends would fight over who held Tiamo’s leash on walks. Neighborhood kids would randomly drop by to pet her. She was the darling of the community and our hearts.

Tiamo knew not to beg for table scraps, but she was quick to lick up any tasty tidbit that fell to the floor.  We learned Tiamo had a keen ability to counter-surf, quickly and quietly. Cartons of cream would go missing, only to be found empty in another room. Cookies cooling on racks would be one fewer of a dozen. Licked-clean butter plates would be discovered under couch pillows.  Anyone who has ever owned a dog has had a similar experience: turning your back for just a few minutes while cooking, resulting in missing ingredients and a look from your pooch that says, “Who, me?”

My love of cooking for family, friends, and my enjoyment of Tiamo’s humorous antics while sniffing for a fallen crumb has produced a cookbook designed to bring compliments to the chef and smiles from the cook, along with a tasty morsel for your dog.

Yes, cooking and dogs do go together – they are both joyous! And a stray dog hair is a reminder of their unconditional love.

A cookbook recommended by three 100-pound lap dogs, sampled by a wonderful husband and fed to some great neighbors and friends!

Every kitchen needs a dog! A dog quick to lick up the drops and drips that occur in the kitchen. A dog that looks at you with beseeching eyes for a nibble of cheese or a sliver of meat. A dog that awaits with hope and longing, a scrap of food will land on the floor. We all know better than to feed our crafty canines “human food”, but we still do!

Here’s a cookbook that will charm you with adorable pictures of puppies and dogs as they try to beguile their owner into giving them a taste of what’s to come. Recipes that have been served to former Vice-Presidents, pro athletes, family members and best friends – all savory, all tasty! These recipes were created for taste, ease, and an opportunity for the chef to showcase their talent in the kitchen. Recipes guaranteed to receive compliments – the cook will need to make enough for seconds!

Go to  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823 to order your book!

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the mutt mobile

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Dolce riding shotgun

Mutt mobile.  Canine car.  Pooch Pick-up.  Datsun Dog.  Honda Hound.  Berner Bus.  Names, throughout the years, we’ve christened our more mature automobiles.  Autos that have seen happier days and in the days before dogs,  cleaner ones.

Our mutt mobile was a Chevy Blazer, grey with matching Corinthian leather seats, back seat air conditioning, a great sound system, and it came with every button, lever, and knob, right down to the MAGPIE plates.  It was the BOMB!  It moved us to the high desert of New Mexico, carrying Thugs, our cat, 1,300 miles from California.  It hauled all of our “crap” cross-country through valleys, mountains, streams and rivers.  It cleaned up real nice, handled the road well, got good gas mileage, and was just an’ all-round good ol’ car.

When we brought Tiamo into our family, MAGPIE was our puppy Porsche.  We didn’t notice the wrinkles at first, the first strands of gray hair were few and blended in.   At 10 years old, Ol’ MAGPIE was still stylish.  The scratches from Tiamo leaping on the car door were barely visible.  And, what’s a little dog hair along the floorboard – we’ll have the car wash attendants vacuum it out real good the next time.  The broken vent for the back AC went undetected for several weeks, as did the cracked cup holder and the chewed middle seat belt.  Malcolm and I both ignored the teeth marks that perforated the back seat – it added character we said.  The fuse blew out on the passenger door window from Tiamo hitting, and holding, the up/down button with her paws when she stuck her head out of the window, and the overhead dome light cover had disappeared months earlier, no telling where to.  All fixable and all re-breakable.

Slowly, over time, MAGPIE’s age started to show.  When the little pups arrived, MAGPIE was the Berner Bus, hauling eight squirming, wiggley BMD puppies to the vet for their shots.  As the litter whittled down to Amore and Dolce, along with Tiamo, MAGPIE was known strictly as the dog car.  Each dog had their spot:  Dolce riding shotgun, Tiamo in the middle back where she could have the air conditioning full blast on her face, and Amore on the back driver’s side seat, one paw on the window.  Pealing paint, ripped leather seats, and a cracking dash-board, in dog years MAGPIE had already turned eighty-three and was going on ninety.  After years of hauling Tiamo and the girls around, the interior was trashed, covered in dog hair and reeked of dog smell.  And yet, we still drove the Dog car, Dolce in the front, Tiamo middle back, Amore on the back left. It was our car of choice, allowing us to bring the girls with us.

When the government came out with the CASH for CLUNKERS program, we jumped at the opportunity to scrap it.  Dog car was worth more dead than alive.  We traded in Dog car for a more “economical” vehicle.  Something that was easy on the road.

But still, we needed a Dog car – and sadly, that meant we elevate our Pilot to the next Honda Hound.  We’re at the dog hair on the floorboard stage.

 

memories

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No story tonight.  No cute antidote of the girls.  No humorous tale of Dolce sitting on my lap or Amore stealing the kong.   No recipe at the end of my ramblings relating to the storyline.  No deep meaning words of wisdom, quip, or quote.

Tonight, it’s just about memories of our Tiamo.  Remembering the softness in her eyes, her tender nudge with her muzzle to get our attention, her gentleness when she would tend to her litter.  Tonight it’s about reminiscing how she would con me into giving her nightly belly rubs, every night, for 6 years straight.  It’s about her joy to be with us on road trips and trips to the grocery store.  It’s about her companionship to Malcolm and myself and her unconditional love for her “pack”.   It’s about her protectiveness with Thugs, our cat at the time, following her at a close distance to keep her safe when outside.  It’s about how she would flirt with the big male Berners, and show disdain to the little lap dogs, though she was a lap lover herself.

Malcolm and I often play the “remember when” game.  Remember when Tiamo would counter-surf and steal the cookies.  I would blame Malcolm for sneaking a cookie off the cooling rack, when all the time it was Tiamo.  Remember when Tiamo would start barking at 5:10 p.m. on the dot, wanting out the front door to wait for me to drive in from work.  She knew I was due home soon and wanted to wait for me in the front portal, running immediately to the car door as soon as I turned the engine off.  Remember when Tiamo would bust out of the dog pen and run around to the back porch, pawing  at the door to get back inside – how she hated being separated from us.  We abandoned that pen for two years until the puppies were born.

Other times we play the “remember how” game.  Remember how Tiamo would lay her head on my lap, her paw on my leg when she was tired, and other times she would lean so close to us, we were supporting her full weight.  Remember how Tiamo would give us big bear hugs, her huge paws wrapping around our waist, squeezing us hard.  We knew better than to have her jump on us, and yet, we still let her, even encouraging her.  We just loved her hugs!  Remember how we swore we would never, ever let her on our bed.  And, for two years we didn’t, until I broke down and literally picked her up, placed her on my side of the mattress and cuddled with her.  From then on, Tiamo slept with us.

Our “remember whens” and our “remember hows” usually ends with a saddened, “oh, how I miss her”.  Malcolm and I will share a tender smile full of Tiamo memories.  Once in a while, a tear drop will slip past my armor, Malcolm nodding in understanding, silently acknowledging our bitter-sweet memories.  I miss her hugs. Our cuddles, Our belly rubs.

Oh, how I miss her.

 

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TIAMO

puppy breath

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a bouquet of puppy breath

a bouquet of puppy breath

When told we were expecting our little litter of puppies, a dear and close friend exclaimed, “aah, I so love puppy breath!  It’s so sweet”  I thought she was plum crazy.  No dog had pleasant breath let alone a puppy.  In the following weeks, several more friends made the same comment in varying degrees.  We heard everything from, “puppy breath is so precious!” to “I just love their little breath!”  to “their breath is adorable!”  Seriously?  What planet are these people from?  It’s a dog’s breath for criss-cross sake.   I would politely smile, but under my own breath,  I would mumble “good lawd” to Malcolm, who was trying in vain to keep a straight face.

It wasn’t until the puppies were old enough to be held and played with that I started to get an inkling of what my friends meant.  With their still pink little noses, at three-n-half weeks old,  our little ones were just starting on softened puppy chow.  They were old enough to be cuddled and held up close against our necks, while we absently rubbed their soft ears.  At five to six weeks, we were bringing our herd of yipping mutts outside to their  playpen to enjoy the fresh air and the still warm fall days.  Malcolm dragged a huge wooden rocking chair into the pen so we could sit and watch the eight little blighters sniff and explore their new world.  As they tired one by one, they would all end up at our feet, ready for a little puppy nap.  Inveritably, I would end up with two or three canine belly balls in my lap, falling fast asleep in my arms, their fat round tummies gently swaying with their soft breathing.  On warm sunny days, Malcolm and I would sit in the pen for hours, enjoying the melodious sounds emitting from the puppies.  Loving the feel of their silky fur, their soft little paws pressed against our arms, their muzzle tucked under our chins.  It was during these endearing moments, that I learned the true meaning of “puppy breath”.

Truth be told, there is something sweet about little puppy’s breath!  The scent is precious, with just a hint of baby puppy.  Taking a deep breath, I smell a little puppy’s trust, I inhale the wonder and  joys of a pint-sized creature filled with faith in their caretakers.  I breathe in the love of a new friend and the loyalty of an old one.  I catch a whiff of an adoring puppy, a devoted dog, a committed canine to its custodian.  Puppy breath is a precious bouquet of entrusting love.

HUSH PUPPIES

A quick and tasty appetizer or side dish, these little guys will disappear fast so make extras.

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. beaten egg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced jalapeno
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • frying oil

Mix together the first six ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk  the buttermilk, egg and jalapeño together.  Stir the dry ingredients and milk mixture together.

Add enough oil to a deep medium saucepan to at least 1 1/2 inches.  Using a deep fry thermometer, heat oil to 320F to 330F over medium heat. Working in batches, drop 4 to 5 balls of batter by the tablespoon into the oil.

Fry until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 4-5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, lift the hush puppies from the oil and place on a paper towel.

Can be made 2-3 hours ahead, leave at room temperature.  Rewarm in a pre-heated oven of 375F until crisp (12-14 minutes).  Garnish with a little chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese.

pool paw play

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It’s Memorial Weekend! The kickoff to summer!

Picnics and BBQ‘s, flip-flops and short shorts, watermelon and lemonade.  One of the best parts of Memorial weekend is our local community pool opens for the summer.  8:00 a.m. on Saturday the race is on to be the first in the pool.  Moms have a free babysitter for youngsters over 12 and an energy burner for those under.  It’s the summer hangout for teenagers and an outdoor tanning booth for the housewives of Santa Fe.  Tri-athletes in training, adult swimmers exercising.  You see everything – from bare bottom babies splashing around in the kiddies pool to the pursuit of the perfect cannon ball tidal wave.  Sunburned cheeks to darkly tanned leather skin.  Old men in speedos, old ladies in bikinis.

Malcolm and I swim laps in the evenings when the kids have been called home for dinner.  75 feet of clear blue water, heated to just above chilly. It’s the perfect time to unwind from work and cool down from a hot day.  Most of the water brats have left, their forgotten pool toys and towels littered around the chairs and loungers to be found the next day.  Those remaining are the serious swimmers, jumping in the pool for laps, leaving in their wet suits, a towel wrap over their neck.

The dogs know when they see our swim bags and beach towels, they are staying put, guarding the fort back home, except for Dog day.  At the end of the summer and the chlorine has been diluted to a low enough level , its Paw Play at the Pool.  Dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds converge at the pool for their own brand of fun.  And, it’s a wet time for all.  Excited dogs jumping in the deep end chasing tennis balls, even more incited dogs barking at waves of water splashing at their paws.  Once dry owners snapping pictures of their happy dogs. Total chaos.  Pure mayhem.  Wet dog everywhere. 

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HOMEMADE GEORGIA PEACH ICE CREAM

A perfect summer treat!

  • rock salt
  • ice (per manufacturer’s instructions)

Puree chopped peaches with the sugar and cream in the blender or food processor.

In a gallon ice cream freezer container, mix together the peach mixture, sweetened condensed milk and Kahlua.  Pour in enough whole milk to fill the contain to the fill line.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to freeze the ice cream.

“Yeah! babee!” Malcolm exclaims……. p.s.  Malcolm’s from Georgia!

the flirt

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Tiamo was a flirt – a big flirt!  She’d see a handsome male Berner and the Paris Hilton head-tilt and the come-hither look would appear.  Tail a-swishing, her prance became more pronounced and a certain gleam in eye would materialize each and every time a big studly cutie-paw-tootie was in the vicinity.

The first time I noticed her flirting she was around 9 months old.  I’d been walking Tiamo around the loop when another Berner owner drove by, stopping to talk shop as fellow BMD owners like to  do.  He had his boy with him and let him out of the car to introduce the two.  Shubert was a 4-year-old male rehab dog for the elderly, fit with a deep chest, massive paws and weighing a hefty 125 lbs., he was a poster child for Berner perfection.  Tiamo immediately took a shine to him, one look from Shubert and she fell in love.  She puffed out her chest, lifted up her tail and strutted over like a two-bit hooker on lower 4th Street showing off her wares.  Tiamo lay as close to Shubert as possible, rubbing shoulders, tail flicking, paws touching his, her head tilting.  As we wrapped up our conversation, Shubert loaded up into the car, ready to go –  Tiamo hopped in right behind him, scooting over to lean up against him.  She’d found herself a man and wasn’t going to let him go. It took me ten minutes to con/drag her out of the vehicle.

Never faithful for long, Tiamo moved on to greener pastures.  Her next love affair was with Gus, a Bernese from back east.  Gus was the kind of guy that tightened the kink in her tail.  One glance and Tiamo turned into a lit’le slut-puppy.  A cougar worth her salt, Tiamo liked her men young and Gus was younger by 10 months.  His swagger down pat, his moves slick as silk, Gus was a ladies man, a giglio, a smooth operator and had all the ladies panting.  Tiamo had met her match – she was one of many in a long line of lusting females. That dog was handsome plus!  Sparks ignited when the two were together, resulting in 8 puppies 60+ days later.  Yep, Gus fathered her beautiful children.  And, then left her.  A single mother, raising 8 kids alone, you would think Tiamo would learn her lesson.  Eleven months later, Tiamo was up to her old philandering ways…..

A couple of times a year, we bring the girls into the groomers’ for a wash, cut and curl.  We clip their bellies and their forearm feathers to keep the stickers and cockleburs to a minimum and it helps them stay cool in the hot summer months.  Tiamo, particularly, did not like the process, protesting immediately upon entering the door to the groomers’.  Her front paws put on the breaks, denying all forward movement into the establishment. She put her back paws in full reverse, madly scrambling to dodge her fate.  She ignored all commands to stop acting like a brat and to behave, seeking only escape.  She didn’t so much mind the bath as she did the clippers. She hated the clippers.  And she abhorred the colorful little bandana souvenir they tied around her neck at the end of the foray, trying to bite it off on the way home.  It got so bad, that we started bringing her in through the back door to minimize the damage to the store’s displays in the front – until the day she saw Owen.

Owen was a local male Berner, masculine and manly, he easily tipped the scales at 135 lbs.  That boy was one handsome dude and he ooooooozed sex.   Owen was already in the wash rack when I arrived with Tiamo at the back door, hoping upon hope she wouldn’t put up too much of a fuss as we entered.  One sniff and the game was up – Tiamo knew she had been duped into getting bathed and clipped.  A full-on Tiamo tantrum erupted.  She wasn’t going anywhere but back home.  Tiamo changed delaying tactics and dropped to the tiled floor, rolling over on her back, four paws in the air, she was dead weight, couldn’t be picked up, dragged, moved or maneuvered.    And then, out of the corner of her eye,  she saw Owen.  Her ears twitched, her eyes glowed with that familiar glint, drool droplets trickled from her lips, her tail curled into a constricted ringlet, it only took one sultry look for Tiamo to go ga-ga over him.  Miraculously, she spun upright, gave a little bitch shake, pulled her shoulders back, pushed her barreled chest out and pranced right up the ramp to her wash tub.  With a flick of her tail, Tiamo had a new man. Unapologetic, Tiamo gave me the signal to leave, she had this handled.   I quickly turned to leave.  Exiting out the door, I peeked back at the two love-birds.  Tiamo had jumped the tub’s railing and was skinny-dipping with Owen. I kept walking.

Thank gawd she’s been spayed.

Dog petting

mud

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Dog doors are a great invention and ours was one of the better remodel decisions Malcolm and I made…

When Tiamo was still a puppy, we added a large coyote-fenced enclosure that wrapped around the back of our New Mexican styled home.  Aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood, it fit in with the landscape.  We carefully planned the gate placement, the amount of  shade provided by the Pinon trees growing around the perimeter and size of the pen around Tiamo’s needs.  The one thing we didn’t plan, was installing a dog door for entrance from the pen to the house.  Mistake number one – however a moot point since we only put Tiamo in the pen when we left for town and couldn’t bring her.  Tiamo’s new playground was over 1,800 square feet of soft sand and shade.  Made just for her – and she hated it!  She hated being left alone outside, barking excessively.  She hated being separated from us and most of all she hated knowing Thugs, our cat at the time, was indoors while she was suffering outdoors.  She dug deep holes under the gate and tunneled out to freedom, magically appearing at our back door to come inside.  She scratched, clawed and budged her way out through any opening she could find, bending the gate frame, ripping the wiring.   We added reinforcements, new gate latches, heavier gauged wire, and still Tiamo would find a way out.  One week after we christened our new dog pen addition, we abandoned it.  Tiamo happily trading the pen for all the comforts of pillows and couches found inside our home.

For two years Tiamo’s dog pen sat empty – until the puppies were born.  The pen was the perfect dog park for eight little pups to explore and discover their new life.  We would bring the kids out to the pen during the late hours of the afternoon, when the sun’s heat was less severe. Tiamo had finally accepted the pen, enjoying the fresh air as she tenderly watched over her rambunctious brood.  The little ones romped and tumbled for hours until we brought them back in to their make-shift pen set up in the garage.  Tired and exhausted, the puppies would settle into a fast sleep for the night. 

As each puppy left for their new life with their new caregivers, Malcolm and I came to the conclusion we needed to add a dog door to the pen for our remaining three; Tiamo, Amore and Dolce.  However, our careful planning of the pen placement several years past, failed to appoint a common wall for a dog door.  Mistake number two.  We concluded after a careful study of where to place the large rubber flap, to install the dog door in our bathroom’s linen closet.  I know, it sounds weird, but our thinking was (and still is) if there came a time when we needed to close off the dog door, we could re-install the linen shelves back in and the large, unsightly dog hole would  “disappear” behind bath towels and sheets.  Plus, we could close the closet door to keep the girls in or out depending on what we wanted.

Installation day was on a Friday, right around the first of July.   We wanted to have the door installed and finished before our Monsoon season started so the girls could come in out of the rain.  Training was easy.  A little nugget of ground hamburger was all it took to entice Tiamo through the opening, with Amore and Dolce  quickly following.  It wasn’t long before each dog was barreling through the flap looking for a meatball.    The girls immediately used the outdoors as they should, doing their duty discreetly outside.   No more getting up to let one of dogs out, no more waiting in the freezing cold as Dolce sniffed for the perfect spot, no more chasing after Amore as she sensed freedom.  Life was just made easier.

Five days later, the rains came. Blessed drops of liquid fell on our parched acreage.  Never lasting very long, the afternoon showers can alternate from a gentle pitter-patter to hard torments of destruction.  The dry land will soak up the moisture like a sponge, filling its cracks with water, letting the excess wash over into arroyos and gullies creating flash floods and hazards.  Not only do our summer storms bequeath us with fiery sunsets that paint the sky with vibrant colors, they also leave us with clay dirt that quickly becomes slick, clinging to our shoes, dragging your steps with the extra weight of the mud.  It was on a day such as this, that I came home from work to find mud, lots of mud, strewn from one end of the house to the other!  There were muddy paws prints in every room, every part of the house. On the sofa, on the bed, everywhere.  The girls came running to greet me, each with a wet, muddy underbelly, each filthy and dirty, mire and sledge oozing from their paws.  and each with a huge happy grin on their face.  The new dog door was a gateway to mud and muck.  Mistake number three!

Luckily, we have brick floors.  And, we have a house cleaner.

Dolce washed up after mud wrestling with Amore

Dolce washed up after mud wrestling with Amore

 

MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE

an ooey-gooey delicious mess!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 6 oz Oreo cookies
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.  

To prepare the crust:  place Oreo cookies, nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and process until fine crumbs are formed.  Add the melted butter and mix until just moistened.  Do not over process.  Press the cookie mixture over the bottom of the springform pan, pressing the mixture up the sides of the pan about 1 1/2 inches.  Cover and chill until filling is ready.

To prepare the filling:  add butter, chocolate, corn syrup in a medium sauce pan over low heat until melted together.  Let cool.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then the finely chopped Macadamia nuts.  Pour filling into the chilled crust and smooth the surface.  Bake for 30 minute or until just set but still soft in the center.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Serve a room temperature with homemade whipped cream.