Happy Holidays!

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off! down!

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From day one, a dog should never be allowed to jump on people.  Nor should they ever leap or hurdle themselves at their human folks. Never should a dog misbehave or act out.  A dog should never lift those two front paws higher than a grasshopper.  From the on set of their training, a dog should learn who is in command, who is boss.  They should understand the most basic of commands such as “sit”, “stay”, “down” and “off”.  Not only should they learn these directives but they should obey them.  At all times.

And then we have our dogs.  Two of the sweetest, most precious spoiled brats ever.

Obedience training was never a problem with their mother, Tiamo. She learned her lessons quick and fast.  She was obedient, well-behaved, and damn near perfect.  She was gentle, kind and calm.  Our mama was doggy royalty, she was so regal. Friends and neighbors would ask her over for visits, we were just tag-a-longs.  And she was asked everywhere.  Invitations were addressed to Tiamo and guests, Malcolm and I being reduced to being chauffeurs for our favored canine. Tiamo had been so easy be around, people flocked to her. Everyone loved her.

And, then we have Dolce and Amore.  Two of the most rambunctious, excitable troublemakers ever.

In the beginning puppy days, we tried to master Dolce and Amore’s training.  We tried to obtain the end-product of perfectly well-behaved dogs.  We wanted the kind of dogs that others would kindly whisper how well-mannered they were, how “good” they were. We wanted another well-trained Tiamo.

And we got Dolce and Amore.

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Good natured but not good mannered.  So good-looking but not so good at obeying orders.  Good at instigating canine capers but not good at staying out of mischief.

We’re not bad doggy parents.  Really we’re not! In the beginning, the girls weren’t allowed on the couch or the bed.  All furniture was off-limits.  That lasted all of five days.  We didn’t permit them to jump on us or give in to their silent pleas to sit on our laps.  Well, that lasted at least a good five hours.  Malcolm and I didn’t tolerate begging at the dinner table for scraps or sanction any counter-surfing.  That one lasted maybe five minutes, max.  We tried our best and found the system was broken.  Training for Dolce and Amore came to a halt.

There  was no way we could hold out against two of the most precious little puppies looking at us beseechingly with hope in their eyes.  There was no way I could command “OFF!” when my girls were giving me hugs as they welcomed me home.  I know, I know, dog hugs equate to jumping on me, paws at my waist, head at my chest.  But dog hugs are so precious.  A special dance between puppy love and human affection.

I gave up saying “DOWN!” when one of the girls crawled up on the couch to cuddle with me, their head on my lap.  I couldn’t give up our special time together.  DSC00404

We no longer command “STAY!” when we really mean come, when the dogs are such a part of our family we want them with us.  Where we goeth, they goeth, only not to visit friends.  Our friends don’t quite know what to make of Dolce and Amore, especially after Tiamo.  High-energy and high maintainance, the girls require a dog-proofed house.  But damn if they aren’t happy dogs!

happy dawg

happy dawg

We’re so glad we got Dolce and Amore.

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Wicked Pricklers

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“Gawd Damn! Son-ov-ah-beeeeach!” I heard from the other room. Malcolm was swearing up a storm. I peeked around the kitchen corner and watched him hobble to the couch on one foot.  Poor guy had stepped on a broken-off cactus spine, it’s embedded head sticking out of his bare footed heel. Another screech of cussing occurred as he pulled out the offending sticker.  Surgery is sometimes worse than the injury. The spines don’t pull out easily and one needs a pair of needle nose pliers and a steady hand.  Ouch! I cringed, having stepped on a few of them myself. It hurts like a muther, with the agony lasting for a good hour. As usual, one of the girls had carried in the aggressive prong and Malcolm was the unlucky sole that found it.

If it’s not a cactus spine, it’s a goat-head or a cocklebur, or puncture vines, or sand burrs. When you live in the high desert, there are a number abusive pricklers that attach themselves to any and every passersby. Amore and Dolce seem to be hosts to all of them.  Their long hair attracting it’s share of stickers.  We take precautions with their fur.  We trim their coat, their under belly and forelegs.  At the start of summer, their beautiful leg feathers are clipped short, their paws sheared.  We shave their tummy’s, cut back on their tail fringe and prune their sides.  Anything to keep the stickers to a minimum. For both the dogs and for us. As we have painfully experienced, if it hitches a ride on the girl’s fur and makes it inside the house, it stands to reason, at some point, those prickly lit’le bastards will latch on to one of us…….

As I’ve mentioned in the past, we like to walk the girls at the Galisteo Basin Preserve, an open space trail network with over 18 miles of bike and hike trails.  What use to be ranch land, the GBP still has remnants of its past with tall windmills, falling down sheep herder shacks, and man-made dams for watering the livestock and wildlife.  If we happened to have had a good monsoon season, the odds are good the dam will be full of water.  Back in September, we hiked the Cottonwood trail and found the dam full.  Amore and Dolce made straight for the water, playing in the shallow lake. Mud and muck be damned, our girls were partying in the cool pool of rain run-off.

Belly high play

Belly high play

So yesterday we thought we would check to see if the dam still had some water.  The past few weeks we have had some measurable rain and I figured there should still be some water available for the girls to soak their paws.

“Let’s take em’ to the dam” I suggested.  The hike to the pond is only a mile or so up the trail with just a slight incline.  Malc agreed.  We noticed the grass was taller but much drier than when we had hiked this route in September.  With the coming of winter, the green turf had already turned to golden tan and brown.  But yesterday was one of those perfect fall days that had a cloudless, brilliant blue sky. It was warm enough for wearing just a T-Shirt and shorts with the slight breeze a modest whisper.  If there was water in the dam, it would be the last pool party of the year.  I couldn’t wait to check.

We rounded the last bend to the dam and Amore took off.  She was headed for the water and sprinted towards the cool reservoir.  We were right behind her.  The lake was down to a mud patch and a little surface water but enough for Dolce and Amore to get dirty. Enough for some muddy play time.  Malcolm and I stopped to watch Amore race to the mire.  Abruptly, she turned, hastily running back to us.

“What’s wrong with Amore?” I turned to Malcolm and asked.

“Oh, shit!”

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nasty little suckers

I looked down at Amore. She was covered in stickers. Infested with them.  Her collar, sides, belly, underarms, legs, tail and paws had hundreds of nasty burrs tangled within her fur.  Amore had run straight through a large patch of wicked pricklers.  The dry burrs clung to her coat, knotting in her hair.  Every time she moved, the sharp barbed stickers dug in deeper beneath her beautiful black coat.  With resolve, I pulled out the Leatherman from my pack.  Malcolm and I started the long tedious process of removing the thorns.  We stopped counting after eighty and still had more to go. Our gloveless fingers were numb from the penetrating prickly points. There would be no water play today.  We hiked back down the trail.  We knew there were more burrs buried on her body, but needed scissors to cut out the rest.  We headed home.

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one of hundreds

Amore had had enough of Malcolm and I picking at her fur. She was done with us yanking and pulling her hair as we extracted the stickers from her body.  It took the two of us over an hour on the trail to pick out the worst of the bunch.  We still had more to go.  I sat in the back of the SUV to soothe and placate her on the ride home.

Once home, I grabbed the scissors and began cutting out the remaining burrs. By the end of Amore’s impromptu hair cut, I had a good sized pile of stickers, stacked on the floor, ready for me to throw away…..

“Gawd Damn! Son-ov-ah-beeeeach!” I heard from the other room an hour or two later.

Oops!  Must’ve missed one on the floor.

 

 

 

 

just yesterday

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The old gray mare,
She ain’t what she used to be
Ain’t what she used to be,
Ain’t what she used to be
The old gray mare,
She ain’t what she used to be
Many long years ago.

Many long years ago,
Many long years ago,
The old gray mare,
She ain’t what she used to be
Many long years ago.

Oh, yeah!  We’ve all had that wonderful little ditty sung to us at one birthday or another.  A childish tune to remind us of our age, our wrinkles and our gray strands of hair.

It’s never an issue when others start to show signs of aging.  When friends “out gray” you or when siblings are first to parade their seniority with age spots and knee creaks.  Nope, it’s never a concern when others display their maturity with saggy boobs, baggy jowls or flabby old-women arms.  In today’s world, all theses aging deficits can be overcome with a little nip n’ tuck, a little botox and a long sleeve sweater.

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matching crows feet

Me?  I’m okay with my beginners set of wrinkles, I’ve always found crows feet attractive.  I call’em laugh lines.  I’m doing okay with the sag, bag and flab trio that comes with sliding past the 50 year marker. I’ve earned those.   I’m even okay with my dyed gray hairs… as long as they stay dyed.  And, I’m okay with my few expanding freckles I found on my wrist and forearm.  Age spots aren’t THAT bad.  Those are badges of experiences and wisdom.  Comes with the territory I tell myself.

What I’m not okay with is seeing these same aging symptoms on the girls.

Just yesterday they were little wiggly puppies with roly-poly tummies and the most precious puppy breath ever.

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Amore and Dolce in their younger days

Just yesterday they were rambunctious young pups with more energy than a power plant on steroids.  And, just yesterday Amore and Dolce were full of piss n’ vinegar, eager to start the morning before the first light of the day, not crossing the finish line until dark.

showing some gray

showing some gray

But just yesterday, I noticed Amore showing some gray in her brows, a little gray in her muzzle.  Just yesterday, I watched Dolce rising up in the mornings a little slower, her back hips reluctant to move as quick.  Just yesterday Malcolm had to lift Amore down from the SUV when he returned from taking the girls for a walk.  The jump too much for her.

Just yesterday I remarked to Malcolm how the girls were sleeping later into the morning, how they were taking longer naps and seeking the sun’s warmth as they curled up on the couch for a snooze.  Just yesterday I observed Amore running slower on our walks, and Dolce lagging further behind.

Just yesterday Amore and Dolce were sumo wrestling in the living room, today they flop down on the sun-warmed bricks for some shut-eye.  Just yesterday, they were destroying books, magazines and newspapers in our absence.  Today they don’t even notice we are gone.

Just yesterday …

company’s a’comin

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Ever have one of those weeks jammed packed with work, travel, outside life, and company coming to visit at the end of it?  Not to mention tending to the busy-every-day-activities of our dogs?

Last week I had one of those hari-kari weeks that included a lot of work, our Association’s Annual Conference causing me to be away from home for four days, Indian Market at the Plaza and company flying in.  The best part of my crazy week was of course the company but I still had to get through the rest of it before I could enjoy their visit.

I had everything planned out – down to the littlest detail.  My Monday and half of Tuesday was prep work for the Conference.  Busy work, copying speaker material, picking up banners from the printers, running errands, finalizing the agendas for meetings.  Crossing off items on a long list of “to-do’s”. Packing and hauling conference ‘stuff’. Long hours.  It is always frantic performing last-minute details.  The other half of Tuesday was travel.  I was going to be out-of-town Tues-Fri.  Not far.  Just Albuquerque.  But still away from normalcy.  Wednesday through Friday was our Annual Conference.  Meetings, speakers, sessions.  Wednesday the house-cleaner would be dealing with our dog-dirty house, doing the standard company coming clean.  Thursday after work, our dog-sitter would show up to tend to Amore and Dolce while Malcolm drove down to join me at our Celebration Gala and to pick up our visiting friends at the airport, flying from in Hotlanta, GA for Indian Market.  Since my conference was over mid-morning on Friday, our Georgia friends enjoyed ABQ for the night before we traveled back up to Santa Fe.  And finally, Saturday and Sunday.  Indian Market.  Fun.  Wine.  Great friends. Phew!  It took a whirlwind to get to the fun part.

I couldn’t do any of this without some key people.  My house-cleaner (my one extravagance)  and our puppy-sitter (our one necessity).  I was reassured the house would be clean and ready for company.  I knew the dogs would be reasonably calm after having one of their favorite people care for them.  After being away for four days and arriving back home with company in tow, I was comforted knowing all was ready for our guests.  It was time to let the weekend start!

So it came as a bit of shock to receive a text from our puppy-sitter on Thursday evening just as the Gala was starting, stating Dolce was barking down in the den area.  Unusual behavior for our normally calm girl.  Before I could text back with questions, she sent back a photo of the cause.  Our little girl had cornered an intruder.

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“Look what I found in the guest bathroom!”  she wrote.  Crap! Shit! Son-of-a-bitch!  Oh yeah, this allows for all the cuss words.  I had company arriving soon and this little toddler was in their bathroom, up against the tub.  It was no wonder Dolce was barking up a storm, calling in the Calvary.  Consequential texts informed me all three girls: Dolce, Amore and Gordita had entered the fray.  Pandemonium had started. Dogs barking, cat wanting in on the action.  Dog drama in an already drama filled week.  I’m not sure how she did it, but with my final text from the sitter, I learned the mouse was outside, the girls quiet and lounging around. Gordita sniffing corners and under furniture looking for her lost toy.

Gordita was at it again.  Our dear fat cat likes to bring in the outside wonders of the rodent world to play with.  Live animated toys to her, she enjoys playing Catch and Release with the damn things. She is a good mouser, but likes them alive.  And likes to show off her live catch.

We are used to mice, we live out in the country where they are abundant.  It’s one of the reasons we have Gordita.  But I certainly don’t want a mouse in the house hours before company is arriving.

I showed Malcolm the text/photo once he arrived at the gala banquet.  “Oh shit!” was his only comment.

“Yeah, you took the words right out of my mouth!” I replied, I think the sitter was able to get it out of the house.”

“We owe her some hazard pay!” I added.  Malcolm nodded his agreement.

“We won’t say anything to Greg and Laura until Monday when they leave,” Malcolm chuckled.  Yeah, right before we drop them off at the airport!” By now both Malcolm and I were starting to laugh over the mouse and our secret.

Welcome to my life!

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what is luv?

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sad dog

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the fisherman

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tilting at the windmill

The Galisteo Basin Preserve was once a large cattle ranch.   It is miles of cow trails, rutted dirt roads and nature.  Old cowboy camps and lean tos dot the countryside with broken-down foundation remains and falling-down corrals.  A dry river bed runs through the ranch, it’s eroded banks reaching as high as twenty-to-thirty feet above the sandy river floor in some places.  I know of three windmills with water troughs at their base, their blades creaking against the wind as the pump struggles to pull up water for the trough.  All combined, it is a rustic reminder of its western heritage and the old frontier.

Just a few miles from our home, the GBP is now a hiker’s mecca.  It’s a horse and rider’s trail workout and mountain biker’s nirvana.  It’s where we take the girls for their daily walks.

Our first few experiences at the Preserve were riddled with adventure.  As Amore scouted for lizards, Tiamo trotted along sniffing every low hanging branch there was.  Dolce stayed at our heels.  New trails brought new scents and the girls would scatter about to investigate the foreign territory.  Once or twice we will catch sight of a coyote, several times we have crossed paths with snakes.  We’ve seen evidence of antelope and deer and have heard of sightings of mountain lions.  The easy access to water makes the area ideal for wildlife.  And koi.

The dogs had a habit of drinking the trough water at the tail end of our hikes.  Though we packed water with us to keep the girls hydrated throughout our walks, they like the cold, fresh from the well, water.  We make a point to stop at the troughs before loading up into the car, allowing the girls one last sip.

It was on a cold, drizzly January day, the wind kicking up due to an incoming storm, when we were trying to get a quick walk in before being hit with the impending deluge.  As we finished our hike and neared the water trough, Tiamo ran ahead to get her fill.  At the edge of the trough she stilled, looking intently into the darkened mossy water.  We saw she was tracking something but had no idea what.  Her quick eyes had spotted movement and she was on it. Waiting just a few seconds, she moved her head in a little circle and before we knew it, leaped over the rim into the water trough.  Icy cold water splashed heavily over the sides.   Large water droplets landing on both Malcolm and I.  Cold, freezing ucky water  soaking our sweatshirts.  The wake of her splash landing on our boots.

“What the hell?” Malcolm shouted.  With a death grip, I grabbed on to the collars of Amore and Dolce, the only foot-loose canines left on dry land.  I wasn’t about to let Amore and Dolce follow into the trough along with mama.  Malcolm scrambled to get to Tiamo.  Once in the trough, Tiamo didn’t want to get out.  She had more fish to fry.  Literally.  Namely the koi hiding deep in the bottom moss of the water tank.  Tiamo had gone fishing.

As I held on to the girls, Malcolm struggled to haul Tiamo out of the water.  Jumping in was much easier than climbing out.  The rim was nothing more than a sharp torch-cut metal edge, hurtful for Tiamo to balance her paws on to jump out.  The weight of the water, the slippery moss-covered bottom hindered her escape from the cold water.  She was stuck.  She was completely soaked, now trembling from the frigid water.   The koi forgotten, she wanted out.

There was no two ways about it.  Malcolm was going to have to lift her out.  He was going to have to reach in the finger-numbing icy water to pull Tiamo out.  Cussing like a sailor, Malc stripped off his jacket and sweatshirt, pulled off his gloves and plunged his arms into the water, encircling Tiamo’s belly to heft her out of the water.  100 pounds of basically full on dead weight – this was not going to be an easy feat.  As she was clearing the water Tiamo panicked.  Back legs kicking, front paws scratching Malcolm’s bare torso, Tiamo twisted and turned for freedom.  Malcolm and Tiamo landed on dry land but both were soaking wet.  And freezing.  And stinky from the stagnant waters.  Malcolm was covered in stinky mossy uck.  Tiamo just stunk.

Needless to say, I drove home, Malcolm sat in the back with the dogs.

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Dolce scouting for goldfish

 

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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.

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so god made a dog

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It starts with a tiny whimper, a small murmur barely audible to our human ears.  The slight quaking of Amore’s front fore legs is, at first, scarcely discernible underneath her thick feathery fur.  Amore’s apprehension and anxiety quickly escalates into deep, heavy panting and full body tremors, along with wide-eyed panic and fright.  All caused by thunder. Thunder and lightning.

Up until a year ago, Amore would sleep right through the loud clashing of thunder.  Up until a year ago, the rumble of thunderstorms, the whip of lightning didn’t bother her.  Up until a year ago, Amore was fine with the summer storms that rolled over our high desert. Today it’s a different story.

Today, Amore’s fear from the loud crack of lightning sends her into terrifying distress.  Today, her terror and fear of a storm can last long after the billowing dark clouds have passed.  It’s heartrending to witness.  Her terror and anguish is agonizing to watch.  We’ve tried everything.  Thunder shirts, calming music, distractions, car drives.  We have read articles and books and talked to experts to learn how to minimize and/or eliminate her fear.  Nothing seems works but to wait it out, giving her time to calm down while the tempest blows by.

July marks the start of our monsoon season and right on cue, our monsoon rains came within days after the calendar flipped to the seventh month.  This Fourth of July weekend brought a series of rains, cool relief from the hot temperatures of summer.  But with the rains came thunder and lightning, and on it’s heels, came Amore’s shaking and rapid breathing,  her anxiety palatable.  By late Sunday afternoon another storm was rolling through, the growl and grumble of thunder far in the background was faint and distant.  Amore’s keen hearing distinguished the thunder.  Fear gathered in her brown eyes as she quickly recognized the rumble.  The tremors already starting as terror locked in on her body.

Malcolm and I instinctively knew this time it was going to be a bad one.  Malcolm hurried to retrieve the thunder shirt as I went towards Amore.  Before I could reach her shaking frame, before I could take two steps forward, Dolce was already there besides Amore, offering her comfort and love.

As obvious dog lovers, Malcolm and I understand the joy and comfort dogs give humans.  We know how rehab dogs can help patients heal, both physically and mentally.  We are aware that canines can sense the onset of seizures and depression and assist their owners.  Dogs give and give and give and give some more to their loved ones.  They are a comfort to our soul, a balm to our weary hearts. They can pack more smiles in the wag of their tail then a kid in a candy store. Loyal, a trusted companion, without judgement, they are man’s best friend.  We understand why god made a dog.

So when Malcolm and I saw Dolce come along side of Amore, leaning against her to give relief, we froze in place to observe.  We watched in awe as Dolce nudged her litter mate, reassuring Amore that all would be okay. We watched Dolce as she licked away at Amore’s mental fear and pain.  We watched Dolce place a gentle paw on a quivering Amore to calm her, soothe her.  Dolce’s paw stayed on Amore shoulder for over ten minutes before the shaking began to still.  We watched Dolce lean against her sister for more than a half-hour, easing Amore’s anguish, absorbing her fear.  We watched Dolce give peace to her sibling.  Watching Dolce give comfort, we understand why god made a dog.

So God made a dog……

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shotgun!

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“Shotgun!” my nephew shouted as he ran in front of his siblings, edging them out of the opportunity to sit in the front of the car.  He was all of ten years old at the time, but could outrun his sisters.  Riding shotgun has probably started and/or caused more fights among children than anything else.

“You had it last time” cried his younger sister.  It’s my turn!”

“I was here first!” he taunted back. “First come, first serve!” he added for good measure as he quickly jumped in the front seat and buckled up.  He wasn’t budging.  And so the childish argument starts, only to continue again on the next trip in the car.

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Dolce and Amore loading up in the SUV

Dolce and Amore have the same disagreement over who gets dibs to sit in the front of the car.  It’s a sure bet, Dolce will be in the car, haunches down in the front passenger seat before Amore has even thought about jumping up into the car.  Safely ensconced deep into the bucket seat, Dolce has squatter’s rights in the front.  Until there is a passenger.  Or another canine that wants the same piece of vehicle territory.  We are talking prime real estate here and it comes with a price.

For the first four years of Dolce and Amore’s life, if I was riding along on the trip, I usually had a dog in my lap.  Most likely it was Dolce.  Tiamo would position herself in the middle of the back seat, peering through the two front seats, enjoying the air conditioning that blew towards her between the valley of the front bucket seats.  In deference to Mama, Amore tucked herself way in the back of the SUV.

Dolce riding shotgun!

Dolce riding shotgun!

The sitting dynamics changed drastically once there were only two dogs along for the ride.  Boy did it change!  Amore decided she had enough of sitting in the back-end of the car and it was time to move up front.  Once she made her decision, she didn’t let anything stop her.  It didn’t matter that I was already sitting in the chair, she didn’t care that Dolce was already in my lap.  In Amore’s mind, it was time for a change.  There was a new sheriff in town and there was going to be a shift in the sitting arrangements.  The names on the place cards were to be rewritten.  Now.

It so happened on the day Amore came to the conclusion it was her turn to ride shotgun, I was coming along as well.  We were only going to the market a few miles up the road for a few items for dinner.  I told Malcolm to let me get in the car first, so I could buckle up before he let the dogs in, I then gave him the nod of “okay” once I was situated in the seat.  He called to the girls and the race was on!  Dolce shot ahead of Amore in her rabid eagerness to be on my lap.  She plopped herself down across my lap, her back-end hanging over the middle console, her head already poking out of the open window.  Only this time, Amore had designs on front.  Before Malcolm had a chance to arrange himself in the front driver’s seat, Amore had jumped in his place.  Though Malcolm patiently ordered Amore to move,  Amore had other plans.  Oh, she moved all right.  She moved right across the console onto the edge of my seat, pushing Dolce down into the floorboard of the car.  It wasn’t a good move.  I now had two huge dogs in the front passenger seat with me somewhere underneath it all.  Fur, paws and tails covered me.  Dolce was spitting mad she had been usurped from her perch.  Amore was gloating she had outmaneuvered Dolce.  The childish argument began, a canine fight ensued.  I was caught in the middle of it.

Several paw scratches later, I ended up with Amore on my lap and Dolce sulking in the back.  She was so upset she had lost her shotgun status, that she wasn’t on my lap, she barked the whole way up to the grocery store, sharing with us her great displeasure.  She balefully eyed me from the back of the car.  I had turned traitor on her, allowing Amore in her seat. Dolce was one mad mutt.

A disgruntled Dolce sitting in the back

A disgruntled Dolce sitting in the back

On the return trip home, I decided I would sit in the back seat to avoid all shotgun squabbles.  Dolce was only slightly mollified.  She liked the idea of being next to be in the back but she still was not happy with the new seating arrangements.  Amore’s gloating had dimmed greatly.  With me now in the back, she wasn’t so sure she liked her sibling sitting so close to me, she was sure that Dolce would get something she wouldn’t.  Her distrust was evident.

Amore peeking from the front sure that something better is happening in the back

Amore peeking from the front sure that something better is happening in the back

The two have grudgingly learned to share riding shotgun.  Sometimes sitting side by side, scrunched together in the front seat.  It’s a tight fit, with neither willing to give up their chair.  Neither budging.  Sometimes, one of them cries “uncle” and retreats to the back bench.  Once in a while both will forfeit the passenger side, deciding to enjoy the ride in the back back.

I now sit in the back with a bag of doggy treats to soothe the ruffled fur of the displaced mutt.

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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let’s get Mikey to try it

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Dolce will eat anything.  And everything.  Drop a Brussel sprout (uck!) on the floor and she’s on it.  A chunk of apple, a slice of meat, a wedge of cheese.  I understand the cheese, I get the carrots, broccoli and bananas.  I recognize dogs love meat, cooked or raw.  I comprehend the crumbs, the drops and the scraps that are tipped over the edge of the counter to her eager mouth.

DSC00523

trying to get it first!

But there are somethings I just don’t get.  Pineapple being one of them.  Dolce loves pineapple, as long as the rind has been removed.   Don’t get me wrong, I like pineapple.  Fresh or grilled with a little honey, pineapple, is wonderful fruit.  I would have never thought a dog would eat pineapple.

Dolce loves oranges.  She’ll grab an orange slice, chew some, then spit out the pulp.  Then she is back looking for seconds.

Dolce loves lemons.  She’ll chomp into a lemon rind, roll it around her tongue, maul it up some and then donate back the pith.

And she loves strawberries.  The other day I was slicing some strawberries for our dessert and happened to drop a hull on the floor.  Whooooph!  It disappeared down Dolce’s throat.  Just like that.  Gone.  There wasn’t any fruit on the hull, just the green.  She looked up at me pleading for another.  Seriously?  A strawberry hull?  I couldn’t believe it.  Did she even know what she just ate?

Once Amore realized that Dolce had a bite of something, she wanted in on the action.  Since the girls know when they have been slighted, when they have been left out of the receiving line, I was guilted into handing her a strawberry hull.  Amore came running into the kitchen, eyes begging for a taste.  Amore quickly grabbed the green hull, wanting to get it before Dolce had a chance to seize the hull.

Immediately her eyes crossed, her muzzle wrinkled up, her jowls started contractions.  She backed up out of the kitchen, frantic to remove the offending fruit top.  Amore coughed up a big one and she spit it out.  UCK! It was obvious that Amore doesn’t like strawberry hulls.

Whooooph!  Dolce snatched up the dropped strawberry top.

the best ever pie!

the best ever pie!

FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE – perfect for your Easter meal

Make two – one doesn’t last long!

  • 1 1/2 qts. strawberries + some to nibble on
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 c strawberry juice
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 3oz. pkg. of cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. of brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Kahlua or Amaretto
  • 1  9″ pie shell – baked
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Kahlua or Armaretto

Hull and wash the strawberries.  Set aside to drain.  Crush enough strawberries to fill one cup.

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Add crushed berries and strawberry juice.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until comes to a boil.  Continue cooking and stirring another two minutes.  The mixture will thicken and be translucent.  Remove from heat, add butter and cool.

Cream together the cream cheese, brown sugar and liqueur.  Spread on the bottom of the baked pie shell.  Arrange whole berries, tips up, on top of the cream cheese mixture, setting aside a few for garnish.  Pour cooked mixture over berries.  Cover and chill at least two hours.

Whip heavy cream in a chilled bowl with electric mixer until it begins to form peaks.  Gradually add brown sugar.  Add Kahlua and finish whipping until stiff.  Garnish pie with whipped cream and additional strawberries.

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Articles of Incorporation

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DOLCE & AMORE BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG, INC.

ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION

Article one in the Dolce and Amore Bernese Mountain Dog Articles of Incorporation states feeding time is at five. 5:00 o’clock.  Am and pm.  Morning and night.  Sunrise and sunset, it’s the standardized feeding time.  There is no deviation.  There is no fudging on the time.  No sleeping in, no rolling over for another five minutes of extra sleep. There are no “just a minute” or “hang on a sec” comments.  Come 5 o’clock its din-din time.  There is no delay, even when daylight savings time flickers on and off.  When the day’s timer chimes 5:00 o’clock, it is chow time!  NOW!

There are rules and regs to follow at feeding time. Policy set.  Bylaws to uphold.   5:00 a.m. and p.m. feeding time is just the start of a long list of statues.  I make Dolce and Amore sit before I place their bowls into their stands.  Dolce first, then Amore. Well trained, Dolce has this rule down pat.  Her hind end touching the floor and staying put before I’ve even picked up her feed bowl. Wiggling and anxious, she understands policy.   Dolce recognizes by obeying the directives set forth by Malcolm and I, she’ll get fed that much quicker, that much faster. For Dolce, it’s all about the food and she’ll do anything for food.  She is our law-abiding canine, always following the speed limit.

Now, Amore is another story.  She already has quite a few violations on her record, her rap sheet multiple pages long.  She doesn’t believe in law and order and she definitely doesn’t believe in sitting first.  To her, it’s a waste of time.  Give her the food bowl and go away.  She’ll sit if she knows we are watching her, waiting, but it’s truly a half-ass attempt.  Her hind quarters don’t even graze the surface of the bricks.  It’s more on par with the California Hollywood Roll as you go through a stop sign.

Article two demands all dog food is manufactured by the finest processors.  Measured into equal amounts, treated with extra tasty nibbles, each dog bowl must be prepared by a professionally trained canine sous chef.  Translation:  Food prep starts an hour prior to the feeding schedule.  Using filtered water to moisten the kibbles, mixed in leftover broccoli stems to enhance the flavor and topped with a dollop of peanut butter, per the AOI’s, Dolce and Amore are well fed.

Article two is like the USDA:  ensuring all dog food that is consumed is safe, nutritious and sustainable, thus establishing and enforcing regulations about food handing and preparation.  All Article two has done is enable Dolce to become our resident peanut butter slut dog.  Dolce will do anything for some Skippy.  Just say “Yippy-Skippy” and she is on her back, paws in the air, doing her tricks.

Article three of the AOI states no watching.  No spy cams.  No radar.  Amore hates to be under the camera when she eats.  She’ll put her head down, muzzle ready to grab a bite, her eyes roving left and right checking for Big Brother.  Always on the look out for cops.   Heedful of the speed trap.  Regulations demand caregivers to step back five plus paces behind, out of visual range.  Mind the GAP.  Back away.

Article four is all about inspections. After polishing off their food bowls to a shiny and empty bottom, Dolce and Amore reserve the right to examine the other’s food bowl.  Haste makes waste and there is nothing the girls hate more than waste.  Bowl inspections safeguards against uneaten food, protects against surplus broccoli stems and eliminates any extra leftovers.  The first to finish their meal allows for additional time to search out remaining food scraps in the other’s bowl.  As Dolce heads over to Amore’s bowl, Amore is rapidly moving towards Dolce’s bin.  Muzzles are searching for one last bite, one last morsel, one more crumb. Food bowl inspections are a carefully orchestrated ploy to out maneuver the other canine for one more bite.  When it comes to food bowl inspections, the USDA has nothing on the canine,

Article five is the last and sums up the in-between time.  The minutes between the a.m. and the p.m.  The hours between the sun up and the sunset.  The important part.  The TREATS!  Ah yes, both Dolce and Amore have riders in their contract for the good stuff: pig ears, chew sticks, milk bones and dog cookies.  The household policy is to limit their in-take of doggy treats.  Good manners and good behavior will garner a dog cookie.  A trip to the pet store might merit a pig ear.  Article four is based solely on budgetary means and spare change.  And if I’m in a good mood.  And usually only adhered to on weekends and holidays.

As employed staff, it is Malcolm’s and my primary responsibility, concern and purpose to ensure that all dog food is manufactured and consumed by the 5:00 o’clock mark on the day’s timer.  Treats are optional.

 

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the berner sandwich

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The best sandwich starts with two substantial slices of still-warm from the oven, crusty bread.  I never use that day-old bread crap often buried in your mom’s chest freezer.  Found six months later, the loaf’s slices have already started to show off their curled corners.  With ice particles clinging to the outer crusts, the bread slices are separated and thinned from their once highly advertised, don’t squeeze the bread bag, freshness.  What I’m talking about is a hearty bread with a crust worthy of a sandwich.  Perfect tops and bottoms, perfect bookends to hold all the flavorful goodness of your sandwich makings together.

The best sandwich always has some sort of special sauce.  Generously spread on the inside flanks of the sliced bread, it might be a garlicky aioli, or a spicy brown mustard, or perhaps a savory chutney.  An oniony jam, a cranberry-brandy marmalade, a citrusy-fruity preserve, are all considered for their deliberate culinary palates.  The special sauce is an integral part of the whole sandwich package, a succulent pairing of tang and piquancy.

The best sandwich has complementary enhancements.  Such as Romaine lettuce, a thick slice of “tamatah” from a dark reddish-purple hued Beefeater, or some roasted green chili peppers.  Augmented with a wedge of peppery jack cheese or some smoked Gouda, and you’ve just increased your sandwich stack with both subtle flavors and added height.

The best sandwich has a mountain of tender, thinly sliced meat.  Usually left over from last night’s dinner and stacked in the middle of the sandwich with folded precision.  The sandwich is best when layered with beef steak that has been grilled over aged and seasoned oak logs, finished to a medium-rare redness and has a light dusting of seasonings still sitting on it’s outside edges.  Or perhaps some residual roasted turkey from Thanksgiving dinner.  Or maybe some BBQ’ed boneless pork loin chilled in a mustard sauce.  In any case, the main entrée of the sandwich, the meat, is the key principle in any double-decker and the center piece of any sandwich arrangement.

Some might think the best sandwiches are bestowed with specialty side lineups.  A scoop of homemade potato salad or a small cup of minestrone soup. But for Malcolm and I, we have a totally different idea of the best sandwich.  Our view of the perfect sandwich doesn’t need any of the above …..

You see, for us, we would rather be sandwiched in between our two girls, Dolce and Amore.  Folded in the middle by 100 pounds of fur on each side, we call it our Berner sanwich.   The Berner Sandwich is generously spread with a huge dollop of canine kisses, drool, and enhanced with paw pats and nose nudges.  Add a wedge of dog hair, some slices of doggy love and you have the best dog gone sandwich ever.  The Berner sandwich! DSC00489

Now, that is the best sandwich ever!

TRI-TIP STEAK SANDWICHES WITH HOMEMADE TOMATO PESTO

Be sure to drop some steak ends on the floor for your four-legged beasts.
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup drained bottled dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed, cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pound thinly sliced medium-rare Tri-tip steak (about 2 cups)
  • 4 Romaine leaves, cleaned and left whole
  • thin sliced Monterey Jack cheese
  • eight 1/2-inch slices sourdough bread, toasted lightly

In a small saucepan, saute’ garlic in olive oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened.  Cool. In a small food processor or blender purée tomatoes, basil, oil mixture, and vinegar until pesto is smooth.  Set aside.

In a bowl toss steak slices with half of pesto and spread remaining pesto on bread. Divide steak among 4 bread slices and top with romaine lettuce leaves, Monterey Jack cheese and top with the  remaining 4 bread slices.

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The black hole

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A sock goes missing.  Pens disappear.  Keys that were just in your hand are gone.  Eyeglasses lost.  The creamer that you placed on the kitchen counter after pouring yourself some coffee, vanished.  Your cell phone misplaced. The next scene shows you scratching your head as you wander around your house looking for the no-where-to-be-found items. Geez, you just had’em, where could they be?

You’re not senile, you’re not losing your mind, it’s not loss of memory, but damn, where could they be?

In my case, it was my cell phone.

At 6:30 a.m.

On a work day.

I checked my car, under the seats, between the console looking for my missing phone.  I re-checked my purse and all its pockets that has been my designated personal filing cabinet – no luck.  I’m not crazy, I just placed my whole connection to my life, my friends, my business associates on the table and now it’s  gone.  AWOL.  At first I was puzzled.  What did I do with my phone?  I just had it.

I retraced my steps, back tracked in my mind the rooms I had just been in.  I checked the coat I were wearing last, under pillows, behind cushions.  No where.  I patted down my back pants pockets, my front pockets, my chest pockets (phone shelf) and came up empty.  I grabbed my husband’s phone and dial my number only to hear nothing, not a peep.  I forgot that I had shut it off.  My photo album, my phone book, my email list – gone, gone, gone.  Now I was getting anxious.  Where was my phone?

The clock was ticking and I needed to be on my way to work.  I needed my phone.  I had a committee meeting and wanted to be a little early to work to set up the conference room.  I still had a little time but wanted to be on my way.   Amore was picking up on my anxious state, following me as I went from room to room hunting down my cell.  Dolce was nowhere to be found.

I have to admit, especially since I am talking a lost phone, I went from puzzled to anxious to frantic in about 60 seconds flat.  Maybe less.  The sounds from my heels tapping against the brick floor started clicking faster and faster in my desperation to locate my cell.  I was in frantic mode.  Amore was stirred up.  Dogs seem to pick up on their human folk’s emotional state and Amore had zeroed in on mine.  She started to run through the house barking her way from one end to the other.  Her barks were a beacon for Dolce, calling her in from the outside.  It’s standard procedure between the two of them, if one dog barks, the other will join in the chorus singing back-up.  The duet woke up Malcolm.  Crap!

“What the hell is going on?” a blurry eyed Malcolm growled.

“Can’t find my cell phone,” I tersely replied.  I was frustrated.

“And I need to get to work!”  I added.

“Try the pen.  Dolce has been frantically coming in and out of the pen for the last 15 minutes, making a racket with the dog door” he mumbled as he rolled back over in bed, pulling the covers up and over his head.

The only common wall between our dog pen and our house is in our master bath.  In our infinite wisdom, we placed the dog door in the bottom half of our linen closet in the bathroom.  It was brilliant move on our side.  The dog door is discrete, tucked inside the closet.  We can close it off any time, putting the lower shelves back in place and we can shut the door to either lock the dogs outside or in, depending on the situation.  It was also a stupid move on our side.  During the monsoon season of the summer months, Amore and Dolce track in mud and muck throughout the bathroom and into our master suite. During the winter months, they track in snow.  And, the worse of it, we hear the girls coming and going as the door flap swishes back and forth and back and forth.  Of course Malcolm heard the loud swish and swoosh as Dolce entered and left through the door as he laid in bed.

I trooped around the back to the dog pen, Amore and Dolce following close at my side.  Yep.  there lay my cell phone, under a dog-tagged bush.  Thankfully unharmed, unscathed.  Dolce was the culprit.  The phone perpetrator.  Our thief.   There was the beginnings of a hole being dug to the left of my phone.  Fresh dirt nosed into a small pile, letting me believe the evidence that Dolce was going to bury her prize, my phone.  That might have been a first, a dog buried cell phone. Her muzzle still had a sprinkle of dirt around the nose.

I wasn’t in the mood to laugh about it.  I snatched up my phone, wiped off the remaining dirt and hi-tailed it to work.  Later, after my committee meeting, after I was home from work, after my sense of humor kicked back in, I could chuckled over Dolce and the black hole.  Later, Malcolm and I would have a hoot over what else might be buried in the dog pen, laughing about what else is missing.

But not now!

Now, when something is missing, the pen is the first place we look.

found!

found!

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

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.

1000 words

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Like most high desert living, it’s either feast or famine.  We either have an abundance of snow or a dribble of water.  Our last snow fall was just days after Thanksgiving.  Edging closer towards February, the only patches of white left to be found are in remote arroyos facing north or under dense juniper branches.  Dolce and Amore’s snowy playground has all but disappeared……

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

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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

I’m serious here!

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if it falls on the floor, it's mine!

if it falls on the floor, it’s mine!

I often joke about our dogs in the kitchen.  Either their counter-surfing antics in the kitchen or their sneaky stealth of cookies and pumpkin bread off a cooling rack.  I add humor about Tiamo eating and then hiding the cream carton or the butter dish.  I laugh about Dolce doing a “drive-by” in the kitchen, searching for crumbs and tasty treats.  I jest about cooking and nibbles that fall to the floor.  As my cookbook title states, If it falls on the floor, all bets are off and it’s theirs!

My previous blog postings cite humorous and funny stories of Tiamo, Dolce and Amore fighting over food scraps.  I write about our life with three 100 pound Bernese Mountain dogs and attempt to inject humor, entertaining the reader.

But, on a serious note, there are many foods that are detrimental to a dog’s health and life.  I devote a whole page in the front of my cookbook on foods that should never, ever be given to your dog.  Today I want to emphasis the many foods canine need to avoid.   I’m serious here!

Please be careful when you allow your precious pets in the kitchen. With all the tasty treats we receive over the holidays from friends and family, it’s easy to leave something out on the counter, within easy grasp of a greedy muzzle.  Dogs believe in the two second rule.  You have less than two seconds (more like a nano-second) to recover anything that drops to the floor.  Once a dog has fixated on that treat, there is no stopping’em!  The smells, odors and scents of these treats are tantalizing to them.  In spades.  Have pity on our canine friends and remove the temptation.

You have my permission to re-post, and/or copy and paste the chart below.  I’m serious.  Pass it on!

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For 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

Questers of the Truth

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I was eight when I found myself at the crossroads of Christmas belief.  The perilous intersection where believing in Santa meets the acceptance of reality.  I hung on with child-like confidence that my schoolyard friends were mistaken, my older siblings were wrong, that there truly was a Santa and reindeer and the North Pole.   I didn’t like being laughed at for ‘still’ believing.  Santa had to be real.  I desperately wanted him to be real, but I definitely didn’t want to the last one to learn the truth.

My parents promoted the loud charade of Santa, giving credence to my conviction in Mr. Claus.  Candy filled stockings, milk and cookies for Santa, even hay for the reindeer were utter proof to my young years that Santa Claus was real.  Whispered, “better be good for Santa” rang in my ears, while Holiday carols spewed from the car radio.  Everywhere I turned was evidence that Santa existed.  How dare my classmates tease me that there wasn’t a Santa Claus!

Every member of our family had a red felt stocking, handmade by our mother, with our names sewn on the top.   They hung on the wooden mantle above the fireplace just waiting to be filled by the jolly ol’ man.  Even our dogs had specially stitched stockings that were bursting with rawhide treats by Christmas morn.  I certainly didn’t want Santa to go away, leaving me an empty stocking.  If I didn’t believe, would Santa skip our house?  Would our stockings be packed away, never again to be filled chockfull of candy and toys?

On the eve of Christmas, my mother would assist my sisters and I in placing a tall glass of milk and a plate of homemade cookies on the hearth, our carefully handwritten wish lists arranged by its side.  Snicker doodles, Russian wedding cakes, candy cane cookies piled high on a large red platter, tasty treats for St. Nick.  For weeks, Mother could be found in the kitchen, baking the most wonderful holiday confections; letting each of us kids select our favorite cookie to make.  If I didn’t believe in Santa, would mother quit baking sweets, my eight-year old brain frantically wondered?  Would the warm cinnamon scent waffling through the house fade away?  Would there be no special dessert served after our Christmas Day dinner?  Would we still celebrate Christmas?

A few days before Christmas, Father would bring home a huge bale of hay.  “Fodder for the reindeer”, he’d grunt, as he was hefting the heavy bale from the back of the pickup truck.  Under the bright outdoor Christmas lights, he’d scatter the flakes of hay about the front yard.  Eight large hay mounds tagged for the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh and a special one for Rudolf.  Once he directed us to place apples on top of the alfalfa claiming they needed extra energy for their long night delivering presents around the world. If I didn’t believe in Santa Claus, who would feed the reindeer?  Would Christmas go away? Would anyone care?

For forty some-odd years, I’ve sat at the junction of believing and not-quite believing.  Do I continue on the magical journey, keeping my faith in the magic of Santa?  Do I take a sharp right turn, jostling the memories of filled stockings, homemade cookies and hay for the reindeer before packing them tightly away in the trunk?  Last year the decision was taken out of my hands.

My husband and I were asked to play Mr. and Mrs. Claus for a large family Christmas gathering.  We were given a beautiful Santa suit, specially selected presents for the children, and directions on where and when to show up.  My husband practiced his “Ho Ho Ho’s” while I made a list of all the “good” children’s names that would be attending.

The bright red Santa suit was fur trimmed and embellished with tall black boots, a wide thick belt, and a red velvet hat.  White woolen gloves, a snow-white beard and hairpiece, old-fashioned wire-rimmed glasses along with a padded under belly pillow completed the costume.  As my husband was dressing for the part, our two Bernese Mountain Dogs came in to investigate, sniffing at the strange red velvet material and pristine fur adorning the edges.  I grabbed the camera, begging my husband to sit with the dogs for a brief photo op and quickly snapped some pictures before we needed to be on our way.

It was weeks later that I remembered to upload the pictures to the computer.  January was getting ready to turn into February before I had the time to flip through the shots I had taken.  Christmas had long passed, the tree taken down, the holiday decorations put away.  The spirit of Christmas had disappeared into worrying about paying the bills.  I sat at the computer and pulled up the pictures from Christmas.

questers of the truth

questers of the truth

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson once said, “Questers of the truth, that’s who dogs are; seekers after the invisible scent of another being’s authentic core.”   I looked at the first photo on the screen, seeing our two Berners with Santa.

The opening photo revealed our dogs, Dolce and Amore, nestled beside Santa, glazing up at him with wonder.  They were enchanted with Father Christmas, enthralled with his inner spirit, his big heart, his jolly laugh.  The adoration in their eyes shone with true belief.  Santa’s authentic core was laid bare by the truest of seekers.   And, there was Santa, eyes closed, basking in the joy of unselfish affection, unconditional love.

I knew without a doubt, weeks into the new year when Christmas was a long past remembrance, it didn’t matter whether you are a just turned eight year old or way past the half-century mark, Santa was real and would be forever.