$51.95

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$51.95.

$51.95 every two to three weeks.

$51.95 every two to three weeks for over eight years.  (with yearly price increases)

$51.95 is how much we pay for a 30 lb. (used to be 40 lbs.) bag of dog food.  Plus tax.  Nutro’s Lamb and Rice. No corn or corn gluten, no wheat or soy protein, Nutro’s Lamb and Rice is a natural blend of lamb, whole brown rice, oatmeal, and all those special vitamins and minerals, guaranteed to help minimize gastric sensitivities while delivering natural nutrition.  It’s the only dog food brand we’ll buy.  nutro-LID-large-breed-adult-lamb-rice

Is it expensive?  You bet!  Could we buy cheaper dog food somewhere else?  Yeah, we could… but we don’t.

Five miles down the road is a very special pet store that caters to all the spoiled pets in the area.  Starting out in a closet space of a store front, the Eldorado Country Pet Store has increased in size ten-fold, expanded its merchandise and is our “go-to” pet store.  They’ve been “our” pet store since the beginning.  Since ECP opened it’s doors, since we brought Tiamo home, since the puppies were born.  ECP has been there through Thugs and Tiamo.  They special ordered the thunder shirt for Amore and sold us our travel water bowls.  For over eight years.

Over eight years equals over $10,000 that has been charged to our Visa.

$10,000 plus treats.

Plus pig ears. Plus peanut butter squares.  Plus cow hooves, raw hides and dog cookies.  Plus dog toys, dog collars, dog beds and dog blankets.  Plus doggy holiday stocking stuffers and cute dog picture frames and precious little doggy items found on the internet.  In the last eight years, we have happily (ok, maybe not Malcolm) flipped open our wallets and pulled out our credit cards, to pay for special canine goodies for Tiamo, Amore and Dolce, two to three times a month.

I’m a sucker for those Bernese Mountain Dog socks on display by the check out counter.  They’re only $12.95.  If the girls are with me when I run the bi-monthly Saturday dog food errand, I tuck in a pig ear for each.  What’s another $1.29/ea.  By November of each year, I’ve ordered my BMD calendar for the next year, with free shipping.  Every Christmas, the girls get a holiday bonus bone.  $3.95 is pittance to pay when it brings them such joy.

Let’s face it, the pet industry is big business. Statistics claim there are over 115.4 million Americans that own a pet. Nearly 60 percent of those same Americans own canines. Of which, more than half consider their dog(s) to be members of the family. Americans will spend an estimated $52.87 billion from their budgets on their pets this year alone. Big name corporations such as Omaha Steaks, Old Navy and Harley Davidson have introduced pet product lines that include gourmet treats and food, pet attire and pet toys. Pet parents are buying orthopedic dog beds, designer sweaters, IQ-raising toys and even travel seat belt systems.  And food – every kind of dog food from basic to breed-specific to organic, all at a dizzying array of price points.  People from every demographic group and income level are spending more on their pets.

 

But is it worth it?  Absolutely!

It’s only $51.95

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

selective hearing

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what dog hears

 

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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……

Video by webartads   http://www.youtube.com/user/webartads

 

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You choose!

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Help!

I’m sending out an S.O.S. to all of you.

I need your help!  Help me choose the best photo from the final round of photo edits.  How do you choose the absolute best Kodak moment? How do you pick just one photo out of literally hundreds of images when they all have special meaning?  Especially when each impression, each picture is so expressive.   Here’s where you get to help.

After sorting through over 800 plus photos of the girls, I was able to narrow down the first round of cuts to over 60 pictures.  The second round of edits was much harder.  I scrutinized the pics over and over.  I agonized over similar images, clicking back and forth and back and forth before finally making the selection.  I would click for a larger view, toggle back to the other photo, resort the order, review the pictures again, place the images side by side and then chanted, “enny, meanny, minny moe”.  The final click deleted the next 45 or so of puppy pics.

Leaving the last round of selecting the best photo to you.

The past five months between work, travel and life, I started writing another book.  I know, I know, am I crazy or what?  But crazy or not, I’m at the “designing the cover” stage and need your assistance.  Scroll down and view the final round of possible cover pictures.  Imagine each photo on the cover of a dog tale story and place your vote!  Leave a comment, offer your reasons, or suggest something different.  Let me know your thoughts.

To help you, here is a brief description of my soon-to-be published book.

Meet Tiamo, Amore and Dolce; three, 100 pound, beautiful 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 many times, humorous capers…. along with their playful frolics that often land our 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 care-tenders.

Photo 1 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 1 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 2 - Amore

Photo 2 – Amore

Photo 3 - Amore

Photo 3 – Amore

Photo 4 - Amore

Photo 4 – Amore

Photo 5 - the three musketeers

Photo 5 – the three musketeers

Photo 6 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 6 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 7 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 7 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 8 - Dolce

Photo 8 – Dolce

Photo 9 - Amore

Photo 9 – Amore

Photo 10 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 10 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 11 - Amore

Photo 11 – Amore

Photo 12 - Amore

Photo 12 – Amore

Photo 13 - Amore

Photo 13 – Amore

Please vote for your favorite photo

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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.

what a dog thinks

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didn’t write this, but boy is it on target!

 

By Samantha Drake | Pet360

In general, the most exciting thing that happens to your dog all day is the moment you come home, whether it’s from vacation, work, or just checking the mailbox. Here’s what goes through your dog’s mind during this much-anticipated reunion.

 

  • ZZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzz …
  • Ooh! Someone is at the door. Must investigate.
  • Is this a barking situation? Who is it? Friend or foe? Friend or foe? Friend or- Oh, wait, I hear keys …I know who it is!
  • It’s YOU!!! MY WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL FRIEND!!! YOU’RE HOME! I’M SO EXCITED TO SEE YOU!!!
  • Where have you been? What’s in that bag? Is it for me? What did you bring me?
  • I’M JUMPING FOR JOY!!!
  • I know, I know. I’m not supposed to jump. I’m so ashamed. Really, I just got carried away. I won’t do it again … I’m just so HAPPY!
  • Oh yes, please pet and scratch my head more, yesyesyesyes, don’t stop …I’m so happy you’re home!
  • Wait, where are you going? Can I come? Ooh, you’re opening the cabinet … I love that cabinet. MY YUMMY, YUMMY TREATS ARE IN THAT CABINET!
  • Those are for me! Yes please! Wait, what? You want me to sit? Okay, anything for one of my yummy treats. See, I’m sitting! I’m sitting! Look at me! Look how good I’m sitting!
  • YES! I love my yummy treats so much!
  • Can I have another one? Pleasepleaseplease? No, no, that wasn’t jumping, I’m just putting my paws up on you to let you know how badly I want … I’m sorry. I just get sooooo excited. Don’t be mad at me. I hate that so much. But you’re still holding one of my yummy treats … do you think you could possibly … Look! I’m sitting! Pleasepleaseplease? PLEASE!?
  • YES! Thankyouthankyouthankyou! I love you so much!
  • In honor of this wonderful moment, I’m going to go get my favorite, most chewed-upon squeaky toy to show you how much I love you and want to play with you. I want to play and play and play!
  • Here, take my toy. No, it’s my toy. Really, take my toy. No, you can’t have it. Take my toy. Oh, do we have to stop already? Can I interest you in going back over to my yummy treat cabinet? No?
  • Ah, more petting and scratching. I love that. I love you. I’m so happy.
  • Oh sure, you can take your coat off. Absolutely. Go ahead.
  • But hey, could you take me outside now? I just realized I have to PEE. Can we PLEASE go outside NOW?

my favorite color

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dog hair

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.

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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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Why it’s named what it’s named!

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dog food

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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poor Malcolm

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Guarding her treasurer

Tiamo’s favorite – a peanut butter filled KONG

Whenever we have company visiting, especially those guests with children, I try to have some type of cookie or snack ready. Something sweet, something special for the little ones.  I  usually have to whack Malcolm’s fingers  with the wooden spoon, as he tries to steal a cookie before company arrives, saving them for the kids.  Malcolm has appointed himself as the resident taster and feels he gets first bite of any sweets.  And if that doesn’t work, he calls his stealth of a cookie the “Malcolm TAX”, owed to him by virtue of him being “Malcolm”.

When our nephew Sam came around, I made sure the cookie bin was always full.  By the weekend’s end, as he was getting ready to leave, the cookies would be depleted to just a few left.  I would send him off with a bag of “left-overs”, the few cookies still uneaten  a part of his care-package.  Malcolm was always tweaked that I gave the cookies away.

When our Dennis the Menace neighborhood kid, came over to play with Tiamo and her eight little puppies, I would keep extra treats hidden in the garage freezer (hidden so well, even Malcolm didn’t know they were there!) ready for him to enjoy.  When the puppies outgrew their yelping pen, we moved the litter into the garage where we built a huge pen.  The pen took up the whole garage, everything pushed to the perimeters to make room.  “Dennis” had permission to come on over to our house and head out to the garage to play with the kids.  After a couple of play sessions, I noticed that every time, “Dennis” left, a box or a chair was always moved over by the refrigerator/freezer.

Naturally, I assumed Malcolm was moving things around in the garage and left the box there.  Malcolm figured I used the chair to sit with Tiamo and her kids.  It took about a two weeks before I realized “Dennis” was using the chair to climb up on to reach the top freezer and grab some cookies for his pocket before he left.   “Dennis” was double dipping!  He would enjoy a treat when he first arrived and he would enjoy several as he was leaving!

When I baked cookies for work, Malcolm would complain I only baked for others, that he never got to enjoy the bounty.  Unfortunately, he was right.  I didn’t bake for just us – I baked for others.  So one weekend, I decided I would bake a batch of his favorites.  Peanut Butter Cookies.  Made with Skippy’s Chunky Peanut Butter.  Not Jif.  The old-fashioned kind of peanut butter cookies with cris-cross fork tyne indents on the top.  I made a double-batch so I could freeze some for later.  The kitchen air was filled with a warm peanut butter scent as I pulled the baking sheets filled with the golden brown cookies fresh out of the oven.  I gently transferred the cookies to the cooling racks.  Malcolm was outside in the back watering, so I grabbed a few still warm cookies, wrapped them up in a paper napkin and brought the tasty cookies out to him.  I’d do kitchen clean up after Malcolm had a chance to eat some cookies.

I wasn’t gone long, maybe four to five minutes at most.  Long enough to walk down to where Malcolm had water running on the Purple Robe Locust trees around back, hand him his treats and head back up to the house to wash up.  Tiamo joined me as I delivered the fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies to Malcolm, running out of the house ahead of me.  As she was in the habit of doing, Tiamo wandered off as I chit-chatted with Malcolm.  As I  turned to walk back up to the house, I told Malcolm I was going to leave Tiamo with him.  She wouldn’t run off and she loved to be with Malcolm outdoors.

I entered the kitchen, gathering the dirty baking utensils to wash.  I bent down to pull out a zip-lock bag from a bottom drawer to freeze the cookies, turned to the corner counter to pack up the cookies and froze.  A cooling rack was laying haphazardly against the brick floor.  My eyes quickly looked up to the counter.  All of the cookies were gone.  ALL of them!  GONE!  The remaining cooling racks were empty.  One rack on the floor, one half-off the counter, the last one pushed back against the back counter wall.  The only evidence of any cookies were a few cookie crumbs left on the counter.

Tiamo hadn’t just wandered off, she had snuck back into the house while I was with Malcolm and ate all the peanut butter cookies.  Every last one! Finished them off!  Obviously, Tiamo loved peanut butter.  She was our counter-surfing thief!  And, it didn’t take her long to pilfer the peanut butter goodies.

Poor Malcolm – out of a double-batch of Peanut Butter Cookies, Malcolm only had two.

PEANUT NUTTER-BUTTER COOKIES

These outrageous cookies need to be kept under lock and key.  Do not leave unattended while cooling!  Have been known to disappear down to the crumbs.

  • 1 cup super chunky peanut butter (with nuts)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp dark corn syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 12 oz of chopped up peanut / peanut butter candy bars such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Payday or Nutrageous

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Line two large baking sheets with foil.

Beat peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, egg, corn syrup and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended with an electric mixer.  Stir together flour, oats, and baking soda in another bowl and mix into the peanut butter mixture.  Add chopped candy bars.  Mix.

Drop dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.  Slightly flatten cookie dough with the back of a moistened spoon or your fingertips.  Freeze unbaked cookies on sheets for 12-18 minutes

Bake cookies 10 minutes.  Switch top and bottom sheets and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cookies cool on sheets until just beginning to firm.  Transfer to finish cooling on a cookie rack.

WARNING:  Keep husbands and dogs away!

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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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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