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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our paper boy

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

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

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

And so our training began…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your morning!

 

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