Patti Soldavini

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Couch Hog

In Uncategorized on 12/31/2010 at 6:51 pm

Couch Hog

"Is this not my bed?"

Hoofbeats

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 12:45 pm

Olive has the body type of a Supermodel, unlike most female Weims who look like they were born to be Champion Roller Derby Queens. When meeting Olive for the first time, most people comment on her long, beautiful legs. She puts dancers to shame. And when she stands up, placing her paws on my shoulders or my back, she comes almost face to face with me. She is lean yet muscular and sinewy with an aura of soft elegance about her. When she trots, it is absolutely graceful in its effortlessness. So, it might be hard to imagine her zooming through the house, leaping up and down stairways, sliding across hardwood floors and coming to rest only when she’s slammed into a wall and literally bent the prong in the back of a C02 monitor plugged into an outlet. My sister visited a few weeks ago and I was concerned that Olive might accidently send her flying down the stairs. “When you hear hoofbeats,” I tell my sister, “Get the hell out of the way. Lean against a wall. It’s your best defense.” This is of course, only when Olive’s not devouring a bully stick, gnawing on some piece of cardboard somewhere or licking houseguests down to their DNA.

Monster

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 7:32 am

In just 72 hours, I have created a monster. From the day I brought Olive home, I was as vigilant as a border guard during all aspects of her training to teach her that jumping onto the couches and climbing to their microfiber apex was not permitted. NEIN!

So, on a particularly frigid evening a few nights ago, feeling sorry for Olive as she lay peacefully curled up like a grey-brown fawn on her expensive fire engine red (how appropriate for a Weimaraner) donut bed from Orvis, I allowed my 8-month old mostly-well-trained pooch to join me on the couch.

She quickly made herself very comfortable, first walking around in tiny half moons before settling down at the far end all curled up, with her head propped up on the cheap faux-suede orange pillow from Kohl’s so she could watch TV. I kid you not. I think the TV screen is so big (51”) that she thinks that whatever’s on it represents something actually happening in our living room.

Then, slowly, as if sneaking up on some oblivious, small-brained prey, she oh-so-casually advances, finally sidling up beside me. Of course, she’s taken the inside track, so when she feels she’s gotten close enough—when her head is resting on my neck—she stretches her body out as far as possible, like a canine version of Nadia Comaneci. And sleeps. And snores. Quietly. She sleeps so soundly, so quickly that if I try to gently pry open her eyes, she could care less. They stay sealed as though they have been sewn shut. Since her eyelashes are the same color as her fur, she actually resembles a stuffed animal whose eyes have been stolen by some chew-happy dog.

All is fine until we get up to retire for the evening; me in my bed, her adjacent to my bed in the well-appointed but stinky crate she loves. And then it begins. Barking, kvetching, crying, trilling, even keening like a widow at an Irish wake. This is the first time she’s behaved like this, so I have to assume, that a) she’d prefer to stay on the even softer couch, b) she’d prefer to stay on the couch next to me, or c) she’s just pissed that I awakened her from her couch potato slumber. The barking and trilling goes on for about 10 minutes. Telling her to “be quiet” with calm, assertive energy has zero impact. Impatient, I switch gears and try yelling instead. “BE QUIET, BE QUIET, BE QUIET.” My pleas go ignored. At my wits end, I do the next most human-logical thing; I try to reason with her, “Olive, if you continue to behave this way, you will no longer be allowed to stay on the couch.” And for added emphasis, I pile on the rhetorical, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?” Of course, the problem with all these approaches is tri-fold. A) she is not a child, B) she is not human and C) she doesn’t speak English.

Optimist that I am, I delusionally figure that this might be a one-time thing. Three times in a row. Now, during daylight hours, I find her walking across the top of the couch and love seat as if she’s scaling Mount Everest.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 7:29 am

My dog is stunningly beautiful. Really. As in so, beautiful, she stops traffic. Literally. Every day. Without fail, when Olive and I are out walking, people stop driving and get out of their cars, come out of their homes, stop washing their cars and doing all sorts of things just to greet Olive, typically exclaiming, “She’s so beautiful,” “Stunning,” “Can I pet your dog?” “Is that a…” Weimaraner? Chocolate lab? “Look, Mommy a Greyhound!” But always, “She’s perfect.” Clearly, Olive has a magnetic quality that draws people to her. People also go out of their way to let Olive pass as though she were royalty prancing down the sidewalk. You can actually sense them internally genuflecting. It made me think, “Wow, so this is how the beautiful people go through life.” She continues to parade by passersby with her deep barrel chest proudly thrust forward as if to say, “Yes, look at me, look at me!” At about this time, the old Pantene commercial tagline floats through my head, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

Windy

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 7:26 am

Anyone living in New Jersey during the summer of 2010 had the same reaction when the weather wizards officially proclaimed it the hottest Summer on record. You could hear a chorus of “Big surprise,” all the way from the pastoral farmlands in northwestern New Jersey down to the lonely pine barrens (home of the infamous Jersey Devil) in South Jersey.

However, thanks to Hurricane Earl slobbering its way up the Eastern shoreline like a Bull Mastiff in heat, those of us residing inland awakened to a stunning display of mostly blue skies and a coveted 60 degrees. There was a gentle but constant breeze interrupted by brisk gusts of wind.

Olive’s reactions to the gusts of wind buffeting her were so funny, I actually laughed out loud. Clearly, a brand new experience for her, she reacted to each gust as if it were something physical and solid, like a bumper car sneaking up on her from all different angles. When a particularly stiff gust slapped her in the butt, she did a “crazy eight” trying to escape from this challenging invisible foe. And when another gust slammed up against her head and shoulders, she again took evasive action, doing a 180 on the sidewalk.

And yet the funniest part was still to come. Back in the car, I opened the rear windows to let the glorious fresh air envelop us. Olive’s reaction? In the cargo area, she immediately took cover from the bursts of oxygen, racing from side to side and ducking from the wind as if she were running from B52 bombers overhead. God, this dog is funny.

No Mixed Signals

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 4:20 am

Olive has finally gotten a bit more vocal about her needs. Thank God, because I have gotten a bit rusty reading minds. Who would have thought that when she had an urgent need to empty her bowels, she would trill and growl. Yes, TRILL and growl. Not whine, not bark, but trill and GROWL. The trilling has an Irish lilt to it, like when you vibrate your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Sounds a bit lyrical and a bit like a demented leprechaun. The growl makes me laugh though. Is she annoyed with me because until that moment, I was too stupid to anticipate her gastrointestinal need? It’s a very clear signal. I need to get her out of the house INSTANTLY. The good thing is, after I remove the barrier to the rest of the house, she races ahead of me like she’s running the Kentucky Derby. I open the sliding glass door just as she sails across the sill, like a reindeer taking off into space. Less than a minute later, a small brown pie rests atop the bright white snow in the yard. Triumphant, Olive trots back to the door, ready to come back in and find something satisfying to chew on. But wait, I hear slurping noises that sound somewhat hollow coming from upstairs. COULD IT BE? Yes, it’s Olive drinking from the never-ending porcelain bowl of water. It’s like there’s a man living in my house now. Often when I sit on the toilet seat, it is now wet, evidence of Olive’s sloppy drinking style. Do you think she’ll stop if I treat her water bowl like my toilet? Right now, she is laying contentedly beside me curled up in her sage-colored Orvis donut bed in my office. I can hear her stomach gurgling. I look at her sleeping so peacefully and my heart fills with joy. I am so happy to have this crazed little nuthatch in my life. The one who now takes my place on the couch whenever I get up. Is it because it’s warm? Or, is she literally taking the pack leader’s spot? Does she question me as much as I question her? What a complex relationship we have. I love it.

Big Bad Wolf

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 4:18 am

On Tuesday morning, I, the Big Bad Wolf, took Olive to the vet to be spayed. She was fine until they removed her collar and leash and looped THEIR leash around her neck. That’s when she knew something was up. I was asked to complete a form that inquired as to whether I wanted the following procedures performed on Olive “while she was resting comfortably under anesthesia.” Clip nails? Oh yes, she still looks at me like I’m coming at her with a buzz saw when I attempt to do it. Clean ears? Ditto. She runs away from a Q-tip faster than a junk bond trader running from the Feds. EXPRESS ANAL GLANDS? (Is this a rhetorical question I think?) ABSOLUTELY. So, I sign on the dotted line and leave my beloved pooch in the hands of the doctor she adores. Still, I can’t focus on anything else all day long.

Dr. Cojocar calls at 11:40am to inform me that Olive came through the surgery beautifully and I’ll probably be able to pick her up later that day. I should call back after 2pm. (Funny, prior to today, he suggested I leave her there overnight. I wonder why… he’s changed his mind…) I call back at 2:15 and am essentially told that “She’s up and walking around and took a poop in her cage.” That’s my dog. Holds onto the last of her breakfast poop until between 2:00 and 3:00pm every day. Like clockwork. At least, this is one I can subtract from my “to do” list. “You can probably pick her up later today. Call after 5pm.” Now it becomes clear to me, there is a very good chance that my “BARKER” has been barking non-stop since she arrived there. I casually say, “Oh, has she been driving you crazy barking all day?” They say no, but I sense a lack of conviction behind this answer. I call at 5pm and am told that yes, indeed, I may come pick Olive up. I jump in my car and make the 10 minute trip, settle up the bill and await the return of my little grey ghost. “Is she a jumper?” one of the very young assistants asks me. “Olive is part Kangaroo,” is my reply. “Yes, she’s a jumper. Like a 45 pound jack rabbit bouncing off the walls in my house, why?” “Do you want a tranquilizer?” the assistant asks. “For me or the dog?” Just kidding. “Yes, give me the tranquilizer and I’ll use it only if I absolutely have to.”

They bring Olive out and to my surprise she is fairly frisky; more so than I imagined she would be. Her little cigar-like tail is wagging a mile a minute. I try to remain calm so she doesn’t get too excited and pop a stitch. At home, I put her in her crate with a handful of food which she devours instantly and a bit of water. She is calm but starts to “nose whistle” a bit, so I feel sorry for her, take her out and she lies on her round bed on the floor and goes to sleep with me sitting by her side. Little does she know that prior to going to bed, the dreaded “cone” fitting awaits her. A couple of hours later, I get her up to put her to bed, but first, I try getting the “Elizabethan Collar” on her. What a joke. An inverted lampshade that blocks her vision entirely; it’s like trying to squeeze a sausage through a thimble. Ugh. Forget it, she’s almost in a panic. Thank God, I bought the inflatable tube earlier (for just $34.99) that afternoon. With all my hot air, I’m still about to pass out from trying to inflate this thing. I thread her collar through it, strap it on her neck and fasten the velcro. Not so bad. She’s not loving it, but she’s not panicking. I put her in her create upstairs, close the door and she sits there looking at me like “WTF? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I’M SUPPOSED TO SLEEP WITH THIS THING ON? I try to explain to her that I don’t need her disemboweling herself in the middle of the night, so yes, she will wear the tube. I get into bed and I hear her trying to get settled repeatedly smacking into the sides of the crate like a blind person looking for an exit door in an elevator.

She wakes up the next morning and is instantly relieved when I remove the inflatable tube. Anyway, by 2pm the next day, Olive is the same nutty pooch she was before her spaying; attempting to fly through the air like Superdog. Her period of being “tired” and “woozy,” lasted all of about a few hours. Got to give the dog props; she really hasn’t licked her incision at all either and is eating and pooping like a Champion once again. You can tell by all the little red flags in my yard. It looks like a miniature golf course. :>)

The Illusionist

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 4:17 am

Ladies, and gentleman, please give a warm welcome to Olive, the Illusionist. That’s right, my dog is an accomplished Illusionist. She can make herself look larger or smaller, grey or brown, even change the color of her eyes and disappear.

The other morning as Olive was parading around the yard, nose to the ground, enjoying the cornucopia of fragrant stinks emanating from the lawn, I looked at her and thought, “She’s so dainty and fawn-like; maybe she’ll be small.” She doesn’t look as husky as most Weimaraners. She looks like a star Quarterback, not a middle linebacker.

Later that same day, while Olive is out looking to plant some more lawn cigars, I look at her and can’t quite believe my eyes. I feel like I must have stumbled into “Olive in Wonderland.” It’s as though she’s grown 2 sizes bigger since early morning. “My God, she looks giant today; maybe she’s going to be an Amazon and it will be like walking a cheetah in a few months,” I think to myself.  How is this possible?

When it’s very bright and sunny outside, Olive wears her grey fur. When she’s inside or it’s not sunny, she wears her brown fur. I surmise that the grey fur is what she wears when she’s showing off. The brown coat she saves for more informal occasions. And sometimes, I think I can actually detect her Clark Kent/Superman-like transition, when her fur actually shimmers with a grey and brown glitter-like quality. She clearly makes the most of her limited wardrobe.

She also uses her eyes to great affect as well. People alternately refer to Olive’s orbs as either “spooky” or “beautiful.” They have the quality of striking marbles that look different depending on what angle you look at them. Sometimes Olive’s eyes look mostly yellow, other times they look grey-blue and sometimes they look yellow-blue. And in photographs, they even exhibit a purple-like aura. They look their funniest when she starts falling asleep while she’s sitting up. She looks like a quiet drunk as she starts to teeter to the right or left.

Olive also has the unique ability to telekinetically transport herself from anywhere inside the house to directly behind me when I am calling her. I walk around like an idiot, calling, “Olive, Olive, where are you, come here,” convinced that A) she is somewhere impersonating Steve McQueen in the classic “The Great Escape,” or B) she is quietly wreaking havoc. And then, just as I turn around, I see her quietly seated behind me, wearing a goofy Alfred E. Neuman-like smile.

Nudist Colony

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 4:15 am

If Olive had her way, the entire world would be a nudist colony. How do I know this you ask? Easy. Try getting dressed in front of her in the morning. It’s like trying to make it through an obstacle course wearing high heels and blinders. She finds socks and underwear particularly offensive. She will try to tear them from my hands as I struggle, somewhat defenselessly, balancing myself on one leg to get them on before she shreds them. I must look like a Diane Arbus photograph that got alive somehow. She will however, wait until I get my pants on before she starts biting at the legs. Maybe the pants are more intimidating to her. Hell, maybe she’s trying to even the playing field.

Why does she do this? Either she wants to render me defenseless, clearly demonstrating her Alpha status to me, or she just feels that since she has no clothes on, neither I nor anyone else should either. Perhaps it’s her way of saying, “I too support PETA.” Funny, what goes through the mind of a dog. Perhaps I should take Olive shopping for clothes. Then she can tear her own clothes off. I think she’d probably be partial to Calvin Klein or Prada canine couture. They’d make good dog names too wouldn’t they? Calvin and Prada. I’m sure some snob somewhere, probably in Europe has named their dog Prada, don’t you think?

And the funny thing is. She has no problem when I get undressed at night. She just sits there watching wordlessly, as I toss the clothes into the hamper, (which she can’t quite figure out the purpose of yet.) This is the cue she’s been waiting for all day. Ah yes, another opportunity to stick her head into the wastebasket in the bathroom to retrieve the dental floss which flies behind her like the parachute behind a formula one race car while she races past me in a grey-brown blur. All I see is dental floss suspended in the air down the hallway.

Unpredictable

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 4:14 am

Yesterday morning, as I started to awaken, I could hear Olive inside her crate whining. Not a loud insistent whining, mind you, but a low, intermittent kvetching. Sort of like an idealized Disney Princess, pseudo-whimpering for attention. Or so I thought. “Go back to sleep,” I barked. I need another 10 minutes to shake off the fog that still envelops my brain. It is now about 6:30am. The kvetching continues, low and still intermittently like worn windshield wipers that struggle to keep time. So, now I make the fatal mistake of doing what I do every morning. Get up, quickly restore the comforter to its pre-slumber state, get dressed, open Olive’s crate door, say “Good morning Olive,” and head for the bathroom. Except, this time, unlike any other morning, I close the bedroom door behind me. I march toward the bathroom in a semi-tranquil state of mind, having no clue about the train wreck destined to occur in just a few moments.

I open the bedroom door and there is my little “grey mouse.” Perched regally on top of my bed like a giant chrome hood ornament. Peeing. I stand there, slack jawed like a stupid human, my brain unable to process what my eyes are seeing. “BAD, BAD, BAD,” I yell as I reach for Olive and she frantically scrambles for cover. There is now a wet stain winding its way across the comforter, settling into the nooks and crannies as though the Hoover Dam had burst and was trickling out about 1,000 miles from the epicenter of the disaster.

This is how my day started. I was alternately furious with myself for having ignored the obvious signal – the kvetching – and discouraged that this spectacular display came on the heels of literally months of not soiling anything inside the house. Maybe she couldn’t take the pressure of a perfect record. Thank God, it didn’t seep through to the mattress.

I wondered, did Olive have any idea her trainer was coming to the house today for a private lesson? Was this morning’s performance a foreshadowing of what was to come during Olive’s in-home tutoring session? To the point, was I about to throw $85 in the toilet today?

And then, she surprises me. The trainer arrives and Olive dutifully sits when greeting her – and I haven’t even taught her that yet. (I still haven’t figured out how to “quiet” lightning in a bottle.) Olive also has only a nano-understanding of the concept of “stay” right now. She performs admirably in front of the trainer, once again, defying expectations. Sit, down, sit, down, come. Perfect. Then, in a display of her unquenching desire to please, and perform coupled with her natural slap-happy exuberance, she hurls herself up the stairs and almost kills herself. She holds up her back leg and I’m freaking out afraid she’s snapped a bone. The trainer instructs me to put ice on her leg and we sit there on the landing (aptly named, although Olive confuses it with a “launching pad”) a few minutes while the trainer holds Olive still and I wrap the ice pack around her leg.

The trainer was going to show me how to get Olive interested in the treadmill, but not today. Today, we will focus on the hound’s predilection for “dog singing,” meaning barking. But, that’s another story. :>)

The Barkerista

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 4:13 am

One morning last week, I decided to invite Olive into the bathroom while I showered in an attempt to keep her from barking non-stop from inside her well-appointed 48 inch crate which is so large, I call it “circus size,” as it looks like it could contain a miniature Bengal Tiger.  Mind you, I love showers but perhaps like my dog, have an undiagnosed case of ADHD so I’m out of the shower within 10 minutes. But 10 uninterrupted minutes of listening to Olive’s plaintive barks, howls and wails is enough to unravel the tranquil state of mind of even a Buddhist monk.

Somewhere in the first few invigorating minutes of my shower, Olive starts barking. I pull back the shower curtain to reveal to her, that yes, I am in fact right here, mere inches from you, so this can’t possibly be a separation anxiety issue. She sits on the terra cotta-colored bathroom rug at militaristic attention with a penetrating look on her naturally inquisitive face. And barks. Again. And again. Without wavering a European millimeter from her stance. She is, to the best of her canine abilities, doing an impersonation of a greek statue right now. Okay, I think, this may be serious. As in, this seems like it could be what they call in dog training books, an “elimination signal.”

I try staring her down. It doesn’t work. (She actually has a longer attention span than I do.) She barks again. Soaking wet, my hair matted to my head like a wet skunk, I get out of the shower and put on my fleece buttercream-colored bathrobe. For a second, Olive gives me an odd look, but I think I must be crazy, I must have imagined that kooky glint in her eye. She seems a little too animated as we walk outside into the yard.

Olive has already displayed an unusual talent for creating situations where others quickly become vulnerable prey. Suddenly, with no further warning, she leaps at me, again and again, biting at my bathrobe with maniacal abandon. Two thoughts race through my mind. One, within 30 seconds, she is going to completely disrobe me in my own backyard. Two, now I get it. When I put the bathrobe on, I became nothing more than a giant plush toy to her.

Morning Has Broken

In Uncategorized on 12/30/2010 at 4:02 am

Every morning, I awaken at about 6:45am, get out of bed and frantically try to get dressed, brush my teeth and remove my Breathe Right strip before the “rocket fuel” awakens. I then approach her crate door slowly and quietly as if I’m approaching a potential explosive device. In the back of the crate, Olive remains lying regally like a very important lioness in her brown two-tone microfiber bed. She looks at me, yawns as if to say, “Oh, it’s you? ALREADY?” Then she begins to slowly roll over until she’s on her back, all four feet pawing at the air. This is her “awakening dance.” I crawl into her crate halfway to scratch her tummy, pet her and give her a few kisses. She responds to me with some swift nips to the hand, arm, sometimes the ear. There is no part of the human form that is not appealing to her to nip. Tiring of hearing “NO, NO, NO,” directed at her, she confidently and casually turns away from me as if to say, “I’m done with you, now let me go back to sleep.” So, I leave her alone for a few minutes, attend to a few other morning rituals and come back with a biscuit to lure her out of the crate so she can do her morning business. (And why the hell do they call it ‘business?’ Does she make money from this that I don’t know about?)

As Olive tries alternately to bite her flexi-leash and the new brass tag that identifies her as my master, we make our way through the kitchen, past her litany of toys and half chewed, stinking bully sticks, onto the deck outside. Every morning, she pokes her head under the tarp covering the gas grill, hoping to snack on the greasy, charred bits that fall from the grill into the catch cup underneath. I yank her away just in time. One hop off the deck and then it’s like watching Morse Code come alive right in front of your eyes. One long pee, followed by a second short pee. Then one large poop, followed by a few smaller, staccato droppings. At least, the first one of the morning is fast. Sometimes I have to parade her around the entire acre of property until she finds the exact spot where no animal has ever left its droppings in the past century.

Back in the kitchen, I now arm myself as if I am a survivalist heading for a remote hamlet in Chile for an extended undercover mission. Can’t forget the pocketful of treats, salmon flavored little niblets that stink worse than waterway kill. And my iphone in case Olive licks an under-insured stranger into a coma. Now I have to extricate my license, registration, insurance card and debit card from the confines of my wallet, put them in a fanny pack and wear to avoid having to leave my purse in the car while we venture about town. After all this, we make our way into the garage where I yell out loud, “Shit, the keys!” To my car. Olive, “the grey mouse” leaps into the back of my grey (now collectible) Saturn Vue and immediately stands on the wheel well so she can get a good look at all the maniacal squirrels we pass on the way to the center of town. I go get my keys.

That is how all our mornings begin.

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