Patti Soldavini

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Tulip Head

In weimaraners on 04/28/2011 at 7:55 am

"I can't WAIT to see Prince William!"

In honor of the Royal Wedding tomorrow, Olive will be festooned in her “Tulip Fascinator.”

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Bee Killers

In weimaraners on 04/27/2011 at 8:38 pm

"The bees scared me."

While I enjoyed my breakfast out on the deck this morning, poor Olive kept running around like a nervous bride ducking the fat fuzzy carpenter bees menacing her. Of course she doesn’t know that they can’t sting her because the males are stinger-less. Ouch. Kind of like a eunuch bee. All buzz, no action. Perhaps she is confusing them with the wasps that stung her twice last summer when she was just 11 weeks old. Casually sauntering across the deck past the tomato and basil plants, I suddenly feel a sharp searing pain in my ankle. “SHIT! THAT HURT.” I can’t recall the last time I got stung by a bee but I don’t remember it hurting this much. Do some bee stings hurt worse than others? Bee, wasp, yellow jacket, whatever; same difference. The pain starts to subside as the toxins now create an unrelenting burning and itching. The next morning, we make our way past the plants just a little less casually. “GOD-DAM-SON-OF-A-BITCHIN-BEE,” I scream as a stinger plunges into my OTHER ankle. It feels like a miniature sword. WHERE IN GOD’S NAME ARE THESE BEES COMING FROM? The next morning Olive and I pass the plants much more cautiously. This time I get past them without being stung. “YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP! YIP!” Olive is running in circles frantically trying to shake the wasp still attached to her leg. At first I thought she was having some kind of seizure, until I saw the wasp. “HOW DARE YOU STING MY 3-MONTH OLD PUPPY. NOW YOU DIE.” I comfort Olive and bring her back into the safety of the house. I march back outside choking with the blood red fury of a parent about to confront the parents of the snotnose that bullied their child. A visual sweep of the underside of the deck reveals a thin-skinned grey paper maché balloon-looking nest attached to the bottom of one of the planks. DIRECTLY  below the tomato and basil plants. It is the size of a Winnebago. Big enough to make Winnie the Pooh pass out with feverish anticipation. And by the way, wasn’t Winnie the Pooh presented to us as male? With a name like Winnie??? Anyway, now that I have identified the enemy, I am even more enraged. Really, in a maniacal state of “loon.” Like an Aztec Warrior whose loincloth is way too tight. I emerge from the garage with a jumbo can of Wasp Killer and a very long-handled broom. My strategy is to beat the living crap out of the nest like it’s a piñata filled with gold while I constantly spray the pesticide. This strategy is simply called, “Italian.” I slam the nest and it explodes with a lot of very pissed off bees. I am blind to their anger. I WILL win. By the time I’ve destroyed the nest. I’ve only been partially stung once. I am very pleased with the results. The odds were not in my favor. It’s amazing how the human spirit can triumph. Even if it’s only over bees.

Canine Capers

In Uncategorized on 04/25/2011 at 10:14 pm

"I did NO such thing. Bring me a drink. A lemon cake chaser."

On Easter Sunday, Olive got to play with her canine cousins, just hours after racing across the lawn in pursuit of a petite but speedy jackrabbit. The only thing that saved the bunny from being consumed on its own holiday was the finite length of Olive’s flexi leash. I begin packing all of Olive’s things into the car. There are so many objects, I think about stopping to take a nap. Flexi-leash, training leash, dinner bowl, food, bully stick, biscuits, toy, crate and towel. It seems like the only things I don’t need to pack are diapers, a nipple and breast milk. We stop for gas and head onto the highway. Olive is pacing back and forth in the rear cargo area of my Saturn collectible. She is excited because she recognizes that this is a “trip.” I slide a CD into the player as Olive begins barking. I have somehow learned to ignore this. You can’t give a dog a command that you can’t enforce otherwise they’ll just learn to ignore you. And since I can’t figuratively backhand the dog like my father used to do to me and my brother while he was driving because the cargo area is four arm-lengths away, I just tune it out. If I “talk to her,” this just encourages her to continue the conversation she started. I would have not thought it were possible to tune out such an annoyance if I didn’t have friends with toddlers. As the child cries full throttle at a pitch so sharp that my cerebral blood vessels shrink in fear, I say, “Do you HEAR that? Doesn’t it drive you BONKERS? How can you IGNORE that?” The next thing my friends hear is this. “Yeah, gotta go. I just remembered there’s a lunar eclipse today.” When we arrive at my cousins, we are greeted at the door by Oliver (yes, Oliver), Olive’s Tibetan Terrorist cousin. About half the size of Olive, but with all of the spirit. Minutes later, Hunter, the 120-pound Golden Goofball Retriever comes barreling through the kitchen, gobs of saliva and threads of spittle flying in all directions. I turn around and look at Olive and what do I see? My beautiful pooch staring at me with a giant wad of white foamy saliva smack dab between her eyes. It’s like looking at a gob of spit stuck to the Mona Lisa. “GET ME A NAPKIN RIGHT NOW,” I announce to no one in particular. Oliver just looks at me and walks away as if to say, “I didn’t do it.” Hunter is already off using his spittle to graffiti the walls of the house. I WANT THIS SCHMOO OFF MY POOCH. SHE LOOKS LIKE A CLOWN AT AN ADULT BOOKSTORE. I wipe Olive’s dainty little head clean and all three dogs are off racing through the house, tails wagging, legs flying, and tongues hanging. That is, until I turn around to see Olive quietly and very meticulously licking the icing off the lemon bundt cake.

Ode to Idgy

In Uncategorized on 04/23/2011 at 9:42 pm

Idgy The Wonder Dog (1993-2009)

By some weird twist of fate, my beloved Idgy’s birthday was like Olive’s, also in April. So as I have unconsciously paused to remember Idgy throughout this month, it occurred to me the other day how different Olive is from Idgy. And, how much alike they are. On many levels, I am comparing apples to oranges. Sheep to penguins. Or mice to men. I didn’t meet Idgy until she was two years old, just past the puppy stage that Olive is still in. And what is freshest in my mind are the years Idgy spent in decline. Idgy was a “multiple pedigree” pooch while Olive is a “single pedigree” pooch. Idgy was white with caramel colored spots, Olive is grey with taupe highlights in the right light. Idgy was content to curl up into a tiny fetal ball and lay on her donut bed. Olive likes to fully stretch out and recline on top of the BACK of the couch until she is lodged between the couch and the wall. Idgy had saucer-like chocolate brown eyes that exuded kindness. Olive’s striking amber eyes exude a barely controlled mania. Idgy loved being part of what was going on, including dressing up for Halloween. Olive thrives on being around people and activity but prefers at this stage to eat her Halloween costume. Idgy was unfailingly protective and loving. So is Olive. Idgy was inquisitive and when she cocked her head to look at me while I was speaking, it created the distinct impression that she was listening attentively… and comprehending. In fact, a stranger once remarked about Idgy, “That dog looks like it can talk.” I think what was inferred was that Idgy looked intelligent. She was. In fact, I fell in love with Idgy the day she spoke to me. Standing in my friend’s kitchen, she looked directly into my eyes and then slowly turned her head to stare at the kitchen faucet. And then she slowly turned her head back to me, fixing her big brown eyes on mine. “MY GOD, SHE SPOKE TO ME. SHE WANTS A DRINK OF WATER.” The realization came with the swiftness of a bolt of lightening. That was all it took. After that I was totally connected to that dog. Olive looks at me in a similar way when I speak to her. The only difference is this. I look into Olive’s eyes and I “see” her mentally considering how to outwit me. One of my other favorite memories of Idgy is her very humanlike reaction to seeing a dead deer on the side of the road, (which if you live in New Jersey, dot the roadways like inflated brown traffic cones) just a few feet from her as she stood with her front paws planted on the passenger seat armrest, her head out the window elevated above the roof line like a hood ornament. Looking at her from the driver’s seat, in the space of seconds, I saw her ears express surprise and shock while her body simultaneously recoiled, expressing revulsion at what she saw…and smelled. Her reaction was priceless. I’m not sure how Olive would have reacted. She’s still at the stage where she runs away from plastic bags blowing in the wind. I know one thing for sure. My heart is bigger because of both Idgy and Olive.

Leaf Shower

In weimaraners on 04/23/2011 at 7:51 am

"Is it DOG? Or a UFO?"

My daily walks with Olive are filled with as many transcendental moments as goofy ones. My all-time favorite so far is the “Leaf Shower” we experienced this past Fall in front of the entrance to Centenary College. As we casually approached a majestic-looking Ash tree on the college campus, its small yellow leaves began cascading down upon us in a steady stream as if someone had just turned on the shower. Olive and I stood under it for a few minutes allowing the beauty and peacefulness of nature to wash over us. It literally “rained” leaves continuously as though the leaves were tears expressing sadness that Summer was indeed over. I wish I had had my movie camera with me. It was a very memorable moment, really unlike any I had experienced before. Of course, as I stood there looking upward and stretching my arms wide as though it were snowflakes and not leaves falling, Olive was acutely focused on snapping up the leaves that were falling. “SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP.” Hearing Olive’s jaw open and snap close loudly with the rhythm of a machine gun and watching her head pivot omni directionally like Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist,” always makes me laugh. She also rears up on her hind legs like a wild stallion while she’s doing this and when her front paws start flailing, she looks like Mohamed Ali pummeling an opponent. While the leaves continue falling, Olive and I begin walking away. “Save yourself Olive,” I say. “We have no idea what we’ll run into next.”

Snake Guy

In weimaraners on 04/19/2011 at 7:20 pm

"Is he WEARING a SNAKE?"

Olive and I meet all kinds of people on our daily walks. Most are very friendly, some approach us directly to pet Olive, others just feel obligated to be polite, and a few are out-and-out closeted psychopaths who when I say “Hello,” stare blankly ahead as though walking away from a horrific crime scene. They say nothing. They do not even acknowledge our presence. And then there’s “Snake Guy.” On one bright sunny day, as Olive and I walked down the sidewalk toward a guy who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, she starts to approach him. Olive is an “attention whore.” She’ll take it from anyone who’s giving it out. We start to chat while he bends down slightly to pet her. Olive melts into her usual state of ecstasy and begins reciprocating by licking every exposed area of skin on his body. After she’s done giving him a “French whore’s bath,” we disengage and say goodbye. Then for good measure, she rams her nose into his crotch. And it’s only at that moment that I look more closely at this guy and there’s a giant snake coiled around his neck. WHOSE HEAD IS NOW RAISED AND HISSING AT ME. He’s wearing his pet like a scarf. The thoughts that immediately race through my mind are (in the following order) 1. Gross. 2. Thank God Olive didn’t notice and bite its head off. I’m not sure I have “snake coverage.” 3. Thank God it didn’t bite Olive. 4. That guy was probably surprised that I wasn’t grossed out. 5. “HOLY CRAP. AM I BLIND OR WHAT? Who knows, maybe next time we’ll meet someone walking their pet ant eater by wearing it as a hat.

I Dance for Olive

In Uncategorized on 04/18/2011 at 11:11 pm

"What the HECK happened here?

It’s true. At home, I dance a little jig for Olive. It’s the least I can do in return for all the entertainment she provides on a daily basis. I watch her stare at me as if I just dropped down from Neptune in a haze of green mist and peppermint fragrance. She stands there immobile, watching me, trying I suppose to figure out if I am about to spontaneously combust or I’m expecting a response from her. She’s probably thinking. “HOLY CHRIST. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW? Occasionally she barks a few times. Seeing immediately that this changes nothing, she stops and continues staring at me like she’s watching a multiple vehicle wreck. One in which all the cute little farm animals tumbled out of their trucks onto the highway. Where dozens of bright pink bristly piglets escape by charging up the slow lane of I-80 East. Which leads me to an important observation that finally snuck into my rock hard skull last week. Every day, when I put on my jacket, pocket my keys and say to her “OLIVE? WANNA’ GO FOR A WALK? A WALKIE?” she does the same thing. She starts twirling in circles faster than a Russian ballet dancer. This is her version of SHRIEKING with delight. But on those occasions when I have to go out and she has to stay at home, I put on my jacket and pocket my keys with my back turned towards her and my piehole shut. What does my Harvard-educated pooch do? She proceeds to calmly walk downstairs and marches straight into her crate. It blew my mind. And speaking of smart, I was shocked to witness Olive’s reaction to seeing an illustrated animated dog (that did not bark) in a recent TV commercial. She responded to it the same way she responds to seeing a “real” dog on TV. Racing up to the TV screen and barking at the dog repeatedly. For some reason, it reminds me of when I was a child and when my friends and I were outside playing and we’d spot a boy or girl we didn’t know and one of us would scream from across the street, “HEY KID! YEAH YOU. YOU WANNA’ PLAY WITH US? And right now, the dog with the human IQ? She’s wiping her lips on the side of the couch. Nice. To her, it’s an $1,800 napkin. And one she wholeheartedly believes she deserves.

Weisenheimer Weimaraner

In weimaraners on 04/15/2011 at 6:35 am

"I LOVE duck."

“Is that a Vizsla?” an older woman asked me yesterday as Olive and I passed by the car she and her husband sat in, in the parking lot of a liquor store. “Well, she’s similar to a Vizsla but no, she’s a weimaraner.” “A weisenheimer?” the woman queried. “Yes, a weisenheimer,” I replied. Little did she know. Olive was both a weimaraner and a weisenheimer. My little smart aleck. Actually, Olive might be smarter than the old woman. She’s definitely more sober. Especially at 11 o’clock in the morning.

Great Expectations

In weimaraners on 04/12/2011 at 9:39 pm

"Can we go NOW?"

One of Olive’s favorite parts of our daily walks is stopping at the local “candy store.” It’s near the end of our walk and she tries to drag me in there every day. It’s not actually a candy store, but to Olive it might as well be. It is the local feed store, Tickners. Olive is welcome inside so we stop once a week to pick up her treats. Everything from the coveted bully stix that infiltrate her dreams to all-natural biscuits and the occasional toy. She pulls me inside, almost snapping her neck, trying to crane it to the left to see the cash register where the nice lady is stationed 15 inches from a jar of complimentary biscuits. Olive is checking to make sure she’s here before I pop her leash and guide her to the right. We begin perusing the shelves, me with my hands, Olive with her nose. There seems to be no end to the number of stinking anatomical treats: bones, pig ears, hooves, and yes, even 36” dried bull peckers. Really, are these aftermarket products from slaughterhouses? Olive’s nose is in overdrive and she’s pulling some especially fragrant products from the shelves with her teeth. We make our way to the register and Olive’s tail lights up and starts spinning. She knows the drill. After I pay for her treats, the nice lady comes out from behind the counter, tells Olive to sit and gives her a biscuit. Olive proceeds to devour the biscuit, crumbs flying in all directions like the spray from an automatic machine gun. In the blink of an eye as though she were Clark Kent magically transforming into Superman, she proceeds to vacuum up the microscopic crumbs and assorted bacteria resting on the commercial floor runner faster than a Dyson Turbinehead. I love this little ritual. It reminds me of summer afternoons as a child when my Grandfather used to take me (and his dog) to the neighborhood candy store to buy my silence. It worked. Handfuls of Pixy Stix, Chuckles, Necco Wafers, Candy Buttons, Lemonheads, Devil Dogs and the newest issue of 16 Magazine with Davy Jones on the cover was all it took for me to keep my piehole shut. Grandma would NEVER find out about Grandpa’s smoking. Not from me. That, and the afternoons shooting pool with my younger brother at the old man bar while Grandpa and his friends watched the Mets game and drank their Rheingold beers. Besides, there’s just something so innocent and childlike about Olive’s expectant behavior that it fills my heart with joy.

Father Knows Best

In weimaraners on 04/12/2011 at 8:35 pm

Olive's Father: "Knockin on Heaven's Door"

Hi everyone. This is my Dad. Isn’t he handsome? Do you think I look like him? Without the little nozzle below? Hi Dad. What does knockin’ on heaven’s door mean? Wanna see me run? Wanna see me leap over the couch in one single bound? Am I cute? Today I ate a stinkbug. (Scratch, scratch, lick, lick, nibble.) Do you watch “Dog Whisperer” too? What’s that shiny blue thing in the picture? I’d like to eat it. Right after I’m finished eating Patti’s books. She reads them, I eat them. This is the only way I can digest the stories. The humorous ones work like Activia on me. The dramas are constipating. And the biographies take forever to pass. And the business books? Ugh. It’s like eating bull scat. Did I just say bull? “WHERE ARE MY BULLY STIX? I WANT A FRESH ONE. NOW.” Dad, will you take me to the store to get some? I just got my nails done. Today, they are electric blue with tiny polka dots. Just kidding. They got clipped. I’m thinking about selling my lawn cigars to the local woodland creatures. The deer are so stupid, I can’t believe it. I tell them they are chocolate eclairs. What do you think Dad, huh, Dad, huh?

Ancestry.Dog

In weimaraners on 04/11/2011 at 8:06 pm

Olive's Mother

Olive’s family tree, emblazoned with an Official American Kennel Club seal, traces her ancestry back four generations. It hangs in the hallway on the Benjamin Moore Aura paint-colored wall aptly called… “Weimaraner.” It is surrounded by frames documenting her extended human family. A collection of sepia-toned and black and white photos of my grandparents, great grandparents, parents and cousins and color photos of younger generations, my brothers and sister, my nephews and my niece. Mostly Italians with a few Germans infiltrating the family ancestry.

While Olive’s family tree does not include photos, it is populated by dozens of evocative names. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. Legacy. Main Attraction. Moonlite Becomes You. Simply The Best. Go For The Gold. La Femme Nikita. Star Attraction. Just Do It.” And “Happily Ever After.” Quite a contrast to some of the names on my tree: “Narno. Donato. Grazia. Rosangela. Yolanda. John. Clara. Josephine. Andrew.” I wonder what my AKC name would be if I were a dog.  Possibly something that suggested equal measures intelligence and goofiness. “Einstein’s Clown?” “Bozo’s Philosopher?”

One thing is clear. Olive has good genes. Yesterday, we were stopped on our walk four times by passersby (and driversby). They all said the same thing. “Beautiful dog.” True, you don’t see Weims that often. But Olive is a beauty. She has clean lines, a gorgeous face, a just-right tail that proudly impersonates an exclamation point, and genetically perfect feet; like they could be the slender feet of a hand carved mahogany table. Which is why I can’t understand why she sometimes lays on my bed, stares at herself in the mirror and barks and growls at herself.  She’s probably bemoaning what she perceives as her imperfections. Or, it’s a coincidence and she’s just got gas.

Getting Olive

In weimaraners on 04/10/2011 at 9:22 pm

"PICK ME! PICK ME! PICK ME!"

Next week is Olive’s first birthday. She will be 365 days old. I will have aged one dog year. In honor of this day I will be posting photos taken of Olive when she was a mere imp. A blur. A sonic boomlet. There aren’t too many of these photos because most of them are unfocused grey blurs where only a small part of her anatomy is in frame. The only time she was “kinetically-silent” was when she was passed out cold sleeping. Olive’s destiny as my spoiled pooch began last April when I psychologically made the decision to get a dog. This was 15 months after Idgy the Wonder Dog had passed on. I loved that dog with all my heart and it was heartbreaking to have to put her down. I sobbed while I held her and she took her last few breaths. Although I knew that day would inevitably come like the certainty of a late spring thunderstorm, I couldn’t believe it had finally arrived. It was shattering to take her to the vet’s office with the knowledge that she wouldn’t be coming home; knowledge that she did not have. The only consolation I had was that I believed the timing was right. A week earlier and it would have been too soon. A week later and it would have too late. Idgy sent very clear signals that she was ready; that it was now more painful to still be here than not. It took 15 months for me to stop feeling guilty about the idea of getting another dog. The first choice I had to make was whether I wanted a “single pedigree” or a “multiple pedigree.” Idgy was a multiple pedigree so that was a plus. But I also was inexorably drawn to both the Weimaraner and the German Shorthaired Pointer.  I identified a few Weimaraner breeders in northern New Jersey and one informed me that she had a brand new litter of 11. Off I went. Flying up the Garden State Parkway North as if I were being chased by Tyrannosaurus Rex. I arrive and what to my wondering eyes should appear? 11 tiny Weimaraners. 11 perfect little replicas of their stunning parents, whom I also met that day. Observing the mother I think to myself, “She seems pretty calm for a Weim. Or, she’s just exhausted from nursing 11 puppies with just 6 nipples.” I glance over at the fence where the father is racing back and forth like a Bengal Tiger eyeing me, the intruder, while he barks as though he just discovered Osama Bin Laden hiding behind a nearby tree. How do you choose one when each looks indistinguishable from the next? How do you choose one when you’re watching 11 of them crawl all over each other like ants that have just found an unattended French baguette in the middle of the desert? “Let me think it over,” I say. “I’ll let you know. It’s a big commitment and I also want to look at some German Shorthaired Pointers.” I look back at the 11 pair of Paul Newman baby blue eyes tracking me while I make my way back to the car. In less than 10 minutes, I’m back on the Garden State Parkway. In less than 15 minutes I call the breeder. “I’ll take one. Pick out the one you think is right for me.” This is how Olive’s story begins…

Olivepalooza

In weimaraners on 04/05/2011 at 8:37 pm

"Want to hear me YODEL?

Olive is quite the vocal pooch. The deep, basso profundo growl she sustains when expressing her displeasure at a bird trespassing in her airspace. “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY SIGHT OR I’LL SNATCH YOU RIGHT OUT OF THE AIR AND EAT YOU ALIVE!” Or the yearning hauntingly sustained howl she uses to signal her dismay at being left alone. “MY-HEART-IS-BREAKING-INTO-A-MILLION-PIECES.” Then there’s the skull-splitting bark she uses when she’s either signaling her urgent need to go outside to drop a lawn cigar or when she wants you to know that she’s very angry about being crated just because she clipped my head with her rock-solid hind quarters when she became airborne leaping over me while I sat on the couch. “NOT. MY. FAULT. LET. ME. OUT. OF. THIS. BIRD. CAGE. NOW!” Of course, there’s my personal favorite, the “nose whistling.” During these moments, you’d be right to mistake her for the world’s greatest flutist. “DO RE ME FA SO LA TI.” The only thing missing is a series of bright metallic keys on the bridge of her nose. I close my eyes and picture her standing on all fours on stage at Carnegie Hall. A very tiny, very round person dressed in a diminutive tuxedo daintily raises Olive’s petite tail and blows air into her behind while Olive deftly plays the keys on her nose. The pitch and range of the notes she’s able to hit are at the very least, American Idol-worthy. But the one noise she makes that never fails to startle me is her yawn. It sounds incredibly human-like. “EEEYYAHHHHHH.” It’s almost a little creepy. Now she’s snarling a bit like a frustrated bull because her softball-sized red tennis ball just bounced off the wall and shot under the couch. I bend down to retrieve it and when I look under the couch it looks like Christmas. At least five of her toys are huddled together seeking refuge. “SHHHHHH…WE ARE NOT REALLY HERE.”

Q-Tip Addict

In weimaraners on 04/02/2011 at 10:29 am

"Who, ME?"

My little Q-Tip addict is now sunning herself on the back of the blanket-covered couch, looking as innocent as a Beatrix Potter bunny. Maybe I’ll nickname her “Princess Ra” when she does this. This is where she fled to after being chased throughout the house with a fan of Q-Tips sticking out of her mouth. She wins because I have to stop to pick up the webs of discarded dental floss that are strewn across the carpeting as if a can of pick-up-stix has exploded. Between the Q-Tips, tree limbs, wood pellets, and cardboard compulsion, I’m wondering if Olive has a fiber deficiency. I could probably feed her a bowl of sawdust, crumpled up cardboard and Q-Tips and she’d be just as happy. Instead, like a moron, I feed her expensive natural and organic dog food. I’m not sure how to keep her from ransacking the bathroom wastebasket like a common junkyard dog. I have to put the lid down on the toilet to keep her from drinking from it as if it’s a slurpee fountain. Now I have to close the bathroom door to keep her from wearing the wastebasket as a silver hat. Maybe I should just seal all the pinholes in the universe to keep her out of trouble. Goofy dog.

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