Patti Soldavini

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Weimaraner Zebra

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/30/2011 at 7:20 pm

"NO, I'm not quite feeling myself yet."

Last Monday night, I dropped Olive off at her Trainer’s in preparation for my out-of-town business trip the next morning. I am grateful that I can leave Olive in the hands of someone she knows and someone who knows how to handle dogs—even the most challenging. As Shelley and her daughter Amanda secure Olive in the crate in the back of their car, I feel the familiar separation anxiety (mine), which like an air biscuit in church, I try hard to suppress. Little did Olive know that she’d end up with a human companion who is actually much like herself. I try not to think about her as I drive home, focusing on navigating my way through the thick fog suspended above the roads like endless giant cottonballs, deciding that I should no longer take the long, winding, narrow, steep back roads at night ESPECIALLY when it’s so foggy out. I get home and turn on the documentary “Something’s Wrong with Aunt Diane” on HBO. It is both catastrophically sad, chilling and perplexing. I wonder what Olive is doing right now, I think. Every so often, I continue to think about Olive throughout the next three days at my business meeting. I really do miss her and hate being away from her. Yeah, I guess I’m head over heels in love with my goofy dog. I wait until early Wednesday evening to text Shelley: “IS OLIVE BEHAVING?” Zing. The reply? ‘NO, DID YOU GET MY EMAIL?” ‘NO, IS EVERYTHING OKAY?” Zing. I can’t even wait for the reply; I panic and immediately call Shelley who informs me that Olive barked non-stop from the time she got her home at 10pm Monday night until 4am on Tuesday morning. “SHE BARKS AT EVERYTHING,” says Shelley, ‘BUTTERFLIES, BIRDS, BEES, THE WIND, YOU NAME IT.” She barked so much in fact, that the three teenagers living in the house, vacated it in the middle of the night. And then I remembered. This house was new to Olive, and there were new people living there; it was now a more active environment that Shelley lived in. This kind of change is challenging to Weims who are always in a state of “high alert.” “THAT’S NEW, BARK BARK. THAT’S DIFFERENT, BARK BARK. WHAT’S THAT? BARK BARK. WHO ARE YOU? BARK BARK. WHAT’S GOING ON? BARK BARK. I felt sorry for everyone. No one in Shelley’s family got to sleep. And poor Olive was on guard duty all night in an unfamiliar house filled with new, unfamiliar faces. She probably felt overwhelmed by the challenge of trying to “manage” all the kinetic activity around her. She sure must have barked herself out because when she returned home, the first time she barked, it sounded funny; unlike her usual barrel-chested bark, it sounded somewhat strained. Like a fat opera singer with laryngitis. Pitiful. She also seemed a bit tranquil and tentative at the same time. Like someone who couldn’t decide if they were just exhausted or had post traumatic stress disorder. She marched straight into her Beverly Hills 90210 crate last night and went right to sleep. She even skipped jumping up on the bed to spend some time with me. Today, after our walk, Olive spent much of the day stretched out on top of the back of the couch, sunning herself in front of the South-facing windows like a grey panther in the Great Plains of Africa who has just finished a very satisfying wildlife meal. Back home. Back in her quiet environment. Back to her dinner mixed with sweet potatoes. Back to just having to watch one person. Back to being herself. Right now, she’s in the dining room, zonked out on the pony-print chair, head resting on its arm, snoring ever so lightly. Peace at last. For all.

Naked Crate

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/29/2011 at 9:48 pm

"IT'S ABOUT TIME YOU'RE HOME."

“You’re finally home. I’ve been up for days. Where have you been? I barked so much I think I ruptured my bark box. Why did you leave me? Are you okay? Why am I only speaking in sentences of three words? Did you know that I had to sleep in a NAKED crate? One without any soft downy pillows and fluffy blankets? Christ, my bony ass hurts. I’m thirsty. Why couldn’t you take me with you? The garbage can stinks like hell. Not a good idea to throw a 15 pound frozen turkey in it on a 106-degree day and then take off for three days. Thanks for finally moving it away from my pen. Can I have a bully stick? Did you miss me? Can I sleep next to you on the couch? I missed you. ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”

Disturbing The Cemetery Peace

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/24/2011 at 7:56 pm

"SO I barked. Sometimes you talk too much."

Today Olive and I drove down to the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown, New Jersey. It was an opportunity for me to complete a genealogical task; to photograph the bronze grave marker of one of my ancestors. It was a good excuse for both of us to get out. Having been effectively quarantined for the past 10 days trying to avoid the Persistent Satanic Heat Blast and nursing my infected Lyme rash, I figured it would be a good break from hiding inside the house like twin crypt keepers. The red fabric blinds have been drawn all week, making it look as dark and claustrophobic as the inside of a mausoleum. Off we go. Olive climbs into the back seat of the SUV and takes her spot (the middle) on the olive-colored bench cover, looking as expectant as a child on Christmas morning. I plug in the GPS and as usual, she immediately contradicts the route I was going to take to stop at an ATM first. Whatever. I get to the ATM drive-up and there are three cars ahead of me. Cars one and two come and go pretty quickly. Car three, immediately in front of me, apparently has massive issues that I don’t think a bank can solve. He must have pressed every button four times. “HOLY CHRIST OLIVE, WE’RE GOING TO BE HERE FOR A MONTH. I THINK THIS IDIOT IS TRYING TO PLAN HIS VACATION, THAT OR HE’S TRYING TO COMMUNICATE WITH EXTRATERRESTRIALS.” Olive just looks at me. Perhaps she thinks extraterrestrials are giant treats. Finally, the constipated clown in front of us moves and I complete my transaction in seconds. It’s easy. I need some cash. This is an ATM, Unfortunately, it doesn’t dispense brains. About 90 minutes later, we arrive at our destination, just as I’m wondering why the electronic beeyotch told me to turn left instead of right. I let Olive out to pee and give her a drink of water. As usual, trying to locate a grave inside a cemetery is needlessly complex, like a topographical M.C. Escher print. Really, what’s with the convoluted sectional numbering? Section KS. What do they do, hire cartographers to chart cemeteries? I see a marker for Section KN and one for KW, but WHERE THE HELL IS SECTION KS? As we make our way around the cemetery roads in circles, I see a melancholy sight. A man sitting in a canvas chair with an umbrella on it right in the middle of the lawn, obviously next to a grave. You could sense this was how he spent every Sunday. And you also sensed he would be spending the entire day here. This fleeting impression made me feel that it was a father at the side of his son’s grave. Very sad. Just a very short way away I finally locate section KS. I get out, open the windows for Olive and start looking for my ancestor’s grave. All the markers are bronze and flush against the ground. This gives the cemetery the appearance of being the least populated cemetery I’ve ever seen or the kind of park that one would never associate with so much sadness. There is another family close by, paying their respects. I am now about 100 feet from the car and apparently I’ve crossed some imaginary line as Olive begins barking like she sees ghosts that I do not. Mortified that she is disturbing the peace of families paying their respects in a veteran’s cemetery, I stop, look back, and not thinking, place my finger to my lips, giving Olive the universal human signal for “QUIET!” Olive understands this (when she wants to), but right now, I’m far enough away from her that she can’t see this command. And it’s not like I can use the dreaded spray bottle from hundreds of feet away. I stop to face her and she stops barking. I turn away from her and she starts in again. I think I’m doomed. My best bet is to find the grave marker as fast as possible, say a prayer, take a picture and get the hell back to the car. I do this amid Olive’s insistent barking and when I turn around to begin the walk back to the car, my little Tasmanian Devil goes mute. The best is yet to come. While I was only outside of the car literally for less than 10 minutes, apparently the GPS beeyotch has suffered a stroke. Which I don’t know until I start the car and begin driving. “GO .04 MILES AND TURN LEFT ON CONSTITUTION DRIVE… GO .03 MILES AND TURN RIGHT ON CONSTITUTION DRIVE.” “WTF?” I say out loud. I swear you could almost hear the tension of ambiguity in her electronic voice. It gets much worse. “HOW TO MAKE A SPAGHETTI SANDWICH, STAY TO LEFT.” “SHEEP ARE BISEXUAL CREATURES. TAKE RAMP ON RIGHT.” “TODAY IS ADOLPH HITLER’S BIRTHDAY, TAKE ROUNDABOUT.” Okay, so she didn’t go to Crazy Land quite this way, but really, it was as if she just stepped off a rollercoaster and couldn’t get her balance. I took her off the dashboard and put her in front of the A/C vent. “TAKE 1-95 FOR 3,048 MILES TO ICELAND.”

Olive and The Keets

In dogs, humor, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/19/2011 at 8:53 pm

"Lime. My favorite flavor."

As many times as Olive and I have been meandering the aisles of the local pet superstore, it never occurred to me to bring her down the “Bird Aisle” to see her reaction. Probably because we don’t even make it five feet inside the door and people are fawning all over Olive. And then I usually have to keep children from molesting her. In their excitement, they begin groping her as though she is the canine incarnation of Justin Bieber. Olive takes it all in stride, happy just to have a crowd of tiny humans orbiting her universe. We check out the treats aisle and I consider buying Greenies because I’m sure Olive would love sharpening her pearly whites on them but then I remember how Idgy vomited up huge chunks of them and move on. As we make our way down the toy aisle, Olive goes into olfactory overdrive and starts nosing through the toys nearest to the floor, occasionally picking something up and trying to make a run for it like she’s just pilfered a piece of blueberry pie from a diner and the cook is chasing her down the street. This time, the proverbial light bulb materializes above my head and I say, “OLIVE. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE SOME BIRDSSSSSS?” She immediately snaps to attention like an Airforce cadet and fixes an intense gaze on me. “I TAKE THAT AS A YES.” We approach the dozens of parakeets (all green for some reason; maybe they are cheaper in bulk colors) encased in their acrylic aviary and Olive’s reaction is priceless. She appears to be stunned. Shocked that so many birds are in such close proximity to her. I can’t decide whether she is counting them or calculating their caloric value. She watches them flitter about for a few seconds before jumping up and raking her big paws down the front of the acrylic window, whining ever so slightly. “ARE THESE LIME FLAVORED?” Olive wonders. I wonder if I’m being a little cruel, but this is too funny. The birds don’t seem to give a shit; they seem completely nonplussed by the sight of this giant grey monster staring at them and then jumping up against the front of their “house.” Olive, not surprisingly, doesn’t want to leave. “LET’S GO OLIVE BEFORE WE GET BUSTED FOR PARAKEET HARASSMENT.”

To Jump or Not to Jump

In dogs, humor, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/18/2011 at 7:37 pm

"I can see myself!"

That is the question Olive faced (literally) as she stood poised over the edge of the in ground pool at my friend Ellen’s home in Virginia. We tried to entice her down the three little textured steps into the pool using many, many biscuits and even some Monterey Jack cheese. No dice. She would plunge her perfectly shaped snout into the water up to her amber eyeballs to get the barely floating, rapidly disintegrating biscuit or wobbly bobbing orange and white cheese cube, even extending one of her paws multiple times to drag it towards her. A few times, Olive did gingerly plant her front paws on the first submerged step. There she stopped, like she was frozen in time. I didn’t have the patience to watch paint dry which is what training dogs can be like so I told my friend Sue that if she could get Olive into the pool willingly without trauma or drama, I would pay her $50. Since I have the patience of a gnat, it would be well worth it. “IS THAT MY FACE?” Olive seems to be wondering as she stares into the pool. “HOW CAN I BE THERE IF I AM ALREADY OVER HERE? ‘WHY AM I NOT WET?” And then, “ARE THEY INSANE? THEY WANT ME TO JUMP INTO THIS WATER BOWL WITH THE ENDLESS BOTTOM? NOPE. DON’T THINK SO.” Sue, who is in a whale blue inflatable chair float in the pool, puts her glass down at the pool’s edge to break up a biscuit, Olive casually saunters by trying to score a few slurps of the high test alcoholic beverage. I yank the glass away before her tongue ever touches down. “NICE TRY,” I tell Olive. “IF YOU GET INTO THE POOL ON YOUR OWN, WE’LL TALK ABOUT A HIGHER VALUE TREAT.” Olive considered what I was saying and walked away. Sue kept her drink and I kept my $50. Maybe next time.

Twilight

In dogs, humor, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/18/2011 at 7:05 pm

"Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?"

Olive in a contemplative mood with twilight as her backdrop and a horizon filled with possibility.

If We Were Dogs

In dogs, humor, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/08/2011 at 7:58 am

"You pass, here's your sticker." (Oliver)

This morning, as raindrops faintly fell, Olive and I stood in the middle of the lawn just admiring the view. The corn in the field across the street is more than knee-high already. All the fields belonging to the local farmer provide a wide and long field of view, making this patch of land resemble what I imagine the cornfields of Iowa might look like. The sky is streaked with grey-blue tones, a scattered cloud cover and a glint of orange where the sun is beginning to rise. A brand new day is beginning. With this peaceful scene as a backdrop, I suddenly wonder what life would be like if we were all dogs. If we were all dogs, we wouldn’t care what color other dogs were. We’d spend our days blissfully present in the joy of simply being alive. If we were all dogs, our lives would be much shorter, and we’d be oblivious to what the future might hold or what pains the past has wrought. As dogs, others would know exactly where they stood with us. One sniff of the rump and everything about who we are would be read with an elegant simplicity that defies today’s most advanced technology. There would be no masks, no games, nowhere to hide our true selves. We’d have our disagreements, but they’d be sorted out without using guns and knives; without belittling or shaming others. We might growl and snarl; we’d bark; we might even bite, but usually out of an instinct for self-preservation, not malice. If we were dogs, we’d take immense joy in the smallest moments of our lives. Whether it’s eating our food, chasing a ball, or lying idly on the lawn on a hot Summer day. We’d greet others with a wag of our tail, a bounce in our step, and great anticipation about making new friends. If we were dogs, we’d roam our surroundings far and wide, learning as we go along in what would always feel like a great adventure. We wouldn’t care how old the other dogs were, what breeds they were, or whether they were male or female. As long as they functioned within the order of the pack, all would be accepted. If we were dogs, we’d already have the kind of loving, peaceful spirits that many people take a lifetime to attain. We’d be happy just “to be.” If we were dogs even for just a day, we’d be better people. Thanks Olive, for making me a little bit of a better person, every day.

The Art of Olive

In dogs, humor, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/07/2011 at 7:35 pm

"Tracy, now I'd like to try something DIFFERENT."

“Oh my God, my portraits are ready for review. I CAN’T WAIT! Tomorrow Patti and I go back to Tracy’s to see them. I hope they’re better than the ones Patti took during “The Making Of” with her crappy little digital brownie. Did someone say BROWNIE? Am I drooling? Do you think I’m cute? I wonder where Patti will display my pictures. I hope I don’t eat them. I liked my photography session, it was fun. Tracy is nice too. Although 90 minutes was pushing it. I have a short attention span you know. Can I have an ice cube? I’ll bet that BIRDS don’t get their pictures taken like this. Geez, my nails are long. PATTI, WHEN DO WE GO TO THE SALON TO GET MY NAILS DONE? She’s ignoring me. She’s probably sitting on top of my porcelain water bowl in that tiny room that she always closes the door to. What DOES she do in there? I like sweets. Do you have any? Where was I? No, not metaphorically, literally. I hope I look beautiful in my portraits. Patti says I look breathtaking. I don’t know what that means, but she beams when she says it so it must be good. She sure does love me. I love her more than I love chasing birds. Was that my stomach growling?”

Liquid Clouds

In dogs, humor, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/07/2011 at 3:36 pm

"This MUST be its head."

Olive, a pro at looking as innocent as an infant fawn when she most needs to, thoroughly enjoyed the Fourth of July celebration at my cousin’s house. With her characteristic grace and wit, she stretched her Audrey Hepburn-like neck across the picnic table and extended her bright pink tongue as far as it could possibly reach to lick the icing off the cupcakes, nose through the macaroni salad, and nip at the hot dogs. Clearly the dog prefers dessert as more than once she had to be forcibly extricated from either the Friendly’s Orange Crème ice cream and sherbet roll, the black and white homemade cupcakes with edible 3D red and blue “firework” bolts standing atop each or the dutch chocolate ice cream log. She never got much before I’d hear someone shriek, “OLIVE, NO!” And then someone would have to scrape the icing off the cupcakes because I ask you, who wants to eat dog nose prints? Olive’s ears recoil as she starts to back away from the scene of the delicious crime. Smacking her lips, I can see the glint of delight lighting her eyes. ‘YEAH, THAT WAS DEFINITELY WORTH IT,” thinks a gleeful Olive. “FOR GOD’S SAKE OLIVE, DO WE STICK OUR NOSE AND TONGUES INTO YOUR FOOD BOWL?” Olive looks up at me as though she has no idea what I’m talking about. And then she abruptly takes off. You’d think she just recalled where she left her garter belt on Saturday night. Instead, she decides that this seems like an opportune time to chase Hunter, the 120 pound Golden Retriever and Oliver the tiny Tibetan Terrorist around the small yard. The three dogs begin chasing each other, racing in circles so swiftly that it appears that the circle is unbroken and that each of the dogs is a charm on a sterling silver bracelet. Green grass flies in all directions as they momentarily lose traction circling a bewildered bush, sometimes slipping but rebounding so quickly that the fall is almost imperceptible. Oliver is chasing Hunter who is chasing Olive, who lives to be chased. They are moving so speedily that I fear the centrifugal force will jettison them one by one into outer space. And just as quickly as it started, it stops. Olive now turns her attention to the oscillating fan, approaching it inquisitively. She plants her face directly in the fan’s wind pattern and she stands there letting it cool her off. What a goofy dog. After all the less ambulatory guests leave, we bring out the “spray mister” which looks like a garden hose that has been fashioned out of tough green plastic piping and stands up like a cobra snake ready to spit. (Perhaps this was not an accident in the design.) We connect the garden hose to it and it starts spraying a seductive fine mist in three different directions. Olive runs over to the spray mister like she’s late to prom. She’s not quite sure how to approach it, as it envelops her in its petite moist clouds. First, she tries biting the clouds to great comical effect. Because she’s biting very daintily and not snapping her mouth closed each time, it looks like she’s trying to gum the clouds to death. Not satisfied with her intake, she decides to take the proverbial bull by the horns and chew on the tiny golden spouts releasing the moisture. I don’t think she realizes that as she is imbibing the “liquid clouds” that her entire head and face is slowly getting soaked. The irony is not lost on me. I should have used this as an opportunity to bathe my little monochromatic monkey.

Sign Language

In dogs, humor, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/07/2011 at 2:08 pm

"To all the BIRDS."

“Oh, I understand sign language all right. Is it ironic or redundant for me to flip the bird to all the birds who do fly-bys while I’m crossing the front lawn? Or, is it both?

A Bird in The Bush

In dogs, humor, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/03/2011 at 6:30 pm

"Could I be any more BORED today?"

I don’t know who’s more bored today, Olive or me. It’s been raining all day, truly the kind of grey, hazy summer day that most people living outside of New Jersey associate with New Jersey more often than they should. The only time we’ve been outside today is when Olive has had to drop brown trout. Increasingly, she is distracted from this biological need by the calling of another higher order need. The genetic need to capture the warm orange-breasted American Robin nesting in the middle of the purple-flowering Hydrangea bush in our front yard. Olive’s approach is the same every time. She makes a beeline for the bush but as we approach it she begins to slow down, lowering her body into a crouching position like a tiger that has just spotted an obese Peccary with four broken legs. She makes her move, scooting around to the side of the bush that the bird emerged from the last time we were out. Olive frantically starts looking for the bird, head bobbing up and down like a bobblehead doll, sure that it will fly out from this direction where she can just snatch it in mid-flight. And she’s half-right. Suddenly the elusive Robin shoots out the side of the bush right past Olive’s hard-at-work nose, cutting through the air like Zorro’s sword and coming to rest atop the clay-colored shed in our backyard. Far enough away from Olive’s quivering jaws, but close enough to keep an eye on the Tiffany blue eggs laying unmolested in the veiled nest. A few nearby Robins zip close to Olive from multiple directions as though they are performing strafing maneuvers. Probably relatives. Olive is momentarily stilled as she watches this display of bravado. This is a good moment to re-focus her on her bowels, so I lead Olive away from the scene of this domestic disturbance. As we walk away, Olive repeatedly cranes her neck behind her just to make sure she will not miss the bird’s return… and another opportunity to gobble an afternoon snack. “GO POTTY OLIVE. I THINK I SAW LIGHTNING. WE HAVE TO GET BACK INTO THE HOUSE BEFORE WE LIGHT UP THE NEIGHBORHOOD.” She must sense the tiniest bit of apprehension in my energy, so she goes quickly. As we make our way back inside, Olive makes one last desperate pass past the bush. Maybe she just wants scrambled eggs for dinner. I wonder though, do you think she’ll feel inadequate if this genetic need to catch birds is never fulfilled? And if a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, what the hell is a bird in the bush worth?

Say Cheese Dog

In dogs, humor, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/01/2011 at 8:09 am

"Am I DONE yet?

Last night, Olive sat for her professional photography session with Tracy Kometani. When we first got to Tracy’s studio, Olive of course spent the first 10 minutes using her nose to imprint the “GSS” Global Scent System of the studio on her brain. Tracy had two backdrops set up, one ghost white and one the color of dark coffee beans. There are big titanium white umbrellas with megawatt lights surrounding the dark backdrop. Olive explored the studio by walking back-and-forth across the backdrops, sniffing out all the assorted props which ranged from dolls begging to be chewed to a old stand-up mirror that Olive spent some time gazing into. Then seeing the half open door in the corner of the studio, Olive shot up about 20 twenty steep steps and started to make herself at home in Tracey’s kitchen and living room. “OLIVE. GET BACK HERE. YOU’RE NOT GETTING A BATH,” I yell as I’m scrambling up the stairs like an ATV with 50,000 miles on it. I wrangle Olive back downstairs and after she calms down a bit, we start the session. Tracey has set up a beautiful antique bench whose wooden ends curl and is covered in an ivory white fabric. It is stunning against the java-colored backdrop and against Olive’s unique shimmering taupey-grey coat. “OLIVE. SIT.” My well-behaved dog sits on the backdrop and looks at me for her next command. “OLIVE. STAY.” As Olive continues staring at me, you can hear the “pops” and “clicks” as Tracy starts taking Olive’s photograph. She seems to be enjoying the process and amazingly does not even blink with the pop of each “flash.” You’d think she was used to this from years of walking the Red Carpet. “OLIVE. IT WOULD BE NICE IF YOU COULD STOP PANTING AND KEEP YOUR BIRDHOLE SHUT FOR A FEW MINUTES.” Tracy gives Olive some water which she characteristically slurps up like a waterholic. It helps. A little.  Then we try to get Olive to sit on the bench and stay which she finally does with much cajoling and lots of Wagatha’s Cranberry with Chedder and Mint biscuits. It’s about 7pm and I haven’t eaten dinner and they smell so good, I momentarily consider eating one. Olive is now seated on the bench as Tracey clicks away. “MY GOD, SHE LOOKS LIKE THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND” I say. We take breaks during the next hour, letting Olive run around the studio burning off her energy by shaking her canvas Frisbee from side to side as though it is a beady-eyed woodchuck she has just caught. Back to the sitting. This time, we try to get Olive to lay down across the bench which would have been a perfect way to capture her natural regal demeanor, but Olive is having none of it. It’s actually a bit too small for her to feel comfortable on. Oh well, no matter how many biscuits I ply her with, it’s just not happening. Break time. Back to the session, this time Olive, starting to tire of posing or “remaining still,” just lays down on the backdrop. So, this becomes the next and final series of photos. Tracy stops to show me some of the pictures she’s taken and my jaw drops. I knew Olive was beautiful, but in the hands of a skilled photographer, she is absolutely breathtaking. It allowed me to see Olive more objectively than I see her every day. I look at these pictures and think, “This session was a great idea.” I look at one of the close-ups where you can clearly see Olive’s distinctive cowlick on the bridge of her nose and all of a sudden, I feel a mixture of love and pride, like I’m looking at the first grade picture of one of my kids with their hair slightly askew. What a fun experience! And for Olive? She got to be the center of the universe for 90 minutes.

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