Patti Soldavini

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Olive “Talkies” Debut

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/30/2011 at 8:32 pm

This is Olive at 10 weeks old when I got her in June of 2010. Thank God I did not get her two weeks earlier otherwise I might have lost my mind completely. Olive was a firecracker that I could barely keep up with. I used to go over to my friend Irma or Kari’s house and hand the leash to them and announce with pathetic desperation and exhaustion, “PLEASE TAKE HER FOR 15 MINUTES SO I CAN RELAX. OTHERWISE I THINK I’M GOING TO SIT HERE AND CRY.” I would say that for the first four weeks I had Olive, the thought that maybe I wasn’t cut out for a weim (or maybe just a puppy) occurred to me at least once a day. It was a fleeting thought, but nonetheless one that alternately terrified, shamed and saddened me. But lucky for this dog, I’m no quitter. And today, even though she still has most of the energy of an electrical power plant, now I appreciate how much a part of her personality it is and how bored I’d be with a dog that “disappeared” into the cushions of the couch.


The Goldilocks Effect

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/30/2011 at 11:17 am

"We were in the HAMPTONS?"

Who would have thought that the first nightmare I’d have about Olive would take place at a Gatsby-esque party in the Hamptons? And that I would be the host of this mid-afternoon outdoor soiree. I have no idea what it was for except there were oodles of impeccably garbed and coiffed people… and hundreds of grey weimaraners roaming the estate’s lawn. All of a sudden, I was struck with an intuitive feeling that Olive was gone. Missing. Nowhere to be found. I stopped chatting with guests in mid-sentence and began racing around the grounds looking for her, calling “OLIVE! OLIVE! OLIVE!” Having exhausted what I believed were all the hiding places on the flawlessly manicured property, I sat down on the marble-veined steps and sobbed. I was bereft at losing my best friend. I felt absolutely helpless. And I hated myself for failing to adequately protect her and prevent this from happening. What a terrible parent I was. One by one, each of the human guests came up to me escorted by a weimeraner and said the exact same thing. “IS THIS HER? IS THIS OLIVE?” And one by one, I’d look up through the tears I was choking on and say, “NO, THIS ONE’S TAIL’S TOO LONG.” Or, “NO, THIS ONE’S HEAD’S TOO SMALL.” “THIS ONE’S MUZZLE IS TOO SHORT.” ‘THIS ONE’S TOO FAT.” Each one was uglier than the next. And then, out of seemingly nowhere, Olive emerges form a giant cardboard box, shaking herself off, making one of my most favorite sounds in the world; when her ears slap against the sides of her head, it sounds like leather chaps flapping in a brisk wind. She yawns like she’s been sleeping next to Rip Van Winkle and casually makes her way toward me. I grab her close to me and am so happy, I burst into tears. My beautiful, perfectly-formed pooch has returned. Olive remains completely non-plussed, wondering what all the fuss is about. As I write this, it dawns on me that this is how my Mother must have felt when as a 6-year old, after school, I went over to a classmate’s house without bothering to tell her or anyone else. The neighborhood posse were out in their cars and on foot scouring the neighborhood for me. One finally found me as I nonchalantly started to walk home the 6 or so blocks from my friend’s house. I got home to find my Mother sitting inside on the steps leading upstairs crying her eyes out and wondered, “What’s the big deal? I was just down the street at Steven’s house.” Now I get it. But I do feel like I may have behaved like Goldilocks in my dream.


In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/28/2011 at 8:10 pm

"Be quiet, I'm PRAYING."

Well, Olive’s prayers must have worked. Hurricane Irene left Northwestern New Jersey relatively unscathed…so far. Although most of the rivers will crest many feet above flood stage by Tuesday morning. Olive and I slept on the extra-long microfiber couch in the living room last night. I didn’t want us to sleep in either the master or guest bedrooms upstairs in case a tree fell on the house. These rooms would take the brunt of the fall and I didn’t feel like waking up (maybe) pinned beneath the trunk of a soaking wet black walnut tree. For Olive, it was out of the ordinary to be sleeping outside her crate in the bedroom. First, she curled up like a little donut in the upholstered chair in the corner of the living room. Why this dog insists on circling her sleeping spot 25 to 30 times in rapid succession before dropping her legs beneath her is beyond me. It’s like watching the canine version of the fable, “The Princess and The Pea.” She stays there for 20 minutes which probably seems like two days to her.  Then, at around 11:30pm, as if  Jack Kerouac has been reincarnated, she gets up to aimlessly explore her other options. I see Olive’s “second wind” coming so I immediately get up and yank her fire engine-red Orvis donut bed off the top of her crate and place it flush against the couch I’m lying on. After she circles this expensive nest 25 times, she lays down and I say “GOOD GIRL OLIVE. GO NIGHT NIGHT.” Within seconds, she reveals her true intent. She jams as much of the fleece-like edging into her mouth and starts sawing away. ‘OLIVE. STOP IT. YOU ALREADY RUINED ONE BED.” I guide her back to the overstuffed chair and she climbs up and settles herself into the wide seat snugly, draping her head over its arm. Now I’m thinking, “WHERE THE HELL IS THIS STORM? NOTHING’S HAPPENING.” As if I had asked this of Zeus face-to-face, the response is immediate. The rain that comes down could only be described as a sustained assault. It is LOUD and POWERFUL. As it hits the roof of my wood-framed contemporary home with cathedral ceilings, the sound is somehow amplified. It has the distinct rhythm of a machine gun but the noise it makes sounds more like “BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM.” This continues throughout the night uninterrupted. Sometimes softer, sometimes louder.  I see Olive faintly, bathed in the blue glow of the oversize digital clock below the TV. She raises her head and looks around the room whenever the sound gets louder. The look on her face says it all. ‘WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?”At around 2am, I’m still mostly awake. I watch Olive rise from the chair and saunter over to the couch near me. I gently pull her up and she hops on the couch. She sidles next to me, extending her lengthy frame against the back of the couch. I put my arm around her and close my eyes, knowing that as long as Olive and I are okay, we can deal with whatever comes our way.

Olive Warhol

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/26/2011 at 9:46 pm

Psychedelic Olive

Perhaps Andy Warhol had segmented eyes like bees do. Add some hallucinogenic mushrooms and perhaps this explains how he saw the world of pop culture around him. Olive has been Warhol-ized by my cousin, Christine Kolenda. The “Blue Olive” on the day-glo lime-colored background reminds me of Blue Dog, created by George Rodrigue. (Do you think he dumped the “z” at the end to sound more French than Spanish?”) The “Brown Olive” against the Tiffany Robin’s egg-blue background makes her seem like a canine version of a chocolate Easter Bunny. The “Grape Olive” against the lollipop red-background suggests to me, Olive’s insatiable desire to be constantly in motion, like a three year-old on a sugar bender. And the “St. Patrick’s Day Olive” resting on the butter-colored background? Clearly, Olive is about to projectile vomit some putrid thing she just ate and regretted. ‘WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS OLIVE? BEING IMMORTALIZED IN AN ANDY WARHOL-LIKE PRINT?” “MY GOD, I’M CUTE. AREN’T I?” said Olive. DOES THAT MAKE ME A NARCISSIST?” “NO MORE THAN LICKING YOURSELF DOES,” I say.

Something’s Up

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/26/2011 at 10:19 am

"A HURRICANE? What's a hurricane?"

Uh-oh. Something’s up. All the humans seems to have high anxiety. Should I be worried? Where are my bully sticks? Who’s Irene? Is she coming here? I hope she doesn’t stay long. Is she related to me? The leaves are falling. I had a nice walk this morning. Did I just launch an air biscuit? WOO. WOO. WOO. WOO. WOO. Now I feel better. I’m going back to sleep on my Orvis bed. I’ll chew on it some more when I wake up. Another day, another nap.

Olive Makes Out

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/25/2011 at 10:01 pm

"Can't you see I'm BUSY?"

When Olive thought no one was looking, I caught her kissing my nephew, John. ‘YES, OLIVE, I HAVE PICTURES OF IT TOO.” Hopefully, prior to “the kiss,” she didn’t just clean her palate in a biological sort of way.


Hush Puppy Series

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/21/2011 at 3:09 pm

The Many Faces of Olive

Here it is. What I call the “Hush Puppy Series” from Olive’s professional photography session. I chose that name because it was the first phrase that came to mind when I saw it. It reminded me of the Hush Puppy shoes I used to love as a child. Always the  highlight of the back to school shopping trip each year with my Mom. To this day, I have an incredible affinity for suede and any fabric that feels soft against my skin. This preference may also have descended from the hellish mohair incident also from when I was a child. Someone gave me a mohair sweater and when I put it on, I felt as though I were wearing something cut from a roll of insulation. It scratched like hell and to this day I won’t go near mohair anything. What the hell kind of word is that anyway, MOHAIR? Maybe this why I also don’t really care for goats. (I really hate their freaky vertical pupils.) Because if you didn’t already know this (and I didn’t), mohair comes from the hair of the Angora goat. Anyway, back to The Many Faces of Olive. My favorite shot is the middle picture on the far right. It seems to capture Olive in a goofy child-like moment which seems to dominate her personality right now. I also like the middle shot in the top row which gives off the same vibe. The shot on the bottom far left shows just how symmetrical this dog’s features are. Her front paws line up with the precision of the atomic clock. I have showed Olive this bronze-framed piece of art and introduced her to herself. She showed more interest in the frame. This from the dog who routinely stares (and barks) at herself in the mirror while lying on the bed. Goofball.

Bologna Tongue

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/19/2011 at 9:09 pm

"WHAT'S bologna?"

This is Olive doing an impersonation of a tube of fresh Italian bologna. Actually, she hasn’t pulled out all the stops yet. Usually, when she’s really hot, sweaty and stinky from our 60-minute walk, her tongue hangs out so far I think it might actually slide out of her head. When I start to see it grow like Pinocchio’s nose, we stop and I give her a drink from a bottle of Nestlé Pure Life water. I try to hold the plastic bottle in a way where the H2O just drips out but sometimes it drips like an I.V. bag. Olive gets supremely impatient and responds like someone who was just offered a peanut butter sandwich after having wandered the desert for the last 33 days without water. She starts grabbing the tiny neck of the bottle with her molars as though she is actually trying to twist the bottle open. I tip the bottle at a  30-degree angle and water starts pouring into her mouth like an infant geyser. She starts choking a bit but she won’t stop drinking. I pull it away after she’s gotten a mouthful and we continue on our walk. Olive goes back to scouting the sidewalk with her nose and the thought occurs to me, “If dogs have super olfactory powers and can smell its master’s DNA from miles away, then why do they shove their nose right into a lawn cigar or bird shit or whatever foul smelling object they find?  When dogs do that with their super powers, it must be an incredibly overpowering experience for them. They must become intoxicated from drawing in a multi-note bouquet with a nose that can suck shingles from a roof. I imagine that our walks everyday must feel like an olfactory treasure hunt to Olive. I wonder if she excitedly anticipates what scents she’ll encounter on each walk, much like a child anticipates going to the toy store. ‘LOOK MOM! A ROASTED DEAD FROG. CAN I SMELL IT? HUH? HUH? (And yes, we did encounter a flattened dried out frog on the sidewalk the other morning.) Olive also seems to be unusually attracted to the intestinal splatter from birds. (Big surprise.) I wonder if she knows it’s bird shit. I usually let her casually sniff each object without getting too intimate with it, but today I drew the line at a suspicious looking purple balloon, inflated with what may have been one and a half breaths of fetid air. “FORGET IT OLIVE. IT LOOKS LIKE SOME COKE HEAD’S STASH. MAYBE IT DROPPED OUT OF HIS COLON.” Olive looks at me for a second like I’m crazy, then continues marching forward. She can’t wait until we pass the strip mall down the street where she’s sure to find the back-end of a tossed burrito or some other cheap fat and cholesterol-laden jewel that escaped some human’s piehole.

Cartoon Moment

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/13/2011 at 4:07 pm

"What the hell was THAT?"

So there we are on the front lawn last night. Me holding the anti-bear flashlight while Olive scent scans the environment. All of a sudden, a common yellow moth bobs and weaves its way into Olive’s personal space. Not a good idea. It’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Olive tracks the moth as it orbits her, observing its erratic flight pattern, waiting no doubt for an opportune moment to strike. And then it comes. Olive waits calmly and patiently until the moth dances so closely to her that it appears that it will touch down on her nose. In one elegantly swift move, Olive lunges at the moth like a champion fencer. She opens her mouth and then snaps it shut around Tinkerbell. Within seconds, probably after experiencing the odd sensation of a moth fluttering around inside her mouth and tickling her tonsils, Olive’s mouth pops open and out flies the moth unharmed as if it has simply emerged from a tunnel, making it feel uniquely like an absurd cartoon moment.

Mona Olive

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/12/2011 at 7:38 pm


Notice the ambiguity in Olive’s facial expression in the portrait above. Is she registering surprise, confidence, or an intellectual curiosity? Her head, front paws and back legs form the shape of a pyramid. Her right ear, cocked ever so slightly, draws the viewer’s eye to the powerful apex of the pyramid’s base. The left paw, extending beyond the right and positioned forward, hints at an independent, dominant nature. Her eyes as wide as UFOs stare directly into the viewer’s soul. Does this make you uncomfortable? Stare directly into Olive’s eyes. What do you feel? Do you have an uncontrollable urge for a bully stick? Do you feel an inexpressible need to dig a hole to the center of the earth, eating the insect-filled dirt along the way? Have you just leaped across the room onto the couch? And does the water in the toilet beckon to you with an uncontrollable desire? Wait a minute. Sorry. Olive has been channeling me again. “YES OLIVE, THIS IS ONE OF THE PRINTS FROM YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY SESSION. AND YES, YOU ARE MUCH PRETTIER THAN THAT HAG MONA LISA.”


Nose Lever

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 08/03/2011 at 8:17 pm

"WHAT pink spot?"

Thank God Olive had her photography session before she decided to impersonate Michael Jackson’s nose. That’s right, my beautiful monochromatic monkey semi-disfigured herself apparently trying to use her nose as a lever, probably trying to escape from her crate when I went out for an hour a few nights ago. Now, there’s a bright pink spot the size of a large green pea on the bridge of her nose. It used to be brown. Now it’s like looking at someone with a decidedly noticeable imperfection on their face; so much so, that it’s the first thing that you see. Then, only after seeing the person for the 8,000th time, does it become “invisible” to you. If you like the person. If you don’t like them, then the imperfection becomes even more annoying. Clearly, it’s an unintended focal point. It’s like seeing a calcified horn sprout from a friend’s forehead and doing everything you can not to stare at it. But it’s impossible. And yet it’s just as difficult not to telegraph your discomfort by turning away. Somehow, you have to look straight through them as though they are Casper The Friendly Ghost and carry on a lucid conversation. At least Olive doesn’t have to worry about things like that. Dogs don’t care if you have a horn sprouting from your head. Impale a marshmallow on it and you’ve just created a peace offering. (This just made me drool for a Mallomar; a seasonal confection unique to the Mid-Atlantic States). Olive will always be beautiful to me, no matter how many scars she collects. As I sit here writing this, Olive is asleep on the couch behind me, the pink “badge” on her nose resting on my black pants. Hopefully, this heals and darkens. Until then, I’ll just look at it like it’s the mole on Cindy Crawford’s face.

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