Patti Soldavini

Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

This Temper

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/29/2012 at 9:57 am

“Is that thunder? Or the END of the world?”

“Why am I getting a shot?” said Olive. “I don’t have a temper.” “Ha-Ha,” I replied. “Just because you’re so articulate Olive, doesn’t mean I’m dumb.” It’s time for your distemper shot again. And so that’s how Olive’s morning began this past Thursday. As we rise to greet a brand new morning, I look outside and see a storm front passing overhead. The clouds, the color of warm putty, cloak the sun completely. “Geez,” this doesn’t look very promising Olive, let’s hurry up and get to the vet.” Olive interprets this statement as an oxymoron. Her pleading amber eyes are as wide as the opening to one of the Lincoln Tunnel tubes. I glance out the front window, certain I just saw the Cowardly Lion scurrying through the cornfield seeking shelter. It’s a double whammy today for Olive at the vet’s office. Distemper shot and nails clipped. Her nails are so long she could probably eviscerate an African elephant in seconds. And thunder is surely on the horizon. For Olive, it is a “perfect storm” of a day. What I don’t understand is why after her first two years of life without incident, now, all of a sudden she is petrified of thunder. This just started happening in the last week or so. I hear her barking downstairs in the windowless bathroom in the basement. In the dark. She comes out once in a while only to pant, pace and shiver. I feel badly for her, but I won’t make the same mistake I did with Idgy. I tried comforting Idgy, swaddled her up in a blanket, played soft jazz music and sat with her in the bathroom for a while. Later on, I learned that all I did was reinforce her fear that something bad was about to happen. So, as much as I hate doing this, I ignore Olive. I act like there’s nothing to be afraid of and let her work it out herself. I’ve tried distracting her with food and toys, but no dice. This dog’s focus will not be broken. Something tells me, this is going to take a while. I don’t want to have to medicate her; the whole world — people and pets — are over-medicated these days. In the long run, it’s not good for either. I’ve seen the “Thundershirts” advertised for dogs and wonder if they work. It seems like bullshit. But, if it was designed by Temple Grandin, then I’d buy it without hesitation. Finally, the storm subsides. Olive is sitting on the couch next to me still on “high alert.” Her posture is ramrod stiff and her pupils are the size of ticks. It creates an expression of barely controlled panic. In fact, she looks slightly catatonic. Or, is that dogatonic? I place one hand on her side and feel tiny waves of fear rippling across her body. Her heartbeat, once pounding like hoofbeats across the Great Plains has now slowed to a near normal level. She finally drops into a “down” position and rests her head on my legs. In seconds, she’s sleeping and snoring like Rip Van Winkle. I gently pet her head and watch the sides of her mouth slowly puff in and out as she breathes. For some reason, I love watching this. I find it both gratifying and amusing.

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Rockin’ Weim

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/28/2012 at 12:24 pm

“YES. I am a Rock Star!”

Remember. It’s part of my contract. ALL brown M&M’s. Perrier in my bowl. And a massage.

The Circle of Life

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/25/2012 at 9:40 pm

“I did NO such thing. That I can recall. At this time.”

The other morning, as Olive was perched on the crispy brown lawn depositing bio-cigars, she ever so gently (so as not to disturb the process) craned her neck down – and forward just a little bit – so she could begin snacking on the tic tac-sized rabbit pellets that lay in front of her without moving out of position. I couldn’t believe it. The first thought that popped into my head was “recycling.” I have an environmentally sustainable dog. Who knew?

 

Tailscaping

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/19/2012 at 9:01 pm

“NO superfluous fur here.”

Yes, it means what you think it means. First came the term landscaping, then manscaping. And now, tailscaping. If you Google the definition of manscaping, you might be quite surprised at what you find. My favorite was this: To groom a man; shaving, waxing, cleaning up superfluous fur.” I love the sound of it. You might not believe that Olive requires some delicate tailscaping now and then. One look at her and you see the sort of beauty that comes from perfect symmetry. Beautiful lines, a deep chest, long graceful legs and… an ornamental tail. And then you might see just a tiny bit of superfluous fur protruding from the tip of her otherwise perfect tail. It is the only imperfection and to anyone with OCD, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I tell you that it must be corrected instantly. I can no longer think about anything else until I remove this asymmetrical imperfection. It looks messy; out of place. I pull the scissors out of the kitchen drawer. The minute Olives sees her reflection in the shiny blades, she starts backing away like she just recognized an old boyfriend at a party. In that instant, I feel like a remorseful Sweeney Todd. She continues backing up until she almost stumbles backward over her bed. Her body language gives everything away. She curls up on the bed like a fetus unwilling to give up the womb and tries desperately to hide her tail. I swear if she could unscrew it and stick it up her behind she would. Now I feel even more guilty. At this moment, I wonder if it brings back the neo-natal memory of having her tail docked. I can’t even think about it. I coo some nonsense to her softly while I gently reach down, pull her tiny taupe-colored crank towards me and swiftly clip a micron of superfluous fur off its tip. As I straighten up, I can feel Olive’s relief. I gently blow the bits of superfluous fur off the bed and observe her tail. “PERFECT, OLIVE,” I marvel. “JUST LIKE YOU.”

For The Love of Dog

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/16/2012 at 11:16 pm

“Let me close my eyes first.”

As I sit here in front of my aging iMac, illuminated by the tungsten amber glow of the mission-styled desk lamp, Olive sleeps peacefully in her crate. She should be tired. After spending much of the early evening scooting her bottom along the grass at the dog park, she spent the past 40 minutes licking her rear end. Without interruption. It drove me insane. And it stank. So, I braved the inevitable and pulled on a fresh pair of vinyl gloves. You know. The kind that proctologists and gynecologists everywhere use. And I threw on a cheap windbreaker just in case. In the past, I tried expressing Olive’s anal glands from the exterior. This is how that bastion of unimpeachable and curated information otherwise known as Youtube, demonstrated how to do it. It didn’t work. Either because it’s the ineffective coward’s method or because Olive is backed up from here to the moon. She just had her anal glands expressed by the Vet about 10 days ago. At this time, the Vet inquires: “Would you like to learn how to do this yourself?” Instead of saying, “Well, it’s never actually been on my bucket list,” I hear a disembodied voice saying, “Okay.” She cautions me to stand back and I think, this is not inspiring confidence. She explains the following while I stare wide-eyed throughout her live demonstration: “The anal glands are almond shaped and pea-sized sacs that sit inside her rectum at about 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock. Insert a gloved finger and using your index finger and thumb, press on them outward to expel the material.” Well, it doesn’t look like it’s that hard to do I think. And frankly, I don’t want to have to pay the Vet every 10 days to do this. So I saved myself a few bucks tonight. I took her into the bathroom downstairs with the easy-to-clean linoleum floor. I whip out a pair of vinyl gloves and go to work. At first, I’m rooting around inside like I’m looking for a black cat in the dark. I think I feel the sacs and I’m pressing but nothing…wait a minute…I just heard a squirt. Thank God it just dropped to the floor and didn’t shoot across the room! I am ecstatic with my success. I feel empowered. I am also reeling from the stench. Hopefully, I can express the other one before passing out. Hallelujah! Success again. I almost can’t believe it. Now, I just have to maneuver her out of the way so I can clean it up before she licks it or steps in it. I have never been so happy that I wanted to vomit.

Postcard From Olive

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/15/2012 at 4:04 pm

“LOOK at how high I am!”

I try to take Olive with me wherever I go. Of course, this is somewhat dependent on where dogs are welcome. Since this is not France (or California), we are prevented from dining together. Retail stores don’t like us so much either. Except for the pet stores. On this particular broiling Sunday a week ago, Olive and I picked up our friend Jill and took a long drive along a scenic byway tracking the Delaware River in New York State. Olive reclined in the back seat, taking in the scents along the way and providing some of her own. I didn’t notice, but Jill kept rolling down the passenger side window every 30 minutes or so and taking note of Olive’s fragrant bursts of air. I’d drive a little further looking for a safe spot to pull over and let Olive empty her canisters, but most of the time she’d sniff all around, as though she were reading the 100-year history of the county. And then… nothing. “GET BACK IN THE CAR, NUT. I’M NOT STANDING HERE ALL DAY WHILE YOU TAKE ME FOR A WALK. IT’S TOO HOT.” On one occasion, Olive, the Olympian hole digger and hole finder, jams half of her head through tall tick-infested brittle weeds into a giant hole. “HOLY SHIT OLIVE,” I exclaim as I yank her leash to pull her head above terra firma. “ARE YOU CRAZY? YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MIGHT BE DOWN THAT HOLE.” We get back in the car and continue driving. My ears start popping, so do Jill’s and for all I know, Olive’s too. We end up smack in front of the entrance to the High Point Monument in Montague, New Jersey. It is the highest elevation in New Jersey at 1,803 feet and the highest peak of the Kittatinny Mountains. The monument was built in 1930 to honor war veterans. If you know where you are looking, you can actually see three states from this point: New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. So, to all those who picture New Jersey as a dung hole because you are familiar only with Newark Airport, the Turnpike and those idiots on Jersey Shore, you have no idea how beautiful much of New Jersey is. So, we park and make our way toward the monument. While it’s as hot as the devil’s cojones, there is a very stiff (but warm) breeze at the top. We’ll take it on this blistering hot day. Olive races ahead, always the first to enthusiastically explore anywhere she hasn’t been before. As usual, the people we encounter all want to pet Olive. We are now at the look-out level at the base of the monument. It is beautiful. Olive, runs ahead of me on her flexi-leash. She wants to go inside the door to the monument and presumably up the spiral staircase winding its way up the inside of the structure like the DNA double helix. “No, Olive, I don’t think so. They don’t allow dogs up there sweetie. And there’s no way in hell I’m going up there either.” After we take some pictures and enjoy both the view and the breeze, we start making our way down. While Olive probably isn’t thrilled at being back in the car, I know she’s happy just to be with me. Ditto.

Weimaraner Centerfold

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/15/2012 at 2:47 pm

Playdog of The Month

Late one afternoon last week, I hear two medium-toned barks one right after the other from somewhere deep inside the house. They were not as sharp as they usually are when Olive wishes to summon me. They were more medium-toned, with a slightly softer quality. Half bark, half woof. More like a BOOF. “OLIVE. DO YOU HAVE TO GO OUT?” I glance around upstairs but she’s out of sight. I hear it again. BOOF. BOOF.  The BOOF is definitely coming from the basement. I go downstairs and stumble upon what could only be described as a photography session for Playdog magazine. There is Olive, in all her beauty and confidence, sprawled out the length of the couch like a Centerfold model. I shake my head and  say, “WHO ARE YOU WAITING FOR – THE PHOTOGRAPHER?” She cocks her head sideways and looks at me as if to acknowledge that she understands exactly what I am saying. “YES. WHERE IS HE? I’M GETTING BORED POSING.”

Cranky Weimaraner

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/15/2012 at 2:14 pm

“HEY, where’s my tall cool glass of lemonade?”

What the hell is lemonade anyway? Does it taste better than water? I was the only one at the dog park this morning. I mean the only dog. I made Patti walk to all four of the farthest corners to pick up my lawn cigars. (PANT, PANT, PANT) I don’t think she was too happy. The grass, now brown and crunchy under my paws, was so dried out that if I launched an air biscuit, the entire park would have gone up in flames. We didn’t stay very long. All my friends must have been at home drinking lemonade. (PANT, PANT, PANT) Can I go out and roast on the deck for a few minutes? Maybe if I act like I’m passed out, that filthy ground hog will come closer and I’ll catch him. Cripes, he’s so big, he looks like a beaver. Oh, look, a nice juicy little bunny is on the neighbor’s lawn. (DROOL, DROOL, DROOL). Nice. Juicy. Bunny. Hungry. Okay, now I’m hot. OPEN THE DOOR. OPEN THE DOOR. OPEN THE DOOR. I am not cranky. I’d like some ice water to drink and would you please bathe my paws in some cool H2O please?  Ahhhhhhh…Yes, I think I like air-conditioning. I’ll be waiting on the couch.

The Eye Drop Dance

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/11/2012 at 8:45 pm

“Is that the WHITE bottle I see?”

It’s just a small white plastic vial. About 2 inches from tip to seat. But to Olive, it’s as big as a Kenmore refrigerator. It’s her eye drops and she’s not happy to see them approaching. How do I know this? Because both ears, in perfect unison, rise at their base and pull slightly away from her head. It is a perfect display of surprise and something close to revulsion at the same time. “OH NO, NOT THOSE AGAIN!” says Olive. “OH YES,” I reply. And then the dance begins. She rises from her fetal-like position on the master bed where she’s been napping like a Kardashian and makes a half-hearted attempt to hide on the bed. I reach out with one hand and grasp her collar. She tries to wiggle out of it. I now get her head in a gentle arm lock. She closes her eyes. All I see are taupe-colored eyelashes that look like they are sewn together. I spread the first eyelid apart. She leaves me an opening no wider than a needle. Two drops. “MY GOD OLIVE. WAS THAT SO BAD?” And then it starts all over again. It never ceases to amaze me just how much emotion some dogs are able to convey with just their ears. Human actors primarily use their face as a canvas for their emotions. Dogs use their ears and their tails in much the same way. Except what dogs convey is much more authentic. “HEY, HELEN MIRREN, GET OVER HERE. IT’S TIME FOR BREAKFAST. BE GLAD I’M NOT GIVING YOU A COLONIC.”

Weimaraner Alarm System

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/07/2012 at 11:00 am

“Is someone making an UNAUTHORIZED entrance?

I bit the bullet and purchased a home security system. As a back-up to Olive. That’s right, my baritoned barker is my primary alarm system. And she’s damn good. If any human, rodent, transportation vehicle or other form of nature comes even close to our home, I hear a very comforting “WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF.” That’s the “There’s something approaching the perimeter of our house and you need to come take a look” bark. If the object is very close to our house or if it’s something out of the ordinary like a truck parked in the front or a bear walking out back, the bark becomes louder, more sustained and close to a siren-like howl. “WOOFWOOFWOOFWOOF.” This is Olive’s version of the goofy robot in the old sci-fi TV comedy “Lost in Space,” who routinely warned “Danger. Will Robinson. Danger.” To a stranger, I imagine Olive’s bark would sound quite intimidating. When I approach Olive to see what she’s observing, she runs toward me like a three-year old as if to say, “SEE. SEE MOMMY. I TOLD YOU SOMETHING WAS THERE.” And then once I observe the situation and confirm there is no danger, I calmly walk away and Olive, who has usually stopped barking by this time, looks up at me with an expression that says. “THAT’S IT? ARE YOU SURE?” So actually, the new expensive home security system is to protect Olive. The funny thing is, the system has accidently “trained” Olive. At night now, when I set the alarm before going to bed and it beeps multiple times before the Stepford-wife voice announces “Alarm Set, Stay,” Olive immediately goes into her crate in the bedroom to go to sleep. I kid you not. It has also trained her to recognize an authorized vs. an unauthorized entry into the house. For example, prior to having the security system, Olive would walk into her crate downstairs, I’d shut the door and leave. No drama upon my leaving or re-entering the house. Now, it’s different. I notice that when I’ve set the alarm and return to the house and de-activate it before entering, she’s fine. No barking. However (and it’s happened a few times now), when I don’t set the alarm because I’m only out for 15-20 minutes, upon my return, as I pull the car into the garage, I can hear her barking her head off. Because she doesn’t hear the beeping and robo-voice upon my entering the garage, somehow she recognizes it as an unauthorized entry. It makes my head hurt just trying to figure this out. Geez, this dog is too smart for her own good. Now, if only I could get her to take the garbage out. Without eating it.

To Catch a Bun Thief

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/05/2012 at 7:46 pm

“Look at all those BUNS!”

Olive loves going to my cousin’s home for the holidays. Especially holidays that are celebrated outdoors, where the food is more accessible and the humans more distractible. As the humans clustered together on the deck in search of any slivers of shade on this oppressively hot and humid day, the three dogs – Olive, Hunter and Oliver – who usually race around the yard like Lamborghinis – mostly stood around like dog mannequins, panting non-stop. Even this did not stop my little cur from trying to score some human food. “DON’T WORRY, ALL SHE GOT WAS A HOT DOG BUN,” said MaryAnn. “Yeah, great,” I say to myself. I think that’s her fifth one. Thank God it’s just bread. This is the same dog I gave 1 (as in not two; as in single, solo and 3 minus 2 equals) potato chip to the other day and she had Montezuma’s Revenge for the rest of the day. Some people don’t believe me when I say that Olive has a digestive system that’s as delicate as a Fabergé egg. I did laugh though when someone else told me that Olive actually “nosed” the hot dog out of the bun before streaking away with said bun gently nestled inside her mouth perpendicular to her snout. (Wow. I don’t think I‘ve ever used the phrase “perpendicular to her snout” before.) Now, what does this mean? Is this proof that Olive knows that hot dogs are not exactly “health food?” Did she turn her nose up at it because it was not the natural and organic food she was raised on? Does she prefer them ungrilled? Maybe she just doesn’t like hot dogs? Or, maybe it was bad and she knew it. I can’t possibly police my foodie pooch while I eat, so I take my plate of food and my dog and go into the nice, arctic cold kitchen to eat and keep Olive from diving headfirst into all the bowls and plates of food outside. She’s not happy. She watches me eat and stands there and barks at me. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU HAD FIVE HOT DOG BUNS…OR MORE… AND IT’S NOT NEAR YOUR DINNER TIME YET. KEEP YOUR FUR ON.” Now that I’ve stolen some of the coolness in the house for as long as I can without being rude, I take Olive and we go back outside to join the other guests. Soon, dessert is served and the table loads up with homemade blueberry pie, peach pie, devil’s food cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries and the strawberry graham cracker ice cream cake I brought from Coldstone Creamery. I can actually feel the energy expelled by the salivary glands dancing inside Olive’s mouth.  I turn my head for just a brief second to respond to someone’s question and immediately I hear the familiar shriek, “OLIVE. NO!” And then the sound of feet racing over to the table to extricate Olive’s extremely pink tongue from the side of the Coldstone’s ice cream cake. This dog is a smarty pants. At least she picked the right dessert to molest today.

Sexy Weimaraner

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/05/2012 at 7:08 pm

No. Words. Needed.

To Board or Not To Board?

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/04/2012 at 10:16 am

“But will I have my OWN bed?”

Last weekend, Olive and I took a ride out to Four Paws Playground to tour the facility and meet the owners. One of the “Dog Moms” at the local dog park recommended Four Paws as a great place to board your dog. Since I’ve had Olive, I have never left her for more than a day or two and always in the hands of her trainer or friend. I performed some cursory research on local “kennels” and was largely unimpressed. Most seem like nothing more than “dog warehouses,” and little attention seems to be given to dog behavior. I was pleasantly surprised with Four Paws. It’s run by a husband and wife team who live on premises and who clearly understand the needs and behaviors of dogs and their breeds. The wife trains the staff who, while young caretakers, seemed to go about their business with a maturity unusual for their age.  Dogs that are boarded sleep in small horse-like stalls with beds, not crates. They are given free run outdoors in fenced-in areas according to their size. And most impressively, their day is structured so that they are inside for an hour, outside for an hour, etc. throughout the day. A great way to allow the dog to rest, and minimize the opportunity for anything from heatstroke to fights. While the owner says they run it like a daycare center, it actually seems like it’s run more thoughtfully than your average daycare center. In order to bring Olive on the tour, I had to present proof of vaccinations and a negative Giardia test. If I ever want to board Olive there I have to fill out a lengthy application and then prior to her boarding, take her there for a day so they can observe Olive’s behavior and get to know her. Brilliant. The dogs are treated as individuals not just as a species. It’s hot as hell as Olive and I walk into the front door. We are greeted by the wife and both Olive and I hear what sounds like many dogs barking behind a door. They obviously smell a new guest. The tour begins as we walk through the door and into a sea of dogs barking. Barking so loudly that the caretakers wear the sort of sound mufflers that the jet jockeys on airport tarmacs wear when guiding planes into and away from gates. There must be 50 crates full of dogs barking. Most seem to be large breeds. These are the daycare dogs who are inside during their “hour in.” It is a bit intimidating for me and more so probably for Olive, who is now both viewed by the crated dogs as fresh meat and fresh meat off leash. Olive tries to make herself small, by slinking low as we wind our way through this maze of canines. I ask if they have experience with Weimaraners and am told “yes,” as the owner points to a large crate occupied by both a grey and blue Weimaraner. Unbelievably they are not barking, just observing the intruders with laser-like intensity. We emerge on the other side where we see more dogs running around the fenced in areas and splashing around in the wading pools. Olive seems to feel much more comfortable out here and approaches the fence to greet the dogs outside. The owner and I chat a little more and then it’s time for Olive and I to make our way back through “Dog Hall,” and out the front door. I am very impressed with how the owners operate their business. They seem to have created something very unique and special. Olive’s had enough stimulation for the day though. As she usually does, she signals that she’s ready to leave by starting to bark insistently. Very subtle this dog. About as subtle as a fart.

The Mushroom Couple

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/04/2012 at 9:23 am

The Sun Worshipper.

Another hot, steamy day. The kind of day that makes you fantasize about skiing. Snow skiing. The central air conditioning unit kicks on and off, then on again moments later. If it were human, you’d hear it sighing and groaning throughout the day. The ceiling fan blades slice through the air in every room at high speed. I’m surprised the house doesn’t take off like an Airbus A380. All the lights are off and the blinds are drawn. Olive and I have been living like mushrooms deep inside a tropical forest. I am surprised that we have not encountered the Mad Hatter or Alice herself. I have changed my name to Shiitake. Olive has changed hers to Portobello. It is one of those days that remains eerily quiet because everything and everyone has been stilled by the heat. I remember well these Summer days as a child. No one was outside, nothing moved. The sun seemed to rest on the nape of your neck. The song of the cicadas continued unbroken throughout the day. It was one of the rare days where we stayed inside to watch baseball games with my Grandfather. We might venture out to the corner candy store to stock up on Bazooka Joe bubblegum, MAD magazine, Devil Dogs and baseball cards and walk home quickly. On these days, it was about the candy, not the walk. Usually, it was the walk itself that was the most fun. As I write this, I hear Olive downstairs sloppily drinking out of her shiny metal water bowl. I love when she lifts her head and the water just drips from all sides of her mouth like Niagara Falls. This beautiful, flawless animal stands there looking like a child whose face has just emerged from a basin of water filled with bobbing apples. As I crank the thermostat down to 68 degrees, I look out the window and can see Olive happily roasting on the deck outside like a pig on a spit.

Weimaraner Hyenas

In dogs, humor, lifestyle, pets, weimaraners, writing on 07/04/2012 at 8:17 am

“Do we look like a couple of HYENAS or what?”

Olive and her friend Luna, a blue Weimaraner who visited recently. After chasing each other around the yard, drinking out of the wading pool they walked into and out of and repeatedly knocking over the bottled water and iced tea the humans placed on the side table, they shared a laugh.

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