It was still dark in my bedroom this morning when I heard our new dog trotting around my bed, leaving the room, scampering out, trotting back in, around the bed and out again. My husband is away taking my son back to University in Holland, so I grouchily dragged myself out of bed stumbled into the bathroom, switched on the light, took one look at my puffed up, sleepy face and loudly muttered “DAMN DOG!”. My ever-vigilant daughter, hearing her dearly-beloved dog unjustly maligned, jumped out of bed to check on Settimo, our dog, whose name in Italian means seventh. Moments later, she was banging at the locked bathroom door saying “Mom, Mom, Set has thrown up all over the living room, at least in 10 places, and he pooped too!”
“Double Damn Dog!!” I thought, before throwing on my sweats and dragging him out of our building. Settimo promptly proceeded to vomit right in front of our building with our doorman– who has made clear his dislike for dogs — watching. “Don’t worry, I will clean it up,” I declared desperately. I must have looked so overwhelmed that the doorman actually told me, “Don’t worry Signora, it will be ok.”
Back upstairs I got out pails, soaps, rubber gloves, rags, sponges and mops and prepared for the clean-up shift. But first I needed coffee. So I made myself a huge pot of Caffe’ Latte (which has the equivalent of about 4 espressos in it), and sat down to breakfast with Chiara. Chiara seemed to be on verbal over-drive (they call it “logorroico” in Italian) as a result of the morning’s excitement, and launched into a long-list of family throwing up experiences. “Mom, remember that time I was watching a movie on TV and I started throwing up and you were dragging me down the hall to the bathroom and I threw up the whole way down the hall and you had to clean it all up???, and remember the time Caterina was little and she threw up all over her bed and you changed all the sheets and went back to bed and then she did it again and you were really aggravated???, and remember that time Nico…..
“BASTA CHIARA,” I nearly shouted, “I am going to lose my breakfast if you keep talking about all those things.” And as I sipped my Caffe’ Latte I thought I do indeed remember all those times and by my old age I have done my duty, served my time on the front-lines and should be able to sit back and sleep-in on a Saturday morning.
After breakfast we called my husband in Holland who took off with a typically Italian parental response: “DID YOU MEASURE HIS FEVER???” (Are you kidding? How the hell would I do that? ) “TAKE HIM TO THE VET NOW!!!” (Yeah, right)
Back when I was growing up we had a spunky Norwegian Elkhound named Loki and if she was ever sick, we would just send her out in the backyard for a while to eat grass. Loki lived to a ripe old age, so why should I go into orbit about Settimo. But times have changed, so I called a mamma-friend who is a veterinarian (Thank you Alessandra!!) and she told me about some medicine you can get at the pharmacy for dogs with upset stomachs and some special dry dog food for sick dogs. Whew.
As I launched into my post-breakfast, fanatical, espresso-infused cleaning frenzy, I contemplated how I ended up on my knees scrubbing dog vomit off my living room rug.
I definitely did not want a dog, I am not a dog person. The “I wanna dog” pressure from the kids, particularly Chiara, started about two years ago, then about a year ago my husband picked up on the chant. When questioned about why he thought having a dog in a relatively small apartment in Rome would be a good idea, my husband answered, “I have three teenagers and you at home, I want some creature in the house who will listen to me, obey me, never talk back to me, a creature that will greet me warmly when I get home, stay by my side and stare at me adoringly.”
As I did not feel any need for all of the above, I continued to object to the dog idea. I was warned by everyone that all the responsibility for walking and feeding would come to me. My husband and children swore it would not. I threatened to move out if they dared to get a dog. They ignored me. So, to make a long story short, while I was in Venice last September, happily covering the film festival, toodling around on a bike and going to movies (See Blog Post: Gorgeous, Glamorous, Facinating Venice) my husband and children acquired a lovely little one-year-old cocker spaniel named Settimo.
When I got back to Rome, I did my best to ignore cute, little Settimo. I was not going to care for him, the others would do it. Lo and behold, my husband travels a lot, my son left for university, the girls cannot take the dog out alone late at night, in the end most of the walking and feeding has fallen to me. And lo and behold, Settimo adores me. He goes wild when I come in the house (mostly because he thinks I am going to feed him), jumping all over me, nipping at me, wagging his tail frantically. At home he follows me wherever I go (he is sleeping at my feet as I write). He lies outside the bathroom door when I am in the shower and is so constantly at my heels that I regularly turn around quickly and step on him. I’ve done my best to remain cold-hearted and indifferent, but it is pretty hard for a softy like me.
The problem is I live in Italy where the Bella Figura reigns. (See Blog Post: Espresso, Corruption, Murder…and the Bella Figura). Bella Figura means not wearing sweats and sneakers around, but when you have to get up early in the morning to go walk a dog, sweats and sneakers are the usual choice. And once you are in sweats and sneakers, when you have dog hair everywhere in your house, and the dog likes to greet you by jumping on you, sometimes it is just easier to stay in sweats all day. (See Blog Post: Sweatpants at the Supermarket)
Then there is the poop problem. Roman dog-owners have infuriated me for years because they let their dogs poop all over the sidewalk without cleaning it up. My American friend Rick once warned me, “If you ever get a dog in Rome, make sure it is a little one because you don’t want to deal with poop that is any bigger than the size of a Tootsie Roll.” So, I am fanatic about cleaning up after Settimo, but cleaning up after a dog can lead to all sorts of Brutta Figura situations. The other day I came around a corner pulled by Settimo and carrying a little blue plastic bag looking for a trash bin to dump it in, when I bumped into a photographer I know who wanted to chat. Where do you put the poopy doggy bag when you need to have a conversation with an acquaintance on the street? You can’t hold it out in front of you or hide it behind your back. Someone needs to teach me the doggy etiquette. Then when Settimo goes in a park near our apartment at night and I can’t locate the poop, I have to get out my cell phone, bend over and use the light to hunt around for it so I can scoop it up. Not exactly the most sophisticated or elegant of activities.
The paradox of it all is that now I have what my husband wanted, a creature at home who listens to me, obeys me, never talks back to me, a creature who greets me with wild enthusiasm when I get home, who stays constantly by my side and stares at me adoringly.
I should probably be in Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven) but all this canine love and affection was not exactly what I was looking for.
For those of you who asked, Settimo has recovered from his stomach problems and was very lively during a walk at the park today. Here is a picture:
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.