Doggy Blues or Settimo Cielo

A very blue Settimo with an upset stomach. January 4, 2014 Photo by Trisha Thomas.

A very blue Settimo with an upset stomach. January 4, 2014 Photo by Trisha Thomas.

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.

January 6th

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:

Happy Settimo playing at the Villa Glori park in Rome today. January 6, 2014. Photo by Trisha Thomas

Happy Settimo playing at the Villa Glori park in Rome today. January 6, 2014. Photo by Trisha Thomas

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Trisha Thomas
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

21 Comments

  1. Jon Biasetti
    2014/01/04

    Welcome to the reluctant dog lovers club. I grew up with cats but my wife grew up with dogs. When our 21 year old Dante (a Himalayan cat) died, she insisted on a dog. Mannaggia… I said the same thing you did (“I am not cleaning up after him, he is your dog, etc..”). Right, Rory, our seven pound MaltePoo puppy is too adorable to ignore. So, guess who walks him at 6 am every day, spends the weekend kissing him and rubbing his tummy? Right. Settimo has played you just as Rory has played me. A sto punto, it is best to surrender, throw on your sweats, maybe wear a cap to hide the bed hair, and go with it. And thank you for cleaning up after Settimo, here on the Cassia it is a schifezza…

    Reply
    • Allegra
      2014/01/05

      Trisha, just like Jon said, welcome to the group: my Settimo is called Max, and I think that you are a hero to have hold on this long, my Settimo is already 5!
      About dogs’ etiquette: I use my full doggy bag to hurry the kids on the way to school, flapping it and spinning it around. I tell you, it works like a charm: they really start speeding up!.. That might not be the best Figura, but luckily that’s not an issue in London!! Baci xxx

      Reply
      • Trisha Thomas
        Trisha Thomas
        2014/01/06

        That is so, so, so funny Allegra, the poopy doggy bag flapping and spinning to get the kids to school. My kids are old enough now that they go on their own to school, but that could have been really useful to me once upon a time. You are lucky the Bella Figura is not an issue in London because the flapping poopy doggy bag would definitely earn you a big Brutta Figura reputation in Rome!! Baci a te and I hope to see you soon in Rome!!

        Reply
  2. John
    2014/01/05

    Maybe it’s not all bad, you know the saying in DC, “If you want a friend get a dog.” That friendship does come at a price (One you just paid!)

    L/D

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/01/06

      Thanks Dad! I think perhaps I did hear that expression once about life in Washington. It is true, they really are loyal, loving creatures.

      Reply
  3. Adri
    2014/01/05

    Thanks! You made me laugh out loud! So I see that the Italian fever fascination extends to the family pets.. Oh dear. I love that you have a dog. They are darn good friends – no talking back and lots of love, occasional vomiting, but less than kids, when you think about it, and they do get you out of bed in the morning – sometimes in short order. Let’s see more pix!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/01/06

      I am so glad I made you laugh Adri. Yes, the dog definitely gets us out of bed in the morning! I will put another picture up on the post now of Settimo today, happily playing at the park.

      Reply
  4. Gwen Thomas
    2014/01/05

    Ha! What a laugh. You could do a whole series of blog posts on cross-cultural differences owning a dog in the US vs. owning a dog in Italy. Enjoy the devotion and love AND for those big vomiting moments – no medicines or taking his temp (you know where you take that don’t you?) First of all make sure you ALL are all vigilant about toxic foods like chocolate, olives, raisins, grapes, garlic, poinsettia…and keep them out of his reach. Take him off all food and give him white rice only (of course make sure he gets water). Feed him white rice until his stomach is settled and is solid at the other end. Start with small portions of the rice and increase as he is keeping things down. It shouldn’t take too long to resolve. As for the poop bags, you brutta figura….it is clearly a different culture so designate a washable bag to throw over your shoulder as you head out and you can hide the filled poop bags in there and wash it every week. Woof, woof!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/01/06

      I am glad you got a laugh Gwen, you are certainly much more of a dog person than I am and really know your stuff. Thanks for the advice on the white rice, I didn’t know that. Also, thanks for the list of toxic foods for dogs. I had heard that chocolate is bad for them, but I did not know about the others. Garlic, olives, and grapes are three foods that we have around a lot in Italy and could easily fall on the floor and be gobbled up immediately. I will be more careful. And on the doggy bags, by now I am knee deep in this Brutta Figura…woof woof!!

      Reply
  5. Nancy Rockwell
    2014/01/05

    Hilariously funny! And I saw you cutting a very bella figura just a week ago, so you haven’t lost your style, Mamma! I do hope Settimo’s tummy is better now, and that some days you wear your new boots when you walk him, And that, when you have an upset tummy, you’ll feel better because Settimo will be right there, keeping you company till you are well.
    Chiara is quite a girl, reading your moods and reassuring you that you can cope with whatever is happening. You have raised some very lovely children, Mamma – and that is why you have a dog.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/01/06

      Thank you Nancy for your kind comments. You are right, I am sure Settimo will be there for me to pat when my tummy is not feeling so good. And Chiara is actually quite sweet, wanting to help in her own way. I am going to try to post another photo of Settimo at the park today because he is feeling much better.

      Reply
  6. Alan
    2014/01/05

    I would say you were ‘mugged-off’ or should that be ‘taken for a mutt’? We were adopted just before we moved into our house here. Sinsi (her name meant sneaky, insinuating in Turkish) was a Dalyan street dog who grew on us, was a delightful animal and cost us a small fortune in vet’s bills. She died on 25th December three years ago and we still miss her . . . sort of!
    Good luck, you probably have another ten years of this sort of crap!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/01/06

      Sinsi — sneaky or insinuating in Turkish — I Love that name. She insinuated her way into your lives and you loved her. That is really sweet. But gosh, ten more years, I may not make it!!

      Reply
  7. Michelle
    2014/01/05

    Oh my goodness, that was hilarious. One of your best posts yet! I especially appreciated “the typically Italian parental response.” Classic.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/01/06

      Yeah, the fever thing must be in the Italian DNA!! I am glad the post made you laugh. The idea that we get a dog then I have to spend my time on all fours scrubbing the living room rug didn’t seem so funny to me first thing in the morning, but as the day wore on, I started to see the humor in it.

      Reply
  8. Francesca Muir
    2014/01/06

    I know the feeling Trisha – but in the end they are so endearing that you can’t live without them! Good luck and keep breathing! Fxx

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/01/06

      Thanks Francesca, you are absolutely right. And thank you for the “keep on breathing” that is good advice for 2014, sometimes I am so hyped-up, I think I forget to breathe. Happy 2014 to you!

      Reply
  9. Pauline
    2014/01/06

    Happy new year, Trisha! I wish you and your family only the best in 2014! And, Settimo is ADORABLE! The only reason I haven’t gone around to getting a dog for myself is the pile of responsibilities that come with it, but you seem to have gotten the hang of them :)

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/01/06

      Happy New Year to you Pauline! How is everything in Toronto? Do you still the Father Tom Rosica now and then? Settimo is adorable, and I am definitely getting the hang of all the responsibilities but having a dog definitely cramps one’s style so before you think carefully before getting one.

      Reply
  10. Ciao Chow Linda
    2014/01/09

    Well, Trish – I’ve been meaning to post a comment on several of your posts, but life does sometime take over, leaving little time for other things. But here I am, with workmen ripping apart my kitchen and bathroom (no, not remodeling, but replacing dry wall behind cabinets due to mold problem from faulty installation of new bathroom piping). As pots, pans, food, etc. are strewn about my living room and dining room for the time being, I’m grateful I don’t have a dog to tend to as well. BUT, your story was hilarious, and gave me a “lift” this morning as I came upstairs to find retreat in my computer. I had a cat for 18 years who would throw up occasionally, but I have to say I derived more pleasure from him and would put up with that again. By the way, I wanted to also tell you that I’ve been to a couple of dinners in the last six weeks where Anne-Marie Slaughter was also present. I told her about your mention of her on your blog in a prior post and she seemed quite interested.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/01/10

      Linda – How nice to hear from you. I know how hard it is to find time to read blogs and especially to write comments, so I am honored that you have taken the time. You do sound busy but I am glad you enjoyed my Doggy Blues. And how interesting to be at dinners with Anne-Marie Slaughter. She must be very impressive. I would love to meet her someday. Thank you for mentioning me and this blog. Hope to see you back in Rome soon. Ciao, Trisha

      Reply

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