How to Talk Sports with Dogs

7 10 2014

Men: Not all dogs share your passion for sports, in case you hadn’t noticed. The reason? Everything they do, they do for treats.

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“Most Dogs don’t care about stats,” says A. Manischewitz, DVM, author of Football with Your Dog: Canine Fandom Around the World. So while you’re enthusing about Russell Wilson breaking the rushing record at a recent Monday Night Football game, your pooch would rather hear about how young Russ bakes every Sunday, producing a tantalizing array of magnificent tasty rewards for his beloved dog. Or how he drives ten miles out of his way just to hit the best slice of doggy water park this side of Figi—and even took two days off from his job the week before the Super Bowl to tend to Fido’s little “snip-snip” surgery (after taking said canine to the local bar for wings and beer before the event).

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Treat (pun-intended) your sports heroes as dog-owners and not just players on a field, and you’ll suck that four-legged friend into anything.

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Just don’t expect him to wear the foam finger. After all, he has no opposable thumb….and he’d rather chew it up.

Some may call me misocynistic, but the label is miso-placed. I AM a dog.Shimoni 001

Chow.

***Shimoni lives in Rome with his family, and one cat (not family), and is an authority on the canine point of view. For more information refer to his autodogography, Jack of Hearts, written by his alter-ego, Robin F. Gainey. Available as a paperback, digitally, or in audiobook form.IMG_4780





A Brief Interview

30 01 2014

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An interview about the writing of my novel, JACK OF HEARTS: A fictionalized account of the mayhem that ensued after I discovered my master’s infidelity.

What are some of the challenges you encountered in writing JACK OF HEARTS?

It was really daunting to contemplate writing about infidelity. I found it to be a vast, complicated topic. I had to muster my courage, I think, to take that on. More than anything I wanted to render it in the right way, and explore it from the standpoint of a dog. I mean, loyalty is everything to the canine, no? That was the other big challenge: writing in the canine voice…inner voice actually. Initially, that was intimidating. I would go to bed at night and wake up worrying about it. What thesaurus translates the wag in its every definition, for instance? But in the end, I felt so compelled to do this. It’s a subject that affects every member of the family, right down to the lowly cat. I think you just have to listen to that place inside yourself as a canine writer. It’s just a creative knowing. Like knowing which piece of undergarment to shred, where to bury a bone, or what part of the garden to ruin. I just took a breath and decided to take it on, write in my imagined voice, and trust it to be authentic.

Where do you like to read?

I have several spots. When I’m in the country, I read usually in the afternoon, under the chestnut tree off the patio – a short reading time, usually poetry. Ogdan Nash, Carl Sandburg, and Robert William Service. I love Mary Oliver’s new book of poetry, DOG SONGS. Who wouldn’t? I read in bed every night. I usually get in bed pretty early with an iPad (with no opposable thumbs, it’s easier to swipe the pages), and I read until the management turns off the light. When in Rome, I sit in a lounge chair on my balcony overlooking the Piazza del Popolo. I love to be outside when the weather’s right. I can stay there pretty much all day––unless the squirrels demand attention.

What is your favorite word?

There are just so many beautiful words. Come, stay, car, park, rat, squirrel. Treat is probably my favorite. In Italian it’s regalo. A little more romantic, don’t you think? And covers so much more than simply the edible. Then there’s Bolognese, spaghetti, fromaggio. But I digress. It’s a shame the book couldn’t be written totally in Italian. Everything sounds better that way. Even veterinario. I think the word “chase” is beautiful, “inseguimento” in Italian. Not so much in its phonics, but just in the power of the word itself.

What is the first book you remember loving?

Go, Dog, Go. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it. I still have the first copy I read (although, somewhat tattered along the binding…). I remember reading it as a pup, outside, under the chestnut tree, just lying in the grass, one eye on a squirrel, the other on those glorious words in large type.

If you could recommend just one book, what would it be?

Travels with Charlie. Probably because I’d love to see America. The Incredible Journey was a great read, too, but a bit unbelievable. I mean, teaming with a cat?

The novel that probably had the most impact on me was, Lad, A Dog. Canine heroism is a huge motif in my  book. It goes back to the roots of what makes up a dog in mind and spirit, and the first sparks that ignited the path for dogs, from the Neanderthal campfire to the service dogs of today. The hero is an extraordinary collie named Lad, “a thoroughbred in spirit as well as in blood.” I like to think of myself in the same way…except the collie part. It’s a period piece, but charming in its language, even if it is written in English.

And I do prefer print books. Hard covers are better for sinking one’s teeth into. Alas, because of my handicap (no thumbs), I am confined to the electronic device. At the end of the day, I would prefer to hold something concrete between my teeth. There’s something about the weight, substance, and concreteness of the words. The taste of the binding, scent of the glue, texture of the paper.

There is an alchemy to books. I mean, how else might dog tell a story?

Chow.

(With apologies to Huffington Post and Sue Monk Kidd.)





To Be or Not to Be: Doggish

1 11 2013

When it comes to philosophy, dogs have it boiled down to four points. Like Bernini’s Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona, this wisdom flows into every dog.

Man would do well to ride its waters, as well…Image

These few noble constants by which all dogs live are inborn. Every dog shares them, be they domesticated, feral, or ridiculous as I like to think of the curs on the Pincio.

First, dogs never let their past define them, and neither do they take life seriously. Every day is a new day for a dog; a new, exciting, anything-is-possible day. Any human can see that all dogs enjoy the charm of novelty.Image

Second, a dog’s heart is easily won and difficult to break. And though pride may be the downfall of many creatures, understanding their own fallibility makes dogs loyal to even the worst sort of human being. As a result dogs have learned that it is a far braver thing to stay in a disagreeable situation, helping dispel the misery of man, than to leave it. That is the charge of man’s companion. Dogs value bravery above all else; its degree, the measure of every dog. It is the noblest of canine virtues.homeless_sleeping_dog

Third, dogs are philanthropists. They never pass up an opportunity to give. A pact was made in the early days of their ancestors. Hunting expertise for a share of man’s kill. That reciprocity continues today, but now lies in the pleasure and benefits exchanged between human and dog. It’s innate. An affectionate thresh, an endearing lick, a fond sniff about the crotch: these are all traded for room and board. One gets what one gives.4d6b1c7d73228.hires_t540

Finally, dogs never pass up the opportunity to have fun. It is the very heart of every living spirit; the essence of every dog. It encourages strong bonds and deep affection. If there is no pleasure, there is no life. This is the simple and abiding truth of existence.

 It all comes down to looking at life with a kind eye, no?





And, Why Cat?

23 04 2013

Observe Fraud-the-Cat.2848677509_24c8a9675b_t

Her name says it all.

Pious, as she sits on a kitchen table from which I am banned, she licks the top of a bowl of fresh polenta and cream. Abandoned briefly by it’s human consumer, Fraud feigns concern for the man. In the all-important drawl of a long meeoow she explains, “Official food-taster.”

I purse my flews, raising a corner to bare one tooth.31224026_ce1efc9b84_t

For one, Dog would never simply lick an edible. Polenta, especially, is to be gobbled before it’s owner resumes position at the table, without a thought to it’s quality. Something by which there is seldom a mistake, and if there is, it only affords the opportunity to eat twice…

Two, licking an object is an insipid behavior unless cleaning oneself, the young, or initiating reciprocation in some fashion: a pat on the head; a scratch behind the ears, a treat.

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Licking is for sissies. Or a feline who merely wishes to make a point: All things of table domain are mine, even if I dont want them.

So, I ask you: Why cat?5841987753_b176b12b1b_t

Unteachable, undisciplined, aloof. She has the run of the house because she ignores civilization. If she were a dog, she’d be banished. Yet, well-trained, restrained and sociable, it is Dog who is relegated to the floor. Manners: the self-inflicted restriction keeping Dog’s paws on the ground.

Man saunters in, seats himself, and digs into the polenta. Fraud sits like a centerpiece in the middle of the table, licks her paws and swipes her face, tongue sweeping in grains of polenta hanging like ticks on a whisker.

At times like these I yearn for a hidden camera.images

Chow.





The ‘I’ in Italian is for Irish

17 03 2013

St. Patrick’s Day. I am green for the occasion. Frankly, I could have done a better job myself simply rolling in the freshly mown spring grass.1034471684_03013052f1_t

The meal this evening: Green pasta with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and vodka….vodka?105683306_458e9335c6_t

I suppose it’s a better choice than Irish Whiskey. At least vodka is flavorless. A reflection on the Russian culture? Makes a dog think.4202198032_b137b8ff79_t

The cook tosses a handful or two of baby spinach from the garden into the churning pasta dough, passes it through a hand-cranked cutter and out come stands of verdant linguine, like the long, slender grasses of mid-summer.7379440830_051b9132b8_t

The sauce: Creme fraiche to begin. Fraiche because it’s straight from the cow next-door, thick and rich; ice cream without the sugar.3249757365_9a5e6951a7_t

Vodka we have discussed. Gives the dish a piquant edginess. Another Soviet quality, perhaps?

The two, warmer together over a low flame lend a sweetness to the kitchen that hovers in the air like the aroma of some heady, unnamed blossom. Unwrap a package of tender, gently smoked Irish salmon and the kitchen becomes a perfumery. Heaven.2343601360_f2f4aff6c4_t

Cook folds the salmon pieces into the sauce. Checks for flavor, swiping a privileged finger through the mix, adds a splash more vodka to both the sauce and her glass of fresh-pressed juice. I guess the Russian liquid must have SOME merit.

The green pasta is boiled in salty water in the time it takes me to make it to the corner of the yard to water the basil, and return.

Linguine drained, sauced and served with a generous sprinkling of fresh parmesan and a glass of crisp Italian wine.865303675_d9436aea2b_t

Now THAT’S St.Patricks Day in style.374491_441513399262757_326224331_n

Chow.





The Seven Day Fog

22 01 2013

“It all started with a wrong turn in the velvet fog of Venice.”

Chapter one, line one, new autodogography.

I am off to the City of Water to do some research. Venice in January: like an iceberg in a snowstorm and tourist-free.

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Steamy bars laden with the scent of tobacco and milk chocolate. Trattorie packed with bodies warming to a plate of squid-ink pasta or creamy truffle risotto.

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Gondolieri standing in their boats, wrapped up like winter hams, waiting for business. Ice between my toes. Frost on my snout. Pregnant mist pushing its long, fleshy fingers between the towers and canals.2292218586_e546c44060_m

I know only roughly (or ruff-ly, as is the case) my plot. Certain things have to occur: suspense, romance, danger—and magnificent meals. Truffles will take part as it is winter in northern Italy. And a French-African Chihuahua I once met will play in.1159578853_5864672ff8_m

 

 

Write what you know is what I say, until you no longer know. Then make it up. It’s fiction. All life is a type of fiction, after all. And the living, nothing more than writers. Comforting to know one can always change the ending. All dogs understand this.

The ending is always owned by it’s writer in more ways than one.8381306661_3b58d2eccf_m

Chew on that.

Chow.





World Peace

8 11 2012

It can be said that Domesticated Dog lives a somewhat peaceful life:

eat,

sleep, 

play;

the faux-hunt of squirrels and other ground game; eat, sleep, play; repeat.

Whether it is the life of the entitled or the entitled life makes no difference. It is, as they say, what it is. Bliss.

Chaos may reign on the other side of the fence. Interesting, of course, but in the end nothing more than the distraction it provides.

I become a better Dog for whatever happens, whether it is because I have learned something new (squirrels can’t outrun a shotgun), witnessed the tragic (Dog flattened by a car), or something glorious (bitch across the street in heat). It’s all chalked up to the physical experience of being canine.  Acceptance of what is and an understanding that, in any given moment, what is can be marvelous given how it’s processed.

1) If squirrels can’t outrun a shotgun, neither can a dog.

2) Beware of cars.

3) Life is FULL of possibilities.

Humans seem to make themselves unhappy by refusing to accept life as it is; to understand that every incident is a gift, an opportunity to become. To simply feel wisdom, compassion, patience or courage is the beginning of the journey to become it.

This is easy for the canine. We are born being and we remember this. Humans are quick to forget.

I am Dog. I am wisdom. I am compassion. I am patience. I am courage. And I am at peace with what happens on the other side of the fence…or the world. The barking you hear is not alarm but acknowledgment.

Dogs have come to know that world peace doesn’t mean that the world is at peace. It means that you are at peace with the world.

Chow.





Doggie Dolci

9 08 2012

Cook is in the kitchen making fresh ricotta. I lie under the butcher block awaiting all things making their way from table-top to floor: eyes straight ahead; ears perked to hear the launch above.

Dinner was an hour ago. Any dog knows that there must be a bit of a nibble before bedtime lures a canine to the pillow.

So does Cook.

Who knew that a chicken and a bee could conspire to create such heaven? The happy marriage of winged things, no doubt.

Behold, Canine Zabaglione:

1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. honey
1 tablespoon fresh ricotta

Combine milk, egg and honey whisking until frothy and slightly thickened. Pour into a bowl belonging to the nearest available dog and place a dollop of fresh ricotta in the center of said receptacle.

Wait for the dog’s appropriate pleasure at your devotion and satisfaction to his stomach to be expressed in a cursory lick to your ankle.

Chow.

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I’ll Have What She’s Having

28 06 2012

Who hasn’t seen When Harry Met Sally? Even a small, Italian dog, who may have fallen asleep to a Lassie rerun and awakened to that 1990 Nora Ephron classic, knows how to fake an orgasm. Just ask our cat, Fraud.

I remember every worthwhile quotation of Ms. Ephron’s. That’s what a philosophical canine does: commit the philosphical to memory. You may think we merely lie dormant beneath the oak dreaming away the day, but we are contemplating far more than squirrels.

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”  Could have easily been spoken by a newly adopted dog.

“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.” As a dog who frequents the Italian beaches, I can attest.

“Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.” As a dog living in a household of infidels, I can also attest to this.

“The amount of maintenance involving hair is genuinely overwhelming. Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair any more is the secret upside of death.” What dog doesn’t worry about this?

“You can never have too much butter – that is my belief. If I have a religion, that’s it.” Proof Nora was a dog in her last life and will be in her next.

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” I would say hero but then, I just published my autodogography.

If I wore a hat, it would be off to Nora this day. For now, the examination of life and its ironic insults to humanity and the man-woman condition must surely be passed to dog. We do, after all, see things from a different perspective (the grass), closer to the basics of life (garden vegetables, ground rodents and poo) and a simpler existence: We eat therefore we are.

I will do my best to see things with a the flair that says, “this dog is both humorous and wise.”

But there is one profundity espoused by Nora Ephron that I will never be able to top:

“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”

Chow.





Writing With No Opposable Thumb

29 05 2012

The process gives new meaning to “hunt and peck”.

My nose is sore. The space between my ears (high cranial area known to contain the Great Knowledge of the Terrier) aches from the nose-tap concussion of putting words to paper each day. But I am finished with the feat.

I stretch out Under the Tuscan Sun (I am in author-mode, after all) and warm myself on summer’s fringe, thinking of the agent process. 

Query letters come to mind. Tag-lines run through my small but efficient canine brain: Mayhem ensues when the family dog discovers his master’s infidelity…or is it, his masters infidelity. Possessive AND plural. Oy.

Punctuation is not my strong suit, after all, dogs do not usually put words to paper…paper is saved for puppyhood deposits.

But it HAS been done: A Dog’s Life, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Timbuktu, Mr.Chartwell…all to some success.

Why not a real autodogography, by a real dog.

Great hook, no?


Nap-time is over. I trundle back to the chair, stacked with multiple pillows, and raise myself to the keyboard.

Dog seeking representation.

Chow.








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