You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

sabato 31 luglio 2010

Dogs Peeing on Couches, Rigatoni

What’s the culinary equivalent of a male dog spot-peeing on a living room couch? Rhetorical question to self while cleaning up liquid, vinegaring (oh, geez! I just did what I complain about in a footnote …) the floor, and then spraying the couch with Bitter Apple, a scent so repulsive it’s supposed to make dogs cringe. (It doesn’t, but it makes the purchasers feel they are in control of things.)

Cleaning spinach or my beloved sorrel? Frying eggplant on a hot summer’s day? Peeling onions from one’s garden, the onions so small, the skins so thick it’s painful? (Worth the effort, however, when it comes to eating them.) Oh, do let’s factor smell into this equation. Removing rotting vegetables from the refrigerator? Dealing with a delicate layer of mold that’s formed on a favorite piece of cheese you long forgot you had? Taking out your compost bucket days after you should have? The Scallion has pointed out – rightly – that peeing for dogs is not a chore, and that the things I list in this paragraph are. He says my analogy is off. He’s right, but please keep reading. (Do dogs do anything they don’t want to do? Oh, yes … coming when called … being on a leash … )

Mulled these pressing issues while googling “Dogs peeing on couches.” 743,000 results; went to, and read Bonnie, posting on July 20, 2010, who complained that her boxer was peeing on the couch. A day later, xintexas posted the following suggestion: “put double stick tape all over the sofa.”[1] Esthetic reservations aside, I feel certain that that product is not available in Italy.

“Stop dogs marking territory” came up with 13,400,000 results (clearly dogs peeing on couches is a world-wide issue – at least, in countries that like dogs). The lucid provided invaluable insight: “We as humans tend to think of dog urine as something unpleasant but to a dog it is something of great interest … Dogs with feelings of insecurity or who have separation anxiety may also mark, as territory marking the dog’s confidence ." Mostly boy dogs do this – which has convinced me that Waldo is my first, and Harry my last male dog – but girl dogs can do it, too.

From Tillie’s unpublished memoirs: “En route [to a bar] …for a coffee and a toast is a glorious thing, It’s raison d’etre for any canine, anywhere in the world: the smells! Oh, the streets are perfumed with them. As we wend our way down the very narrow Borgo Pinti … I get to check my messages, my “pee mail.” Yes, you know we canines have highly advanced senses of smell, among other things. Imagine the wondrousness of sniffing, smelling, and reveling in the accumulated scents of centuries! For Borgo Pinti has many buildings that date from the Quattrocento and, let me tell you, some things just don’t go away … it’s sort of like pentimento with smells instead of. The things I learn from putting my nose, delicately but deliberately, to the stones of Florence. Lots of my pee mail is often of recent vintage, and I always know who is in the neighborhood before I … well … before I let them know that I am walking down the street.” Tillie, always a lady even to the very end, declined to mention that she enjoyed peeing on top of whomever else had peed there, previously. Which made walking down Borgo Pinti a long process.)

Turns out Billo was back. Billo is a lovely terrier mix, about two years old, who lives (sometimes) down the street. He jumps/slides over a lame little fence we have, and is suddenly on our terrace. This sets the two male dogs off into hullabaloo (the unperturbed Lulu barely acknowledges his presence, as little phases her: She is a golden retriever, after all).

Billo first made his way into our lives sometime this past winter. We saw him one rainy morning as we headed down the driveway. Hours later, when we came back, he was in our garden. We began to wonder if he was an abandoned dog (we live near-ish an exit of a major highway, happily for those monsters on their way to the beach, and there’s lots of rolling hills, and woods, and it’s a favored spot for People Who Ought to be Shot to dump their dogs, which they do in this country, still with too much frequency, and especially in the summer as they head off to the beach or the mountains). We lured him in, fed him treats, saw that he had a collar (usually abandoned dogs don’t). We set him up in a little crate in the garage, and called the vet, who in turn alerted local officials, who drove out the following day to see if he was chipped (meaning his person’s information was recorded in a little chip his neck). He was, as it turns out, and chipped to someone who lived just down the street.

This made us happy, and sort of very sad, because it had occurred to us that we might be adding a fourth Stooge to our pack.

Billo’s presence sets Harry off. Harry has Issues. He was abandoned perhaps five years ago near Viterbo, a town north of Rome, often lived in by popes. He spent most of his life in a kennel. He had already had two failed relationships with two Florentine families (which should have told us something, but whoever said we were smart?). Italians euphemistically say “he’s an outdoors dog.” Read that as: He’s not housebroken.

Harry’s integration into the pack has been a lengthy (and costly) process. He had a marvelous Dog Whisperer for a long time. But he feels uncertain – Waldo, a fraction of his size, won’t take any of his guff. His attempts to hump Lulu have been futile. He’s housetrained, usually. He’s at the bottom of the heap, and knows it.

We were in Florence all day yesterday, and Billo was back. The pee made all sense in the world.
We had this for dinner last night, in between cleaning up piles of pee. It was good, which was fortunate, because it was all we had in the house.

Rigatoni con salsiccia, pomodori, e olive
(Rigatoni with sausage, tomato sauce, and black olives)

1/3 lb. rigatoni
3 T. extravirgin olive oil
1 small onion, preferably red, but in last night’s case white, as it came from our garden
1 clove garlic, minced
½ Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and minced
¼ lb. Italian pork sausage
¾ c. tomato sauce (preferably homemade)
2 T. (generous) of triple-concentrate tomato paste (hard to find in the States; just use the best tomato concentrate you can buy
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Put a pot of water on to boil. Toss the rigatoni in, and cook per package instructions. Don’t salt the water in this case: there’s enough salt in the sausage/black olive mix to make up for it.

Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized sauce pan. Add the onion, garlic, Scotch bonnet pepper, and still ‘til the onion’s golden and the garlic soft (but not browned). Take the sausage from its casing, crumble, and add to the mix. Stir ‘til cooked through, add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir to blend, and let cook for about 15 minutes.

Drain the pasta, throw it back into the pan with the sauce, stir to combine, set down two plates, and serve yourself directly from the pan.

Bobo suggests pairing this with a Morellino di Scansano, specifically the one put out by Le Pupille (this one’s a docg), 2008. It’s 85% sangiovese, 15% malvasia nera.

Poldo, the lovely animal pictured at the beginning of this blog, is a success story. He’s about two years old, a segugio italiano a pelo raso tricolore (a segugio – a breed we don’t have in the United States, but a kind and gentle one – with short hair in three colors). He was found on a street somewhere between Florence and Arezzo, “as skinny as possible” as his person recounts; he was about 10 kili (for pounds, multiply by 2.2). When Poldo was rescued from carcere (jail), he was about 20, and this explains his name: Poldo is the name for Wimpy, Popeye’s hamburger-loving pal. He’s blind in one eye, the result of his training as a hunting dog (for either hare, wild boar, or roe deer). He either encounted a wild boar or simply hit a branch, and badly. The blindness is probably what caused his demonic person to abandon him. For my dear art historian pals who read me, I’ve dubbed him Wimpy, Dog(e) di Montefeltro.

If you’re in Italy, and looking to add a mutt to your family, check out Be prepared to cry. If you’re in Italy reading this, go to, which does have some happy news: Nei cento canili monitorati dall’associazione nel fine settimana sono entrati complessivamente 317 cani rispetto ai 483 dello scorso anno con una diminuzione di entrate pari al 34%. (In the hundred kennels monitored by the association at the end of the week, 317 dogs, as opposed to 483 from last year, found temporary lodgings [these last two words mine and not true to the translation], with a 34% decrease.)

[1] Other sites provided infantile refreshment, as in dogs “going potty.” Potty, to my mind, means daft or nutty. NOT peeing on the couch. Even better: “pottying.” Nice making an adjective – i.e., daft or nutty – into a verb of some weird sort.

1 commento:

  1. What a handsome dog Poldo is! I'm sure he'd love some rigatoni con salsiccia!