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 2 ottobre 2010

The Trouble with Harry

There’s always been trouble with Harry.[1]
He was abandoned, as so many dogs are come summertime in Italy, by the side of the road, somewhere near Viterbo (north of Rome, where various popes vacationed during those sweltering months).

Picked up from the side of the road, he was a trovatello (a foundling) and placed immediately in a kennel. Because he quivers when he hears ambulances, and gun shot, our theory is that he was a hunting dog gone bad … like, he didn’t like to hunt; hence his abandonment.

Italian kennels are, for the most part, not good. Crowded, dirty: don’t think industrial chicken farming, but imagine something close. Unhappy canines in crowded spaces.

We saw “his advertisement” in our local bar in Florence about three years ago. We saw questa pubblicità separately, his pathetic bio included (think Ford Maddox Ford’s “This is the saddest story I’ve ever heard” and then apply it to a dog) -- as sad as we'd ever heard – we thought we’d be his saviors.

Long story short: Italian euphemisms for “outdoor dog” translates into “not housetrained, pees everywhere in the house.” (Completely proved by his damaging a precious copy of a Giuliano Bugialli cookbook.) Previous tenants of Harry (who was then called Bianco)(how imaginative) said that he didn’t get along with others. Actually, Bianco/Harry had two previous tries of life outside the kennel, and failed them both. Or the people who attempted to live with him failed him.

Well, the long and the short of it (who can resist tweaking, badly and longer-ish, “long story short,” above?), Harry went through a lot of therapy (it cost us). He got better. He stopped biting others, humans and canines alike. Eventually, he moved back into the house. He tried to get along with Waldo, who simply couldn’t stand him (Lulu tolerated Harry; every time he tried to hump her, she took no guff.)

Waldo’s been dead this past month and a half, and Harry’s evil kitchen nature has once again reasserted itself. The Scallion and I believe that Waldo’s presence prevented these Acts of Mass Kitchen Destruction. Harry, smart enough to climb up on his hind legs, can demolish whatever’s on the kitchen counter (lately: wooden tongs, oven mitts, compost gone astray (not on the counter but in the compost bucket)); from the kitchen bucket under the kitchen sink, everything that’s not compostable; from the bathroom, whatever he can get his mixed setter paws on).

We find this disturbing, so have thought of all sorts of ways to have this not happen. We barricaded the cupboard underneath the sink, which meant rubber-banding the two doors, putting a door stopper in front of it, and then two kitchen chairs in front of that. Came back from Florence one day this past week to find two kitchen chairs tossed to one side, door stopper too, and frantic attempts to get into the garbage (as evidenced by the claw marks on said doors)(by the way, we take the garbage out every time we go out, to free him from temptation). Praise the goddess for the rubber band.

Next strategy: pushing the lovely wooden kitchen table in front of the sink, thereby blocking access to sink. (Neglected to say that he enjoys chewing kitchen sponges, which are now put on our drying rack, safe out of harm’s reach). And making a pyramidical formation of kitchen chairs to prevent access.

Oh, no matter! He’ll hit the kitchen counter, an act he’s always been fond of, but now is milking since Waldo’s gone. He’s actually eaten raw onions (and yes, Dear Reader: we feed him well, often, and properly). To counteract this, we thought we’d give him some astringent crostini heavily doused (with powdered cayenne pepper) in the mistaken hope that he’d eat one and give up. Four of them, all in a row. Eat one, have the roof of your mouth think you’re in one of Dante’s circles, and quit.

But NO. That experiment colossally failed. He ate one, and decided he’d eat the other three. (For those not living in Italy: dried peperoncini powder can be lethal even to the most seasoned hot pepper palate.)(Second attempt at said experiment resulted in the same: he ate it all. Face it, our dogs are weird. Lulu loves raw fennel; Waldo loved … well, he was molto particolare when it came to eating most things, except for things that were laced with slow-acting rat poison.)

(One wonders what Mr. Johnson would have thought, since he wrote once upon a time, “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.” My thought: stuff a cayenne-laden bit of bread into that pompous ass’s mouth, and let him watch Harry do his stuff … oh, and then let him listen to Sarah Palin with mouth on fire… I digress …)

At least Harry hasn’t reverted to peeing on cookbooks. So far.

This from Jamie Magnificent, who comes from a family of seriously-committed-to-good-food&wine folk:

“know that i am avidly reading your blog in hopes of learning some new dishes!! (i think i need simpler recipes though-- i have a couple debilitating factors: college budget, college palate (i.e the sophistication, or lack thereof, of my peers haha), my skill haha, and American supermarkets) that said, i've been trying to learn some new things and i am soon going to attempt to bake bread!”

This recipe was a life-saver senior year in a college apartment; cheap, easy to make. Equally life-saving in a squalid bed-sit in South Kensington. Equally tasty while doing the 9-5 thing; just as tasty in graduate school. Equally tasty for the rest of my life, I expect.

This one’s for you, Kiddo.

Potato soup

1½ lb. potatoes, scrubbed for sure, peeled if you feel like it
¾ lb. leeks, trimmed, chopped coarsely
2 T. butter (2 T. vegetable oil if either budget or cholesterol conscious)
4 c. vegetable broth
3 T. dried dill (if an undergraduate) or 3 T. fresh chopped dill (if you have a garden or access to Whole Foods)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional garnishes: chopped hard-boiled egg (college/grad school); caviar (the rest of one’s life?)
Melt the butter or oil in a big, deep pot. Add the potatoes and leeks, toss to coat, then add the vegetable broth. Bring to a low boil, cover, and let cook ‘til done (about 20 minutes). Let cool, slightly, then purée the soup in a blender. Add the (hopefully) fresh chopped dill. Stir to combine, and eat immediately. This is good hot, this is good cold.

Jamie: potatoes don’t freeze well, so make sure you and your pals Hoover this one up.

[1] Alfred Hitchcock made a stab at black comedy horror in 1955 with a movie of the same title. Then there’s the wondrous Harry the Dirty Dog series … also from the 50s. Both Harrys were trouble.

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