Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wiener Resolutions


1. I will continue to contribute to the dogosphere.

2. I will continue to snuggle and cuddle.


3. I will continue to hike on two continents.

4. I will continue to burrow.


5. I will continue to buy books from independent booksellers.

6. I will continue to watch my weight.


7. I will continue to brush my teeth.

8. I will continue to bark at big dogs.


9. I will continue to question the dominant paradigm.

10. I will keep on wagging!


Happy New Year!
Buon anno!
Rutsch guet übere!
Bonne année!

Friday, December 30, 2011

All Things Vacca

Albergo Rifugio Bazena is a mountain hotel nestled in the Adamello mountains of Lombardy less than two miles west of Croce Domini Pass. We stayed there last October after our hike to Punta Setteventi.


In the parking lot I had to negotiate the overtures of a trio of Italian alpine male doggies who form the official Bazena welcoming committee: a Chow Chow named Kali, a Boxer named Bobbie, and Fulmine, a fluffy grey dog with big ears, a bigger nose, and all the fur in the world.


Bobbie and Fulmine were so effusive that Mom decided to carry me in my transcontinental house. She worried they would lift me off the ground with their noses and turn me into a doggie seesaw. I was bummed. I wanted to be a doggie seesaw--for a moment.


Fulmine spends his days escorting hikers up and down the trail. Early the next morning, he guided us for a quarter mile before dashing back down once it became clear to him that we knew what we were doing. (“Fulmine” is the Italian word for “lightning”.)


The hike was fairly easy until we came round a corner to 8,000 ft Passo della Vacca (Cow Pass). The wind practically knocked me over, and I had to hide in Mom's jacket.


My snuggle position made it very difficult to see Lago della Vacca (Cow Lake).


Because of the wind at the pass, we completely missed the boulder that supposedly looks like a cow. A woman pointed it out to us when we were farther down the trail and called it Sasso della Vacca (Cow Boulder). I’m with Mom. I just couldn’t see the likeness.

With our blessing, Dad scampered off to summit Mount Frerone. He sometimes has his SMMC moments: See Mountain Must Climb. I understand because I often have my SSME moments: See Something Must Eat.


On the way down the mountain with Mom, we met a German shepherd held close by a man who smiled at us and asked Mom, “E' un cucciolo?”

“Si,” Mom said, confidently.

“No,” I yipped, “I’m not a puppy!”


Good old Fulmine met us on the trail and escorted us for the last quarter mile down to the parking lot where he and Bobbie and Kali all sent us off in style.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tootsie Calls a Bluff


Tootsie calls a bluff on Whidbey Island, Washington while on morning walkies with her Plott hound brother Truffle.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day!

Keep on wagging!
Love, Tootsie

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays to all my beloved friends and family.
Keep on wagging!
Love,
Tootsie

Friday, December 23, 2011

If Chickens Could Vote


Tootsie and her Araucana friend Clarence discuss electoral matters on Whidbey Island, Washington.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dadpad


I’m a great big fan of all things nautical.


I do spend the majority of my time in the mountains, but I love the ocean and I love boats.


This is partly because my human uncle is a wotten-waven sailor and fisherman in Alaska and in Puget Sound. Last summer he took us on a super fun sailing trip.


My uncle is now living on a boat called the “Dadpad,” which I had the privilege of visiting.


My human cousins love being on the water with their dad. On the “Dadpad,” they formally introduced me to Yugi, who was visiting from Canada.


Yugi is a top-notch canine athlete. He excels at dog sports, particularly Frisbee fetching. He even has a special cape he wears that brings him extra super powers. Yugi is both an outdoor enthusiast and a sophisticated urbanite who carries his own leash while promenading on downtown sidewalks.


Yugi and I are very upset about Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. As we discussed Canadian environmental policy on the “Dadpad,” I expressed my disappointment by barking while Yugi growled.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

High Stakes


Tootsie isn't always reasonable about her dietary constraints.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ticketed Passengers


Tootsie questions authority curbside at Seatac Airport.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Coffee Matters


Cheerio and Tootsie in conversation in the hills above Whatcom Lake in Bellingham, Washington.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to become a famous Swiss mountain

What does it take to become a famous Swiss mountain?

Is it sheer size? Or is it views? Accessibility? Or just good looks? After carrying out extensive research, I came up with a list of tips for all the Swiss mountains who wish to rise to notoriety.

For our purposes, we will quantify fame based on the number of Google search hits.


1. No need to be super-tall, just be the tallest thing around.
With her 15,203', Monte Rosa is the highest mountain in Switzerland and boasts 1.8 million hits. That's the same as Pilatus, less than half Monte Rosa's size, because Pilatus is the tallest thing right around Lucerne, and..


2. Location beats elevation.
It pays off to be in Central Switzerland. Mount Rigi, the quintessential Central Swiss mountain, returns 1.5 million hits in spite of her 5896'. In fact, Rigi towers over a large portion of the Swiss plateau and offers...


3. Sweeping vistas.
If you’re the tallest thing around and right in the middle of things, you offer a great view over things that people recognize, like Lake Lucerne below you or a huge chunk of the alpine range in the distance. Or Lake Lugano, in the case of 5000’ tall Monte Lema, which returns 1.3 million hits and is within easy reach of my Swiss home. Did I just say easy reach?

4. Be accessible.
Rigi, Pilatus, Lema, Säntis...each of them is well above one million hits, and each of them offers public transportation to her summit. Gondola or train, it doesn’t even have to climb to your tippy-top, just close enough. Jungfrau gets 1.8 million hits and her world-famous Jungfrau train only makes it as far as a saddle 2000 feet below the top. But you may not necessarily want hordes of tourists flocking to eat overpriced fondue and enjoy a $10 cup of questionable coffee, in which case you could just...


5. Stand out.
Along with Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch are visible from lots of places in northern Switzerland and jointly total 2.3 million hits. Jungfrau is German for “young woman”; Eiger is an “ogre”, and Mönch is a “monk”...what's in a name?


6. Doff thy name.
At 14’022, Finsteraarhorn is taller than her celebrity neighbors Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. She is the tallest thing around, and her tip is visible from countless places both north and south of the alpine divide. Her name, which translates to "Peak of the Obscure (River) Aar", makes English speakers such as myself fear their tongue may snap, and her Google hit count is 10 times lower than Eiger’s. But Eiger also understands that any image-conscious Swiss mountain should...


7. Develop a corporate image.
Eiger’s North Face is indeed The North Face, although the corporate logo is supposed to be Yosemite’s Half Dome. 9203’ foot tall Calanda, near Chur, has a beer brand named after her. But what if you’re tucked away in a remote corner of Switzerland, you’re surrounded by taller mountains, only true climbers can climb you, and they can’t see you unless they make a dedicated trip? There’s hope for you, provided that you...


8. Look like the Matterhorn.
The most famous of all Swiss mountains does have a train to her base, but it takes forever to get there from pretty much anywhere. Not to mention that you need a wallet the size of an accordion to stay in Zermatt. She’s surrounded by bigger mountains, and I can't go check out the view from her summit, since hyper-vertical rock climbing doesn't come naturally to dachshunds. Yet, she gets 4 million hits because she looks like the Matterhorn!

For the record, the string “Matterhorn Disneyland” returns more than 1 million hits.

Note: In the interest of fairness, the numerical data reported herein was acquired by way of the Google search patterns “mountain name and Switzerland”.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Village Books is Dog Friendly!



Last night, I attended my first literary reading at Village Books in Fairhaven, Washington. Village Books is dog friendly!


Doggies are welcome to browse titles in the store, to make purchases that support independent booksellers, to curl up in a corner with a book, and to attend literary readings. This reading was the first one in my mom's Body of a Dancer book tour.


There were about forty humans in attendance, which made Mom super excited, and there were about four dogs in attendance, which made me super excited. A human to canine ratio of ten!

I want to thank Village Books for welcoming your four-footed companions, and I know my mom thanks them for all their support, too.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Flying to My Idaho Home

The whole schnaa of living on two continents is pretty romantic until it comes to the commute. Like me, the trip is long, but unlike me, it is not short.


In Zurich, the trip started out a little rough. But if things get rough, I’d much prefer to be in Switzerland than any other place. The Swiss know how to put things right.

Some background: When Mom made our airline reservation, Delta confirmed that I was scheduled to fly onboard, in the cabin. They said Mom didn't need a printed receipt with the words, “Pet Approved In Cabin.”

The first segment of our three-leg trip, ZRH>AMS, was code-shared with KLM. At the Zurich airport, the KLM agent said that our pet-in-cabin reservation was not confirmed on the second segment, AMS>SEA, which was our Delta segment. Mom was unconvinced; however, the agent said she couldn't let Mom and me onboard until we confirmed with Delta. The agent also said we should have a printed receipt for my reservation, and Mom tried to explain that Delta had said that a printed receipt was not needed, that we were "in the system," and that they didn't provide those receipts for pets.

Mom is unfailingly polite when we travel because like me she has good breeding, but she was scratching her wrist under the counter. This fall, I heard her make four different phone calls to Delta to confirm that I would be traveling with her on this ticket. I wanted to bark at the lady behind the counter to tell her about those calls, but, actually, she was very nice and exceedingly helpful. She didn't want us to get stuck in Amsterdam if my pet reservation was not confirmed. She was trying to do the right thing.


In any case, I am a great big fan of KLM's customer service. The check-in agent called me the "Morning Star". Once onboard our KLM flight (yes, Delta said my reservation for all legs was most definitely confirmed!), the KLM flight attendant asked Mom, “How’s Tootsie? Is she comfortable? Do you two need anything?” I could hear her even from inside my transcontinental house under the seat.


Amsterdam is the most wotten-waven place to transfer: 1.) A security guard escorts me while Mom goes through the radiation tank, and all while fawning over me; it makes me feel like a rock star; 2.) there’s a roof garden, where you can view airplanes, and I get to walk outside of my house on astro-turf (I don’t potty because, duh, I can tell the difference between astro-turf and grass)*;


and 3.) I love reading all the place names where people are traveling to and from. You don't see names like Marsa Alam, Hurghada, Humberside, Tenerife, or Almaty in most US airports.

There was also a flight to Sharm El Sheikh, a major resort in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt and the city where Hosni Mubarak fled when his regime fell. And it’s fitting to see this place name in a week that Egyptians turned out in huge numbers to vote.

*By the way, if you are traveling through Amsterdam, the Airport Park and roof garden is located near the KLM Lounge, at the start of the D concourse. You’ll need to visit before Passport Control, if you are traveling to the States, or after Passport Control, if you are traveling from the States.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mount Heathen


Located just south of Italy’s Stelvio National Park, Monte Pagano offers an incredible view of northeastern Lombardy.


So commanding is the view that a century ago someone commanded the construction of a fort on the pastures at the summit of Monte Pagano, whose name translates to “Mount Heathen”.


Our home base for our hike up Mount Heathen was the village of Monno. Dad had come through here on his bicycle in 2003 and knew the perfect place to stay, Hotel Quai.

The owner of Hotel Quai is super-nice. He invited me out of my transcontinental home in the dining room during dinner.


For the primo, both Mom and Dad had Piöde, a kind of gnocchi named after the rock slates once used on roofs. The owner called it a simple, poor man’s food; the best kind to eat, he said. For the secondo, Dad had his own gorgonzola and prosciutto pizza, while Mom had steak with salsa verde, a yummy combination of hard-boiled egg, lots of parsley, some salt, and olive oil all whipped together. For dessert, they both had an apple torte, also homemade, of course. I made a concerted effort to scavenge food off my Mom and Dad, but I was not successful.


With his in-depth knowledge of the area, the owner helped us plan our hike to Monte Pagano. He advised against using the upper trailhead that you read about in the guidebooks and he directed us to a little known trailhead at the Bridge of the Pasture, or Put de Palö in the local Camuno dialect.


From the Bridge of the Pasture, a century old military road spirals up, climbing 2,000 vertical feet and affording new 360° views at every turn all the way to the fort at the top.



The fort was meant to keep on eye on nearby Passo Tonale, which back then was a key border crossing into the Austro-Hungaric empire. Today, Passo Tonale is a ski resort while the fort on Mount Heathen is very popular with Val Camonica goats.



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