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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Got Fed?

Augustin and Tootsie compare notes about France and the USA at Chalets de Bise, Upper Savoy, Southeastern France

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gobble, Gobble; Nap, Nap

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Switzerland, it's hard to find a whole turkey to roast, and there are no cranberries either. So Mom and Dad are going to eat schnitzel and fries. I'll eat my same Dr. Hill's Science Plan kibble, which I like very much. After our walk around the cow pasture, I plan to take lots of naps.

Today, I give thanks to all the people who have taken such good care of me and who continue to love me. I want to give a special bark-out to Pet Mobile and my vet Dr. Ward, whom I love deeply and truly. Thank you for giving me a new leash on life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Val d’Abondance

Val d’Abondance lies across the mountains from the French (southern) shore of Lake Geneva. As we drove there in our rented "Picasso," I kept thinking about Picasso's little sausage friend and muse named Lump.

At Hotel Plein Soleil, the lovely lady owner of the hotel let me come into the dining room, though I did so inside my transcontinental house, as is my preference.

At dinner, the lovely lady owner visited with us. After soup and steak, and before dessert, she served us a platter of fromage from Val d’Abondance. Mom and Dad wouldn’t give me a taste, but they both said it was wotten waven. It smelled great!

Two chic Italian greyhounds were also staying at the hotel. Their owner looked as stressed out as a pit trader on Black Monday and wouldn’t let them meet me. But I overheard them chatting in the parking lot.

For the night, we had our own apartment. I was a little worried we were moving in, but Mom said we were lucky to have a whole apartment for the night. Apparently in French-speaking countries, you often find a separate room with just a toilet and then another room with the bathtub and sink. I don't understand the logic behind this design, but Mom says it's different and maybe there is no logic. It's cultural.

My question: is there logic to culture? Because what sense does it make for a human to use the toilet in one room that doesn't have a sink and then open the door after using the toilet and walk down a hall to open another door to the room that has the sink?

This is why I prefer my four paws and going potty outside. I don't have to worry about things like this. And the next day, we went on a hike in Val d’Abondance. Wotten waven!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Pause for the Paws

Cecino and Tootsie in conversation in the hills of
Northwestern Tuscany.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Berlusconi Unplugged

In one on my recent naps, I had the opportunity to interview Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Q: Mr. former Prime Minister, are you a dog person?

A: Not really, even though the well-being of my wiener has always been my number-one priority.

Q: I can see why Italian women have so little respect for you. Since you're being a smart ass, I'll just go for the bark. How did you manage to single-handedly ruin Italy?

A: I spent fifteen years brainwashing Italians through my stupid television stations, broadcasting soccer and sex. When a power vacuum came about in the government, I already knew how to control minds and hearts and gen-Italia. Then I came in like a Hoover.

Q: Your bunga bunga parties are your greatest contribution to Italian culture. How did you find the time to run the country?

A: Did I run the country? Many people argue I didn't.

Q: Yes, you did! Into the ground. How do you sleep?

A: At my age, it's good to have something that keeps you up at night.

Q: Like your four pending trials?

A: I love trials. In the end, I always get off.

Q: Some say you have let the country go to the dogs, but I disagree. Dogs would never have voted for you three times.

I woke up barking angrily at the cover of "Time." My collie cousin Ester lives in Italy. In her honor: Viva l'Italia e abbasso Berlusconi!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ode to Tootsie

I received this poem of appreciation from my cousin, Pat, the Human. I want to share it with all of you.
Thank you, Pat!
Keep on wagging,
Tootsie, the Dachshund


Tootsie, my Tootsie, oh what a dog
You even have your very own blog!

You manage to put us humans to shame
For who can aspire such heights to attain?

You travel, you ponder, you write and you frame
Your thoughts and your photos in the public domain

Of the blogosphere--There you reveal the heart of a dog
With finesse and aplomb that leave us agog

I so love you, Tootsie, and needless to say
Reading your missives just brightens my day!

From your devoted follower,
Pat, the Human

Monday, November 14, 2011

Loving Livigno

Just across the border from St. Moritz, Switzerland lies the town of Livigno, Italy. Spread out in a valley 6,000 feet above sea level, Livigno looks like an Italian-style outdoor mall, except one with alpine grace and wotten-waven pizza. Located in a duty-free zone, Livigno has slot machines and a casino, but surprisingly little booze.

On either side of the Livigno valley, gondolas take you up to 9,000 feet high mountain ridges. Since I had ridden in cars, boats, buses, planes, and many kinds of trains, it was high time for my first gondola ride.

As we rode up the Costaccia gondola, I sat on Mom’s lap and looked down at the valley below. Livigno is one of the few places in Italy where the water flows into the Black Sea.

As we stepped out of the gondola, the operator came out of his booth to say, “Ciao.” He and my dad talked about our route along the ridge. It had snowed the week before, so we were concerned about the trail. But all was clear, said the operator: "Nessun problema!"

We climbed 2,000 feet to the highest point along the ridge with mountain views in every direction along the way.

At the top, we met a British couple who live in Sri Lanka. They were visiting family in Britain but flew over to see friends in northern Italy for a week—and because they love the cool, mountain air. The man had an intent gaze; when he listened, he heard. They told us about a road trip they took around Switzerland in the eighties before moving to Sri Lanka. Based north of Colombo, they do extensive volunteer work and were very much involved in tsunami relief efforts. We asked about the Sri Lankan civil war, which they said is over now. Bombs had exploded near them in Colombo, but bombs had also exploded near their homes in London in the eighties.

"It's amazing what you get used to," said the woman.

Our mountain top friends are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I think they gave us a silent blessing. It sure felt that way.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pizza Matters

Speedy and Tootsie in conversation on the Potersalp trail
in Appenzell, Northeastern Switzerland.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Think; Therefore, I Wag

Sometimes my mom asks me what I'm thinking about.

I wag. Thump, thump, thump. This is what I’m thinking:

"Cuddles, food, life. And something more."

I think about how named colors represent abstractions.

I think about how one dog biscuit might be better than another, but both are pretty good.

I think about how I prefer raw meat but never get to eat it.

I think about the eurozone.

I think about how our Swiss landlady likes to clean and my mom prefers to write a poem.

I think about how humans are perpetual failures.

I think about how it is important to love them anyway.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Green Dachshund

Johann from Raise a Green Dog recently shared a set of dog hiking tips. Thank you, Johann, for such an insightful post!

Because I'm a green dachshund, I would like to revisit Johann’s tips and respond from my own long and short experience. I am going to use Johann’s original questions to prompt my answers.

1. Are you and your dog ready?

It is imperative to start with little walkies and gently build us up to longer hikes. I’m long, but I’m also short. Fitness training is essential for wienies. Before Mom adopted me, I was a fat little dog. I’ve turned into a fit little dog thanks to Mom’s gradual hiking program. How did I go from fat to fit? Gradually and gently. With one exception: the Swiss tundra Greina hike was way too long. I mutinied.

2. Pack it up!

In Johann’s words, "Some dogs are suited for carrying packs, and some aren't". I’m not! Check out my long back!

3. Leash up!

I cannot control my nose, especially around wild animals and the abundant marmots in the Swiss Alps that are often bigger than me. And I don’t want to get in trouble with bigger dogs that may be off leash. Not to mention that I still don’t really understand that cars (and trains) are dangerous. My parents keep me on a leash as a general rule, but do make a few exceptions when it is reasonably safe. For example, I got to play off-leash at the beach recently. The problem is that 'reasonably safe' is a furry concept. As a case in point, I was off leash when we ran into a viper near Passo Vivione.

4. Keep hydrated!

My parents and I are still working on this one. I often refuse to drink the water my parents offer me on hikes, even though they bring my own water and my own travel bowl. But then I drink lots when we get back home, and I have to wizz late at night. What’s a hot dog to do?

5. Snacks!


6. Pick up the doo!

Mom and Dad always do pick up the doo: as I get on with my pooping, they get busy with the scooping.

7. Watch the temps and the weather!

Dad and I are great big fans of MeteoSuisse, but we still face challenges from time to time.

8. Those enticing waters!

Mom agrees with Johann: one should always avoid unfamiliar water sources. Dad claims that water sources in the Alps are generally safe. Mom says that I have a delicate tummy. Dad says I’m tougher than I look. Mom says we should always bring my water. Dad always carries my water.

9. Take breaks!

Take naps!

10. Check the pads!

Thanks for pointing this out, Johann. Mom has been looking for specially-made dachshund booties.

11. Body check!

Very important tip, Johann. Lots of ticks in Northern and Western Switzerland. Luckily, Lyme disease is not a concern where we live in Southern Switzerland.

As a final note, I also appreciate a rub-down at the end of the day and a blanket under which I can burrow.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I recently visited France for the first time. We crossed over the Swiss-French border on the south shore of Lake Geneva in the binational town of St. Gingolph.

Dad took us on a walk—on French soil—along the shores of Lake Geneva.

I’m always up for walkies and investigating new places. I’m a mighty trooper.

Dad had picked St. Gingolph for our walkies because he wanted us to look up at Grammont, an imposing mountain overlooking the lakeside town. Last year, Dad hiked from St. Gingolph to the top of Grammont.

Here's a view from St. Gingolph looking up at Grammont:

Here’s a picture Dad took last year looking down at St. Gingolph from the top of Grammont:

The trail from St. Gingolph to Grammont runs through the mountain hamlet of Novel, spelled exactly like “novel” in English. Dad thought Mom would like that name. She did, and I did, too.

From St. Gingolph, we drove up a one-lane mountain road that wound round the mountainside to Novel.

The two hotels and the B&B in Novel were closed for the season, so we drove back down the one-lane mountain road. For once, I was glad to have an empty tummy.

Happy Hallowiener!

Trick or treat?
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