Rudy on the (Yoga) Mat

First, there was biting cold.

…and I’m always breaking the path…

Then some snow.

Then cold.

What happened to the back yard?

More snow.

Cold. Snow.

Empty calories.

We were beginning to see a pattern.

Repetitive and meditative (if, say, you’re into contemplating a shovel).

Mon dieu…

“Really, the only thing seeing me through right now is my practice,” Rudy informed me, glumly.

I might have agreed with him, except that he was hogging the yoga mat, sprawled across the center with a chew toy.

I. Am. In. The. Zone.

Lately, as soon as I motivate myself to do a little yoga, it’s been Rudy’s cue to grab something from the toy box and hunker down. A couple of times it’s gotten rambunctious, and I finally had to tell him to knock it off.

“It’s counterproductive,” I explained.

Things get ugly…

“How so?”

I’m trying to get in the zone,” I said patiently (or with what I imagine, in mid March, passes for patience).

“Who’s stopping you?”

Tennis Pigeon

“Well you’re not exactly helping…”

“I’m not so sure that’s my role,” he said, flipping a red rubber donut into the air. It landed neatly on my foot.

“This isn’t the time or place for chew toys,” I pointed out.

“And your point?”

Truth seeker…

“It’s hard to concentrate…”

“And?”

I was beginning to detect a certain circular motion. The course of our conversation was too reminiscent of our current weather pattern (also circular). Frankly, I wasn’t feeling so kindly disposed to either one.

“My point is, this is my time to be on the mat.”

“Well I don’t have a mat.”

Good point.

We were both getting peevish. I gave up trying to stretch into Pigeon and rolled onto my back. Rudy sprawled across my stomach. Then settled into the crook of my arm.

It was one of our better moments.

Now we’re in the zone…

There was almost a measure of peace. We both practiced letting go. Just being. Our own version of Savasana.

“It’s the most difficult pose of all,” he reminded me. “And I’ve pretty much got it mastered.”

Zenitude.

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To Eat or Not to Eat

Recently Rudy heard a rumor that’s brought us both a certain amount of pain.

“I’m sure of it,” he insists. “That dog gets a treat…just for eating.”

Can you believe it?

His eyes widened, sort of like Madame Blavatsky’s, and he fixed me with that look I know he thinks will hypnotize me one day.

Hypno-stare

Then he rose up, like a yeti–a trick he’s been overplaying lately. It cracks me up, when it doesn’t freak me out, and he’s been milking it.

Best yeti imitation

“Think about it,” he said, and sauntered off.

On the one hand, it’s a funny idea–rewarding a dog for eating. On the other hand…it’s still funny. But Rudy’s been like a dog with a bone on this one. He can’t seem to shake it. 

“It’s a great idea,” he repeats. “You know how ‘rewards’ oriented I am. Imagine how you’d feel if I STOPPED EATING.”

ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE.

“Like that would happen,” I snorted.

“Well it could.”

“Not.”

“Whatever.”

It seemed as good a time as any to remind him that he gets plenty of treats, for tough challenges like coming inside, waiting in the car, and being a good boy. And in spite of that, he still felt compelled to break into the glove compartment and eat two weeks worth of treats.

What bag?

“It’s been a long winter,” he sighed.

He’s right.

 

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Rudy’s Roman Blog

“Honestly, I don’t know what Italy has that we don’t,” Rudy remarked when I got back from Rome earlier this month. “You realize you’ve been gone the equivalent of…”

Where Romans roam

Where Romans roam

I spaced out while he did the math—7 over 1 times 12, multiplied by 2 meals minus 3 weeks—and then presented me with some number so high only dogs could hear it.

“Well for starters, there’s the Villa Doria Pamphili,” I said. “Four hundred acres that function like the lungs of Rome. I saw some of your people there.”

Not a leash in sight

Buon giorno.

Nooks everywhere

No leashes…

Backdrop for walking, biking, running...

Nice backdrop for walking, biking, running…

“Hmmm, let me see if I can paint a picture,” I said. “Not that I’m trying to convince you or anything, but there are some pretty great markets, like the daily one at Campo de Fiori.”

Campo di Fiore market

Campo de Fiori’s daily market

“I do like pigeons,” he said, zeroing in on the bird conspicuously catching some late-morning shade.

“And lots of outdoor cafes.”

Santa Maria in Trastevere cafes

Santa Maria in Trastevere

He yawned and feigned disinterest.

“Granted, there are occasional hindrances,” I paused, thinking of the sign posted inside the Sant’Agnese in Agone church, in Piazza Navona.

Posted in Piazza Navona

“I can’t enter.”

“Ma perche?” Rudy looked offended. “Maybe they just mean big dogs?”

“Not to worry,” I interrupted. “You’ve still got the rest of Piazza Navona to explore, and it’s huge.”

The loooong view

The loooong view

He was quiet for a moment.

“Wanna see some more pigeons?” I asked.

On the Castel Sant Angelo's Bridge of Angels

On the Castel Sant Angelo’s Bridge of Angels

“I do like birds,” he hedged. “But what about cats?”

Je Suis Ping Pong

In Trastevere

“Ah, i gatti,” I nodded. “Plenty of those, too. Some of my favorites are in the Trastevere neighborhood, along the Tiber.”

La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita

Dreamy Tiber

A dreamy Tiber

“You’d like the gelato,” I said, after a moment.

In the shadow of the Pantheon

In the shadow of the Pantheon

He nodded. “I see they have cold drinks, too?”

“And the smells,” I said. “Roman smells. Ancient Roman smells.”

Smells?

Smells?

He tried to look away.

“Do they have bacon?” he asked abruptly.

“Yes, and it’s used in a delicious pasta dish called Carbonara.”

But in the end, it was the Dolce Vita attitude that really spoke to him. Rudy can be a little wired, as he’s the first to admit.

High noon...

High noon…

Break time.

Break time.

Cat nap.

Cat nap.

So tyud.

So tyud.

“I could use un po de relax,” he said, slipping into Italian slang. And in the end, he concede that Rome might have possibilities, and he’d put it on his bucket list.

“I thought you’d never come back to me,” he sighed.

It was hard.

It was hard.

Rome. Roam. Home.

Dog parking

Dog parking

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Rudy On Winter 2015

“No more,” said Rudy, as he set the pace.

The pace in question could only be described as floundering, and once or twice he seemed lost, searching for a familiar landmark.

Where did it all go?

Where did it all go?

Not so very long ago, just a few weeks, really, he’d been singing a different tune. “Winter retrospectives can be fun,” he’d opined back then, when occasional patches of ground could still be glimpsed. “Although technically we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Stride makes the dog...

Stride is everything.

Truer words were never spoken…

“It’s like Siberia here,” says Rudy now. “With none of the Zhivago romance.”

Trudging…

Trudging…

In over his head, Rudy’s philosophizing has taken a dark turn.

…always trudging...

…ever trudging…

“Winter can seem like one long, dark movie theater,” he’s taken to saying. “Empty…waiting for the movie to play.”

…still I trudge...

…and still I trudge…

“Only it never does. And the concessions stand is closed.”

CARRY ME.

Will someone please carry me?

With too much time on his hands and no shortage of imagination, it has begun to feel like Lara’s Theme music should kick in every time we step outside.

Again, the "t" word.

Cue the music…

We clear it away,

I break new ground.

I break new ground.

and it comes back with a vengeance,

We're in deep.

We’re in deep.

stretching as far as the eye can see…

As far as the eye can see...

I see Moscow.

Still, there is some relief to be found.

Maybe I can escape...

An escape hatch?

Snow art to contemplate,

Like the ice palace.

Echoes of the ice palace.

and opportunities for introspection.

Heathcliff, I feel your pain.

Heathcliff, I feel your pain.

But in the end, it still tastes good.

My legs are too short...

Fluffy.

And that’s something.

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Rudy Breaks His Silence

We all need time to think and reflect.

I've had some thoughts...

I’ve been having some thoughts…

Certainly, growth happens in the spaces between the events of our lives.

A thoughtful position

Quiet, please…

And there has indeed been growth over the past almost-year since we last communed.

Growth comes in many guises...

Growth comes in many guises…

Much exploration.

Comfy, yes.

Just wide enough, yes.

New discoveries.

It's like a shelf...too?

It’s like a shelf, too?

Possibly some unabashed sloth.

What do you mean?!

Excuse me?

But also a growing sense of the larger picture.

The full perspective, so to speak...

A fuller perspective, so to speak…

And even a kittenish moment or two.

Something here

But who can get up…

With one or two forays into the mysterious,

Contrasting worlds

A world of contrasts

And more to come as we venture forth….

Eventually.

Eventually.

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Rudy Meets (Cuppa) Joe

Sometime in these last weeks, Rudy has developed a taste for coffee.

It helps me think.

It helps me think.

“It’s chewy, strong, with just a hint of maple syrup—exactly the way I like it,” he says.

By “exactly the way I like it,” Rudy means he likes it the way I like it. That’s because he’s been drinking my coffee.

Temptation.

Temptation.

“That’s bad, Rudy!” I said, the first time it happened.

Bad?!?!

Bad?!?!

“But it tastes so good,” he reasoned.

“No, I’m telling you–that’s bad!

“Mmmm good.”

So it went.

I mopped up the mess around the bed where I had brought a full cup to have with my early morning read. Half had ended up on the pillow; the other half, I assumed, was in Rudy. Since then, I’ve kept the morning cup closely guarded.

And all has seemed well.

I can barely get up...

I can barely get up…

Then, a few days ago, I left my desk to answer the phone. When I returned, my cup was empty and blats of coffee were spattered all over the desktop, stopping just short of my laptop.

“Hey, Rudy!” I observed.

Rudy yawned, surprising since he had just consumed the equivalent of a half bathtub of caffeine, relative to his size.

Am I boring you??

Am I boring you??

“That was bad!”

He hadn’t been caught in the act, of course, but there was major circumstantial evidence. As before, I followed PC protocol—scold the behavior, not the perp. And I spoke softly, albeit firmly. His eyes got wide, the whites showed a little, and then his lip trembled.

“Caffeeeeine,” he whined. “Puh-leeeeeeeease.”

I neeeeeed it!

I neeeeeed it.

I rolled my eyes.

“If you’re going to drink coffee, you could at least put in some of the hard work,” I said heartlessly. “Like the next time the blog is due, be a little proactive.”

“Blah, blah, blah, put it into your own words”–that’s generally the extent of Rudy’s help. Then he rechecks his dog bowl for the bazillionth time and falls asleep with his head on the ball.

Naptime.

Writing is hard.

You’re the English major. You’re the so-called ‘freelance writer.’ You’re the one with the business cards,” I’ve heard him grumble when he doesn’t think I’m listening.

Beady eyes

I’m hep to you.

It’s hard when he’s right, but there it is.

Give me Joe. Now.

Give. Me. Joe. Now.

I’ll probably continue to share when I least expect it.

I dream of coffee...

I dream of coffee…

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Rudy and a Tail of Two Towns (cont.)

Part 2: Bennington, Vermont

Rudy came aboard in late fall, so we haven’t had a chance to go swimming together yet. Nor are we even really sure what his feelings are toward water (or at least the idea of being submerged in it).

Can I think about it?

Can I think about it?

So far he’s insisting, based on redundant visual evidence, that water is not a liquid, but a solid (snow), and he’s working on an equation to prove it. Something along the lines of water=m(snow)(2) x (infinity).

Small dog+fresh snow=long shadow.

Small dog+fresh snow=long shadow.

“Moment of scientific inspiration should be shaken, not stirred,” he has remarked, deftly mixing his Einstein and James Bond.

Shake this.

Shake this.

Still, he was excited about the prospect of exploring Bennington, Vermont, for an upcoming Yankee Magazine story.  In particular, he was tickled with the idea of the Penguin Plunge, the most dramatic segment of North Bennington’s Winter Festival on February 1st.

Team Lingerie

Sneak peek.

“They do what? In what?” he demanded incredulously. “And tell me again why your species is in charge…?”

But first, the preamble.

Bennington is a three-in-one town. Basically three villages, three personalities, rolled into one sort-of entity. Rudy was already a fan of North Bennington, site of Winter Fest, which is known for its funk, attracting artists and professors. “It’s the conscience of Bennington,” says Joey, the colorful counter guy at Fiddlehead at Four Corners, a exquisite gallery in a former bank in Downtown Bennington.

Best use of a converted bank.

Best use of a converted bank.

The village that’s just Bennington is stuffed with old-timey shops, along with the stylish Bennington Potters; a gorgeous Bennington Center for the Arts; and Bennington College, where ideals are fostered in a red barn environment.

Speaking of learning, it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. “A simple adjustment of the kibble-to-desire ration,” declares Rudy. “I meant ratio….”

Rudy at college

PhD(og).

Finally, there’s Old Bennington, the essence of white-clapboarded New England, with massive colonials lining a wide boulevard. At one end of the boulevard sits the 1805 Old First Church, and the cemetery where poet Robert Frost is buried.

The Old Church

The Old Church

At the other end, the Bennington Monument rises like a 306-foot-tall limestone ziggurat. “Ziggurat, shmiggurat–I know the world’s tallest telephone pole when I see one,” Rudy said enthusiastically. “And I’m not the first one to appreciate it, either.”

Bennington Monument

A soaring sight.

On its backside, the monument is guarded by a statue of General John Stark who fought the Battle of Bennington in 1777, a turning point in the Revolutionary War. His forcefulness caught Rudy off guard, which provoked a minor dispute and a torrent of opinion.

This guy was freaking me out!

No, they came from over there!

After that there was a time-out.

Heart to heart discussion

It’s easier in coordinated outfits.

Clearly this was a lot of ground to cover in a weekend, but Rudy had been talking up the Penguin Plunge–a fundraiser for Special Olympics–for weeks. 

Excitement's up ahead.

Excitement’s brewing…

Hundreds of observers trickled toward snow-covered Lake Paran, where a squarish hole had been cut through thick ice. As the tension built, Rudy was uncharacteristically quiet, eyeing the frigid water on this rare sunny February morning. 

Waiting for action

The hardest part is waiting.

“Welcome to southern Vermont!” a voice blared over the loudspeaker. “Where else can you cut a hole in the ice and jump in?” Music thumped a pounding beat of encouragement and the crowd roared, caught up in the bare-it-all bravery.

Nice hats!

Water wizards!

“We cut the hole yesterday,” said a volunteer. “I guess it’s about 34 degrees.”

Nerves of steel.

Nerves of steel.

Teams of screaming, grunting, stoic locals were diving, dunking, or standing stock still in shock as bare skin met ice water. Teams with names like Ice Choppers and Team Lingerie. 

“I’m for the Frosty Dogs,” Rudy announced, breaking his silence. “But I will NEVER do something like this…” he paused, “unless this is an option.”

Supersmart

Riding to glory.

Small-town community stuff can bring a lump to your throat, unexpectedly. Rudy cleared his, and  we trotted off to visit the grave of one of his favorite poets.

“Robert Frost wasn’t a native son, either, but he wrote like one,” he observed. 

Paying tribute...

Paying tribute…

The view over the countryside was quiet and the little clump of birches held its own.

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