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  • Writer's pictureJerry Della Femina


We have a new puppy.

I’ve named him Mussolini.

It’s a balance thing.

We now have one dog named Shlomo, which is a Jewish name, so it stands to reason the next pooch should have an Italian name.

Naming a puppy after an Italian dictator from World War II was not a very popular choice.

I ran into a very politically correct woman on the street when I was walking Mussolini and she oohed and aahed.

And then asked me his name.

“Mussolini,” I answered.

She looked like she was going have a stroke. “Mussolini?” she sputtered. “Mussolini?

Why did you name him Mussolini?”

“Because the name Hitler was taken,” I said in a deadpan.

She stalked off.

Mussolini is a “Cavapoo,” which is a mixture of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a Poodle, and the devil.

He’s as cute as they come, but he’s a crazy, out-of-control puppy. His idea of fun is to race around the house at a blinding speed until he bounces off a wall. There is no slipper or shoe or rug or tissue in the house that’s safe. The other day he went into a vase with a dozen roses and pulled off every rose petal, left them on the floor and then tried to eat them.

Mussolini won a place in our family’s history with an act that will be repeated for generations to come. It will start with “Once when my great-great-grandpa Jerry took his little dog to a dog park…”

A few weeks ago my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, and I decided to take Mussolini and Shlomo to the doggy park in Southampton.

The doggy park is a closed-off few acres where dog owners can take their pets.

At any given time you can see 20 or 30 dogs of different breeds running around, playing with each other, while their owners sit on benches, boastfully talking “dog talk.”

Actually it’s a scene that’s exactly enacted every day outside of grade schools, as parents exaggerate about their 7-year-olds, whom they are waiting to take home.

“My little Emily is already reading at a third-grade level.” “Oh, how sweet, our little Sophie insists on reading Chaucer.”

So there I was, sitting on a bench listening to dog owners telling everyone how great and brilliant their dogs are while I kept a close eye on Shlomo and Mussolini playing with the other dogs. Suddenly Mussolini broke away from the pack and came over to me. Since Mussolini and I have, at best, a tenuous relationship, I thought, “Isn’t this sweet, he came over to bond with me.” I turned to say something to Judy when all of a sudden I felt my bare leg getting wet. I looked down and Mussolini had lifted a leg and was peeing on my leg. Of the million places he could pee in the dog park, Mussolini came over to me to show me who was boss. Then he ran off and went back to playing with the other pooches.

Judy laughed so long and so loud she still couldn’t catch her breath a half hour later.

Yes, Mussolini is cute, but he can’t compare with the love of my life, Shlomo.

Shlomo is the sweetest dog that ever lived.

Last month when I was driving back from the Hamptons with Shlomo sitting in the passenger seat next to me, I stopped at McDonald’s in Manorville to get myself a Sausage Egg McMuffin. I was almost out the door when I thought about Shlomo. I went back in and bought him a Big Mac.

And so we sat like two buddies bonding in the parking lot of McDonald’s, me eating my Sausage Egg McMuffin and Shlomo enjoying his Big Mac.

At night, when Judy goes off to bed to read, I sit down to watch television. Shlomo jumps onto my lap and we watch together until one or both of us falls asleep.

Sometimes it’s 1 AM and Jimmy Fallon is over and I wake up and say, “Wake up, Shlomo, it’s bedtime,” and since dogs can’t tell time, he jumps down from my lap, looks up and greets me, tail wagging, as though I had just walked into the room.

Then when I climb into bed, Shlomo falls asleep next to me.

Lately I have been awakened from a sound sleep by a strong smell that threatens to peel the paint off my bedroom walls. Shlomo has flatulence, and it’s not noisy. It’s a silent killer and, out of nowhere, one is overwhelmed by this incredible odor.

With all his faults, Mussolini shows no hint of doggie flatulence. Maybe eating rose petals works.

My biggest fear is that Shlomo’s condition will become as bad as my old dog’s, the late but unlamented Oreo. While Shlomo loves people, Oreo was a real bitch and she hated people.

Oreo’s flatulence caused many a hilarious, embarrassing moment.

My favorite one took place on a Sunday afternoon many, many years ago when I decided to take Oreo for a walk on Madison Avenue. I ran into a woman I know ever so slightly, who is something of a snob. She is very rich, very waspy, and very proper.

The woman took one look at Oreo and said, “What a cute little dog.” She then knelt to pet her and that’s when Oreo let loose.

The smell hit the woman first and I saw a look of pain on her face. By the time it rose up to me I looked down in horror at the woman. Did she think it was me?

And of course, the woman was thinking I thought it was her.

It’s that silent stuff that’s so hard to trace and so deadly.

I started looking at my shoe. “Did I step on something?” I asked too loudly. “Maybe it was me,” she said, looking at her heel. Oreo just stared at the two of us. Can dogs smile? I thought she had a smile on her muzzle.

Then I said, “It could be the cheese. I’ve been feeding her sliced Velveeta cheese as a treat.”

“Oh,” said the woman nervously, “I have a problem when I eat cheese, too.” Now, this is a very attractive woman and this was more than I wanted to know about her faulty digestive system.

Oreo let loose again. The woman looked like she was going to throw up.

“I think I had better go now,” I said.

The woman, holding her breath, said, “I’m late.”

“So am I,” I said.

Then, after an awkward second, which seemed like an hour, we went our separate ways. As I turned around I started to giggle. I haven’t seen her since.

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