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Dog Days Redux (This one's more cheerful)

On Wednesday morning, I had a tea date at my home with Angela, a Manchester native who now lives in nearby Torino di Sangro.

She arrived with her dog Betty, a rescue who had been dumped by her previous owners with a broken jaw. That pitiful history notwithstanding, Betty’s an ebullient little poser and canine celeb wannabe who likes to ape for the camera. She also likes to be tossed up and down riding on your foot like a toddler, a game I wasn’t quite understanding at first. She kept raising her leg to straddle my calf and I thought she was planning to take a whiz (wacky Italians), until Angela set me straight. After that, I was her one-woman amusement park for as long as my leg muscles held out.

Angela and her husband moved here 20 years ago, and in the intervening years Angela has made herself quite at home. Like most expats, she has a story to tell of local characters who’ve come to color her daily life.

Among Angela’s neighbors are a gaggle of older ladies for whom she’s grown to have a good deal of affection and whom she regularly squires around town to run errands. She calls them the Ducks for the way they follow behind her when they’re out and around getting things done.

Angela’s introduction to the Ducks came the morning after she’d just moved in. Upon seeing the Ikea truck pull up at the house and unload its contents inside the previous evening, the ladies had been attracted like squirrels to walnuts. Accordingly, there was a knock at the English couple’s door early the next morning, and Angela, awakened from a sound sleep, stumbled down and opened the door to find the first duck, Franca. Angela didn’t speak Italian then but that didn’t deter Franca, who just stepped in and started talking, eyeballing the unpacked boxes as she did. Three other women followed on her heels. Dazed and literally speechless, the couple were at a loss for how to get rid of the chatty and curious neighbors. In one of those turns you only see in comedic films set in Europe, Angela and her husband gave up and went back to bed, leaving the four women to do what they'd come to do. The ladies sat themselves down on the new red Ikea couch and set about rummaging through the boxes of Ikea purchases while Angela and her husband slept.

These days, her Italian polished, Angela cobbles together a living serving as project manager for non-architectural, interior-design renovations. I may be able to enlist her services at some point in the not- too-distant future. Her husband travels a lot for business, so she’s a great gal-pal contender and a kick to boot. She brings a light spirit, game sense of humor, and ready laugh to a morning chat. I look forward to seeing her and Betty again soon.

Oh, and Betty isn’t the only old dog in these parts to get something from Angela. I learned a new trick, too, that of boiling thin-sliced, unpeeled lemons in a pot of water, letting it all cool overnight, and then drinking the doctored water throughout the day to support metabolism. I knew lemons were a boon to digestion, but had never heard the part about boiling them or that it was really the peel that was important. I’ve been doing it here and there since returning home. The peels give the water a kind of bitter, almost moldy taste if they get too concentrated, so I’ve learned to keep adding more water as I drain the pitcher down.

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