Puccini Ardillo, an Ode to a Fine Dog

After a brief illness attributed to old age, Puccini Ardillo, born February 8, 2007, passed away on October 31, 2022, in the loving arms of his family. A dog of many monikers, he was known as the little prince, boo boo, Pucci, and rascal. He is survived by Michelle and Tom, and his sissies Margaret and Madeline, who spent many hours playing with him during their breaks from college. He is also survived by his “other sissies” Kate, Danielle, and Jaqueline. 

Before becoming a member of the Ardillo household, Puccini lived with Sister Marie de Sales, SSND, for four years. When Sister Marie had to move away from the area in 2011, she graciously gifted Puccini to the Ardillos, and as with all open adoptions, Sister Marie is now a dear friend of the family. As first-time dog owners, Tom and Michelle quickly adapted to Puccini’s schedule and spent more time outdoors, walking the neighborhood and meeting people up and down the street. Puccini will be fondly remembered by his neighborhood friends: Kevin the contractor, the Yorks, the Foxes, Tom across the street, Bob down the street, and Susan, as well as frenemies Belle and Indy, the late Audrey, Luna,  Zoe, Charlie the Maine coon, grey Cooper, the late brown Cooper, Bailey, the late Lubby, the late Smokey Ardillo, and many others. 

When Tom and Michelle traveled, Puccini was fortunate enough to vacation with good friends Joe and Mary Ann, whose daughter Teresa was responsible for introducing Tom and Michelle to Sister Marie, even though Teresa thought he was a West Highland White Terrier instead of the glorious specimen of a Maltipoo that he was.

In his later years, Puccini became quite the picky eater, sampling and rejecting the finest wet and dry prescription dog foods money can buy. His favorite foods were rotisserie chicken from Don Pollo’s, Kraft’s singles, McDonald’s fries, and white basmati rice made in Michelle’s rice cooker. Always a snazzy dresser, Puccini favored his turquoise blue owl sweater gifted to him by his sissie Margaret. He detested, however, his army green rain jacket. A champion napper, he loved sleeping on his sofa in the den, with his blue blankie and squishy pillow, or on the couch in the living room, nestled in Michelle’s tartan blanket from Scotland. He spent every night happily sleeping on his orange bandana quilt in Michelle and Tom’s bed, taking up as much room as possible for a 15-pound dog, causing Michelle to sleep in various positions resembling punctuation marks. 

Puccini loved his morning walks with Tom, unmaking freshly made beds, rearranging throw pillows, standing stock still on the patio with the wind in his hair and the sun on his face, laying on Tom in the recliner while they pretended to “watch” tv but were really snoozing, crossing the street in the dark of night for his last trip out before bedtime, and summer time when Michelle was home all day with him. He loved when his sissies visited, Margaret shouting “PUCCINI” as soon as she came in the door, and Maddie snuggling with him on his sofa while she wrote stories on her laptop. He loved sitting in on all of Michelle’s zoom tutoring sessions, scoring perfect attendance during the pandemic when Michelle taught from home. Her students loved seeing him on zoom, as he listened with rapt attention as Michelle reviewed comma rules or explained the differences between foreshadowing and red herrings. 

His dislikes were legendary in the neighborhood as he battled daily with the onslaught of delivery trucks on his street: the brown one, the white one, and most particularly, the red, white, and blue one. He could hear or smell a mail carrier half a block away and would wait attentively at the window or door for the danger that lurked ahead as the mail was placed in his box. Years ago he made his peace with the squirrels and deer, but the little dark brown chipmunk on his patio continued to vex him all the days of his life. 

He will be greatly missed by all who knew him, but most of all by Michelle and Tom, who adored him and will never forget him. They take comfort in a statement made by Pope Paul VI who said, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ.” Rest in peace, little prince, rest in peace. 

Goodreads = Good Reading Habits

I’ve been tracking my reading on Goodreads since August of 2008, so this month marks twelve years of books I’ve read, books I want to read (my “TBR” list), and sometimes, my thoughts on them. I wish I were better at writing reviews of all the books I read, but maybe this is something I can work on now that I’m home all day.

Users of Goodreads rate the books they read using a five-star rating system. This system isn’t perfect, no allowances for half-stars or a way to indicate you have abandoned a book you started but didn’t like, but overall it’s a great way to keep track of your reading life. Lots of people use bullet journals and artsy-looking notebooks to track their reading, but I’m much better at keeping track of things on my phone with a few clicks.

Back in the day when libraries were open, you know, in PC (pre-COVID), I would stand in front of the new arrivals bookshelves and add things to my TBR list in Goodreads. It’s easy to do, just by hovering your phone over the barcode of the book (if the library hasn’t pasted its own barcode on top of it) and it automatically adds it to your list! When you start a book, you scan the barcode, and then you can update it as you read, either by number of pages read or percentage of book read if on an e-reader. Now that Amazon has purchased Goodreads, my Kindle automatically connects my e-books purchased through Amazon or downloaded through Libby (library e-book and audio-book loaning app).

One of the things I love most about Goodreads is the Reading Challenge option. Each year you set your own Reading Challenge–how many books you want to read, and as the year goes by, the Reading Challenge tells you if you are on track to meet your goal. If only I paid as much attention to the number of calories I consume each day as I do to the number of books I read each year!


At the beginning of the pandemic, library due dates were deleted from all accounts, and all fines were erased. I had a stack of library books, as I always do, but for weeks and weeks, I could not focus to read them. I was spending so much energy converting my in-class lesson plans to virtual lesson plans, I just could not pick up a book to read for “fun.” There was so much uncertainty, so many disturbing news reports, so many deaths, who could read for fun?

At some point, my love of reading kicked back in, and the first thing I picked up from my stack was the last book I checked out before the pandemic, in fact, my local branch of MCPL was the last public place I visited before the lockdown. Luckily, it was a very compelling story and I whizzed right through it. I was back! From there, I plowed through my stack and then started in on my Kindle, books I had purchased from special deals via BookBub or Modern Mrs. Darcy, or books I checked out from MCPL via Libby.


One of the silver linings of not teaching this year has been extra time to read, and I am reading for myself, not necessarily pre-reading for things I want to teach or recommend to students. Now, if I could just get my little furry friend out of my reading chair…


License to Carry

Puccini Prince of WalesAfter a lifetime of being a cat person, a dog came into my life. It’s a long story but suffice it to say that it was a somewhat unorthodox adoption. Being half-Scottish, and having traveled to Scotland several times, I have quite a few souvenirs emblazoned with the ubiquitous Westie and/or Scottie. I always dreamed of owning a Westie, but alas, being a cat person, I was warned that Westies were hard-wired to hunt small furry things; therefore, introducing a Westie to my middle-aged Persian would not be a good idea.  Then some friends told me about a friend of theirs who was trying to find a good home for her two-year old Westie. She’s a nun and was returning to her convent after living in an apartment for several years. The “Westie” had been a gift from the doctor she was working for and while she loved him dearly, she could not bring him to the convent when she moved.

As it turns out, the dog in question was not a Westie at all, and not two years old. He was a biscuit-colored, six-year old Maltipoo named Puccini. Did I mention that my husband studied voice in college and loved opera? Match. Made. In. Heaven.

After a lengthy “getting-to-know-you” phase, we cleared the necessary background checks and became the new owners of our adorable little rascal, Puccini. He is a good dog, a really sweet, smart dog, and yes, he has us all wrapped around his back paw!

A few weeks ago, Puccini decided he was no longer going to climb the stairs to the second floor of our home. This had happened when we first adopted him; he would lie at the bottom of the stairs and cry for someone to carry him up. With lots of patience and doggy treats, he finally conquered the stairs. Occasionally, however, he would slip near the top and fall a few steps before catching himself. (In all fairness, the stairs are a bit steeper than normal household stairs.) For several days following the mishap, he would be timid about the climb, often stopping at the third step from the top, retreating to the bottom, and trying again.

When this scenario presented itself again, though, my husband was sure that he had injured his back paw in his most recent slip down the steps. Or, maybe, there was something wrong with his whole hip? Coincidentally, it was time for his check-up at the vet to renew his heart worm medication and the appointment was a week away. So, my big Italian American ex-football playing husband did the most understandable thing: he carried him up the stairs every night at bedtime.

Now, I ask you, what would you do if suddenly someone would willingly carry you up the stairs every night? Would you ever climb those stairs again? No, of course, you wouldn’t. So, each night, Puccini would lie at the bottom of the stairs, and cry for someone to carry him up. This went on all week.

Saturday morning came and the vet said, of course, that there was nothing wrong with his back paw and, in addition to being perfectly healthy, perhaps he was just a tiny bit spoiled? A tiny bit? Really?

As I was texting the update on the dog’s health to my older daughter, it occurred to me that this whole episode was reminiscent of another time in our lives when my husband fell victim to a perfectly healthy creature that was just a tiny bit spoiled. Daughter #1 was carried everywhere for almost two years. Her baby shoes and toddler shoes were retired looking brand new, only put aside when her foot no longer fit in them. She was never permitted to walk anywhere, so much so that we had a rare but world-class tantrum outside of a strip mall when she was not permitted to walk on the concrete divider between parking spaces. “She might fall and hurt herself” was the response when I suggested we just let her do it. “Fall?” “Hurt herself?” The concrete divider was at most four inches high. It’s no wonder that she had still not taken her first steps on her first birthday, and was photographed dragging herself around the living room on her bottom to get to new presents to open. Daughter #2 took care of all of this; she being the daredevil from the minute she entered this world just three weeks after her sister’s second birthday. At eighteen months Daughter #2 was standing on the top of the back of the sofa squealing with delight as she prepared to hurl herself to the sofa cushions. She didn’t start walking so much as she started running, and climbing, and tumbling.

After several days of not being carried up the stairs like the Prince of Wales, Puccini is back to normal, running up and down the stairs at will. Daughter #1 is now independent and fearless, with a master’s degree, her own apartment, and a full time job. Daughter #2, who has mellowed into a deep, sensitive thinker, has been known to occasionally carry Puccini up the stairs. I’m keeping an eye on her.