LIZA WAS

such

a bitch.

Loud, demanding and incessant. And because she lived next door to Vince Fumo, he couldn't get away from her.

Life would be so much more peaceful if Liza were like the cloistered nuns who lived on the other side of the state senator's 33-room Fairmount mansion. The pink-robed sisters, who dwell serenely in the Convent of the Chapel of Divine Love, adhere to a vow of silence.

Talk about ideal neighbors!

Boisterous Liza, though, drove Fumo mad. So he ordered his son-in-law, Christian Marrone, to shut the bitch up.

If the b-word offends you, relax. I'm actually using the term in its proper context.

Liza is a female mixed-breed beagle - a 10-year-old cutie owned by Nick Pappas, Fumo's neighbor on Green Street.

But Liza was just a pup when Fumo moved into his overhauled brownstone, the walls of which touch Pappas' home from the second floor up.

Apparently, Liza barked a bit. As Marrone testified in Fumo's corruption trial last week, the indicted state senator claimed that the dog howled through the night, a situation that Marrone was ordered to resolve.

And, as we all know, when the senator, whose staff slogan is "We get s--- done," gives an order - no matter how petty - his toadies pounce on it like the city will implode if they don't.

Marrone said that he spoke with a Fumocrat on City Council as well as a captain in Fairmount's 9th Police District about whether Liza's barking violated nuisance ordinances. The SPCA even got involved.

Fumo got so fed up, Marrone testified, he installed video-recording equipment outside Casa Fumo in an attempt to capture Liza serenading the neighborhood through the night.

Finally, Marrone testified, Fumo suggested putting some poison on a piece of meat and giving it to Liza.

"I said 'absolutely not,' " Marrone told the jury.

I guess getting s--- done has its limits.

The thing is, Nick claims, Liza wasn't even that noisy.

"She was a puppy - puppies bark," shrugs Nick, a diminutive man known on the block as "Nick the Greek" because of his thick Greek accent (he says LEE-zah, for Liza). "But no one else ever complained."

It's a lovely weekday afternoon, and Nick and I are sitting in the garden behind his big house, which is divided into apartments. Nick lives here with his wife and two kids, for whom he bought Liza a decade ago.

As we chat, Liza lounges in the narrow, cement side yard that abuts Fumo's home. Creepily, some kind of surveillance camera, mounted on Fumo's outside wall, appears to be pointed directly at Liza's dog house.

Ham that I am, I wave at the round device, hoping Fumo might come out to say hello. Then I remember that, at the moment, my senator is sitting in a federal courtroom.

"I trained Liza myself," Nick says. "She's well-behaved."

Indeed, I couldn't find anyone on Green Street who'd ever heard Liza howl. One former neighbor, who now lives in Connecticut, told me that, for a long time, he didn't even know Nick had a dog.

As for me, Liza didn't yip once the entire time I visited. She did, though, wag her tail and lap at my hands like they'd been dipped in gravy.

So, I ask Nick, if Liza was always this quiet, what was going on with Fumo?

He launches into a tirade about the disruption that Fumo's home rehab caused, during the long months that the senator spent renovating the once-tumbledown manse into a showplace that now sports a greenhouse, shooting range, roof deck and elevator.

"The workers were here all the time, on my property," says Nick. "They set up their ladders in my yard without asking me.

"Bricks were falling down in my yard. Trash was everywhere. I'd tell them to clean up and they'd say, 'Tell it to the senator.' "

He also complained about the gigantic, restaurant-size exhaust fan on the side of Fumo's house, which blows hot, greasy air into Nick's yard when the senator has one of his famous parties, the kind that close off the street so that neighbors can't even park on the block.

"It's no good," says Nick, with disgust.

Oddly, for all the trouble that Nick claims Fumo caused him, and that Liza allegedly caused Fumo, Nick says that he has never spoken to Fumo about any of it.

"He never even said hello to me," says Nick "except one time, during an election, he waved and smiled. Isn't that strange?"

He looks at me, a helpless smile on his face, as Liza rolls on her back and yawns.

Strange?

The word doesn't begin to describe it. *

E-mail polaner@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns: