This month the drama continues to run amok in the Garden State as “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” (“RHONJ”) premiers Wednesday, October 4th on Bravo. As fans have observed from the recent promotional teasers of the upcoming eighth season, the stars of the reality guilty-pleasure find themselves once again at odds with each other. From venom-infused over-the-top arguments to bawdy brawls, these ladies will take fans on quite the rollercoaster ride. Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with the beloved “RHONJ” star, Dolores Catania. Her humorous candor, admiration of animals, and devotion to philanthropic causes sets the housewife apart as a true humanitarian.

Fans of “RHONJ” have described Catania as one of the few housewives who is relatable from among the gamut of the beloved Bravo franchises. “That means everything to me,” Catania exclaimed, speaking exclusively to Baltimore OUTloud from her Jersey Shore getaway. “I’ve been in so many different positions in my life. I’ve been a waitress – the person struggling, the person who has money. I’ve had relationships when I was happy and unhappy. I was a mother that was married and then a single mother. I learned something from each stage of my life and I want to help others because I’ve have had a lot of experience to share.”

This season marks the sophomore appearance for Catania, who joined the show last season with close friend and fellow “Jersey” housewife Siggy Flicker. Catania explained that this season of the show really showcases her coming into her own. “I really come out of my shell this season. Not that I was ever really in my shell, but last season was a little different. My confidence in my first season was on the heels of a broken relationship I had. My kids and my family saw that it was the end of something that was very hard to walk away from. Having to start my life again in my forties, I was kind of broken. Having Siggy there as my friend really helped, too. My confidence level wasn’t so great, but I come into myself this year. And that was definitely due to the help of my family and friends telling me, ‘You can do this.’”

Catania continued to explain that what makes her so relatable is the fact that she approached the show differently than others normally do. “When it’s your first year, you don’t really know your place. I don’t step on anyone’s toes. The biggest mistake people make is they come on and say corny things to try and make a name for themselves. That’s not me and won’t be me. I’ve seen other housewives say these corny, snarky things and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, God, you tried so hard.’ You can’t act like that when you first come on.”

Working tirelessly with important causes close to her heart is what also sets Catania apart from other “Housewives” counterparts. “St. Joe’s Hospital, in Patterson, is very close to my heart. We were all born there. My family and I are very close. I come from one of five. Having had many trips to the hospital throughout the years, I’m very familiar with the doctors there. I’m actually dating one of them now!” Catania joked about how other Housewives tend to “go through a guy a week” but that she is “one every five years.”

The housewife added that the doctors and nurses at St. Joe’s are some of the best in their field. “These doctors went to Yale and Harvard. They could go anywhere in the country to practice, but choose to stay here. This hospital doesn’t get the accolades that it should. It’s an inner-city hospital with one of the best neonatal intensive care units in the country. I’ve spent time in the neonatal unit. I’m trying to raise money for the NICU. It’s something that’s really hard to see and, knowing what I know, I can’t just sit back and do nothing to help.”

Alongside of her causes within the hospital Catania also devotes a lot of time and her celebrity to her other passion, dogs. “It’s no secret that my other passion is dogs, with the 5,000 dogs I have running around the house,” the housewife joked. “I never thought I would have foster dogs, but I do my best to help.” Catania has worked closely with the Onyx & Breezy Foundation, an organization whose donations support the needs of animals.

“I like to be part of fundraisers and platforms where I know where the money is going,” Catania recalled, and chuckled. “I was actually getting plastic surgery, when one of the doctors filling in said that I should meet his friend, Linda Howard. Howard was married to the late actor Ken Howard, and she is absolutely the loveliest person. She told me that I needed to meet her friend from Brooklyn who was the head of Onyx & Breezy and went on to describe that the organization sent a truck to the desert to help animals because their food source was destroyed. That’s where I’ve been ever since.” Catania continued to explain that the organization uses 100% volunteers and 100% is donated. Catania’s bond to the organization comes from her immense love of all animals. “I can’t sit back and watch something suffer. Dogs are better than people. It’s human nature to be loved, and if you want to be loved unconditionally then get a dog!”

As conversation turned back towards the upcoming season of “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” Catania shared a few insights. “As you know, Danielle is back, so I’m not spoiling anything, as everyone knows this. Danielle brings a lot this season. It depends on if she’s your cup of tea. She’s not palatable for everyone. There’s a lot of friendships that are being tested here this season. And there’s a lot of drama! As you know, Siggy [Flicker] and I always stand by each other and that’s no secret! The rest, however, is all questionable.”

Catania went on to describe how her impenetrable friendship with Flicker is rooted in their artifice-free bond. “It’s starting to become a thing – our friendship. People should start dressing up as Dolores and Siggy,” Catania laughed. “Meanwhile, the two of us just recently went to get our nails done. It turned out we both showed up at the same time on the same day, unexpectedly. We showed up in our pajamas wearing slippers, no underwear or bra on, and we basically tore the place apart.” Catania chuckled. “I don’t think the nail salon will ever be the same again. And, we always fight who pays the bill every time.”

The charmingly delightful Catania went on to discuss the launch of her website and blog around the upcoming premier date of the new season, “My website is more for me to connect with my readers. I want to let them know what I am doing, and that I have some great products coming out. For example, I have a wine and cheese kit that’s coming. So, if you’re watching ‘Housewives’ with your friends, it’s the perfect wine and cheese kit to share. It’s really cute.”

Catania also discussed how she’s been fighting off the dreaded “empty nest” syndrome now that both of her children are away at school. “I should be hospitalized,” Catania joked. “Gabrielle is in St. Kitts at vet school. It’s a third-world country, and it’ll be an adjustment for her. She misses her dogs. You know, she also misses her boyfriend and her bed. She’ll be there for three years, but it’s something that she’s always wanted to do. My son, Frankie, is doing great in college! Sacred Heart College, where he attends, is absolutely beautiful! The people there are so nice. He tells me all the time that he couldn’t be in a better place. Frankie is happy at college. You’ll see that this season was a challenge for me and him.”

As for what’s next, Catania is beginning to take some time for herself. “I have to learn how to take some time to focus on ‘Dolores’ because I’ve never done that. I’ve been organizing my house. Big Frank [Catania’s ex-husband] is taking it very bad that the kids are both away. We go out to dinner and stuff. It’s funny because I still feel like I have to rush home. When I would go out, I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t home. So now, it’s like that guilt is gone.”

Though Catania’s celebrity star-status has risen as a “Real Housewife,” it’s obvious that her unbounding love and devotion to her children, family and others in need have allowed this housewife to shine both the brightest and realest as a person.

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