On a very rainy day in April 2014 I drove down from my gay guest house and was in the nearby town of Umbertide. A good friend who is a volunteer for the dog rescue was looking for a home for an elderly English Setter, and though of me. Apparently his owner had died in the January and the daughter lived in a small apartment and could not look after the dog, so rather than him go to the canile I had offered to take him.
Together with two representatives of the canile we drove to the outskirts of town and were confronted by fancy electric gates, no apartment… Inside the expansive paved drive two of those large ‘F…’ off cars greeted us, and out of the lavish house stepped a woman in pearls.
We were taken in the rain behind the house where chained up sheltering under a scaffold plank on a two square metre piece of astro-turf was a very sad,wet, depressed and smelly Setter. I think it is the first time in my life that four people simultaneously burst into tears. We bundled him into the car and went to the state vet to get him checked over and for the transfer of ownership. The vet was a farm vet, not used to working with dogs, but was incredibly nice. He asked me the twelve year old dog’s name I replied “Abbandonato” – abandoned because that is what he was. Officially that was registered as his name. I then put him in my car and drove home. Firstly a shower, good dog shampoo, then introduced him to Jenny, who was and remained the boss, then food.
He pissed everywhere, on everything, seemingly constantly, forty eight hours of mopping up, but his territory marked he became the nicest, kindest, softest and loyal of companions. I would tell guests if you want to find me look for Bobby, (that became his name as he did not answer to his official one) he is always in my shadow.
He just loved being with me, whether at work, quietly and un-demandingly lying a distance from the terrace dining table, watching me dig in the vegetable garden, shadowing me as I watered the plant pots, and every time to everyone’s amusement when I was at the pool he would find me and lie in the hot sun panting. He loved jumping into the Ape and going with me to prune or harvest olives, down to the river for a splash, or even taking the trash to the end of the road, he just wanted to be part of my life, and he was a big part. At home he had a comfortable bed and used to lie on his back in his favourite position;
In march last year when we were out walking he was poisoned, the vet believes he drank from water where a poisoned meatball had been put by the hunters. The hunters put polpette down to kill the foxes who kill the young birds that the hunters aim to kill themselves in the autumn, maddening. That resulted in a three night stay at the vets, but thankfully he recovered. Two months later he had the staggers and a stroke was diagnosed. Wobbly he returned home and was soon in the garden following me in my daily routines. Then in early November he could not get out of his bed, down to the vet, and by good fortune the specialist was there and sadly an ultrasound revealed a 7cm tumour on his spleen. At his age and also with a cancerous growth on one testicle, the tumour was un-operable, or maybe operable but at what cost to his health we all asked. We came home with medicines, the strong impression was we had only a couple of weeks left together.
Lots of cuddles, and daily cortisone, he courageously and uncomplainingly went on with his daily routine, eating well and at five pm looking for a walk to the curve, one of our rituals. The past two weeks he began to fail, the tumour was now huge, he slept a huge amount and his eyesight and hearing were failing, but he still ate well and never complained.
This morning he passed away peacefully, it is as if the light of my life has been extinguished. I quietly buried him in the garden here at Bellaugello, I figure he had three wonderful years here, and this is the right place for him to be laid to rest alongside the other dogs that have been part of my Italian adventure.
Now I am dog-less! Friends are pushing me to get a puppy or a new dog, it would also be great for the guest house, the dogs were loved by my guests, but no, I want to wait, and happily the vet agrees I should. We have a provisional appointment for September, I did mention to her that if another English Setter needs saving to give me a call, but I know Bobby will be really hard to replace, as does she.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde “To lose one dog may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness!“