Dog Days, indeed. It's sure hot in Italy, even in October (as we discovered), but this time I'm not talking about the weather. This story is all about Italian dogs--cani. Some are historic, some we me hand-to-paw, others we experienced as passersby, but all were very interesting...
There are several mosaics in Pompeii warning visitors about guard dogs... either on the floor or wall of the entrances. This shows either a fear of dogs in ancient times, or like today, some trained their dogs to protect their homes. The beagle on the left was one of the most fierce dogs in Italy--protecting his Locorotondo 2nd floor balcony by barking incredibly loudly. Anyone walking on his little street got a taste of his fury--albeit above their heads.
And the next dog was protecting his little herd of goats on a mountaintop near Pietrapertosa. He came out of nowhere and charged the car as I got a shot of him. Who knew they had goat dogs?
The photo below shows a long line of sheep (five times the length shown in the photo) that was going to pour across our road. I really wanted the shot. I stopped, got out of the car and then heard two loud barks. WOOF! WOOF! All the sheep stopped dead in their tracks--frozen. Like statues. The entire long line of them. They would not move while I was in the car--and leaving the area. There was no shepherd around--just this smart, Italian sheep dog.
Most dogs in Italy are just pets. City dogs are usually tiny and leashed or carried. Many are cute. Lucas had a great time getting to know some of them. One of his favorites are the pugs we met in Matera we call the "Twins", although the owner said they weren't related. I imagine their real names are Francesco and Marcos. They look very Italian with their old man, social club, people-watching persona.
However, I did see few owners of incredibly cute fluffy dogs treat them badly--smacking, hitting and even kicking to stop bad behavior. (Dog Whisperer where are you?) There was one "lady"--a mom--we saw in Vinci while having gelati... she was gabbing to her friend as she was walking and tripped over her little white dog, threw a fit and smacked him for tripping her! Even her kids had that same tail-between-their-legs look about them. Some people!
There are also many homeless dogs in Italy. In fact, it seems that in Pompeii its part of the fabric of the place. There are homeless, listless dogs laying around everywhere. Many are big but lethargic--more than likely someone feeds them the way people in Manhattan feed the pigeons. None were skinny. Lucas thought they were all sweet, but I thought it was pitiful and potentially a health threat, so I made certain he didn't try to pet any.
In the ancient city of Ignazia in Puglia we learned that dogs were lying around for around 2000 years--as fossils. Some dogs guarded families or businesses so well that they were honored in marble or mosaic, like the carving of a collared dog (right photo, center) made to honor a favored pet.
To the right is a sad and compelling image of a Roman dog from 2000 years ago. It is a plaster casting of the void left in the ash by a dog in the last gasps of his life, frozen in time as Vesuvius covered Pompeii in 30 feet of scalding ash. The agony of this poor dog in the last seconds of his life are palpable. The details are amazing... you can even see his collar. There are many castings such as this of the human citizens of Pompeii as well.
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