A 4 zampe in allegria

First off, apologies for my absence, which has been protracted even for me. One day, the Interwebs simply stopped working. Or not entirely. I could get into Google, including Gmail, which made it – just – possible to work. And Skype worked, but only on the iPad. But I had absolutely no way to access the news or, what’s worse, celebrity gossip. Boo. Well, that’s not entirely true. Since I could get onto the Google search page, I could see the first sentence of any news or gossip-related item I wanted – but only the first sentence. So I had an extremely truncated knowledge of world (and celebrity) events until the whole thing got sorted out a week later.

Welcome to Dog Joy 2012!

On Sunday, there was a knees-up for dogs in the big park across the street and the Morgster and I went along to have a look. It was sponsored by il Canile Comunale della Muratella, Rome’s dog pound. Muratella, like all pounds in Italy, has a no kill policy. Yay! Once a lost or abandoned dog ends up there, it can stay for the rest of its life, no matter what its condition. There is an independent association of volunteers – mostly young people – that keeps an eye on the pound and makes sure the dogs are well looked after. The association teaches the volunteers how to be dog whisperers in order to help socialize what are, in many cases, highly traumatized and abused animals.

Obviously, there’s a great interest in finding new homes for the dogs as soon as possible and the canile hosts lots of events, like the one at on Sunday, to rustle up awareness. They also have a website with heart-melting pictures of current dog inmates and their stories. The event was called A 4 zampe in allegria (on 4 feet in joy. I know. It doesn’t really translate). When Morgan and I got there at around 4:00, they were handing out plaques to people who had recently adopted some of the more challenging cases.

This guy only has three legs.

These were dogs that had been in the canile for over 10 years, are handicapped or have major health issues.

This little guy has leishmaniasis, a horrible disease that killed my neighbor’s dog last year.

This guy’s just really old.

The new owners took their pets on a walk around the ring – some limping, some hopping, some had to be carried – to thunderous applause.

So’s this guy.

I cried. In fact, if truth be told, I’m crying now.

There were a million dogs there – all my friends from the dog park came with their pets – and volunteers from the canile walked around with dogs wearing kerchiefs reading ‘Cerco casa’ (I’m looking for a home). Morgan was a little perplexed by all of the dogs parading around the ring (and some interlopers who escaped from their owners and, perhaps encouraged by the cheering, started doing some parading of their own). He did seem to enjoy the controlled chaos and all the butts available to sniff.

Morgan checks out the action.

There were refreshments, a photo contest, big albums of the dogs available for adoption, tee shirts. Mine says ‘ a dog isn’t a toy: don’t abandon it.’

New tee shirt

Three years ago, my dog Shipy ran away. He managed to open the front gate of the house I was renting with my family in Umbria and probably ran into the woods and got lost. I was desperate. Two of my friends came up from Rome and we spent days combing the area, knocking on doors, posting photos everywhere. I went to the nearest canile – in Orvieto – a couple of times and was in nearly daily contact with them for months. I never saw Shipy again but I will not forget how kind and helpful the volunteers at the canile were and how much it comforted me to know that if he ended up at this – or any other canile – they would look after him as best they could. And what’s more, they would care about him.

My beloved Mr Shipy, just before he disappeared

Am I being hopeless naïve? Probably. I am sure there are dirty and depressing dog pounds around Italy. They depend on municipal funding and donations and money is short. But my – granted, very limited – experience has been really positive. And anyway, I really have to believe that the thousands of Italian dogs dumped in the road or abandoned in the country each year by horrible monsters do have some hope of eventually living a happy life. By the way, there is talk of setting up a semi-private Casa di Riposo in Rome, a sort of retirement home for ancient dogs that nobody wants. Casa di Riposo means ‘House of Rest.’ Isn’t that nice?

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