Angelo was a stray dog who lived in Sangineto, a town in Calabria. Sangineto doesn’t seem to have much going for it. If you Google the town, all that comes up is a one-sentence Wikipedia entry and 3 000 news stories about Angelo. Last June, four teenage boys tortured Angelo with hammers, hanged him from a tree and beat him to death with clubs and shovels. They filmed it all and posted the film on Facebook.
It has been my experience that Italians tend to see things as either black or white, bypassing entirely the shades of grey. For example, Italians are never neutral about dogs. They either love them or they hate (more correctly, fear) them. Around here, the predominant feeling is love. That’s because I live across the street from Villa Pamphili, Rome’s largest public park and exactly where you would want to live if you owned a dog. The off-leash dog area is just up the hill and Morgan likes to sit on the windowsill watching his little dog friends run around and whining at me to take him out to play already. So pretty much everyone you meet in the park or on the street is a big fan of the canine persuasion (the exception being the teenage girls who think it’s cute and sexy to squeal about their fear of dogs when there are boys around, which is super pathetic, especially since my dog is approximately the size of a toaster).
Angelo’s torture and death sparked enormous outrage among dog lovers throughout Italy. There were demonstrations all over the country (including, to its credit, in Sangineto). This breathed new life into the national campaign against animal abuse of which Angelo became the symbol. The campaign’s major issue has been the relatively moderate penalty (as compared to other European countries) for animal abuse: 3-18 months imprisonment or a 5 000 – 30 000 Euro fine. The campaigners are trying to get that changed before Angelo’s lowlife scumbag murderers face their day in court on 27 April.
In Rome, the cultural association La Vela d’Oro raised the money for a bronze statue in Angelo’s memory. The artist is Alessandro Di Cola. Someone had an old photo of Angelo and he worked from that. Isn’t it lovely? They erected the statue in the mini dog park in Largo Ravizza down the street (the statue occupies about 25% of the park!) complete with a little ceremony (and the municipality’s blessing) in late January. Those papers you see by the statue tell Angelo’s story from various angles (in some cases from his own perspective, which is weird: “Oh! Here come some boys. Maybe they want to play with me!”). There are also messages and photos directed to other dear, departed pups. It’s very sweet and touching and heartbreaking. I must say that the Italian tendency to be operatic and over the top can be trying at times (e.g. during disputes over who is next in line at the post office) but, when applied to their animals, it is super endearing.