Reader’s Story: Our Roman Rescue Dog

I get contacted quite a lot by people who want to know the ins and outs of adopting a dog, so when Lisa wrote to me and subsequently took home a rescue puppy I asked her if she would share the experience with you all. Here's her story!

IMG_1654 (600 x 450) "One day, through the guise of ‘work’, my husband and I found ourselves living in a villa in a mountain town near Rome.  A charming town, a beautiful house and an enormous garden.  A minimum of a year to enjoy the Italian lifestyle and be far away from the hustle and bustle of the UK, what more could we want, la bella vita as the Italians say.

After a shopping expedition one morning, we stumbled across a pet shop with glass tanks filled with every animal you can imagine.  Including puppies.  All sizes, all pedigrees and all looking rather sad at having their tanks tapped by little fingers all day.  A spark ignited in our minds.  As animal lovers we would never support the puppy farm trade so did a bit of research as to how to adopt a rescue dog.  Our lack of Italian language skills led us to a dead end.  We knew there were thousands of dogs in need of homes but we found it hard to cross the line of looking online and looking in person.  Until we found Fiona’s wonderful website and all its useful information.  Fiona gave us some names of local kennels that accepted visits from the public and so we turned up at one, just to ‘have a look’.

A few hours later we climbed back into our car with our ‘medium sized male’ 12 week old puppy.  We had every intention to adopt a dog but we weren’t expecting to see a corridor filled with so many pups.  Big ones, small ones, pedigrees, mixes, healthy, unhealthy, you name it they had it.  We went for the puppy we thought stood the least chance of being picked.  Black and although very cute and lovely, more likely to be overlooked than the others.  Although it was of course very tempting to take two, three or possibly even all of them!  We had to show some forms of ID and pay 3 euros for a microchip update and it was as simple as that.

Roman the puppy had been rescued two weeks previously from a gypsy camp, very undernourished and very bald.  So we took him home, registered with our local vet (who again assured us he would be medium sized) and nursed him back to health.  A few weeks later, as his courage grew, Roman knew his name, would come, sit, do a few tricks and of course chew anything he could find, shoes being a particular favourite.  Frustratingly, Roman kept having his puppy jabs delayed because of his weight and previous medical conditions so he wasn’t able to have his first walk until he was four months old.  At which point the vet changed his mind.  “Not medium sized dog, large dog after all”  We discovered we may have an Irish Wolfhound cross.  “Oh well,” we thought, “we’ve always needed a bigger car…”  Then came the shock of realising he was a she.  We always knew his ‘bits’ were in a strange place but as he got bigger his bits didn’t.  And we felt rather silly.  So now on walks we have started calling ‘Romana!’ as the Italians really don’t understand why she has a masculine name!  

Romana/Roman (we may see if she can handle another name change to something more feminine) is still quite shy of other dogs and unfortunately we have not been able to enrol on any puppy classes, partly due to the language barrier and also a lack of local groups, but she is slowly coming around to the dog pen in our local park.  And talking to the other dog owners is helping our Italian come along too.
So, take with a pinch of salt anything you are told about your rescue dog.  We think of it like a kinder egg surprise, who knows what she will grow up to look like or what other surprises lay in store! Understandably the rescue centres are desperate for you to give one of their dogs a second chance and who knows why the vet said she was a boy.  Despite asking for a medium sized male dog and ending up with a large sized female, we are very happy with our lovely puppy and now we feel complete in our Italian adventure.  

There are so many puppies and dogs out here in need of a caring home, anything is better than life in a loveless cage.  The centres are desperate to rehome their animals and desperate to not let their puppies grow old behind bars.  And soon the pet passport scheme will be so much easier for us Brits to use.  If you have any inkling about helping any of these desperate animals, do contact Fiona for some local information.  It really is worth visiting a kennels just to simply ‘have a look’… We are certainly very pleased that we did."

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 Roman(a) a few weeks later experiencing the joys of digging!  

Update on Dino – From Calabria to California!

Do you remember Dino, the lovely little dog from Calabria that 'adopted' Francis Cole and her husband? I posted his story and update here.

I've had an email from Francis with the latest news and it's all good! Here's what she writes:

Dear Friends of Dino:
Just over four months ago, Dino made his epic journey from a life of doom, sickness and misery in Southern Italy to a whole new love-filled life in California. We wanted to send out another HUGE thank you to everybody who supported our mission and made Dino's rescue possible. We were in a complicated situation at the time, and there is just no way we could have pulled it off without everybody's generous help. 
The months are whizzing by, and we wanted to send out an update to you all.  
The good news is that Dino is doing GREAT! His health issues have all cleared up and he is as bouncy and happy as ever. He lives with the risk of his illness (leishmaniasis) coming back, but he is on daily pills to help keep it at bay and so far… so good! His coat looks amazing and he is one of the most grateful little dogs we have ever met.
He has adjusted to his new life in Los Angeles very well. We take him for off-leash walks in our local park morning and evening, he goes on hiking trips to the mountains near LA, and he has enjoyed visits to the beach. And, in a couple of weeks time, we are due to take him on his first camping trip, into the Californian desert! He really is a very good boy.
It is hard to believe that when we found Dino, he was too frightened to be touched, didn't know how to walk on a leash and puked when we finally got him in the car!
We just wanted to let you all know that the support you gave Dino has gone a long, long way!
What a great ending to a potentially sad story. Well done Francis! Here are some pictures of the lucky chap!

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Gassie Our Internet Rescue Dog

Five o’clock in the morning and here I am sitting at the kitchen table staring at two printed pages from my computer. Each features an English setter, a breed I had scarcely even given a thought to before. Tears are rolling down my face and my little crossbreed Maia has pulled herself onto my knee and manoeuvred herself into a position where she can study my face intently, aware – with her incredible sensitivity – that there is something wrong. I pat her head. ‘What am I going to do Maia?’ I sniff.

ZsaZsa, the yellow lab snores on obliviously on the settee as I pick up the pages again. As if the act of handling them over and over again will somehow help me make a decision. They were both printed from this, my petsinitaly website, the first I translated from Italian into English, the second was sent to me by an Italian lady in London. I pick up the first page again, hugging Maia to me as I read. It told the story of a poor English setter who had been in a kennels for eight years. Oh God.

I pick up the second page, its quaint English just as the lady wrote it to me.

Gaspare (450 x 600) “Gaspare is a five year old setter probably abandoned by a hunter who, after deciding that he was no longer useful, just let him roam free, knowing what would happen when he went looking for food in a nearby town. And this Gaspare did. One afternoon he ventured into the town of Montoro Superiore, near Avellino and tail wagging, he approached a child eating a snack, hoping to maybe get a pat and a scrap of his food. Instead Gaspare was attacked by villagers, who kicked him and hit him with sticks. Fortunately, a volunteer from the local pet rescue team happened to witness this attack, and intervened to help poor Gaspare, nearly getting beaten themselves in the process. They took Gaspare to the vet’s where he was found to have two broken ribs, two broken teeth, a severe nasal haemorrhage and severe bruising.”

I get another piece of kitchen paper and blow my nose. Then I get out my tarot cards. Then I get out the runes. Then I take the dogs for a very early morning walk and try to think.

Suddenly events have taken things out of my hands. I get a frantic call from my sister who is in the UK on a visit from her home in California. My 91-year-old mother has fallen and broken her hip. I dash over and there follow a series of hospital and nursing home visits.Adopting a dog is the last thing on my mind.

After my Mum is back home and I am back in Italy feeling a bit more relaxed, I start to wonder about the Internet dogs.  I look again at the photo of Gaspare’s sad, long face and his droopy dark brown eyes. I email the lady looking after him to discover that he has been
adopted by someone in Milan. Goodness – a team of volunteers had driven
him in relays 800 kilometrres from Avellino. Still at least there is a happy ending! But on Alan’s birthday ,the 23rd June, I get an email. Gaspare’s adoption has fallen through, did I want him?  I send off an email to ask what has happened and then Alan and I go out for his birthday dinner and I broach the subject of another dog.

Over the next few days I am in an agony of indecision.  I sit and talk to ZsaZsa and Maia. ‘Do you want a brother?’ I say to them. They stare passively back. ‘You’re not really helping are you?’ I say  and I go off to feed the crow. The crow – oh God! English Setters are bird dogs, aren’t they? They may eat

crows. I would hate anything to happen to Merlina the handicapped crow  I have looked after for two years.  I send off another email to Daria the girl fostering Gaspare. Is he OK with crows? She’s – understandably – not sure, but he is fine with their Persian cat.

I wake up with a brilliant idea. There is clearly only one way to solve my Gaspare dilemma. I must go and see him. It is an eight-hour round trip to Milan from here, but I know I have to go. How can I possibly make a decision like this based on a photo? Alan thinks I am completely barmy as I fix up a visit for Friday 3 July. I’ll take the Eurostar and Daria and boyfriend Alessandro will meet me at the station. I buy a dolly for Gaspare and cut a piece of ZsaZsa and Maia’s huge towel to take with me to accustom him to their smell.     But before that we have to be inspected to make sure we are suitable adoptive parents! I clean the house from top to bottom and get the dogs’ vaccination boosters at the vets. I am looking forward totelling out usual vet Massimiliano about our possible rescue dog, but he is away and so we get his pretty locum instead.  On July 2 Barbara the inspection lady and her friend Simonetta arrive to do the pre-adoption check.  The ladies are very chatty and laugh as they look at the Merlina the crow (‘We heard there may be an issue with the crow,’ says Barbara. ‘Could we see it? I’ve never seen a pet crow before.’) The garden is deemed ‘paradiso’ and they leave after asking if they could send their dogs here too. We guess we have passed muster. And now it’s Milan tomorrow.

Diary Entry Fri 3 July
Got up at 5, station at 5.40 got train to Arezzo and then to Florence where got Eurostar to Milan to see Gaspare. Daria and her boyfriend met me at station at 11. Lovely couple. Dog is fantastic, calm, quiet,
lollopy. 10 mins in park then went to their flat overlooks San Sirio hill. Daria has rescue dog Stellina and cat Matilda (Persian) Took some photos. V.V. hot! She graduated yesterday so they had a party and had

some food left which they gave me for lunch then Alessando took me back to the station. Got 1.30 train, change Bologna. Delayed 18mins so just missed train home. Arrived back at 7pm! Knackered.

DSCN1227 (450 x 600) Of course, we have to have him. Actually, I knew that before I went but it took the process of the journey and the physical effort involved to help me decide.

I have to go back to England on 9 July so we arrange for Gaspare to come on the 7 July, the day after I get back. Daria and Alessandro are(unbelievably) going to drive him down from Milan and return the same day. I come to the conclusion that these animal people in Italy are really, really special.

On Friday 17th July (Friday 17th incidentally, being the Italian equivalent of our Friday the 13th) I wake early feeling very excited and nervous about getting Gas. I have started calling him Gas instead of Gaspare, as that’s what Alessandro and Daria have shortened his name to.  They had told us they would arrive at 11 but in fact it is nearer 12 when their car finally pulls in. I have decided to let Gas meet ZsaZsa and Maia in the field behind the house, so despite the fact it is absolutely boiling hot, I drag poor Alessandro and Daria into the field and the introductions commence. It all goes well, better than I had hoped. Gas a long-legged silky black and white vision, is oblivious to everything and captivated by the smells in the field after the small piece of parkland he has been used to in Milan. ZsaZsa and Maia bark a bit then set about sniffing the newcomer warily.

We take all three on a walk around the garden and risk letting them off the leads. Gas spies the small fishpond which I spent hours digging and lining and leaps in, landing splat in the middle.Alessandro and Daria are mortified, but I am laughing my head off as Gas lies flat out in the pond wagging his tail. This is, as I am to discover, a taste of things to come.

Inside he wanders around then flops down in front of the water bowl and drinks the whole lot lying down with the bowl between his paws. ‘He does everything with gusto, doesn’t he?’Alan laughs and I explain he did the same in Milan and that just seems to be how he drinks water! He gets up wanders over to the curtain and lifts his leg then turns and looks at us all as we have all shouted ‘No’ in a chorus.He gives a kind of canine shrug, smiles (he definitely smiles) and lies down next to ZsaZsa.

At last, it seems, Gas is home.

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Latest on the Long Limbed Loon

Gassie the Rescue English Setter I thought I’d update you on how our internet rescue English Setter Gaspare (Gassie) is doing as we’ve had him three months now. It’s difficult to remember life without him really.

He’s had the latest set of bloodtests and his anaemia is now cured, which is a great relief as they weren’t sure if this was something more sinister. He’s put on more weight so is now almost 25 kilos, which is a hell of a lot better than the 18 kilos he weighed when he was found. I’d like to see him even heavier though as I don’t like dogs to be too skinny, even thogh that is the trend in Italy. (I noticed recently that the feeding instructions on our imported dogfood had been altered in Italian to give the dog less than in the other languages!)

Gassie is very lively, especially in the early morning. He wakes me up by sitting on his haunches and putting both very long front paws on the bed. This wakes the other two dogs and so I have now taken to just giving in and getting up. I have been downstairs by six o’clock in the morning for the last week. I’m knackered! I like early mornings but that is a touch too early even for me.

He gambols around the garden like a demented foal chasing all manner of insects and things up trees, which can include birds and squirrels and butterflies and lizards. You can see him on  a lizard hunt in the photo. He pounces like a cat and I have never seen a dog do that!

Talking of cats, the war goes on against our little tribe of felines, although Jimmy the youngest has now started coming in at night and sleeping in the tower room, slipping out of the open bathroom window first thing. I suppose it’s a start. Gas won’t touch them when I am there, but I can’t be everywhere!

He is big buddies with my other two dogs, although ZsaZsa does get fed up with him sometimes, but it’s all good natured. He and Maia zoom around the garden chasing after balls. He can easily outrun her on his ten foot legs but he often slows down just so she can chase him properly.

This morning I sat down on the two seater sofa in the kitchen to try and read (ha!) and was followed by Zsa Zsa and Maia. That filled it up pretty much, but Gassie doesn’t like to be left out so he proceeded to climb onto my knee and curl up with his head on Maia’s back. I think you can safely say he has settled in OK and is now well and truly a (large) part of the family!