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