It’s been a little over a year since we lost Trilla, so I thought it might be time to update the “About Mary” page on my blog.
Although I didn’t think I was ready to get another dog after Trilla died, I received an email from my Veterinarian with a picture of an abandoned dog who looked exactly like Trilla. I fell immediately in love with her. Her name was Giorgia, she was 1 ½ years old and described as tranquil. She was in the Shelter in Florence and, of course, I had to have her.
As is the case with most of the abandoned dogs in Italy, she was born in the South, in Sorrento. The population of abandoned dogs in the south of Italy is so huge that there is no room in the shelters and they send the dogs up north. There is no equivalent of “kill shelters” in Italy. It is illegal to euthanize dogs just because they’re abandoned. As a result, the country is really over-run with abandoned dogs and cats. The cats generally find their own shelters and often congregate near places where people will leave food out for them. But the dogs cannot be left to their own devices as they have become too domesticated and will die without someone to take care of them.
We went to Florence to see Giorgia. I couldn’t get over how similar her face was to Trilla. Her coloring was exactly the same but her coat was a bit different. She had curly hair, where Trilla’s was long and silky. She was a little bit taller and she had her tail, where Trilla’s tail was bobbed. We took her for a little walk and I decided right then to take her home.
She was indeed tranquil. Very quiet in the house and staying beside me wherever I went. However, the first time we left her alone in the house, she broke through the cat door, chewed my kindle, the mouse for my computer, a couple of pens and shit in the small bedroom upstairs. OK, I guess she’s afraid to be left alone. So the next time we went out to shop for a couple of hours, we left her in the garden. Clever little thing that she was, she opened the gate and went in search of us (or actually, me). Our neighbor brought her back and closed her in again but she opened the gate again and another neighbor brought her back just as we were returning to learn of her escapades.
So I enlisted the help of an “Educator” to learn how to deal with Giorgia’s fear of abandonment. We began leaving her for short times in the bathroom, where I figured she couldn’t do much damage. 5 minutes at a time. But she immediately began to panic. I could hear her as we walked a little way down the street. But there were a couple of times that she seemed less stressed. Then I had to go to a doctor’s appointment and we put her in the bathroom with some toys, her little bed, and some goodies to munch on. When we returned, she had completely destroyed the bathroom cabinets, opening the doors and emptying the contents onto the floor. Also, she chewed the wooden handles to the cabinets, scratched and chewed at the door, and actually opened the door, made her way to the front door and once again destroyed the cat door in her panic. She also swiped at things on the kitchen counter, including the cat’s dishes which were shattered in pieces on the floor. This was enough for Dante. He wanted to send her back to the shelter, but I wanted to keep trying with her.
I re-configured my garden to include a new gate, higher than the other and with a lock she couldn’t open. I had a new fence installed, also higher than the original. However not high enough. She was able to vault the fence, which she would do if left alone.
I continued to take her to the Educator, but she was always so well behaved that it seemed she had no problems. I could take her anywhere. She went with me in the car, on the bus, on the train. Always lying down quietly. I continued to try leaving her alone in the garden for a few minutes at a time (I wasn’t going to give her another chance inside the house). But it was always the same. Panic! Again, I thought she’d get better.
In November, as has been my custom, we went to the States and had Thanksgiving dinner at my friend, Sue’s house. Giorgia went to Angela’s Pensione, where she stayed with 4 other dogs. I was very nervous about this because Giorgia seemed to be aggressive towards other dogs, but Angela assured me that she could handle her. And, in fact, within 2 days of arriving in New York, Angela sent me videos of Giorgia playing with the other dogs. I was so relieved!
Many people had told me that it might be a good idea to get another dog to keep her company so she wouldn’t panic at being left alone. And after seeing how she was with Angela, we began searching sites for abandoned dogs and we saw a cute little dog playing with other dogs. I thought if the dog was small, perhaps it wouldn’t be too crowded in our little house. Ruby was 8 months old, a little ball of white fur, about 9 kilos (half the size of Giorgia) and we called about him.
There is a country-wide network in Italy of people who care for abandoned dogs, while looking for homes for them. The dogs stay for a short time with one person, then they are sent to another and if no one takes them, finally they go to the shelter. Ruby was born in Salerno (another Southern dog) and had been sent to Vicenza, way up in the Veneto area. He and his 2 sisters were being sheltered in a hotel but were on their way to Rovigo, still in the Veneto area but closer to the Adriatic. We learned that if someone didn’t take Ruby by the next Monday, he would be sent to the shelter.
So on a Sunday in December, we made the 3 hour trip to Rovigo, the last hour in the fog, which never leaves that area. Giorgia was with us. The idea being that we’d introduce the dogs and see if they would get along. We were in cell phone contact with Diana, who was keeping Ruby along with 8 other dogs. We were to meet her at a car dealership that she thought would be easy for us to find (even in the fog). But, of course, we never found it. After another 2 or 3 calls to Diana, we finally stopped at a corner and told her to come there and meet us. She showed up about 10 minutes later and opened the hatch-back to reveal the dog. It was NOT Ruby! It was his sister! Same coloring, but short hair and obviously female!
So we followed Diana back to her house (in the fog) and sure enough, there was Ruby. Cute little face, beautiful big, brown eyes, long white hair with café’ au lait markings and a tail that curls up. He was jumping at the fence to greet us and Giorgia. Giorgia, although not jumping for joy, was happy enough to meet him. So on the way home, I sat in the backseat of the car with Giorgia on my right side and Ruby on my left. They were both fine.
I don’t know who actually named Ruby, because it’s generally considered a female name, and perhaps that was the reason for the mix-up when Diana brought his sister to us. But I decided, even over the objections of Dante and others, that he should keep his name. After all, there was the famous latin lover, Rubyrosa Ariza. ( I thought his name was Ruby Rosa and that he was Italian, however, he was from the Dominican Republic). He had five wives including Barbara Hutton and Doris Duke. The story is that he was exceptionally well-endowed and for this reason had numerous affairs. He has been romantically linked to Zsa Zsa Gabor, Marylin Monroe, Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth to mention a few. So, I concluded that Ruby was a masculine enough name and so the name remains, even though some people insist on calling him Rudy.
Within 2 days, Giorgia and Ruby were playing, eating and sleeping together. We left them alone in the house for short periods and it was definitely better. They did get into a bit of trouble like the time I had left a glass jar of tuna fish and a loaf of bread too close to the edge of the counter. Giorgia was tall enough to reach the counter with her paws and swipe things onto the floor. So when we returned we found the broken glass on the floor with a bit of bread that they didn’t eat. So they had a little picnic for themselves. Except for the worry of them ingesting glass, I wasn’t particularly upset by this behavior. It was my fault for leaving things on the counter.
But there was one more major problem. It was Giorgia’s propensity to chase cats, including our own 9 year old cat, Bobi. I hoped that we could get them to co-exist but after Giorgia violently attacked 2 cats while walking on the leash, and then catching Bobi one time in the house, it was clear this wasn’t going to change. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And I began searching for a home for Giorgia. She would be fine if she lived in the country and slept in a barn. But no one would take her. Finally, I sent her back to the shelter. It broke my heart but I couldn’t do any more.
So now we have Ruby, who is content to be an only dog in the house. Since he never made it to the shelter, he wasn’t damaged like poor Giorgia. And he’s actually quite easy to train. Our cat, Bobi, who lived on top of the refrigerator for the 10 months that Giorgia was with us, now comes down when she wants. Ruby does chase her if she runs but otherwise ignores her. And I’m pretty sure Ruby wouldn’t hurt her even if he could catch her. He just wants to play.
It took a while for me to really warm up to Ruby. The only reason we got him was to keep Giorgia company. And while they were good together, Ruby was learning some of Giorgia’s bad habits, instead of Giorgia learning from him. But now that Ruby’s alone, he has quieted down and has become very affectionate, especially with me. And he’s so cute he’s wormed his way into my heart. I just hope I can break him of digging up my garden.