I am very aware that reading about other people’s dogs is not half as interesting as having one, or reading about your own.
But as part of my books consists of talking about my life, my life wouldn’t be complete without the dogs I’ve had. However, there has always sometimes been conflict around them.
The first dog in Italy, so after I was say 13-14 was a lovely white Spinone someone had given me. My mum did try to keep him for a while, but of course, as with most kids, I was in and out of the house so very, very much, that in the end it was her taking care of him, and she simply didn’t want to have a dog. So she sent him back.
Then around maybe 16, some unknown person gave me a German Shepherd puppy I called Tequila and put a red bandanna on him I had on me as I wore them myself (it was after the fashion-devastation of the Philippines, when I would wear lots of Americana and my favourite item was a pair of black cowboy boots… in humid and very hot Philippines). I hung around the park with pals for a bit and with the puppy, then took him home with me on the train, then my mum turned me away at the door. I got back on the train and took him back to Milan to the person who’d given him to me.
When I moved to the Philippines, with my dad, we were staying in a massive villa of some colleague of his who owned a white fluffy dog, a pretty white Pomeranian who, despite our best efforts got infested with fleas and ticks. I felt very bad about it and was glad I didn’t have to face the owners on the way back.
There was no dog, for a long time after that. After all, I was in and out of the house, the region, the country even for so long and so many times that it made perfect sense that my mother wouldn’t allow me to have dogs.
In my late teens I would sometimes across the dog of a friend, one whom I’d come to share a house in Tuscany with: her mother, out of spite because this friend had wanted a puppy and then was never there to look after it, kept this ball of white fluff chained on the front lawn, and never took him anywhere nor did she pet him, as she was a cat person, she said. This turned out to be a very evil woman, but at the time, she posed as a lovely person, though her cruelty to this poor dog should have given her away. Secretly, I thought my best friend was also cruel for allowing her mother to treat her dog so.
Time passed, I went to London to study, came back pregnant, went to Spain, returned from Spain, and finally moved to Tuscany, this time without my partner/first husband, but with two boys and the above friend, my best friend.
We lived in an incredible area, very wild, with wide open grounds almost wholly ours to frolic in, and so, for this reason, as well as for discouraging the father of the kids from coming upon us unannounced again, I wanted a dog.
Like my mother, my friend threatened me that if I did get a dog, I would be the only one to look after it. I promised. I went to the dog pound, and they convinced me to get a puppy who was a Husky mix. She at the time told me this as a good thing: knowing more about dogs now, recommending anything containing any Husky to someone who is a single mother of two very tiny children was really NOT a good idea. I guess they didn’t know that much about dogs either.
We called her Lula, and she was ever so pretty. But she was unruly from day one. They had said she was an 8 month old puppy, and I later learned that at 8 months a puppy has already got a pretty ingrained character: if it is an unruly, wildish dog, she is not likely to change, no matter what efforts you put in it.
She was nothing like Churro. Churro was constantly next to me, she found any excuse to run. She pulled like a demon and hated being held back.
Things between my friend and I quickly soured, not because of Lula but Lula was a factor, and I moved from that incredible place in the Tuscan wilderness to Florence, where I had found a job. I shared the flat’s rent with a friend (more on that in my book) and I had an aupair helping me pick up the boys from school and walk the dog. However, for various reasons all of this fell apart, and I was left coming home after picking up my boys to a kitchen filled with dog poo and pee. It was not a happy experience, certainly not for the boys either. Eventually, because I could no longer afford that crazy expensive flat, I found a new house with enormous difficulty (nobody in Italy is keen to rent to a single mother of two small children… and a dog) half an hour outside of Florence.
The place seemed perfect: forget the condition of the flat, just outside there was a little fenced-in garden, and outside that a big park you could walk and play in, and all around our little town there were glorious hills and nature. It was a perfect place for a dog, and we happily took her for walks, although that soon became an issue: Lula was completely restless, wild, pulling on the lead hurting me and the boys. Wish we had known about Haltis at the time.
Eventually the time came that everything was way too much for me. I began looking for a flat near my sister’s house in Northern Italy but on top of all the other difficulties, the final no came as soon as the heard I had a dog. This was even though we were looking for an unfurnished house.
The rental market in Italy was tough: it is not usual to rent. Somehow, people always seem to have some money stashed somewhere, either from their parents or what have you, and with that they would put a deposit down and buy a house. Everyone owned a house, back then. If you rented, you were looked down on, especially in northern Italy.
Back in Tuscany, as all this happened, I had gotten to know a Norwegian lady that lived across playground area and up another bit of hill. She had an enormous house, and a huge green area in which she also cultivated fruit and vegetables. She also had 8 or 9 children. She lived on the charity of the Church. I, ever the outsider, had no such privilege. She had met Lula a couple of times, and I had told her about how the months were passing and I was increasingly desperate to find a home, also because the current owner of the house I lived in had grown tired of my delays in paying the rent and thus wanted me out. Bless her forever and always, when she heard my major hurdle was Lula, she offered to take her. Waves of relief washed over me, and I cannot hide I was also relieved because Lula was a dog who was very difficult to love, when you had your safety and your children’s to worry about. All this lady’s children were older, and they had plenty of grounds in which to attempt to contain her, so I just let the relief wash over me and soon after that, a new place was found and I moved away from Tuscany.