Those of you who are Sherlock Holmes fans will know the famous story Silver Blaze and the line from it ” to the curious incident of the dog in the night” which Holmes has recognised as the key to the plot . Why didn’t the dog bark in the night.
Well let me say if Sherlock Holmes had been Italian and living at 221b Fornaio ( Baker) Strada he would not have solved the missing race horse mystery. Italians dogs whether they know you or not bark through the night and indeed through the day too.
Now let me hoist my colours firmly to the mast before we start on this rather thorny subject. I am neither a dog lover nor hater so have no axe to grind. Is that enough metaphors for you ? But I am a believer in ‘When in Rome…” Okay that is enough.
Italians keep dogs especially if they have a house in the country. They keep big ones and small ones but they believe probably as passionately as others don’t that it is a kindness to the animal to keep it in a cage . Better still keep two or three in one cage for company. Which when you think about how they themselves love to congregate together in large numbers in restaurants on the beach etc it is not too surprising. The dogs sit in their cages and if the house is only used for a month in the summer the owner comes once a week to feed them . The dogs quickly learn not to scoff the lot at one session and pace the meal to last the week. When the owner comes he lets the dogs out and they run about till it is time for him to go when they race back to the “safety” of the cage as the Italians believe. Quick song I think while I get a cup of tea.
As I walk my 5 miles each day I see loads of them and they go into a frenzy of barking at the sight of me. This is especially true if the owner happens to be on the property. Then they have to impress their usefulness by going absolutely crazy, throwing themselves at the netting with real gusto . If you didn’t know them it would be quite frightening as they look so realistic. These dogs would rip you limb from limb if only yes if only they could get out but they can’t.
Well I was walking the other day past a cage that housed an huge German shepherd . He had regularly thrown himself at the cage door near the very low front wall. This time the owner had obviously not securely fastened the gate and it flew open. The dog fell through the door and over the wall into the road in front of me. Here I was face to face with a dog that for months had been trying to rip me apart. We looked at each other and the dog realised there was nothing between him and me. The cage door had swung closed . Instead of ripping my throat out he crouched as low as he could go and slunk back over the wall and sat at the door looking at me appealingly . I hopped over the wall and opened the door and in he went. The next day normal service resumed he threw himself at the door and I of course looked suitably afraid.
Italians seem to be able to sleep through the noise of their dogs barking both at night and through the siesta so their value as guard dogs is lost on me and they are in cages so when the house is empty no burglar is going to be concerned anyway.
Since the crisi ( recession) a number of Italians have given up their dogs because the cost of driving out to them is so prohibitive . I am sorry dog lovers but in the main giving these animals their freedom means driving them some distance away and releasing them. So I guess another thing to blame Mario Monti for.
Dogs are used by hunters down here as well. These dogs don’t bark and are picked for this trait. Most country living Italians shoot birds during the hunting season October thru January. The dogs are not retrievers and their purpose seems to be to flush out the birds as they don’t use beaters here. The bird they are after is the thrush but the shoot is a very sociable event as you can imagine with such a gregarious people and so not many thrush end up in the pot. Again the crisi has reduced dramatically the numbers firing away with gay abandon and hurrah to that you might say but then the dog is no longer needed and so another short drive and a release so still Mario Monti I think.
9.52 minutes into this you will hear the classic line
I have never owned a dog nor did we have them when I was young however my best friend at boarding school’s father had three Shih tzu dogs. These were what they look like if you haven’t seen them .
Now Ian was a Royal Marine Comando in WWII and something quite secret in the UK spy organisation MI5 . He was about 16 stone (224lbs) and was a guy you wanted on your side on a dark night. He was eccentric to the say the least and would walk to the newspaper shop in the morning in his nightshirt and sleeping cap with the three dogs in tow. He loved it when people stopped and enquired what type of dog they were as they were still quite rare in the UK then. Shih Tzu he would say, Cuddly was the normal reply. Do you know what Shih Tzu means in Chinese ? he would ask . No. “Lion killer” he would proudly say and the person asking would go” what those little things”. Ian would then ask ” Are there any lions in China eh?” No would be the reply . Well case proven.