Thursday, November 20, 2008


What ever happened to man's best friend?

In Italy alone more than 23,000 people were attacked, bitten and mauled in 2007 by pit bulls, dobermans, rottweilers, fial, mastiffs and bull dogs. Their owners claim their dogs are " LAMBIE PIES". RRRight.

I wonder what a tender ten month old baby lying contentedly in his pram ever did to provoke the vicious attack of the family Rottweiler. Except possibly to be born. Dogs can be fiercely jealous. Humans tend to treat their pets as members of the family. How many dogs do you know with the names of humans? Practically every one names their dogs that way. Apart from its tackiness, I think it is psychologically damaging in the long run. Face it people, dogs are animals, not humans.

I would make a notable exception here for German Shepherds who are seen every time a disaster such as an earthquake or a hurricane, a tsunami or tornado occurs. Their sense of smell is so acute they can detect life or death well below a 100 meters.

I knew a seeing-eye dog with the name of Thor who saved his master's life countless times. Many blind people could not function as well as they do without their dogs. In the London underground I once witnessed a German Shepherd enter the compartment. Guide the young man to a seat and then turn around to eye the passengers quickly. She gave a reassuring grunt and placed her snout briefly on his arm to signal that all was well.

I deliberately missed my stop because I was curious to see how the dog would react when they had reached their destination. It isn't as if these dogs can read or can they? In a manner of speaking they have that ability. They study the landscape, particular shapes and forms outside the compartment which means that they are endowed with excellent memories.

Of course the young man knew his stop as well. His sight might be challenged but hello? his ability to count the stops was not.

" All right Belle, this is where we get off. Is that correct?"

A soft woof ensued from her throat. I interpreted that as a "Yes."

Dogs in Newfoundland, Alaska, Canada and Greenland are superb swimmers and routinely save people from drowning or perishing from hypothermia. I would classify all such dogs as "Heroes."

But there are breeds of dogs which have been bred since ancient times to kill. The Romans used the mastiffs and the Fila in gladatorial combat. All of us who are fans of Jack London will always remember White Fang in the Klondike. I cried when he almost died in combat. White Fang was forced to fight to the death. It was a kill or be killed deal.

The new phenomenon taking place in Italy and no doubt elsewhere in the world is this: Dog owners are buying dogs as extensions of themselves. Men and women are increasingly frustrated and impotent at their travails. Their self-esteem is lower than a snail's; ergo their dogs project the masculinity or strength they lack. Any perceived slight and their dogs are poised to react.

Genoa has some very beautiful parks. It is the order of the day to see dangerous dogs such as rottweilers, dobermans and pit bulls run around the park without a leash or a muzzle. The law is clear. All dogs, including Yorkies must wear muzzles if they are in public places. A Yorkie? Wipe the smirks off your faces. A Yorkie once climbed on Cinzia's lap when she was on the floor in our Villa of the Saracen. Without further ado and before anyone could do anything it proceeded to bite her hair, scalp and face. I grabbed it by its tail ad threw it against the wall. This little freak belonged to a friend who even took showers with this piece of mad-as-a-hatter fluff. Cinzia still has a scar on the right side of her face less than a millimeter from her eye. She had three stitches there. her scalp had 5 punctures with 10 stitches in all. Fortunately, she was wearing a high necked Irish fisherman's pullover so the little bastard was unable to go for her carotid and jugular veins.What about the dog? It died instantly when I threw it against the wall. Sixteenth century villas in Florence have walls one meter thick. They did not monkey around when they built residences back then.

My friend did not speak to me for years. I told her " Give thanks that Dvorak, our Hungarian Komondor was in the garden when your beastie attacked my daughter. He would have gone after you and your thingamagig. There would have been nothing left of either one of you. Dvorak's breed in Hungary is trained to fight bears to protect their flocks of sheep, horses, and goats."

There is a popular television show starring a handsome German Shepherd with the name of Rex who works with theHomicide and Vice Police in Vienna. He is not only a tracker of criminals, he can detect cocaine and heroin. We are talking tons of the stuff man.The dog who plays Rex is portrayig a real life Hero who worked with the Viennese Police. Actors who wish to appear on the show must be approved by Rex.

There is no such thing as a bad dog only a bad owner. I don't know what to make of this saying nowadays. As I mentioned earlier in my essay, people are becoming aggressive and raging. Perhaps their pets are reacting to their violent thoughts if not their actions. Animals are sen- sitive beings and they can feel positive and negative emotions acutely.

I think dogs are genetically programmed to bite just as cats will scratch your eyes out if they go off the deep end. When my daughter Marlise was at the crawling stage she went after a gorgeous male Persian in a friend's house. The reason I took her with me was because Nanny had the flu.It was clear that the cat did not like children or any other individual who wasn't "its mummy."

" Dahling, could you place the cat in another room while we hold our meeting?"

It was a dangerous encounter waiting to happen.

We were in the midst of fund raising for" Goldiggers." We dig with our hearts.

" She is going to have conniptions if she can't see me," replied my friend.

Marlise would not be deterred. Claws hid under a credenza and Marlise peered under. Claws struck at the big golden eye staring at it. Result? Marlise had an injured cornea for a month and a vicious scratch down her face.

Even as I write this two Rottweilers attacked and killed their owner as he was coming home from a late night at a disco. In Naples a pitbull without a leash jumped on three year old Matteo and tore his neck to bits. Owners of such monsters continue to allow their dogs to roam parks, gardens and streets at will putting the rest of us at imminent danger.

I carry a long staff when I take Niccolo to Villa Gruber or to Acqua Sola Park. At the flick of a button out comes a sharp point, sharp enough to drive away, stab, maim and kill one of these vicious beings should they ever dare to threaten Niccolo or myself.

I am going to end this essay with the tragic end of one of my beloved feral cats; Vishnu, a black puma from India. Jai Atal, Rajkumar of Jaipur had gifted him to me when he was but a cub as a birthday present. At that time we lived in Villa Guillari in Florence. Its 40 hectares abounded in olive trees and grape vines. More than enough room for Vishnu to roam and meander. We had horses. Normally, they are terrified of wild cats, but since he had come to us as a pup they all got used to his scent and he to theirs. Idem for our dogs and cats. At night Vishnu slept on an Ishfahan carpet at the foot of my bed. On particularly cold nights, for Florence can get as cold as London, he would crawl into bed with me. Cinzia and Marco would have the same thoughts so it got to be a little crowded.

One day Vishnu killed 70 chickens which belonged to one of our farmers. He didn't eat them, he just tore their necks off and left them. I made restitution but the harm was done. The farmers began to think of him as something dangerous and evil. Indeed, the sight of him could be frightening if one stumbled into him at night. Nothing but two yellow or red orbs staring out of the blackness.

A week after that incident, I was in the iris garden tending to a particularly gorgeous brown one when I heard the sound of rifle shots. Three rang out one after another.

"They've shot Vishnu." I told myself, praying I might be wrong and knowig that it was so.

Three clean shots killed him. One to the head, one to his heart and another straight to his gut. They wanted to be sure Vishnu was stone cold dead. The children and I wept unashamedly. I never punished or reprimanded the farmers. Vishnu had behaved like the predator he was and the farmers had acted like the peasants they were. I was the one to blame if there was anyone to fault.

I pulled strings and had him cremated in a funeral pyre in the estate. A Buddhist monk performed the rituals. After that we scattered most of his ashes on the estate, his stomping grounds so to speak. The next thing I did was move out of that Villa. It was cursed. A living being had been killed in revenge for the killing of 70 chickens, one of God's stupidest creatures.

That's when Sir Harold Acton suggested Villa of the Saracen. The first thing I did when we moved in was to scatter Vishnu's ashes outside the windows of our bedrooms.His protective spirit would shield us from the bad.

There is a law being considered by the Italian Parliament concerning the 17 dogs considered high risk to humans. All females should be spayed and males castrated without exception. In such a way, the races wil die out. I am all for it.


  1. So you'll enjoy this little song by a Canadian comedy troupe, "I'm gonna kill the dog next door":

  2. And in the same spirit, here's Johhny Cash on the Muppets singing, "Egg Suckin' Dog":

  3. Hello, Isabel,

    I had no idea that dogs in Italy had become so dangerous. When in Italy (or anywhere, for that matter) I never had a bad experience such as the ones you describe. Perhaps, as you infer, it is human nature that has deteriorated.


  4. Dear Jeanne,

    You have made a good point, but as Shakespeare said in "The Tempest", "you have spoken truer than you purposed."

    It is very true, as you have said, that "human nature has deteriorated".

    And I submit to you, Jeanne - equally as I would submit to any personal friends of mine in my very humble, working-class milieu - that the evidence of the deterioration of Human Nature in our time, can be seen among your closest friends, and mine, both rich and poor, all of them.

    I am a direct descendant of King Edward III of England, who was a descendant of King William the Conqueror, who was the bastard grandson of a Norman hide-tanner.
    And through other lines I descend from the descendants of Irish Kings who were ruined by bloody Cromwell and the goverment of "Great" Britain.

    And that is just ONE reason, among many, how and why I understand and personify "Human Nature". "Human Nature" is the same nature among all nations, cultures and economic classes.

    And so, my dear Jeanne, I believe you agree with me about that. Therefore, dear Jeanne, I close this comment by addressing you as "your friend"...

    ...and so I invite you to begin to respond to my comments on our friend Isabel's blog...

    John Ball


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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