The road up to the rented villa was steep and winding, not at all straightforward for a touring caravan to negotiate, however our friend Guido kindly allowed us to park our caravan on his piece of land overlooking a delightful hidden little cove. The grounds were overgrown with waist high weeds, so in exchange for his kindness we offered to help him begin to tame the wilderness with a temperamental “decispugliatore“ (strimmer) which proved to be impossible to pronounce and more trouble than it was worth. Guido showed us the way down the steep, rustic, wooden stairway that lead to the beautiful white, sandy beach.
At that time Guido had three dogs. The first, named “Fausta”, stood waist high, when on all fours, and was a “Pastore Maremmano”, a breed of large, powerful herding dog from the Maremma area of Tuscany. “Fausta” would come boisterously lolloping up, drooling profusely, her tail alone could give you a nasty lashing and if she jumped up she could easily knock me flying. The second was a sizeable swanky male, by the name “Geronimo”, who wasa cross between a Husky and a German Shepherd. The third named “Mona” was smaller and more timid, with a sweet temperament.
Most of the time the dogs were kept in ramshackle kennel in a rickety enclosure, only being let loose to run off steam and play before their afternoon feeding time. They were generally fed on bones, scraps and pasta that had been boiled up in a large smelly pot.
One day we drove up to Guido’s terrain as usual, with our two dogs panting in the back of the car, feeling safe in the knowledge that the other three hounds would be safely contained in their pen. Paul released our dogs from the car, intending to tether them nearby, when in a flash Fausta and Geronimo came bounding across, bearing their teeth and growling ferociously. A terrible fight broke out, and they savagely attacked our two dogs who were screaming and yelping in terror. Paul scrambled about on the floor, wrestling with Guido’s hounds in an effort to curtail the attack. Fortunately reinforcements were soon at hand, in the form of Guido and his brother, who finally succeeded in separating the dogs, and we speedily locked our two safely back into the car. Paul was left looking pale and in a veritable state of shock, not to mention badly grazed and scratched. It took quite some time for him to catch his breath and stop trembling.
We checked our dogs over, and at first believed they had escaped without any injuries. It was only later that evening that we found that “Barney” had in fact received a nasty bite. The next morning we found a local vet, who pronounced that the bite was infected and needed stitches. Having paid the expensive vet’s bill we resolved never to take our hounds up to Guido’s again for it had proved to be a very costly mistake.
“Barney” soon made a full recovery, so much so that one day whilst I was playing ball with him he managed to leap up and head butt me under the chin, making me the proud owner of a fat split lip. That’s gratitude for you!
Later, we heard that Guido’s dogs had twice broken out of their enclosure, and had gone “AWOL”. In their break for freedom they galloped off down the wooden stairway towards the sea, where no doubt they wreaked havoc among the poor, unsuspecting sun bathers. It was not long before it became evident that both the female dogs were pregnant.
Some weeks later Guido proudly announced that both the bitches had given birth to their “cucciolini”. The smaller “Mona” had produced a lovely litter of ten, and “Fausta” excelled herself in delivering another fifteen pups. Thus Guido’s patch was rapidly transformed into a “puppy farm” with the copious new arrivals !!!