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UPDATE 2008: The beautiful valley of Il Porto, where Gianni lives, is in danger. Please help!

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Gianni Menichetti is an accomplished artist and poet living on the Amalfi Coast in a remote and beautiful place. He is the guardian of a large family of animals and works tirelessly caring for the eclectic group, including many dogs, cats and feathered creatures. He has a devoted international following.



Fay was a most charming scoundrel who knew she would always be forgiven thanks to her wonderfully appealing gaze full of false honesty. She was an inveterate cat hunter. Whenever I heard her hysterical barking outside the garden, I could be well sure that some poor cat was by now perched in a tree out there or hidden inside a thicket of bramble bushes, unable to get out. Naturally, the moment I reached her and began scolding her loudly, she pretended to be on her best behavior, as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. She always looked at me in such a sweet, feminine way, as if to say, “If there is anyone in this whole world whom you can trust, I am that one.” And to make herself even more appealing, she would accompany this recital with sharp sighs, sounding just like a rusty hinge.


Daughter of the black Susan, as a puppy she had so many fleas that I baptized her “Pulci” (fleas). Pulci was black with hazel spots and a bib and little white paws. She was a real sweetheart. She had a lovely long life, even if it was saddened by a cruel accident. While she was innocently wandering out of bounds for a few moments in the fields of distant neighbors certainly not known for their love of animals, someone hit her with a stone in the right eye, which tragically, she lost. She belonged to the “club of the favorites” who slept in the house near the fireplace all year long. When Vali was in a savage mood the dogs knew it: her voice was enough, but I have never in my life met a truer Jain than Vali. She could be ferocious with human beings but never with the animals whom she loved with all her great heart. Once Vali was in a rage so Pulci hid in a corner. When Vali passed by she would peep out as if playing hide and seek. It was enough for Vali to see that for her towering rage to subside in an instant, as her fury transformed into laughter.

Rob Roy

Why ever did Vali name him for the ancient hero of the Scottish Highlands, Rob Roy McGregor? It is impossible to imagine a more sensitive, timid, and excessively cowardly creature! Adorable nonetheless, he was to Vali a favorite one. With long white hair and wide red marks, he was always afraid of the gang and he would find the most inaccessible refuges in which to take cover. His favorite hiding place was the large wild fig tree growing on the walls surrounding the garden; there among stems and leaves no one would have tried to attack or disturb him without risking a fall off the wall. He had a morbid fear of canine society. He just didn’t trust his own kind, and for this I could not blame him – he was such a beautiful, sweet, non-violent guy.



Tola-tola, white with ears the color of reddish sand, I named after the Hindu words meaning: “little bit.” She was a dog whom I loved so much for her superb self-possession and her low-key character -- quiet and imperturbable, stoical and decisive. Even when I caressed her, stroked her, and paid her compliments, she just stood still, fresh as a white rose. She was loyal and humble and she always hung tough. Even in the last months of her life when she was dying, she controlled herself in the most extraordinary way, without ever showing pain or whining. Her proud silence which lasted an entire lifetime will remain forever in my memory.


Tonino is a character whose name will be written in gold in my canine annals. Longhaired and fawn-colored, he was Pulci’s son. He was like a little prancing pony, so often on his feet, pawing in the air. Indeed, with his little paws together he looked almost as if he were praying, especially when he did that sitting down. At the age of three, he went mysteriously blind, and his large eyes became enormous. He adapted himself amazingly to living in the darkness, and the terrible event in no way changed his sweet, lively character. Almost every time that we called him, he sprang up on his toes, pawing the air in his spirited dance. A creature with a thick golden coat and an almost feathered tail, he was a real spark, full of courage and always with high spirits. Vali simply adored him; he was her favorite in the last years of her life. And still it is hard for me to believe that their lives ended on the same day. When Vali left this world in Melbourne on February 12, 2003, Tonino – after a whole year of a painful, incurable disease – died within a few hours of her. Like Vali, who had loved him so much, he was by then just skin and bones. He died here in the Valley where he was born and lived and danced his vivacious dance.




All portraits and stories on this page © Gianni Menichetti
Stories translated from the Italian by Cheryl Reimold