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