I’m at a loss for words today. In fact I really don’t want to tell you what I’m about to recall. In fact I’d rather forget it, but it’s part of my new life in Italy, and is relevant to my telling it as it is. We have a sharp incline at the top of our lane where houses used to stand, the ruins are part of the road infrastructure but the empty guts of the houses have over the years been used to dump garden waste and builders’ rubble and have been repopulated by brambles and ground elder. It’s not a place you’d choose to venture into, but for the past twenty-four hours it’s been of great interest to our dogs. On Sunday morning, with Alfie going missing down the slope for the third time, I donned my green Wellington boots and went to investigate. I slid among the recently dumped truck-load of top-soli and vegetation until I reached the bottom. The smell here was dreadful, my guts revolved as the stolid stench of decay simmered in the Italian heat. I turned to see Alfie at the top of the slope looking down at me and then I spotted the source of the smell, a dead dog. It must have been about a year old and it’s paws had been tied together: I assume this was done after death to make throwing it down the slope easier. I don’t look for any evidence of how the animal died, but suspect foul play. There’s nothing for it but to bury the poor thing. I come back up the slope, having covered the unfortunate animal and a friend tells me that two nights previous he had been woken by a car that had passed, cut its ignition and rolled to a stop, with the sound of doors opening and closing before rolling away, the wheels crunching on the gravel. We can only assume the passengers being the dog dumpers.
An hour or so later Olive returned after going out with my OH for a walk around Selva d’ Altino: Alfie still has abandonment issues so wont go anywhere near the car. She looks down the slope and I take her down to show her that the dog has gone, I’m pointing to where the dog is buried when Olive wanders over to a clump of brambles and sits down, I peer into the brambles and find a dead puppy, its mouth is bound by rope and it looks very skinny. I proceed to bury the puppy alongside what I assume is its mother and together man and dog leave the scene feeling more than a little sad.
A couple of hours later, I’m preparing lunch, the iPod is playing Newtown by the Slits and Alfie is up the lane barking, I go out to call him back and he’s standing over something, I walk up and see another dead puppy, this one has no rope around its mouth and is covered in maggots. I look down at the burial site, it’s still intact so this must be a third animal. As this one is in an advanced state of decomposition, it really smells bad, so rather than bury it with the others and then attract foxes, I bundle it into a biodegradable waste bag and take it down the lane and dispose of it among some rough vegetation away from peoples’ homes.
I ponder that old chestnut; do animals feel emotions as humans do? I don’t know, but here in Italy there are two dogs that seem to be settled now three of their kind have been dealt with, they have ceased wandering up to the slope. Later as I look down towards the burial site, Olive looks at me with a ‘our job here is done’ expression.