Posts Tagged ‘Dogs in Rome’

Dog Days, Wild Dogs, Safe Dog Travel

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

In the Northern Hemisphere, the period between early July and early September is the hottest time of the year.  The Romans said that it was hot because the big star, Sirius, glowing smack in the middle of the chest of the Big Dog (aka Canus Major) constellation, was beaming heat toward the earth.  They said that during the Dog Days the sea boiled and dogs got rabies.  Shortly after that, the Roman Empire fell.

None of that happens any more.  In modern times, the sea has stopped that nonsense. And the veterinary industry has pretty much stopped rabies cold in developed areas and relatively thriving economies where most of the extremely few rabies cases are caused by bats and wild carnivores.

So, in the US, Canada and Europe, we do not have to worry much about rabies any more- unless we encounter a salivating, snarling, fox with that “I ain’t scared of you” look in his rheumy eyes. 

Noel Coward’s line from his famous song of 1931 is, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.  To be fair, this flighty song makes much more sense than anything that Roman astrologers could patch together.  Rabid animals do illogical things, like run around in the heat, when they should be sleeping in the shade.  (Englishmen were also going to strange lengths to stand up to the tide in their colonial period, but that’s another topic.)

At any rate, what Raja and I are getting toward is that it’s summer and summer does not encourage rabies.  But during your summer travels, opportunities for adventure might entice you off the beaten path where you should be ready for adventures of all kinds. 

Raja and I are not worried about your dog.  If you’re still reading this, you really love your dog.  We’re worried about you.  When traveling in India, Puerto Rico, the South of Italy, Africa, and Central and South America, you might encounter homeless dogs that are very friendly.  Usually these dogs are pretty tame because they only survive by being gentle and appealing to charitable humans.

Raja and I meet them often; Raja is like a wild dog magnet.  And while we almost always advocate mingling with the locals, these locals are not to be mingled with.  They have not had their rabies shots (although some Puerto Rican charities do vaccinate stray dogs).  So, although they may be gentle, they may not be well.  So scoop your dog up and move on yourself quickly, rather than allow this cultural opportunity. 

Safer is better- always.  (If you want to help, keep your hands to yourself and donate to a local animal charity.  All developing countries have kind souls who care about the homeless beasts.)

Never be Afraid to Ask: Raja Visits the Vatican

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Raja leaves the Vatican Museum

Raja leaves the Vatican Museum

Raja was just in Rome for a few days and what we wanted to do most was see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museum. Did Raja want to see the Sistine Chapel?  Of course!  He loves art!  

You may be wondering how Raja got in to see the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum.  The answer is simple -  we asked permission. 

Once inside the daunting doorway through the walls of the Holy City, we told the guards that we would love to see Michelangelo’s ceiling, but we have Raja with us.  We told them he is a certified Therapy Dog who can visit nursing homes and hospitals in the US and that he is tame and gentle.  Raja did his part by looking sleepy but therapeutic. 

Can you imagine, the guards initially thought that we wanted to check him in the baggage room?  They said, “Oh no Signore, we cannot be responsible for keeping him with the coats.”  They were relieved when we explained that we didn’t want to check him, but that we wanted to take him in his travel bag.  Then the guards had a mini conference and they decided that he could go too, “Yes, OK, you will be responsible, please go ahead.  Enjoy yourselves.”  

The Vatican Museum consists of magnificent chambers and halls lined with artwork that lead, after an extremely long shuffle, past many mini-shops of licensed Vatican mementos, to the Sistine Chapel.  If you want to see the Sistine Chapel, any good art book will show you the images better than being in the actual room, which is dim and crowed.  You can’t speak and you can’t take photos.  BUT, it was an awesome privilege to be under a work of art painted, however much it has been restored, by the 16th century genius Michelangelo.   

This blog post isn’t really about how to take your dog to see the Sistine Chapel.  Honestly, most dogs would lose patience with the long walk to the final chamber.  Our theme is that you should never subvert yourself by giving up without trying.  Don’t be the one to tell yourself that your dreams are impossible.  Give others the chance to hear you and help you.  Every day I have been thinking of those kind and smart guards who concluded that mild mannered, non dangerous, art loving Raja could go through the Vatican Museum. 

Next blog we’ll tell you about Trastevere, one of Rome’s nicest districts, and begin our tales of Raja’s visit to Calabria in Italy’s agrarian south.