Stray dogs and cats in Italy are something you come across like in many countries. In some respects you can’t miss them, or at least what we thought were strays. It was on an evening walk to the beach in Budoni that we thought we had found a stray dog puppy or at least, the stray dog found us!
Beach dog who we suspected was a stray dog
As we began heading down the road to the beach, which is around a 10 minute walk from our villa we came across what I estimate to be around a 6 month old short haired terrier. She was bounding along and our first impression was that she was a stray dog.
She was friendly enough and we gave her a quick hello greeting and pet. Then she continued on her way which seemed to be the same way we were going.
Whilst I thought she was a stray my bride thought that she must have an owner. There was no dog collar yet she seemed well kept and in good health. We suspected that Italy had a problems of stray dogs due to the number we had seen, particularly in Sardinia.
As we continued down the road we were amused as she bounded along and kept jumping up to see some goats in a nearby field. She even sometimes stood for a while on her two back legs so she could look over some tall grass.
I wondered if she was on heat as she was quick to meet other dogs walking along with their owners.
As we reached the beach I thought or at least hoped that we would then lose her. I didn’t want any stray dogs hanging around us for a long time. Yet as my bride sat on the beach she soon came to jump on top of my bride and be very playful giving lots of licks to my bride’s face.
Soon we moved and went to sit at a café and have some pizza, well Sardinia is in Italy after all. At this point our suspected stray dog wandered around within a 50-100 metre radius of us. She greeted other people and terrified one young girl who was clearly frightened of dogs. I never suspected that this stray dog would bite but this little girl must have done.
We know the rules about never feeding stray dogs in Italy or indeed anywhere. We didn’t want to build a bond with her. Even still she came begging for pizza but we gave her a clear “No”. After all we didn’t want to risk a virtual stray dog adoption by her looking to us for food.
Some people on another table did give her some food though which she was grateful for.
Going home with a stray dog
With this knowledge I hoped that she would then leave us alone, but this was not so. As we ventured away from the beach she decided to tag along. Yes she walked all the way back with us.
At this stage I was predicting that she would walk all the way back to our villa. My bride thought that we would lose her around the area where we first met her and she would return to her owner’s house, if she indeed did have an owner.
Guess who was right?
Yes, I was right. This stray dog from Italy followed us all the way to our villa door! It was close to 10pm at night, pretty dark yet she somehow wanted to follow us. As if we were a home for stray dogs.
We’d not fed her, not given her any water yet somehow she wanted to be in our pack. It was as if this stray Italian dog had adopted us rather than we had adopted her. You could say that we found a stray dog but I suspect this stray dog found us and wanted to stay.
You hear people say that when they go to rescue homes the dogs choose the owner rather than the other way around. Well this certainly seemed to be the case here.
I shut the villa door that night and left her outside. I was hoping that she would get bored and return to her owner, if she had one, through the night.
We had a lie in that morning. Well on honeymoon in Sardinia isn’t that what lazy Sundays are all about?
I went to open the villa door late that morning. I quickly looked through the window first and was relieved that there was no sign of the stray dog from Italy.
As soon as the sound was made of my opening the villa door there she was!!! Yes, our little fury friend of Sardinia had waited all night for us. Apparently she had slept on the outdoor garden furniture sofa.
I was quite annoyed at this point and expressed some frustration.
Don’t get me wrong, she is absolutely delightful. A very beautiful dog with a very friendly and lovely nature.
A call for help
Stray dogs in Italy, or indeed anywhere can be a problem when on holiday. What happens when you leave? Will they still come looking for you? What of the people who will be in our villa the following week? What if she is owned, or someone is looking for her? Maybe a little child is missing her pet?
We were both clear that something had to be done and she needed to be rescued. Quite rightly my bride was very concerned. She insisted that we make sure that if she is rescued it is by a good charity who would not put her down. We wanted to find the best stray dog rescue shelter possible.
I totally agreed. Whilst I found this stray dog very adorable I didn’t want her around and certainly didn’t want to become attached to her. She chose us, it wasn’t the other way around.
There was one massive problem though. I didn’t know where to take stray dogs in Sardinia.
I quickly went on to my bride’s Kindle Keyboard and started looking for animal charities which take in stray dogs in Sardinia. This was quite a challenge since the first pages of Google were reporting Sardinia as in South Carolina, USA not Italy!
I changed my search settings then finally found something relevant on about the third page. It was a facebook page for the dog shelter Lida Olbia. It is an animal rescue shelter located very close to Olbia airport, in Sardinia. (That is in Italy if you are asking, not the USA!) They have a strict non-destruction policy which brought us both great relief.
I gave them a call and explained that we had found a stray dog and we were only half an hour away. Would they take in this stray dog? Much to my surprise they wouldn’t, or at least not immediately.
They explained that firstly because she was young and healthy that she was not an urgent case.
The person on the telephone also explained that in Italy dog owners tend to let their dogs roam freely. They can go for days without visiting home. As a Brit I found this very odd. In the UK dogs tend to stay with their owners and many have collars.
I was advised to wait a few days and see if she will leave of her own free accord. As a stray dog in Italy I explained that I didn’t want to feed her. I didn’t want to develop a bond or for her to look to us for food. The gentlemen on the phone agreed with this.
If this Italian stray dog was indeed not a stray and had an owner then she may return home for food.
I was happy to give her a bowl of water every now and then though since it can become quite hot in Sardinia.
If after a few days she remained around we had to go to the Police. I was advised that I needed a police report/certificate before I could bring her into the animal shelter.
Now I know what you are supposed to do when you come across a stray dog in Italy.
So there we were, in the nicest possible way we were stuck with her! She was like an immigrant asylum seeker in the UK, they know all the rules and there is nothing you can do about it.
Knowing that this was the case and to pardon the phrase we were stuck with her. She wanted to be around for a while so we had to live with it. This stray dog found us and it was her choice to leave us.
What’s your name?
We decided to move away from calling her a stray dog from Italy to a more personal level. I suggested that we call her “Jessie” and the name stuck.
So here we are. This Italian stray dog was hanging around and I just knew that we would become attached to her. She is very cute and adorable. How can you not fall in love with her.
My macho and matter of fact approach of “we can’t keep her” failed from the off. It was not our choice.
We spent the next few hours lazing around the pool with our new friend, this stray dog. She was very affectionate, friendly and playful. A genuine pup.
It became quite nice having her jump up at you, wanting to sit on your lap and lick your face. We were clearly falling in love with her but also resisting the very strong temptation to give her some food.
Later that afternoon my bride and I had planned to drive off and explore Dorgali and some surrounding areas.
I left out enough water for Jessie (the stray dog) knowing it was still warm even though it was mid-late afternoon.
It was clear that we were going away in the car and Jessie knew it. She just stood on the patio and stared as we entered the car and began to move away.
The expression is very true that she gave us those sad puppy dog eyes. She looked heart broken. It was as if she has had people drive off before and abandon her. Yet we were not abandoning Jessie. Whilst we thought she was a stray dog in Sardinia we’d already grown fond of her, much against our judgement.
Looking into her eyes as we drove off was heart breaking. She looked so sad.
We knew that we’d only be gone a few hours, but did Jessie know that? Did she fear that we would never return? She’d chosen our pack and now she was being made an outcast.
We enjoyed our afternoon excursion and hoped that hunger would get the better of Jessie. We wanted her, as a stray dog to go hunting for food. Whether begging (as we’d seen her do on Budoni beach) or scavenge, or hunt. She must be hungry as we’d not seen her eat since the night before.
We returned home around 9:30pm. As I locked the car my bride walked up to the villa door and looked for Jessie.
She was gone.
Maybe our plan worked. As a stray dog she’d know where to get food or at least hunt for it.
If she was owned then she’d find her way back home where no doubt food would be waiting.
I expected to feel happy at this, at last she’d gone. But I wasn’t happy, well not really. She’d stayed too long, we’d bonded.
I was happy she was independent and able to look after herself. But we were also constantly thinking about her and worrying. Where was she? Is she safe? Had she found food? Did she find a new friend or pack to join?
Would we see her again?
I’m wary of stray dogs in Italy or indeed anywhere. There is always the fear of their temperament and what if they have rabies?
Somehow, Jessie broke down my barriers and won me over. She was so adorable and affectionate to us both. She knew what she wanted and she wanted to be with us.
Did we break her trust by driving off the next day?
I don’t know if she is a loyal dog yet I was amazed that she slept all night outside our villa and waited to be with us. Is that loyal if you have an owner elsewhere?
I’ve never owned a dog in my life. Yet for 24 hours this stray dog in Italy was ours.
We last saw Jessie on the Sunday afternoon and we had close to another week to go of our honeymoon. Jessie was never far from our thoughts though.
It is true, we had fallen in love with this suspected stray dog abroad. We knew close to nothing about her. We were desperate to see her again.
How could we see her again? We didn’t know where she was? Was she owned? Was she in trouble?
Jessie continuously cropped up in conversation over the next few days. We often said “I miss Jessie”.
We even walked along the same route to the beach, half hoping to see her again. Yet we didn’t.
As each day passed, we remembered our time with her, looked at our pictures and still loved her.
Monday turned into Tuesday. Still no sign by Wednesday of her possible return. By Thursday I was sure that we would never see her again. We were leaving on Saturday morning so what chance was there.
Re-united with the stray dog
Then something amazing happened. Late on Thursday evening, it was late because it was 10:45 pm we were sat outside our lovely villa. Then all of a sudden we heard a patter of feet as a neighbouring dog wandered into the grounds of our villa.
Recognising the dog we said a casual “hello” knowing that this dog was not a stray and not attached to us. However he had not come alone!
From behind a chair appeared a pup. It was Jessie!!! She’d returned.
This neighbouring dog had come to playfully enquire of Jessie then soon disappeared.
Like us, Jessie was not interested in this other dog. She wanted to see us!
She jumped up on our seat and began licking and cuddling into us. We petted and cuddled back with great joy.
It was a very emotional moment, I even nearly cried with joy.
We were so happy to see our adopted stray dog or was she even a stray? We soon found the answer.
It was clear that since we last saw her, Jessie had been groomed. Some of the long hairs near her eyes had gone.
My bride also noticed that a tick which was present on her chin was now gone. This all made sense. My bride explained that when her cat had a tick removed he had to take antibiotics and be confined for a few days. This must have happened to Jessie.
So in all those days whilst we were thinking about and missing Jessie, she was missing us too.
With all this grooming it is clear that Jessie is loved by her owner, whoever that maybe. This gave us a great sense of relief and happiness for Jessie.
Even though Jessie was now well groomed she was covered in sand. She had clearly gone back to the beach to play.
I put out a bowl of water for her and she gulped it down.
After about an hour reacquainting ourselves with a very happy Jessie I had to go to bed.
This time Jessie chose to stay again. She slept on the same sofa chair outside without any prompting from us.
We were so excited. We even thought of spending the whole of Friday with Jessie.
This pup who we now knew was not a stray dog was still there in the morning. Well she was there at 8am at least. However by the time I got up and had a shower she was gone.
That really was the last we ever saw of Jessie.
The final goodbye
It was much easier though now. We had seen her again and told her how much we love her. We knew that she had an owner who cared for her and looked after her, when she was home.
Jessie chose us and wanted to spend time with us. I can honestly say that we never encouraged her but soon fell for her. We were over joyed to have met her and left Sardinia with some amazing memories of this truly remarkable little puppy.
Let me know in the comments section if you have ever encountered stray dogs in Italy or abroad?