Martina with her setter dog Rocky

Tenacious dogs and disrupted funerals

I grew up in a farming village in Sardinia and we always had a few animals around the place. Dogs, cats, rabbits… My grandparents lived next door and their house was a mini-farm, with pigs, ducks, chickens.

There was no such a thing as having a lie-in in the mornings. You would get woken up by all sorts of animal noises. First it was zia Peppina’s donkey. Oh my! His braying was loud, and long.

Then zia Angelina’s rooster. Always on time, at 6am. Then the whole flock of sheep that would pass by our street every morning, followed by zio Paolo’s dogs barking at the sheep… at the cats, at the birds, at anything that moved.

So, unlike any other city-dwelling teenager, no staying in bed until late for me or my brothers and sister. It was impossible to sleep past 6am. Which can be tolerated on a weekday, but at weekends? Maybe a bit of a break then? No way. Animals don’t get weekends.

Our family dog was called Rocky. He was a beautiful setter, with a white coat and the occasional black spot. He got on well with our cats Mimì and Stella. In fact, Rocky got on well with everyone. He was friendly and fun, all the kids loved him.

Rocky was free to roam around the village. In those days there was no concept of taking a dog for a walk. He would just go out and come back as he pleased, our gate was always open.  He would sit in our front courtyard, in the shade, pretending to ‘guard’ the house, when in fact all he wanted was someone to pet him or play with him, be it a family member or any passer-by.

Rocky was particularly fond of my mum. He liked to follow her around the village, when she’d go out on an errand. Which was fine, as long as he would wait outside the butcher’s or grocery store.

There was this occasion when we had to go to a funeral of a distant relative.

I remember it was a warm sunny afternoon, and as we walked to the church my Mum and I had talked about how we had had to close the gate to prevent Rocky from following us. But when we got to the piazza outside the church, as the coffin was being brought in, I spotted Rocky on the pavement! How could that be?

We realised that he must have gone through a narrow passage between our house and nonni’s, and probably followed our scent from there. We shook our heads in disbelief.

My Mum reprimanded Rocky and told him to go away. He seemed to follow her orders and disappeared behind the bell tower.

We got into the church and sat down. As it was a hot day, the doors of the main entrance to the church were left wide open, to let the air through.

I remember it was a long service, and during the homily, at some point I noticed that the altar boys (chierichetti) were giggling. And pointing towards the church entrance.

My heart sunk. Deep down I knew what that meant. I turned around and as I looked towards the back of the church, I was hit by the sunlight which filled the entrance, and I spotted a dog silhouette right in the middle of it.

Most of the congregation was too emotional to notice the intruder, but I stood up and quietly walked out. I told Rocky off, trying to sound really strict and angry, when deep down I felt like laughing. I don’t know how credible I was. He seemed to understand, with that doggy face that said “I’m sorry, will never do it again” and off he went.

I returned to my seat, but I kept turning around to check, during the service. I just couldn’t concentrate. Luckily, no trace of Rocky. Sigh of relief.

Then we started queuing for our Communion. My mum was in front of me. As we approached the altar I noticed that the chierichetti were giggling again, not the sort of behaviour to display at a funeral.

I knew it! I knew it!  I turned around and Rocky was in the queue with us, last in line!

My mum hadn’t realised. Thank God for that. Luckily one of my uncles intervened and managed to get Rocky out of the church. The expression on some people’s faces was priceless.

But it didn’t stop there. As we went out in a procession, to accompany the deceased to the cemetery, Rocky followed us – keeping at about 30 metre distance, on the other side of the road. He thought we couldn’t see him. As if.

In the end I told my mum that I would wait outside the cimitero, in order to stop Rocky from going in, and that’s what I did.

On the way home, with Rocky tagging along, my Mum was shaking her head. We tried to come up with solutions to future Rocky-escapes.

I’m not sure we found any good ones.

Since we’re on the topic of pets and farm animals, I thought it might be nice to create a word scramble for you with some of the most common farm animals.

Italian word scamble about farm animals

You can play the word scramble here.

But I also mentioned animals and the sound they make. And for extra fun you can find a cool word match game on the versi degli animali here.

P.S. the girl in the photo is me, with my beloved dog Rocky.
It's an old photo, hence the poor resolution.

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