December 6, 2023 | Rome, Italy

The Promised Land

By |2018-03-21T18:38:36+01:00October 30th, 2009|Lifestyle Archive|
America: Land of the free, not of the dogs.

hen “Bob the Pug” died three weeks ago, his owner John read his will and discovered that he had permission to acquire another dog — so long as John assigned a designated replacement caregiver in the even something happened to him.

When Corinne asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding, I was told my escort would be “The Professor,” her sheep dog.

And when Zaira was told she could only fly her Yorkie in cargo to Hawaii, she had her puppy certified as an Emotional Support Animal to bring in the cabin.

We are Dog People, and we are more intense than Frisbee-throwers, bandana-donners and the tribe of stone-washed jeans wearers. We are a serious and fierce breed that incorporates our dogs into every aspect of our lives regardless of the oddness of our actions.

We talk about our dogs with the eagerness of first time parents. We befriend anyone holding a leash, without any of the usual and requisite background check questions such as “who are you? What kind of car do you own?” We sleep with out dogs, eat with our dogs, kiss our dogs.

Dog People come in different categories, depending on how they define the activities they undertake with their pets: Cool and Maybe Not So Cool.

Cool is composed of three activities mostly approved by the general public: swimming with dog, sleeping with dog and brushing dogs’ teeth.

Maybe Not So Cool, by contrast, includes a hodgepodge of activities that annoy social norms. These activities include grooming and costuming, traveling and event-planning (hint: dog weddings, funerals and bequeathals; see John’s story for a hint).

My own Dog Person life is on the Cool side. It’s no-frills puppy love based one fundamental, inalienable expectation: that Bella can go with me anywhere. Living in Italy affords me this luxury.

A typical day consists of a café visit in which Bella sweeps the floor, she undertakes a passeggiata through the covered market, and makes a visit to a local store or restaurant.

Only when I return to the U.S. do I realize that my Rome dog’s life is an indulgence. I am spoiled. Though don’t dress Bella up, I do assume that she can sit next to me at any café or locale.

Bad assumption.

Instead, under the bylaws of American dog life, I mostly have to park her outside of everything from restaurants to drug stores. I can’t take her into The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (an L.A.-based coffee chain) or The Gap.

Are we American overly hygienic? Or do we just views dogs as expendable?

The irony in all this is the Italian method, which may be less of a method than it is a sense of acceptance and patience. Here’s a country with a high pet-abandonment rate that in terms of social behavior can be xenophobic toward humans. At the same time, unlike the more generally open-minded United States, it’s more tolerant and encouraging of a Dog’s Life.

I doubt Bella is aware that she’s living in The Promised Land.

I do know she’s at home here, which makes her Cool Dog person owner a lucky one also.

About the Author:

Erica Firpo wrote The American's pet advice column from 2006 to 2009. She is a freelance travel and culture writer who lives in Rome with husband, daughter and faithful sidekick Bella. She has worked for Fodor's Rome edition, Luxe City Guides and National Geographic Travel, as well as writing art reviews for Zing and other U.S.-based magazines.