Monday, April 21, 2014

Crime and the Italian Dog

This is a true story.  The names have been changed.  No animals were hurt in the course of writing this tale.

A Tuscan woman of a prominent family was preparing to leave for Ferragosto, the Italian appellation for that wacky European habit of mass exodus for ten or so days during August.  Let’s call her Lucia dei Furbi.  She was heading off to her family’s mountain home in the Dolomites.  Her husband had decamped a few days before her to visit an ailing brother near Bologna.  They were to meet at the brother-in-law’s and then continue north to the cool of the Alps for the rest of the month.

That sick brother-in-law needed rest, so Lucia decided not to take along her German Shepherd named Maia.  Maia was a good dog, but tended to be a bit noisy when she was in strange places.  Arrangements were made to board her with Dottore Bugiardo, the animal doctor to Florentine high society.  He kept dogs at his establishment near Fiesole, north of the city.

Since traffic would be horrendous on the morning of the great egress, Lucia took Maia to the kennel on the eve of her departure.  She then went home to her country house near Greve in Chianti, south of Florence—a distance of about twenty very hilly miles.  She went to bed, in anticipation of a five AM departure.

At two AM, Lucia heard barking in the cortile of her house.  She opened a window, and there in the moonlight was Maia.  Astonished, Lucia took her dog in and looked her over.  She was tired and a bit scruffy, but not hurt, though she had—after her jailbreak—traversed a lot of territory, including at least one major highway and one railroad line.  Bemused about how to handle the situation, Lucia decided she would take Maia with her to the mountains and leave at five AM as planned.

Driving along during the next day, she waited for a call from the vet about Maia’s disappearance, thinking how amazed Dr. Bugiardo would be when he learned that the dog had found her way home.  No such call came.  By four that afternoon, Lucia was convinced that something was very amiss if the dog’s absence had not been noted.  She called.  When Bugiardo came on the line, Lucia played it cool, sticking to the literal truth, but not giving the facts away.

“I am calling about my dog Maia.”

“Oh, Signora,” the vet said, “I am so sorry to have to tell you that Maia is not quite well.”

“Really?  What do you think is wrong with her?”

“It doesn’t seem too serious.  We will give her some medicine.  I am sure she will be alright.”

“Well, Dottore, please let me know what you think about her condition.”

“Certainly.  Why don’t you call back in a day or two?”

Two days later, happily ensconced with her husband and dog in their mountain retreat, Lucia called back.

“Oh, Signora, I am so sorry to have to tell you.  Maia’s illness is quite serious.”

Sticking to her tactic of never lying to the vet, but not disclosing the truth either, Lucia responded, “Oh, my, what do you think should be done?”

“I am afraid I will have to operate.”

“I would never want to deny Maia any treatment that might help her live.”

“Very well, I will operate tomorrow.  Please call me the day after.”

At the appointed time, Lucia was back on the phone.

The vet was extremely distressed.  “Signora, I have dreadful news.  I am afraid that Maia died during surgery.”

“Oh, Dottore, Dottore.  How terrible.  I am too upset to speak.”

“We need just one decision from you, Signora.  I know you plan to be away till the end of the month.  We can cremate the remains for a nominal fee, or we can bury Maia in our memorial garden for twelve hundred euros.”

“A dog as wonderful as Maia deserves only the best.  A burial in the memorial garden would be my choice.”

Two weeks later, when she arrived back in Florence, Lucia found the Bugiardo’s bill—for the boarding, for the medication, for the surgery and for the burial.

Criminal, don’t you think?

Annamaria - Monday    


  1. Many years ago my first husband and I left our dog with a kennel in Pennsylvania and went away for two weeks. The night we returned, the vet called and sorrowfully told me the dog had dropped dead the day before and been cremated. He would bill us for the two week's board, he said. As the dog was a psycho child-biter, I was delighted, but the husband wanted to know what happened to the dog's new collar. Anyway, dog crimes are everywhere too. (I have my own theories about the death of that dog.)

    1. Kate, This could be about an actual murder. Or maybe just a dog who died earlier than reported, in which case it would be "merely" a case of fraud. Was the dog a female? Then we might call her a psycho bitch!

    2. It was a murder. The veterinarian's son was arrested six months later for shooting a man in a bar. I figure a man who will shoot another man will shoot a dog. Most likely he was helping dad out at the kennel when my dog tried to bite him. The dog was four years old, perfectly healthy, but deranged.

  2. Replies
    1. Stan, if this had happened to me, I would been in touch with the local media. When I said so to "Lucia," she reminded my what a small circle of society are the upper classes of Firenze. She opted in favor of maintaining her place in the heady atmosphere. I then suggested she apply for free veterinarian care for her pets for the rest of her lifetime. That was an idea she found very interesting.

  3. I think what your friend needs to do, Annamaria, is seek out the appropriate Doge to take action against the scoundrel.

  4. Your story makes for a brilliant book... :)

  5. Please tell us what happened next. . . .

    1. As I told Stan, above, my friend opted not to expose the vet's scam. If she asked him for free service for her silence, I imagine he complied. He is a scoundrel at heart. I'd like to think he learned something from this experience, but that is not usually the way with scoundrels, is it?

  6. I would not take my dog there, ever. I see a story here, al la Donna Leon.

  7. This is just what I was thinking. Switch the location to Venice, and have Comjmissario Guido Brunetti investigate the "dead dog racket," with Donna Leon telling the story. He'd get to the bottom of it and tell the world about it.

    Or switch the location to Vigata, Sicily and have Salvo Montalbano investigate this dastardly racket, as written by Andrea Camilleri. And it will be hilariously funny with Salvo chasing dogs and finally catching the culprit in his villa/animal clinic, who then closes himself inside and brandishes weapons, along with his deranged son.

    Lots to write about here.

  8. Kathy, perfect scenario! Either one would work or both. I watched the DL mysteries on Russian TV, filmed in Venice with German as the language, and subtitles in English. There are no DL books in Italian--my guess is the Mafia itself. DL had to make some kind of deal to not present Italy in a negative light so no Italian language publishing--my theory of course.