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