Rest in Peace, Ciccio

Ciccio when he was happy

Note: originally I posted this yesterday after I read that Ciccio had passed, but when I returned to Facebook I saw that it was denied again (there has been a lot of arguing over his custody as the story of Ciccio has swept across Italy, creating a tense situation of the strays in Brindisi). Sadly, now it is confirmed so I’m re-posting the story. The report I read is that he died peacefully due to cardiac arrest.

With a heavy heart, I have to share the sad news that Ciccio passed away today. If you read my earlier post a few weeks ago, you’ll remember he’s the dog in Italy who captivated the public by showing up at the church for Mass every day since his owner Maria Lochi passed last November. I am not sure of the exact cause of death, but recent posts on his Facebook page have discussed his deteriorating health with photos of him at the hospital. Given his age of 13, plus the fact that he was so broken hearted over the loss of Maria, they suspect he just wanted to go.

I added the top photo because it shows Ciccio when he was happy, you can see the sparkle in his eyes. This photo was taken when he was younger, and his owner Maria Lochi was alive. Compare it to this one that was taken after she passed away, and you can see his sadness.

Ciccio

Rest in peace, Ciccio.

Dogs Teach Us Things

My dog Henry

Barnaby was like a mood, a fragrance of the harmonious inner life, permeating everything with which he came into contact. He knew sorrow and he knew joy, and he held them in a delicate balance of serenity and peace. He knew how to respond equally joyfully to an invitation to walk or talk or sit together, which seems to me to be a particular kind of training in grace—a willingness to respond easily and happily to even the most modest adventure together. Perhaps it could be said that within his framework of being a dog, he lived life as a spiritual exercise.  —from Mystical Dogs by Jean Houston

My yoga instructor read this to our class this week and it made me think about my dog Henry, shown above. We had to say our goodbyes one year ago this weekend, and so I thought it would be nice, a tribute of sorts, to share it here. I haven’t featured Henry on the blog like the others, because it’s been too hard. In fact, Henry’s BFF Nicholas also passed away last October, so that’s two missing from my Dog Bios. But I’ll save those posts for another day, and for now just try and honor the light that Henry shared with everyone he met. Like the excerpt says, “a willingness to respond easily and happily to even the most modest adventure together”, that was my Henry. Like all dogs, he was a champion of living in the moment, but with his own added zest.

I miss you, Captain Feathers.

Faithful Friend Ciccio

Maria and Ciccio

Maria Margherita Lochi was known in her town of San Donaci, Italy for her kindness in looking after and adopting stray dogs and cats. One of her adopted dogs, a 12-year-old German Shepherd mix named Ciccio, was found in a soccer field near her home and is now carrying on his own vigil for Maria since she passed away two months ago. Is Ciccio Italy’s own Hachikō?

Ciccio used to attend Mass services with Maria for years on a regular basis at the church of Santa Maria Assunta, and according to the parish priest he has always been welcome in the church and would sit quietly at Maria’s feet. On the day of her funeral, Ciccio followed her casket into the church and each day since when the bell rings to begin Mass he arrives and sits at the altar.

Ciccio at the altar

According to the Daily Mail, Father Donato Panna said: “He’s there every time I celebrate Mass and is very well behaved—he doesn’t make a sound, I’ve not heard one bark from him in all the time he has been coming in.”

“He’s still coming to Mass even after Maria’s funeral, he waits patiently by the side of the altar and just sits there quietly. I didn’t have the heart to throw him out—I’ve just recently lost my own dog so I leave him there until Mass finishes and then I let him out.”

People in the village are providing food and water for Ciccio, and for now he sleeps in a covered area near the church. The priest is hoping to find a home for him soon…but I’m hoping he adopts him and allows Ciccio to remain a parishioner at the church of Santa Maria Assunta. In any case, thanks to massive publicity and a Facebook fan page created by Maria’s son, it appears that there have been many offers across Italy to give Ciccio a warm, safe home very soon.

Also: Ciccio seems to have another name, which is “Tommy”, and news reports use both. Details from the Daily Mail, and Sud Italia News. Photos from Ciccio’s Facebook fan page.

UPDATE February 11, 2013: I follow the story of Ciccio, or Tommy, on Facebook and it appears that Maria’s son Sebastian now has custody of him. Sadly, Tommy is very ill right now at a vet clinic and it is feared that he may not survive. I’m not sure what the cause is, but they are saying that because he is now around 13 years old combined with the heartbreak of losing Maria, the sadness has taken its toll. I will post an update here if I get any further news.

Operation Animal Airlift

Plane, puppy and palms

This past weekend in California, a major undertaking took place: the airlift of hundreds of dogs from overcrowded shelters in Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest where there’s apparently a shortage of adoptable dogs (nice to hear that’s the case in a few places). The group that’s in the pilot’s seat, so to speak, is Wings of Rescue, a volunteer network of kind-hearted folks that are dedicated to flying adoptable dogs from point A to point B. According to the spokeswoman in the interview, they’ve saved 5000 dogs in the last 18 months alone!

“Dogs going to Olympia, Washington!” “All of those going to Hillsborough!” The video from NBC Nightly News is a flurry of activity: shouted destinations, happy goodbyes, crates being loaded, happy volunteers working like Santa’s elves, and also a lot of twinkling doggy eyes as they get ready to take off.

This story appeals to me for a few reasons: saving dogs of course, but also the southern California connection (because that’s where I’m from) and aviation’s role (my family tree is full of aircraft-related careers). It’s definitely one of those feel-good stories that just makes you applaud humanity. For me, it’s a well-rounded gush of love, pride and gratitude.

Volunteers, dogs and planes

The story mentions specifically the case of Sedona, shown below, who was saved on the day she was scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter. Instead, she’s greeted by her new owner in Oregon who says the perfect thing: “This is like Christmas morning!” I’ve watched the video about 10 times now and that’s where the lump-in-the-throat hits.

Sedona closeup and boarding flight

Sedona arrives in Oregon

If you’d like to watch the video, please do so! You can find it here. It’s really worth it, and they have a nice segue to the piece by showing the Obama’s 2012 Christmas card featuring their dog Bo at the White House in the snow. The idyllic image serves as a great reminder that the only thing that separates dogs languishing in shelters from dogs in loving homes is action. Happy holidays, Wings of Rescue!

If you’d like to volunteer or donate to Wings of Rescue, you can find the information here.

All images from NBC Nightly News segment

Put Your Pencils Down

Well, it’s that time of year. Stomachs in knots, heads pounding, biting of nails. That stressful, anxiety-ridden period full of late nights, giant coffees and panic in general. I’m not talking about the holidays, this is something entirely different…(cue the scary music)…it’s the dreaded end of semester exams (and now the screams). Actually, since I attended design school rather than traditional college, it would instead be…the dreaded end of semester critiques…the horrors!

It looks like at least one school has a great plan in place this week to help students cope: dogs on campus to provide a stress-relieving break, of course. Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia has arranged a doggy lineup that includes the following cast of characters: a Labradoodle, a Sheltie, a Golden Retriever, a Papillon, a St. Bernard and a Dalmatian, courtesy of the Therapeutic Paws for Canada program. Very clever idea! They’re helping to make them smarter, too!

Visit the Puppy Room posterStudents and dogs during a break

In Sickness and In Health

Fiona Apple and Janet

I wanted to share this story because it’s important. And it’s sad, but also beautiful and inspiring. It’s about the loss of our beloved dogs, which is something we all eventually face, but it’s especially relevant because it addresses the choice to honor your friend by putting their care and final days ahead of everything else. No matter who you are, no matter what.

I lost two of my best friends this year, Henry and Nicholas. Lots of things were put on hold, set aside, canceled. The days and nights of bawling and praying and bargaining and pleading “please eat just a little!”. And the precious moments that you can give them that have always been special, but are now even more delicate. It’s something you have to go through for them. And with them. It’s part of the deal, part of the package. And it’s an honor.

Quote from Fiona's letter

Well said, Fiona. Janet is a 14-year-old pit bull rescued by Fiona Apple as a puppy from a dogfighting situation in LA, and she is her best friend. She’s also dying, so Fiona decided to postpone the South American portion of her tour, and wrote the most eloquent letter (she’s Fiona Apple, after all) to explain her decision. It’s a beautiful and honest tribute, and it gives me added strength when I remember the crummy individuals and situations I’ve encountered during those trying but necessary times. So, you go, Fiona.

fiona_letter

The transcript:

It’s 6pm on Friday,and I’m writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet.
I am writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later.
Here’s the thing.
I have a dog Janet, and she’s been ill for almost two years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She’s almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then, an adult officially–and she was my child.

She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face. She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders. She’s almost 14 and I’ve never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She’s a pacifist.

Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact.
We’ve lived in numerous houses, and jumped a few makeshift families, but it’s always really been the two of us.
She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.
She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me all the time we recorded the last album.
The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she’s used to me being gone for a few weeks every 6 or 7 years.
She has Addison’s Disease, which makes it dangerous for her to travel since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and to excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death.
Despite all of this, she’s effortlessly joyful and playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago.
She’s my best friend and my mother and my daughter, my benefactor, and she’s the one who taught me what love is.
I can’t come to South America. Not now.
When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference.
She doesn’t even want to go for walks anymore.
I know that she’s not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That’s why they are so much more present than people.
But I know that she is coming close to point where she will stop being a dog, and instead, be part of everything. She’ll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.
I just can’t leave her now, please understand.
If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.
Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to pick which socks to wear to bed.
But this decision is instant.
These are the choices we make, which define us.
I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love and friendship.
I am the woman who stays home and bakes Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend.
And helps her be comfortable, and comforted, and safe, and important.
Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life, that keeps us feeling terrified and alone.
I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time.
I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments.
I need to do my damnedest to be there for that.
Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known.
When she dies.
So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and reveling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel.
And I am asking for your blessing. I’ll be seeing you.
Love, Fiona

Capitán : Argentina’s Hachikō

Capitan standing watch in the cemetery

The story of Japan’s Hachikō is one of the most touching tales about the eternal bond between man and dog around (if you’re not familiar with the story, you can read my post here). It’s also the most popular post I’ve featured here on Dogs Make Everything Better, having been viewed by thousands of people the world over. So I thought I’d share this incredible story that I’d read about a few months ago because it’s very similar. But unlike the tale of Hachikō and Professor Ueno that took place many decades ago, this story is taking place right now.

It’s 2005 in the small town of Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina and a man named Miguel Guzman adopts a German Shepherd mix dog named Capitán as a gift for his son Damian. When Mr. Guzman suddenly passes away the following year the family notices that when they returned from the funeral service, Capitán had disappeared. But soon they saw him again.

“We searched for him, but he had vanished,” widow Veronica Guzman told the newspaper La Voz. “We thought he must have got run over and died. The following Sunday we went to the cemetery, and Damian recognized his pet. Capitán came up to us, barking and wailing as if he were crying.”

Capitan at the cemetery

But get this: the truly amazing thing is that Capitán had never been to the cemetery, or the gravesite. According to cemetery director Hector Baccega: “He turned up here one day, all on his own, and started wandering all around the cemetery until he eventually found the tomb of his master. During the day he sometimes has a walk around the cemetery, but always rushes back to the grave. And every day, at six o’clock sharp, he lies down on top of the grave, stays there all night.” Mr. Baccega added that the cemetery staff now care for and feed Capitán as he maintains his steadfast vigil.

Damian Guzman says that the family has tried several times to bring Capitán back home, but each time he disappears and returns to the cemetery. “I think he’s going to be there until he dies, too. He’s looking after my dad,” he said.

Incredible.

All photos La Voz.