Italians and Dogs

“Travels develop the mind, if you have one, of course.” ~G. Chesterton

Something that I get asked occasionally when people find out I’m from Taiwan is whether or not we eat dogs (the answer is: I haven’t never eaten dog…rabbit, yes; ostrich, yes, but never dog).  I have a feeling that Italians would freak out at even the thought of eating a dog.

Dogs seem to have a special place in Italian society.  Whether this is a conscious movement on the part of Italians or not, it’s the truth.  Walking out for an evening stroll, at least 75% of the people probably have a dog with them.  Walking down the street, “attenti al cane” signs adorn almost every other front gate.  Italians love their dogs, both big and small.  But their dogs aren’t pampered–they’re well-groomed and well-trained, but you don’t see any of the dogs disfigured by dorky raincoats or sweaters.  They are proud and regal.  Most Italians seem to lean toward small to medium sized dogs–dachshunds are rather favored, but you do see gorgeous German Shepherds, golden retrievers, and a variety of others.  This is a stark contrast to Taiwan, where the dogs are other stray and growing mange, or pampered so much they might as well be the family’s own child.

Cats, on the other hand, are about as prevalent in Italy as stray dogs are in Taiwan–they are everywhere.  Whether or not they’re owned by someone, you can never too certain.  We once had a cat follow us in to the monastery, and it wouldn’t leave until I picked it up and carried it outside.  Some of the cats are friendly, some of them, not so much.  But they’re still everywhere.  The best is when you see a cat perched on top of a car, sunning itself on the warm metal.

I’m not sure why it is that Italians are so fond of their dogs, but they are.  The dogs seem to walk around with a similar air to Italians–proud of their own culture.  The next thing I have to do is learn how to say “can I pet your dog” in Italian…


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