The Servant Problem

Our animals were waiting for us. We’d been away from them for over a week and they’d been obliged to look after themselves. The five cats were fine and so were the two ducks, the three rabbits and the two goldfish. Our rations and water for them had proved sufficient.

We really worried about them as we’d not been away from them for such a long time but we needn’t have. The menagerie appeared non-plussed by our appearance and perhaps even a little annoyed that their servants had been away for such a long time.

Animals, in the absence of any children, are our little family and we only wish that we had better means of communicating with them when we are away. Why doesn’t someone invent a pet-friendly internet system?

There are plenty of jobs for animal sitters in our part of the world.  I am quite happy to feed felines for ex-pats away in blighty. Dog-sitting is more problematic but I’ve done this as well before the rabbits and ducks arrived. It’s always best to know your friends’ animals well in advance though!

Incidentally, the attitude of Italians to pets and to dogs in particular, has radically changed since the last war when man’s best friend would be relegated to a position below the lowest servants and not even be allowed to enter the house. This attitude still persists where I live in an Apennine village as the majority of dogs are truly working dogs – hunting during the season and guarding sheep all the time. But in an urban or holiday environment woe betide those restaurants and hotels who do not admit clients and their “amici a Quattro zampe” (four-pawed friends). Pet centres, poodle parlours and all the rest of the animal business are flourishing in a recession-hit Italy and people exercising their dogs are as common a sight as tonned-up scooters and bars. Pet shows are always a popular event too. (See for more details on this and those breeds special to Italy).

Unfortunately not all pet owners are responsible as this poster we found in many places in Florence shows: (no marks for understanding what it means – just to say that bastardo also means mongrel and that it targets those bastards who abandon their dogs while going away on holiday.)


Thanks to Napoleon for inspiring this post and who finds it incredibly tedious.

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2 thoughts on “The Servant Problem

  1. Caro Dr Francis,

    forse si ricorda del convegno dello scorso giugno su Pancio da Controne, su cui scrisse un gradevole articolo Domani la Divisione di Paleopatologia dell’Università di Pisa inizierà la VII campagna di scavi archeologici al castello di Benabbio (Bagni di Lucca) con 15 studenti dei miei corsi. Se desidera visitarli, da lunedì a venerdì il cantiere di scavo è aperto anche per il pubblico. Cordiali saluti,

    Gino Fornaciari

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