“The best part of the journey is the surprise and wonder along the way.”
She traveled all over with us and loved to go hiking, from the time we picked her out of a litter in Napoli. Running ahead then back to check on us over and over, she must have climbed each mountain three times before we got to the peak.
The first time she crossed the Atlantic was when we returned to the U.S. from Italy after a two-and-a-half-year stay. We sent her ahead because we had to make a business stop and good friends offered to pick her up at Logan Airport in Boston.
A December blizzard rerouted the flight to New York where she was detained at Kennedy for two days. In retrospect, the ordeal must have been especially difficult because she was pregnant. At the time, we had no idea. We’d been careful when she was in heat and let her run free only in a back garden that was enclosed by a wall. It hadn’t been high enough to keep out a determined suitor.
The snowy roads in eastern Massachusetts were still not in great shape but our friends made the drive in to meet her so she wouldn’t be stuck at another airport holding facility. They took great care of her until we arrived a few days later.
The next weeks were a whirlwind of sorts for our family as we reentered American culture, got our furniture out of storage and moved back into our old home, jobs and schools. Our sweet little pup seemed happy to be reunited with us and content with her new country, home and wintry climate. She was unhappy only when our kids left on the school bus each morning without her.
The birth of her litter surprised us. She was a small dog and, to our chagrin, we hadn’t noticed excess weight or other telltale signs of impending motherhood. She gave birth to the first pup one evening while lying on the floor next to my chair as I watched TV. I was stunned and unsure of what to do because the pup was encased in a thin membrane. She seemed stunned as well because her motherhood instinct for dealing with it didn’t kick in right away. By the time I called the vet and received instructions on removing the membrane and massaging the pup, it was too late. It died from suffocation and my ignorance contributed to it. I felt awful.
Afterwards, she was calm and I assumed it was over. It was the beginning however; whelping continued over the next couple of hours. We both had learned what to do; working together, we brought three healthy puppies into the world.
After finding suitable homes for the puppies and having the vet take care that she wouldn't have any more, she settled into a carefree surburban life.
Five years later, she headed back across the Atlantic with us to our new home for the next six years, Munich, Germany. Living in a city apartment for the first time, she showed signs of anxiety, so I took her to the vet. He diagnosed her with stress caused by city traffic noises. She soon acclimated, the nervousness subsided and when she wasn’t traveling with us, loved being doted on at an excellent Hundepension in the countryside.
We once brought her on a road trip visit back to Italy and she saved us from being turned away from one of the last available hotels in Lago di Garda. Their policy was “no pets allowed” or as the signora said, “i bambini sono meglio dei cani” (children are better than dogs). However, they made an exception for us when I told them she was un cane Italiano.
On her final return to the States, she was in her carrier on our flight, traveling from Germany via New York to Boston. At Kennedy Airport, we had to claim her and take her for a walk before transferring her for the domestic flight. Afterwards, she didn't want to return to the carrier but we had no choice. She began to cry and bark and it continued for the whole flight. It was a small plane and her distress was audible.
Her final years were spent in New England with at least one major trip out west by car to visit our kids who loved and missed her. Rather than submit her to the hill climbs of San Francisco where one lived, we left her at the other’s university in Colorado where the veterinary school treated her like a princess. We returned to find her well groomed and loving the open range at the base of the Rockies.
She had good years until she began to slow down. At first, she’d tire on hikes and we’d carry her. Then we didn't take her along any more. Soon she no longer recognized us from a distance and checked our identities by sniffing. Further confirmation of her declining eyesight came when she walked right off our deck and again when she wandered into a shower stall and couldn't get out. Her bladder became uncooperative and her eyes lost their luster and we knew she needed help. The vet suspected a brain tumor and the final difficult decision had to be made. She was ready for her final journey.
Her name, Puntina, was inspired by a little pink dot she had on her nose as a puppy. She shared 17 years of adventures with our family and we still miss her. Though only a mongrel, she cut una bella figura.